A journey through Oman isn’t complete without exploring the country’s second-largest city, Salalah. Located in southern Oman, Salalah is only an hour and 45-minute flight from Muscat. A unique city, it boasts an incredible monsoon season in July and August (called Khareef) and beautiful places to wander year-round. Here are our recommendations for the eight must-see places in this special part of Oman.
1. THE BEACH AND CLIFFS AT KHOR RORI
Drive about thirty minutes east of Salalah to find this quiet spot. The beach is rarely busy and the white sand is clean. Climb a short way up the majestic cliffs that guard the sides of the beach and jump into the water below or spot a manta ray basking the crystal-clear waters. During the monsoon months, you can watch spectacular waves. Another short hike will take you to the top of a plateau that overlooks a spectacular expanse of ocean scenery, and a marshy inlet has great spots for bird watching and exploring.
Tips for the Day:
- Be sure to pack swimwear to enjoy the water at Khor Rori beach. However, if you visit during monsoon (Khareef) season, keep in mind swimming is strictly prohibited due to dangerous undercurrents.
- Don’t forget sun protection as there is little shade available at this beach.
- Entrance fee to the park is two OMR per vehicle which includes a visit to Samharam archaeological site and museum (see #2 for more details).
2. SAMHARAM’S MYSTERIOUS RUINS
Near the same location as Khor Rori Beach lie the ancient and mysterious ruins of Samharam. Situated at the mouth of a river that once flowed from nearby cliffs into the sea, excavated stones sit as silent sentinels over what was once a bustling harbor town in the first century. A minimal gate fee of two OMR per vehicle grants you access to both the ruins at Samharam and the nearby museum (as well as the beach).
The road branches shortly after the entrance. Turn right to stroll through ancient history, threading a path through the unearthed city. But for a more-informed experience, before heading up the hill to the ruins, take a left and make a quick visit to the archaeological gallery. There you’ll find informative exhibits that describe the history of Samharam and displays of small artifacts from the pre-Islamic era of southern Arabia.
Tips for the day:
- While Samharam is near Salalah, there are not many local meal options during Khareef and none to speak of the rest of the year. Be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks at a minimum, or perhaps a lunch.
- The archaeological gallery has restroom facilities available, which may also come in handy should you decide to visit Khor Rori Beach at this same location.
3. THE EMERALD GREEN OF WADI DARBAT
Up the ancient riverbed and beyond the mammoth cliffs that overlook the ruins sits a mountaintop valley. Located forty-five minutes outside Salalah and very near Khor Rori Beach and Samharam, Wadi Darbat boasts a year-round spring-fed lake. Thanks to this ever-flowing spring, the area immediately surrounding the water stays green year-round, and a visit during the famous Khareef season will amply demonstrate why Wadi Darbat remains the poster location for Salalah. The misty hills wrapped in an emerald garment of greenery will invite you to enjoy the overflowing streams and seasonal waterfalls and give you a great spot to picnic, hike, or camp if you choose.
The parking area has a small shop that sells cold sodas and water as well as some simple food items. You can rent a paddle boat to explore the lake on your own or get a guide to take you out on the water. During Khareef, there are boats for children to play in as well as kayaks for rent. Wadi Darbat is a good spot for taking pictures of birds and camels. If you enjoy exploring, the nearby mountains have several camel paths that weave across the steep slopes and provide a unique adventure.
Tips for the day:
- There are not many local meal options. Be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks at a minimum or visit the small shop.
- Take notice of the “no swimming” signs at Wadi Darbat. Because livestock (mostly camels) graze in the area, bacteria inhabit the green pools of the wadi and contact should be avoided. Even so, there are boat rides for hire up the wadi.
- If you visit Wadi Darbat during Khareef, be sure to pack plenty of insect repellent. While the small mosquitos that inhabit the area during the green months are not immediately noticeable, you’ll be sure to notice the itchy bites they leave if you don’t lather up first.
4. THE BLOWHOLES OF MUGHSAYL
On the other side of Salalah about thirty minutes away is Al Mughsayl Beach, famous for its blowholes scattered along the shoreline. This is also the place where Dhofar’s beaches and mountains meet, creating a dramatic backdrop of cliffs.
Be sure to check out Marneef Cave, a beautiful spot to explore and climb, and a short walk up a hill offers great views of the shoreline and gigantic exploding blowholes. For those who want to experience the blowholes more intimately, it’s even possible to stand over the grates of some of the largest ones and be soaked by the spray! The height of the spurts of water will depend on the time of year you visit—the fountains can shoot water over 90 feet (30 meters) high during Khareef! It’s beautiful, and like many other things Oman offers, it’s not what you’d expect to find in Arabia.
Once you’ve enjoyed all the beach has to offer, turn around and explore the mountains as well. There are many winding paths upward that you’re free to hike at your own risk and they offer many places to sit and take in the beauty of the ocean meeting the mountains. Take as little or as long as you want in Mughsayl, but know that you’ll probably never see something quite like it again. It truly is remarkable!
Mughsayl is also home to frankincense trees, and these are some of the most accessible in the region. Have your driver point them out to you along your route.
Tips for the day:
- Mughsayl has something for everyone. From the highly adventurous to those who want a slower pace, this place is the complete package.
- All of the main areas are paved, but if you plan to adventure up the mountains, you should wear sturdier footwear.
- Keep an eye on young children. There’s much to see and do here and it could be easy for them to slip away. Although there are railings around the cliffs, a close eye is recommended.
5. THE SOLITUDE OF FAZAYAH BEACH
One hour west of Salalah is Fazayah Beach. A sign on the main road indicates the turnoff for the beach on the left. A dirt trail quickly replaces the pavement that carefully weaves its way down the cliff. You may find the sky-high panorama too good to resist and opt to walk the four miles to beach below while your driver continues to the bottom.
The invigorating trek with gorgeous ocean view spreads out ahead and includes camels grazing and wildflowers along the edge of the trail. Camel owners run their herds through the valley behind the beach at certain times of the year, so this is a great spot for some up-close pictures of these animals. In winter months, you might also spot goats grazing alongside the camels.
Fazayah Beach is known as the best secluded beach experience as there are several sandy coves tucked along the rocky shoreline. Some of these coves are so small that if you claim it first, you’re guaranteed solitude. The rocks along the edges of the beach proved a great spot to find crabs, chitons, sea snails, limpits, and mudskippers. For the more adventurous-at-heart, shallow caves line the shoreline along the east end of the beach. At low tide, it’s easy to walk over the rocks and get a whole new perspective of the life that dwells in this intertidal area.
Fazayah Beach is the perfect spot to relax in your chair and watch the tide slowly rise or unleash your inner adventurer, and a sunset stroll along the shoreline is a great way to end a fun outing.
Tips for the day:
- If a restroom is needed, your driver can take you to some simple public facilities on the way since there are no restrooms at the beach.
- Bring trail shoes or good walking shoes if you plan to hike the four miles from the top of the mountain to the beach. The road is fairly smooth, but the grade can be a bit steep in some places.
- Large rocks on the edges of the beach provide some shade, but bring sunblock for the day.
6. THE SPRINGS AND GARDENS OF AYN RAZAT
After exploring the areas east and west of Salalah and seeing for yourself some of the best sites this region has to offer, a trip to Ayn Razat will amaze you with its beauty located just fifteen minutes from town. Many valley springs or “ayoon” ring the city of Salalah, and one set of springs, Ayn Razat, boasts the best pools and gardens in the area.
The springs are collected in several pools, which provide a relaxing backdrop for a snack or picnic as you listen to the sounds of bubbling waterfalls, watch tiny fish swimming in a stream, and hear the birds chirp in the trees in the garden. After your meal, take a short walk up the gentle slopes skirting the pools and spend some time exploring the cool shade of the shallow caverns that dot the area. If you visit on a Friday, the beautiful gated garden is open to the public, and you can enjoy a pleasant stroll amidst the manicured flora with their splashes of color year-round.
Tips for the day:
- Ayn Razat is easily accessed with good signage by the roads heading east of Salalah toward Mirbat.
- Like so many well-watered places during Khareef, Ayn Razat plays host to mosquitos. Whether you purchase one of the repellant packets for sale nearby or bring a bottle of insect repellent with you, be sure to apply it liberally so you can take in the views with comfort.
- As Ayn Razat is so close to Salalah, it is also one of the more popular spots frequented by the public and can be quite crowded at times. If solitude is what you’re after, try to visit in the morning or early afternoon.
7. THE MISTY MOUNTAINS OF DHOFAR
The Tawi Atayr sinkhole, or “the well of the birds,” greets you with music from the many birds inhabiting the area and with jaw-dropping views of one of the largest and deepest sinkholes on the planet. You have the option of following the paved path to a pleasant viewing area or of exploring the area for paths leading farther down into or above the sinkhole. Either option yields great spots for some pictures.
Follow the main road back toward Mirbat, you’ll find a track leading to the baobab forest. There are no signs posted, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for it. Those who have visited Africa or Australia will be familiar with the odd shape of what might be called “upside down trees,” referring to the baobab’s extremely thick trunk and spindly, root-like branches. From the parking area, following the path uphill past a plaque and you’ll discover a well-worn trail. After a ten-minute walk, you won’t be able to miss a massive specimen, spanning more than thirty feet in diameter in some places. Since, unlike most trees, baobabs don’t contain annual growth rings, one can only guess how old these leafy giants truly are.
Tips for the day:
- In the village of Tawi Atayr, you’ll encounter a more traditional, conservative lifestyle. Remember to be respectful of the local environment and to dress comfortably, yet modestly.
- If you opt to drive the road to Tawi Atayr, procure a tourism map (available at many public locations) to stay on route. While the road is fairly straightforward, there are several places you could get lost if you take a wrong turn.
- If on the mountain road to Tawi Atayr during Khareef, be sure to enjoy the views, but do be careful. The mountain is often cloaked in thick mist that can make driving difficult, and other drivers can appear quite suddenly, even if you’re watching for them.
- The baobab forest, like so many places during Khareef, plays host to mosquitos. Be sure to bring a bottle of insect repellent with you to take in the views with comfort.
8. AL BALEED ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
This is an important stop in Salalah for those who want to know more about Oman’s history. The museum is divided into two indoor sections: The Hall of History and the Marine Hall. The museum displays outline the history of the area from 2000 B.C. until modern times.
Surrounding the museum are the ancient ruins of Al Baleed, a once-bustling port in the frankincense trade. Landscaped paths weave around and through the ruins and are the perfect place to watch a sunset. After dark, the paths are well-lit and the reflections of the lights on the water are especially beautiful. (The entrance fee will be included in your tour cost.)
Come see these amazing spots for yourself and decide what you would add to a list of the best places to visit in this unique city. Contact one of our Oman experts for info about a customized tour to Salalah!