The Sultanate of Oman is an Arab country situated in the Arabian Peninsula. After 6 years of living in this magnificent country, it is hard for me to choose the best things to do or to see, as there are so many.
If you are looking for a three to four-day getaway, I would totally recommend just staying in Muscat, checking into a nice hotel and enjoy the good sun and the warm sea of the Gulf.
If you are a fan of outdoor and adventurous activities, I would recommend taking one to two weeks to visit Oman and enjoy all the great things that it has to offer and rent a 4×4 car because you will need it.
*Following the recent death of Sultan Qaboos of Oman Al Said in January 2020, the author does not recommend travel to Oman in the next 1-2 months allowing the country to mourn and to first assure there is no political instability. The peaceful and safe nature of Oman has always been ensured by Sultan Qaboos in years past and we hope it remains that way.
GOOD TO KNOW
The perfect time to visit is between October and March. These are the coolest months with temperatures around 18ºC-25ºC and no humidity, blue skies and good sea temperatures.
This is a Muslim country so you will need to pay some attention to how you dress and how you behave. Women are allowed to wear skirts or knee-high shorts, and it’s okay to be sleeveless, however, make sure that you cover legs, shoulders and head while visiting a mosque and certain villages will even let you know that you should cover yourself. It’s also allowed to wear a bikini in the pools and beaches of the hotels, but don’t attempt to wear a bikini at a public beach, you might get arrested or you can have people shouting at you and honestly, there’s no need for that.
Omanis are warm people, generous and always happy to help you, but at the same time, they just ask for some consideration towards their beliefs. The best trick for women is to carry a scarf in your purse at all times, it saves you in a lot of occasions.
While living in Bangalore you can find direct flights from Bangalore to Muscat with Oman Air and it’s only a 3 hour and 30-minute flight which makes it a perfect destination for a long weekend, one week or two weeks if you want to experience all the good things that Oman has to offer without rushing.
OMAN’S CAPITAL – MUSCAT
The capital of Oman is Muscat, a small and traditional city where you can visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque that is one imposing construction with a mix of modern Islamic architecture.
It’s mandatory to visit Mutrah, which in the past was the centre of commerce in Oman and has one of the largest seaports of the region with a nice footpath along the port area overlooking the ocean on one side and old forts and traditional houses on the other side.
Mutrah also hosts the traditional Souq, where all the locals still go shopping and where you can buy the traditional Frankincense and a lot of jewellery.
WHERE TO STAY
Muscat hosts really nice beachfront hotels with amazing pools such as The Chedi and The W, however a short drive away from Muscat you’ll find the famous Shangri-La that is the best choice if you have kids as it has pools prepared for families and a nice beachfront.
The Chedi, North Ghubra 232 Way, Muscat 133, www.ghmhotels.com
The W, Al Kharjiya Street, Shatti Al Qurum, Mutrah, Muscaţ 113, www.marriott.com
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, PO Box 644, Muscat 100, www.shangri-la.com
THE MOUNTAINS OF OMAN
I would suggest driving from Muscat to Nizwa which is one of the most emblematic cities of Oman with a nice fort that is worth visiting. Close to the Fort you will find one of most traditional Souqs of the region selling pottery, silver items, old guns, dates and fresh produce and if you drive through early Friday morning you can even see the traditional goat market.
From Nizwa you can drive up to Jabel Shams or Jabel Akhdar, which are the main range of mountains where you can do several hikes along the canyons and end up doing wild camping or check-in to a nice hotel. My favourite one is the Alila in Jabel Akhdar that has gorgeous decoration and a pool overlooking the canyon, truly an incredible vibe.
Alila, Jabel Akhdar, www.alilahotels.com/jabalakhdar
Close to this region, you will find a famous village Misfat Al-Abreen which is definitely a must-see. An old village built alongside a Falage system, which for those who don’t know is one of the most ancient methods of water distribution through channels. These water channels make this place one of the greenest areas in Oman, full of date palms and small agriculture fields. There’s nice hiking along the Falage system that is totally mandatory, but if you have toddlers or small children, make sure to take them by your hand as some areas are facing the cliffs.
THE DESERT – WAHIBA SANDS
Moving away from the famous mountains of Oman, there are several places of interest such as the Wahiba Sands, the famous desert of Oman.
To visit the Wahiba and because you will be driving there as a tourist, I would suggest to drive to one of the camps that are already set up in the desert. These camps are at the entrance of the desert, which makes it safer for tourists as you shouldn’t adventure out by yourself into the desert to camp, unless you have friends from there that can guide you through the paths and lend you camping gear. I would recommend booking into the Desert Nights Camp. These camps are like small hotels in the desert, so you will sleep in Bedouin tents with beds, electricity and running water and the food will be typical Omani food.
The desert is for me one of my happiest places in Oman, the peace, the quiet, the stars in the sky…are just amazing.
Coming out from the to the desert, you can also visit Wadi Bani Khalid. A Wadi is a dry river, but in some cases like this one, is full of water with natural pools that you can jump into and enjoy the fresh and clean water in these carbonate rock formations.
Desert Nights Camp, www.omanhotels.com/desertnightscamp
Oman has two different coastlines, one along the Gulf of Oman that presents a calm ocean and another one along the Arabian Sea once you start driving south that is wilder, rawer and pretty untouched.
To enjoy the Gulf view I would advise to drive from Muscat direction Siffah and drive through Bandar Khairan that offers a beautiful landscape. While in Siffah you can check in one of the hotels and enjoy the beach over there.
If you prefer a more untouched coastline, you can drive from Muscat until Sur or Ras al Haad and stop halfway through at Fins beach for a dip in the ocean and you might even see some turtles in their migratory route.
While in Sur or Ras al Haad you can visit the Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve and even stay overnight. Oman is home to several important nesting sites for four different species of turtle: the endangered Green Turtle, the Olive Ridley Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, and the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle.
Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, Ras Al Jinz, Sur 411, rasaljinz-turtlereserve.com
OTHER FUN ACTIVITIES
Among the many activities to do in Oman, I am listing my favourite ones:
Diving or snorkeling in Damayniat islands seaoman.com/dive-snorkel
Wadi Shaab – This wadi has plenty of water and it offers a nice smooth hike along green areas finishing up with a swim in the end of the hike in natural pools
Snake Canyon – If you like Canyoning this is the right adventure for you. This is formed by a natural crack between two mountains where the water passes smoothing the carbonated rocks, creating waterfalls and natural pools. This is definitely a natural water park, although it isn’t super difficult it requires good and comfortable swimming skills and no fear of jumping, as you will have to jump a few times into water pools. To be able to do Snake Canyon you will have to contact one of the companies that provide this service, as you should go with someone that has all the safety equipment and that knows the place itself. I would totally recommend Twenty3 Extreme to do it.
WHERE TO EAT
My favourite Omani restaurants in Muscat are:
Kargeen, Al Bashair Street, Muscat
Bait al Luban, Al Mina Street, Opposite fish Market in Muttrah, Muscat
Ubhar, Bareeq Al Shatti, Shatti Al Qurum, Al Sarooj Road, Muscat