What to do in Oman
What to do in Oman
Our guide on what to do in Oman
The country’s magnificent cultural assets combined with its enchanting landscapes, allow for a wide range of things to do in Oman. Begin in the capital for an introduction to Omani culture in the bustling warrens of its markets and souks, browsing traditional crafts alongside bags filled with frankincense and Beduin jewelry before sinking a cocktail in one of the city’s hotels. But if you prefer to try a local tipple, drink a laban: salty yogurt flavored with cardamom and pistachios.
Embark on a journey along Oman’s various coastlines for fishing trips aboard Dhow boats, wildlife spotting at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, and diving and snorkeling at the Daymaniyat Islands to spot whale sharks amongst vibrant coral.
Many of Oman’s most remarkable adventures are found in its magical deserts. At the otherworldly Empty Quarter, waves of sand stretch for 225,000 square miles from Oman into Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen.
With no notable settlements to break the dunes, making it a perfect location from which to experience the vast emptiness of the desert wilds. Spend evenings camping in complete silence and days trekking to antique villages and enchanting wadis, where rivers cut through canyons forming graceful oases lush with palms.
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Best activities in Oman
Oman has a huge range of outdoor pursuits, history, culture, and food to enjoy. To help narrow it down we have put together a list of some of our favorites.
Discover Oman’s Desert & Mountain Forts
Rugged mountain scenery forms a striking silhouette against the blue backdrop of a clear sky, with desert canyons, or wadis, home to towering limestone cliff faces, refreshing rivers beset by palms (perfect for cooling off from the desert sun) in the winter, and wildflowers concealing cicadas in the summer. Trekking here is a delight, with airy mountain paths offering sublime views of the canyons, punctuated by lost-in-time villages and ancient mountain forts leaning over the sea. Live like a nomad, trekking over impressive dunes to see vistas of the sand seas, discovering ancient cave dwellings and long abandoned villages, while tracing Oman’s history in its mountain forts and the country’s culture in tales told around the crackle of a desert fire.
Take a Dhow Cruise in the Musandam Peninsula
The ideal way to see the dramatic landscapes of the Musandam Peninsula, a cruise aboard a classic Arabic Dhow introduces you to otherwise inaccessible bays and islets, sailing you under lofty mountains and along staggeringly pretty bays stitched with enormous cliffs and vast lengths of craggy coast. From the ship, you’ll spot schools of dolphins as you glide towards remote islands in between eating onboard Omani barbecues on the ship’s sundeck. You’ll disembark for kayaking alongside breathtaking Omani fjords, for snorkeling in the clear waters, and to embark on cultural visits to isolated villages.
Observe nesting turtles at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Journey to the east of Oman (just a few hours of travel from Muscat) to see the Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve, one of Oman’s most important eco-tourism projects that aims to educate visitors while protecting the delightful turtle populations that nest on the beach. Visit the reserve in July, and you’ll most likely see massive mother turtles slowly hobbling to shore, digging at the sand to bury their little eggs, while from September, twee hatchlings forge a tiny, messy path towards the water for the first time. But there’s generally always something to see — with one or two mother turtles making their way to land almost every night of the year.
Stargazing in the desert wilderness at Wahiba Sands
One of the world’s best stargazing spots, Sharqiya Sands (or Wahiba Sands), is the epitome of a desert landscape. The sands are almost entirely uninhabited (save for the odd camp and Bedouin), with towering dunes shifting like a giant sea forming sandy surfs in slow motion. Travel east and the dunes grow in size, some surpassing 100 meters high. Travel deeper into the desert, and it becomes all the more untouched and seemingly endless. During the day, the golden sands juxtaposed with the blue sky are staggering, but at night, when the sky dims to near black, the fires in camp begin to crackle, and the stars stud the sky in endless constellations, the Wahiba Sands assume an almost unbelievable beauty.
Discover the Souks & Markets of Muscat
Oman’s deep history and vibrant culture are perhaps no clearer than when exploring its Souks and markets. In Muscat, one of the best is the delightful Muttrah Souk, one of the oldest souks in the Arab world. Snuggled into the harbor of the old town, with narrow alleyways forming lively shopfronts kept in the shade by wooden roofs, the Muttrah Souk has sellers trading everything from Khanjars, coffee pots, and Bedouin jewelry to traditional pottery, wooden crafts, and frankincense. A less traditional but nonetheless charming option exists in Souq es Sabt, an artisan farmers’ market with fresh fruits and creative crafts, while the Nizwa Souk offers glimpses of old Oman, its ancient architecture a sublime venue for a spot of haggling while souvenir shopping.
Enjoy a Meal with a Bedouin Family
A journey to Oman’s desert is always extraordinary, but to truly understand what life here is like, meeting the Bedouin to learn about their way of life as they showcase their exceptional capacity for hospitality, is essential. You’ll find that, while some Bedouins have set up non-nomadic homes, and some move from tents in the desert to houses outside of it, they remain committed to tribal traditions, including warm hospitality to visitors. You’ll meet with a Bedouin family, often in or close to Wahiba Sands, to share a meal of traditional Bedouin cuisine in their homes (with chicken and lamb marinated in a medley of spices, often cooked over a fire and served with traditional bread and rice). And perhaps best of all, a meal with a Bedouin Family is an opportunity to listen to their stories detailing their steadfast commitment to preserving ancient customs and traditions in some of the harshest environments on earth.
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