Where to go in Oman
Head to the capital Muscat along the Gulf coastline to see a blending of traditional and modern Omani architecture, with highlights such as Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Muttrah Souq. Journey into Oman’s renowned deserts, Wahiba Sands, and the vast Empty Quarter for unforgettable Arabian nights spent under the stars with the local Beduins and the crackle of a fire. Speed over the dunes in 4x4s or take a more leisurely amble to watch as the blisteringly hot sun begins to set.
In contrast, the coastal regions are more hospitable, ideal destinations to escape the heat of the desert. The beguiling northern coast is a showcase for Oman’s natural beauty, with lagoons and rocky coves cutting between the sea and inland mountains, lush with grapes and other produce while the Musandam Peninsula provides a scenic backdrop for days spent adventuring aboard a traditional Arab sailing ship.Read More
Best places to go in Oman
Our guide to Oman’s principal destinations is below. You’ll find there’s a lot to see and a great deal of variety on offer! Please speak to our specialists if you’d like more information on any of these locations.
Muscat is a city of evocative grand mosques towering over the skyline in a symphony of minarets, domes, and stunning ornate palaces characterized by intricate mosaics and carvings. Beyond the city streets, a rugged topography of mountains eventually gives way to the desert, but its eastern extreme is a long line of stunning white sand beaches. A sea breeze sweeps Muscat’s much-loved Frankincense from the bazaars where it burns on almost every stand along the hills and through its antique streets but the Omani love of this evocative tree resin is perhaps no less clear than at the playful Riyam Memorial: a massive observation tower built as an ornamental incense burner in homage to the Frankincense that has been traded out of Muscat’s souks for millennia. Oman’s cuisine is a must-try for food lovers, bolstered by a wealth of natural ingredients, from fish caught along its vast coastline to the colorful spices piled up in its souks. Muscat is an ideal destination to get acquainted with it.
The ‘Pearl of Islam’ as it’s often called, is known for the rich tapestry of cultural heritage that’s stitched into the natural beauty of its mountains. Traditional architecture characterizes this ancient city, with lively souks (including Oman’s oldest), traditional markets, such as the raucous goat market, and ornate minarets puncturing the mountain views. The striking Nizwa Fort is a highlight, dating back to the 17th century, with ornate courtyards and breathtaking views from the top. The elaborate gates that open up to Nizwa form an access point for the towns of Bahla and Jabreen and make an excellent base for excursions to Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams, two stunning mountains towering over the town.
The sleepy little Musandam Peninsula punctures out into the Straits of Hormuz forming the most northwesterly land mass on the Arab Peninsula. Separated from mainland Oman (of which Musandam is a Governorate) by the UAE, the Musandam Peninsula’s coast boasts fractures of fjord-like creeks connected to land by the narrowest of cliffs, beautiful corals fringing islands, ancient fishing villages, and forts built by the Portuguese. Go inland and the terrain becomes mountainous, with long vertiginous mountain roads leading to charming villages and extending over the border to Dubai (just a few hours by road). Explore it from its turquoise waters, the Persian Gulf to the East, the Gulf of Oman to the West, and the rugged coastline of Iran to the north by traditional Dhow Cruise. As well as dolphins, which are ubiquitous along the peninsula, there’s a myriad of aquatic life, ideal for discovery by snorkeling, particularly in the bays and beaches of the Seebi and Telegraph Islands,
The Wahiba Sands undulates like an ocean of smooth dunes across eastern Oman, rising like a tide to their highest in the east as the winds push them towards the ocean. A rich golden orange in the daytime, but in the evenings, as the sun sets and the moon hangs in the sky, the sand’s color fades until it becomes pale and just faintly golden. The dunes are home to a surprising 200 species of mammals supported by healthy underground water reserves, though they tend to be rather shy, making sightings quite rare. Wahiba Sands is a three-hour drive from the capital and makes for an effortless adventure into the desert with plenty of overnight options. Luxurious camps offer a comfortable retreat to watch desert life unfold, but traditional Bedouin camps with tents crafted from black wool are perhaps a touch more authentic. Whichever you choose, the uninterrupted darkness of the desert lends itself to sky watching, with stars twinkling as diamonds just out of reach, as well as camel treks to the top of dunes for stunning sunsets and fireside dinners paired with fragrant mint tea.
Salalah & the Empty Quarter
Arabian deserts are legendary, but none so much as Rub’ Al Khali Desert — or the Empty Corner, called such because it is literally an intensely hot and vast length of unbroken rust-colored desert, with a larger surface area than France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Nomadic Beduins offer a taste of Omani desert culture with Omani food and old stories often a delightful part of overnight stays, while sunset views, 4x4s, biking, and camel rides make up the bulk of activities here. There’s little in the way of local flora, though the legendary Land of Frankincense is close by, and a small selection of wildlife survives the hyper-arid landscape, including gazelles, oryx, and sand cats. The best way to access the Empty Quarter is from Salalah, the beautiful capital of Dhofar. From there you’ll travel north, an ideal opportunity to visit Wadi Dawkah and the Jabal Qara Mountains, before spending a night or two amongst the unspeakable beauty of the Rub’ Al Khali Desert.
Jebel Akhdar translates to Green Mountain in Arabic, but while the mountains may not look especially green from afar, once hiking amongst their exquisite peaks, you’ll discover hidden wadis (an Arabic word meaning something similar to a valley) filled with rainwater, and terraces where apricots, pomegranates, and rose bushes flourish in the cooler temperatures of the mountains. Add to this the panoramic mountaintop vistas of the Omani landscapes — all deep canyons and rugged terrain leading to the horizon — rose-water distilleries, and idyllic mountain villages, and a trip to Jebel Akhdar becomes a necessity on every Oman itinerary. Hike to Diana’s;s Viewpoint, a ridge of cliffs named after Princess Diana, who visited the area in 1986 with Prince (now King) Charles, and was said to have been mesmerized by the distinctive farmed terraces, a millennia-old oasis system, now held up as models for sustainable irrigated agriculture.
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