My time in the middle east did not end with Dubai and Egypt. After Egypt, I boarded a flight to Muscat to meet some friends. There we began a week-long Oman road trip exploring the hidden beauty Oman has to offer.
I had been dreaming of visiting Oman for YEARS! I saw some photos a few years back and this country quickly rose to the top of my travel list. When I finally got to go, I wanted to make sure to see all the best places to visit in Oman on my trip.
Oman borders the United Arab Emirates and is only a 1-hour flight from Dubai. Oman is really well developed, but they aren’t looking to be the next Dubai.
The majority of Omani people speak English and are more modern in their way of thinking than other middle eastern countries. To top it all off Oman is voted as one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world.
Over the past few years, Oman tourism has been increasing, but it is still a place unknown to most. Most people wouldn’t even be able to place it on a map. Even with the boost in tourism, you’ll find very little photos or blog posts from travelers online. If I’m being honest, this was one of the most attractive things about picking this destination!
The Middle Eastern country is incredibly safe to drive around, and within a few hours drive, the country has everything from emerald colored waters to deep gorges, infinite orange sand dunes, historic villages, and spectacular mountain peaks.
My Oman road trip took me around the country for a week with my friends Amy and Brandon. We were all blown away at the variety of the landscapes, the beauty of the country, and the kind nature of everyone we met.
You’ll notice in this blog post nearly every spot we visited we expected to be swarmed with tourist, but you’ll quickly find that you won’t find that in Oman. It is still so undiscovered!
Our road trip through Oman was one of my favorite moments of this year!
On our Oman road trip, we made the best places to visit in Oman a priority. We wanted to see the variety of landscapes and the beauty of the country as well as experience the culture of the country.
Here is a quick breakdown of our Oman itinerary. You can also use the map below to plan your own visit to Oman.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN MUSCAT
We spent the first 2 days unwinding and getting spoiled at the Shangri-La Al Husn in Muscat. Shangri-La is one of my favorite hotel chains so I’m always thrilled to stay there whenever I can.
I love the smell of Shangri-La hotels! It’s something so simple as the signature smell they use in all their hotels that makes me so happy and feel right at home.
The Shangri-La always has several 5-star restaurants and buffets. Al Husn was no different. The buffet alone was the biggest I had ever seen.
I was disappointed I didn’t get to try the Asian restaurant, which is typically my favorite food. However, the Moroccan restaurant did not disappoint. I’m a sucker for vegetable tajine and Moroccan mint tea!
The Shangri-La organized a boat tour for us with Zahara Tours to the Damaniyat Islands. We left the hotel around 10 am. The boat company picked us up and dropped us off at the marina. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes on a speedboat to get to the islands. The boat ride was pretty choppy and windy, so settle in.
Typically you’d expect a place this beautiful would be packed with tourists, but once we arrived we were the only ones there! We spent the afternoon snorkeling and visiting 2 of the 9 pristine islands.
The boat ride also includes a vegetarian lunch. After lunch and a few hours of swimming and snorkeling, we made our way back to the mainland.
The day was absolutely incredible. Who knew Oman had waters that resemble Tahiti or the Maldives! It was some clearest water I’ve ever seen!
Hot Tip: If I were to do it again, I would have booked a private boat. It would have been worth the money to spend an entire day there. It’s too beautiful to head back so soon!
Attention adventure-seekers: If you’re up for it, apparently you can camp on some of the islands. I haven’t looked too much into it, but if you’re looking to save money and have a really unique Oman experience, it’s worth looking into.
Like most night markets, the souk has tiny back alleyways filled with scents of frankincense and myrrh (signature scents of Oman), luxurious scarves, and beautifully decorated Abayas (long sleeve tunic and head scarf for women).
I always love visiting local markets, and my favorite things to shop for are home decor. I love filling my home with memories from my travels. Over the years I have brought home rugs, pillowcases, paintings, hand-painted plates and vases.
Every year for as long as I can remember, my mom has always gifted us a new Christmas ornament. When I started traveling, I started collecting a new ornament from every destination. I was so happy I managed to find the cutest one for Oman because I missed out on picking one up in Egypt!
While we walked around, I also stumbled in a little shop and picked up a few local accessories I thought could be fun to jazz up the photos when shooting.
One of the first things I noticed was how friendly Omanis are. Typically you’d expect vendors to be pushy, but the locals wanted to find out your name and where you are from regardless of if you made a purchase or not.
Tip: Fridays and Saturdays are weekend days, and some parts of the souk will be closed on those days.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Hours: Non-Muslims can visit the Grand Mosque from 8 am to 11 am from Saturday to Thursday. Friday is prayer day.
We planned to visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque right at 8 am, however we only managed to get there by 10 am. The mosque is so grand, both in beauty and in size. Built in 2001, the details of this mosque are getting worldwide attention.
I would recommend planning to arrive earlier, especially if you are going for photos! We didn’t realize that the mosque closes at 11 am for non-Muslims, so we didn’t have much time.
Visitors are asked to dress modestly to respect the places of worship. For women, that requires you to cover your hair with a scarf and wear clothing that covers your wrists and ankles. I wore a long dress and a scarf, and it was perfect. However, if you arrive unprepared, they have a shop with Abayas for rent.
If I were you and you know you will need to rent, I’d spend the same amount and buy one at the market. You’ll end up buying one that is a lot nicer and you’ll have a nice souvenir.
BEST PLACES TO STOP ON AN OMAN ROAD TRIP
After exploring Muscat for a few days, it was time to start out on our Oman road trip. We ended up spending almost a week in Oman total, and it gave us time to see Muscat plus explore more of the variety of beautiful places to visit in Oman.
From the deserts to the sinkholes to the mountains to the gorges, Oman has so much natural beauty to explore. Renting a car allowed us to explore the best Oman has to offer without being confined to a set schedule. Here are the best stops for an Oman road trip outside of Muscat.
Hours: Boats start at 8.m. and stop between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Cost: 1 OMR ($2.50 USD) for the boat ride
Wadi Shab meaning gorge between the cliff is a must-visit! Located just a 1.5-hour drive from the capital Muscat, it is right off the highway making it easy to reach.
Once at the parking spot, you catch a 1 minute boat ride to cross the river and start the 45-minute hike to reach the gorge. The boat ride costs only 1 OMR (2.5 USD).
After a long drive, we decided to spend the night in the town of Sur. We had hoped to get some photos at the Bimmah Sinkhole, but unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side.
We ended up booking a room at the Wadi Shab Resort. It’s nothing fabulous but we weren’t expecting many luxury accommodations on our road trip. It was the closest to Wadi Shab.
We woke up early, packed up the car and made it to Wadi Shab right at 7am. We didn’t realize that we were traveling during a national holiday (basically Oman’s independence day) so we wanted to be the first ones to arrive when the boats start running.
Due to the holiday, we expected both tourists and locals to fill the gorge. We wanted to make sure we were first in line. To our surprise, we had the entire place to ourselves! Only as we were leaving around 9:30 did people start to arrive.
Tip: Plan to spend about 3 – 4 hours at Wadi Shab. To avoid the midday heat, getting there in the morning would be the best option.
Tip: Pack a swimsuit and wear good shoes! The hike often calls for you to climb big boulders. I wore running shoes and was happy to have a better grip and support than just flip flops.
Hours: The park the sinkhole is in is open from 7:30 a.m. until 11 p.m.
This natural crater is right next to the main road about 20 minutes from Wadi Shab. You can definitely hit these two places on the same day! Make sure to pack a swimsuit and take a dive in the emerald-colored water.
Locals believe this natural swimming hole was creator by a meteorite. What do you think?
We tried visiting the sinkhole the day before, but the weather wasn’t on our side. We decided to visit Wadi Shab first as we thought morning light would be best and Bimmah Sinkhole during high sun (noon) to get the sun hitting the water directly.
Even for a national holiday, the sinkhole wasn’t too busy at all! There were about 8 other people there with us. The freshwater is so clear and makes for the perfect place to cool off.
If you’re ticklish like me, beware that the sinkhole has little fish that will nibble at your toes. I’ve never done a fish pedicure before, so I can’t compare it, but I would imagine it would be similar.
Pro-tip: Come Sunday-Thursday as those are the weekdays in the Middle East.
From the sinkhole, you are still 2 hours from the last town before the desert. Then you’ll need to drive 40KM through the dunes to get to our night camp.
We arrived at the last town before the desert at about 3pm, right on time. We went to a gas station to fuel up and deflate our tires. When driving on sand, you want to deflate the PSI in your tires. This prevents you from getting stuck in the sand – very important!
Our first impressions of 1000 Nights Camp – wow! We were blown away by the design and landscape – think Moroccan glamping! We were welcomed with traditional tea and shown to our tent for the night.
Because of the tight timeline of our road trip, we only stayed one night, but we would have gladly stayed another if our schedule allowed. Having no WiFi for the night was honestly really nice to disconnect and take in the dunes and the stars at night.
There is nothing better than experiencing a sunset on the dunes, so make sure to arrive with enough time so you can settle in. Since we visited Oman in November, the sun starts to set earlier in the afternoon at around 4 p.m.
Tip: The best time to visit the desert is during their winter, between October and March. Summer temperatures can rise to 50 degrees and it will be unbearable.
Dinner at the camp was incredible! It was an extensive buffet style. After a long day of eating gas station snacks, this was our first real meal of the day. I think we went back for three plates we were so hungry.
After dinner, we gathered by the fire and watched some of the local guides dance around as the staff played traditional music under the stars. It was a perfect way to end a long day.
We woke up that morning planning to shoot around camp but we did not expect to be greeted by the friendliest camels! They were so gentle and definitely made my photos epic!
This is Sunny, he was a real poser! What do you think of his posing skills?
Hours: Saturday-Thursday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Cost: 5 OMR ($13 USD)
We left the desert at 11:30 a.m. With a quick pit stop to reinflate our tires and one more stop at a supermarket for food, we arrived just before sunset.
Nizwa Fort is located about an hour from Muscat. If you plan to make Muscat your base, it can easily be a day trip from Muscat.
Nizwa Fort is the largest castle in Oman and is the country’s most visited national monument. It is an amazing example of old Omani architecture. Inside the fort’s walls, you’ll find signs telling some interesting stories about the fort and their defense system.
Pro Tip: Do not miss walking the Nizwa Souq. I bought the most beautiful terracotta vases at the market just outside the fort grounds.
Al Hamra Village
GPS location Al Hamra Oman: N23º 07’ 14.542” E57º 16’ 59.048”
The town of Al Hamra is a completely abandoned mud village in the northeast of Oman. Here you can wander among crumbling buildings, dusty pathways and decorative old doors.
Al Hamra is located 45 minutes from Nizwa and about 2 hours from Muscat. This means you could combine them into one day trip from Muscat or two different day trips if needed.
Apparently the village became abandoned because the people living there wanted to start again with better infrastructure and better technology.
We spent about an hour wandering through the abandoned town and only crossed paths with three other people. It is a surreal experience to walk through a completely abandoned village stepping over piles of rubbles where houses used to lay. Not to mention a really cool place for photos!
We stayed at Al Hamra Guest House which was less than special, but we didn’t really care. We got in late and left first thing in the morning.
Jebel Al Akhdar
Jebel Akhdar, meaning the Green Mountain, is one of Oman’s most impressive areas. It is the highest point in Oman and all of eastern Arabia.
This rugged, mountainous region is one of Oman’s top tourist destinations due to breathtaking landscapes that include Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest mountain, and Jebel Akhdar. You can expect spectacular mountain views and few tourists.
On our last night in Oman, we decided to treat ourselves and spend a night at Sahab Hotel in the mountains. The idea of a hot shower and room service was too hard to pass up! We even bought a $60 bottle of wine to celebrate the end of our trip!
FYI: Alcohol is hard to find in Oman, so when you do find it, it is very expensive. Hence the $60 bottle of cheap wine! If you’re a drinker, I would recommend picking up any alcohol you want at duty-free as you won’t find much around the country. Even if you do its expensive.
The mountain climate is significantly colder than the rest of Oman so make sure to pack a few layers, especially for at night. I was glad I had some layers to keep me warm while enjoying the views.
Pro Tip: The drive in the mountain area of Jabal Akhdar is made up of beautiful, winding roads, so make sure that you have a 4×4 to go up. Also, avoid the drive if it is raining as the winding roads can get dangerous if you don’t have clear conditions.
Pro Tip: When on a road trip in Oman, I recommend using Waze over Google Maps.
BONUS OMAN TRAVEL TIPS
There are a few common questions that came up on my Oman posts and stories. If you have other questions I missed here, feel free to leave them in the comments for me. Here are a few things to note before traveling to Oman:
Do I need a visa to visit Oman?
Depending on where you are from, visa requirements will vary. For Canadians, a visa was very easy to get and cost only $30. You can apply online and it takes a few days. I ended up getting a visa on arrival.
How much does it cost to travel in Oman?
Oman is not a budget travel destination. It was comparable to life at home in North America in terms of costs of hotels and food. Alcohol is more expensive and hard to find, so if you plan to drink, budget in some extra money and/or pick up drinks at duty-free.
When is the best time to visit Oman?
The best time to visit Oman would be from October to March to avoid extreme heats. Make sure to stay hydrated, especially on hikes, and to try to explore places early in the day before it gets too hot.
What should I wear in Oman?
Oman is pretty modern for a Middle Eastern country. However, I recommend dressing modestly still. It will draw less attention and show respect to the culture.
If you visit a swimming area on the weekend days especially, wear a modest bathing suit as more locals will be around on those days. If you plan to visit a mosque, make sure you have something to fully cover your body and your hair.
What is the food in Oman like?
The food in Oman has a Middle Eastern flare laced with Indian influence introduced by the widely scattered expat community. As a vegan, the Indian choices made it very easy to eat anywhere.
Is Oman safe to visit? Is Oman safe for women?
According to women, Oman is one of the safest countries to travel in the Middle East as a solo female, much safer than other mass tourism destinations such as Jordan and Egypt.
Whereas Oman is highly conservative, you won’t get as many stares as in Jordan, and they will generally treat you more respectfully because all women here are queens.
Why You Need to Plan a Road Trip in Oman
While Oman is worth a trip of its own, try to schedule in some time in Oman if you will be in the area to visit other more popular tourist destinations like Dubai. Because Oman is still so undiscovered, visiting in the near future means you get these beautiful locations almost to yourself.
I feel like Oman is only going to become more popular as more people see photos of the various landscapes and decide they want to see them for themselves. I felt completely safe on our Oman road trip, and it was amazing to explore this country before tourism really takes hold there.
If you have any other questions about Oman, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Looking for more Middle East travel ideas? Check out my 10 day Egypt itinerary here.
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