Oman is a hidden treasure of the Arabian Peninsula. Whether it’s come across your path from the experiences of friends and family or from searching on the internet, you are on your way to a great adventure! From magnificent architecture in ancient cities to sandy beaches surrounded by stunning mountains, Oman is here to amaze you. The culture, hospitality, and natural beauty is unforgettable, only getting better the deeper in you dive. So let’s get your planning process started by looking at the top ten places to visit!
1. Muscat City
Muscat is the biggest city in Oman as well as the Capital. It holds the trappings of most large capitals, with a couple of must-see attractions: Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, and Mutrah Corniche.
Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace isn’t open to visitors, but amazing views of the structure are visible from the harbor, where you can visit the museums in Al Jalali and Al Mirani. The two twin forts rise up on rocks in the habor, playing a central part in making up the iconic view of Muscat.
Non-Muslims are able to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It’s worth visiting for its marble wall panels, the second largest Persian carpet in the world (the largest handmade Iranian rug in the world, which was made by 600 women over the course of four years), giant crystal chandelier, and gorgeous blue tile mosaics. It has space for up to 20,000 worshippers.
Mutrah Corniche is a seaside walkway surrounded by beautiful white buildings and rocky mountains. Close by is one of Oman’s oldest markets, the Mutrah Souq, where you can pick up anything from jewelry to turbans to frankincense and myrrh!
2. Nizwa Fort and Souq (market)
The fort was built in the 17th century by Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’ribi. It’s an oasis city, surrounded by date palms. You can get an inside look into how life was historically lived here through displays of traditional jewelry and tools as well as the history of the area. You can also see how local crafts and foods are made by women from the Nizwa region.
If you’re looking for more history, you can take a visit to the Falaj Canal System which supplies water to this gorgeous oasis, which is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
A wadi is a canyon or valley, which can often be dry or flowing with water, depending on the time of year. There are many wadis to choose from, but we’ll talk about some of the best!
Wadi Al Shab is a great spot for the more adventurous travelers. Take a trip across the river via boat to appreciate the water while staying dry. The boat ride is also the one way to access the starting point of the walking path. The walking path is truly spectacular with beautiful scenery on every side. If swimming is up your alley, you can follow the path along the whole length which is some parts hiking and some parts swimming. You’ll find a beautiful series of connected pools which lead you to a waterfall.
Wadi Al Arbaeen is a less physically demanding alternative to Wadi Al Shab, that also has great spots for swimming and enjoying a waterfall.
Wadi Bani Khalid, near the Sharqiyya Sands desert, offers you a peaceful oasis in the midst of the desert. Come and relax as you swim in the sparkling water! Crystal clear water is matched with the beauty of the surrounding mountains and date palms.
Wadi Dayqah Dam, located in Quirat, Oman and surrounded by mountains, is truly a stunning feat of human engineering. The 8km long lake is part of the highest dam in Oman and is truly breath taking. This wadi is one of the easiest to reach and is just 90 km away from Wadi Aday.
4. Forts or Castles
In addition to Nizwa, it’s worth it to visit the fort in nearby Bahla, located in close proximity to Al Jebel Al Akhdar, this ancient fortress has been around since the 13th century. It’s an impressively well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nestled at the foot of the mountains, this oasis provides a great escape back in time.
The fort in Jibreen, built by Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’arubi in 1670, is an amazing way to see what military architecture in the region is like. Like most forts, their strategic position gives amazing views from the tops of their towers. While the exterior is impressive in its own right, don’t miss out on the beautiful ceilings which adorn this historic fort.
The Al Hazm fort in Rustaq is a must for architecture and history lovers. Built around the start of the 1700’s, Al Hazm is particularly packed full of historical details. This magnificent castle is extremely well-preserved, having undergone recent renovation. Since the renovations, there are modern electronic guides and exhibits to help you along your visit. Compared to the previous two forts, you can come to see the transition in Omani architecture as technology advanced. Al Hazm holds a special place as it was the palace of the imam as well as a defensive structure.
5. Al Jebel Al Akhdar
This mountain, translated to the Green Mountain, at 9,843 ft (3,000 m). It’s located about 150 km from Muscat and is part of the Al Hajar Mountains. While the mountain is mostly made up of limestone, its name can seem misleading. To find green, you’ll have to look farther down to the villages on the Saiq Plateau. They receive plenty of rain each year, making the area a big producer of roses, grapes, pomegranates, peaches, and apricots. The annual harvests for roses and pomegranates are in April and May.
The mountain’s cool climate makes it a great place for tourists. It’s especially great for outdoor activities like rock climbing, trekking, and hiking. You can also visit the old villages close by of Birkat Al Mawz, Haat, and Al Sogara. Al Sogara is particularly interesting because it’s a historic village that has been carved into the side of the mountain. On a walk or hike you can see for yourselves what village architecture, life, and agriculture are like. Most locals live in one of four villages nearby, including Nizwa, Ibra, and Izki.
6. Al Jebel Al Shams
This mountain, meaning Mountain of the Sun, stands at 9,934 ft (3,0027 m) above sea level, making it the tallest peak in Oman. During the winter season, the weather here gets really cold, with snow falling occasionally. But during the summer, you can enjoy 25 Celsius temperatures, making it a great way to beat the heat! It’s about 250 km from Muscat, so a drive of a little bit over three hours.
To get a peek into life around the mountain, take a visit to the old villages of Al Hamra and Misfat Al Abreyeen. One of the must do activities is a visit to the living Bait Al Safah museum at the base of the mountain in Al Hamra. Through real life examples of history and culture, this museum gives you a first-hand look at Omani life. Traditional clothing, décor, food, and other goods can be found being made or used by those within renovated house. You’ll get a taste of Omani hospitality while you learn!
What the mountain is maybe most known for is the canyon which is right beside it. This canyon, Wadi Ghul, is the famed “Grand Canyon of Arabia” near the peak of the mountain. For the absolutely amazing views, try the hike that starts on the trekking path W6 in the village of Al Khitaym, going through the village Sab Bani Khamis which is now abandoned. It’ll take you about an hour for the hike and is totally worth it. Another hiking alternative is the Balcony Walk, which will take you about 2.5 hours. This path will take you along the edge of the canyon towards the abandoned village of As Sab. It’s not a difficult hike and you’ll see stunning views along the way!
Khasab City is the local capital of the Musandam region. Nicknamed the “Norway of Arabia”, the fjords and natural beauty of the area is reminiscent of the Nordic beauty Norway offers. Bordering the United Arab Emirates, this region is the more remote and primitive part of Oman. It’s truly an escape into nature where you can experience a place a part.
To get the most of what Musandam has to offer, take a Dhow (a traditional Omani boat) ride in the fjords! The fjords are popular for snorkeling, scuba diving, and dolphin watching opportunities.
Looking for a bit of history with your nature? Consider visiting Telegraph Island which is located in the body of water surrounding the beautiful Musandam Peninsula. While there was a British telegraph station to help get messages across the Persian Gulf cable line, a couple of old ruins are left. The little island is now an amazing place to go snorkeling!
8. The Desert
A trip to the desert is a truly unforgettable experience that everyone should have! So when it comes down to making your decision on where to go, here is some helpful information. There are generally four different options for visiting the desert in Oman: Bawshar Sands, Ramlat Tawq, A’Shariqiyah, and Rub Al Khali.
The Bawshar Sands are just a short distance from the beaches and water of Muscat. You’ll find many visitors using SUV’s or sand bikes to ride around the dunes. But just as likely you’ll see visitors climbing the hills of golden sand to enjoy the sunset or day time views of the area.
Ramlat Tawq is another option that’s close to Muscat, making it a popular day trip destination.
A’Shariqiyah Sands, sometimes called Wahiba Sands, is in the north of Oman, and offers you a look into traditional Bedouin life. With desert camps ranging from 2-5 stars, you can take a camel ride and sleep in tents under a canopy of stars.
The famed Rub Al Khali or “Empty Quarter” of the south is part of the larger desert that covers the majority of the Arabian Peninsula. Generally, the Empty Quarter’s dunes are much larger, the atmosphere is far more remote, and the camping is much more rustic. Rather than a complete tented camp, you should expect to stay in a basic tent set up by the guide who also makes the meals over a campfire.
9. Mountains of Dhofar
The summer monsoon season in this area of Oman is called “Khareef”, between July and September. Separated from the Muscat area by about 1,000 km, the region is a place of refreshment and escape from the heat that permeates most of the Arabian Peninsula. During these months, you can expect to find an average temperature of about 25 degrees Celsius. Talk about beautiful weather!
One of the most popular spots to visit is Wadi Darbat. This valley has a large body of water for kayaking, paddle boating, and motor boating. You can also see The Cascade Waterfall and The Wadi Darbat Waterfall at the base of the wadi. And when you want to take a break, we’d recommend picnicking on the Wadi Plains! Another attraction close to Salalah is the Tawi Atayr sinkhole and cave, with a depth of over 211m down!
If you’re missing the mountains, take a trip over to Al Jebel Al Samhan nature reserve. But be aware that to enter the nature preserve, you’ll need a permit from the Ministry of the Environment. So it’s best to plan ahead or talk to your trip provider! From the mountain you can get an amazing view (from above 1000 meters). In addition to traditional mountain activities like hiking, you can take part in incredible wildlife watching in the nature reserve! The Al Jebel Al Samhan Nature Reserve is one of the few remaining refuges for wild Arabian leopards. There are native populations also of Nubian Ibexes, rock hyraxes, desert hedgehogs, stiped hyenas, Arabian wolves, Arabian gazelles, Cape hares, and Indian crested porcupines.
Additionally, in the Hinnah Valley of the Hasheer Mountain, you can visit a Baobab forest with one of the largest trees in the Arab world. These trees are known for their unique shape and size. If you plan your visit between July and September, you will see these mountains covered in rolling green grass and trees.
10. Beaches of Dhofar
This specific region is famous for the Frankincense Coast, which has been a hub for producing incense for over 5,000 years! But now that the ancient trade routes have changed, many visitors stop in this region to enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery among its many beaches.
Al Mughsail beach with Marneef cave where blowholes spout through the rocks, making waves shoot up to 10 ft high! The white sandy beaches are flanked on both sides by stunning mountains. In the Khareef seasons the bright blue water is contrasted with the vibrant green of the surround hills and mountains. The beach is located about 40 minutes away from Salalah. It’s a great day trip from the city, for spending time outside, in the water, or just enjoying a picnic with your loved ones!
Al Fazayah beach is surrounded by cliffs, giving the 5 km long beach a sense of real privacy. It’s one of the best beaches in Oman, well-loved because of its beautiful white sand and clear, sparkling blue water.
About 75 km from the town of Salalah, the Mirbat area is known for having beautiful beaches. It was also historically a hub for breeding Arabian horses! Mirbat beach, along with Eagle Bay, has some of the best snorkeling in southern Oman, with warm turquoise water even in wintertime. It’s the perfect place to slow down and spend time in a cute coastal town, with stunningly blue waters!
What looks best to you?
So with all these amazing choices, how can you choose? Depending on your time, pace, and budget, you can decide which sites and experiences are best suited for what trip you and your loved ones are looking for!
Take a look at some of our tours here, or create your own! Our Oman specialists have firsthand experience in country, knowing exactly how to match you to your dream vacation. A individualized tour can give you the most flexibility to see as much as possible, with the guided expertise of those who know and love this country best. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to talk more about traveling in Oman!