Arguably one of the most underrated destinations in the Middle East, Oman has many hidden gems to be discovered for those who seek them. Stunning deserts, ancient forts and a pristine coastline all adds to the charm of Oman. Here are our favourite places to visit in Oman that you should check out.
Barka is a quiet coastal village with an interesting fort and some splendid beaches. It‘s slowly starting to become recognised as Oman’s premier destination for those who want to take advantage of the country’s beautiful shoreline with all the necessary facilities close at hand.
In the southeastern corner of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, set between the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, is the wonderful beachside town of Dibba. From here it is possible to discover the hidden and tranquil Zighy Bay, only accessible by four-wheel drive, speedboat or paraglide. The ultimate beach retreat, the resort is designed to match the close by Zighy village and even comes complete with the occasional wandering Omani goat.
Rub' al Khali directly translates to "Quarter of Emptiness" and it is no surprise as it is the largest sand desert on Earth. The arid sands span 250,000 square miles, covering much of the southern Arabian Peninsula, and is shared by Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Step in the footsteps of the explorer Bertram Thomas, who crossed the Omani Empty Quarter in 1930, in a 4x4 expedition. Wild camp beneath the stars by a warming fire before waking up early to watch the sunrise over the rolling dunes.
Beyond Nizwa, the southern flanks of the Western Hajar Mountains can be seen rising over 2000 metres above the surrounding countryside. Within these mountains, rugged networks of wadi channels have carved networks of dramatic canyons and caves. The most fertile of these have been cultivated by the hardy shuwawis, mountain people, who have adapted to their harsh lifestyle. To the west Jebel Shams (‘Mountain of the Sun’) is the tallest peak in Oman at 3010 metres. Here you will find one of Oman's greatest natural wonders, the Wadi Nakhr Gorge. Inside the canyon, you can haggle with the local rug weavers, trek to the cliff dwellings along the canyon rim and visit the remains of towns once occupied by Persian settlers.
The limestone peaks of Al Hajar form the highest mountain range in eastern Arabia, paralleling the coast of the Gulf of Oman and stretching south-eastward in a 700 km arc. Rising up out of the surrounding desert, these spectacular mountains reach a maximum height of 3075 m on Jebel Shams ('Mountain of the Sun'), which lies in Jabal Akhdar, at the heart of the range. Fed by many wadis, remarkably fertile gardens and plantations hide in this essentially desert landscape. Wadi Ghul is the largest and best known of these valleys, and supports a great variety of flora, fauna and nomadic peoples.
Spend a night camping beneath the desert skies on the pink shell beaches and white dunes of Khaluf on Oman's eastern coast. Khaluf is only accessible by 4x4 due to the ocean winds constantly moving the sands, making it an isolated gem. A visit to the local fishing village is also a must on your trip to Oman
Khasab is the gateway to the Musandam Peninsula which juts into the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entry into the Persian Gulf, from the Arabian Peninsula. The Musandam peninsula is an exclave of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. Its location gives Oman partial control, shared with Iran, of the strategic strait. In the northern section of Musandam, around Kumzar, the current language is Kumzari, which are one of the south-western Iranian languages and a sub-branch of Persian.
Masirah Island enjoys miles of isolated sandy beaches and it is home to all four of Oman's nesting species of turtle. The island provides a rare haven for the largest population of loggerhead turtles in the world. The shallow offshore waters are also ideal for snorkelling, whilst the island's rugged coastline has proved a dangerous spot for passing dhows, littering the shoreline with a number of wrecks.
Muscat became the capital of Oman in 1793 but its origins lie much further back in time. Its name translates as ‘anchorage’ and the concealed harbour was mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. It is still an important port today and a major contributor to the city’s economy. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and with few high-rise blocks, the city retains an air of elegance and classical Arabian design that well rewards a visit.
A palm oasis situated in a plain and surrounded by Oman’s highest mountains, Nizwa was the capital of Oman from 751 to 1154 AD and is still regarded as the country’s cultural centre. It was more or less off limits to western travellers until recently due to its religious conservatism, but these days it is a justifiably popular destination.
When visiting Nizwa, make sure you visit the Nizwa fort.
Ras Al Hadd
This pleasant fishing village and lagoon has some wonderful beaches overlooking the blue waters of the Arabian Sea. It is very close to Ras Al-Jinz, the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula, which is famous all over the world for its green turtle nesting sites. The mothers come ashore all year round (though particularly in October and November) to give birth to their young. It is possible to go out at night to watch them nest.
Ras Al Jinz
Tens of thousands of female green turtles return to the beaches of Ras El Jinz every year to lay their eggs. Green turtles are classified as Endangered making the nature reserve of huge importance to the species survival. Not just a haven for turtles, the amazing Carapace Hotel and Luxury Eco Tents provide an opportunity to view the nesting process of these incredible sea creatures in comfort and style, surrounded by the unspoiled mountains and shores of the eastern Arabian Peninsula.
Salalah is the capital of Dhofar, Oman’s southernmost province, and is a vibrant, colourful place that has its roots in the profitable frankincense trade that proliferated in the region. An important port for centuries, the town has something of an East African flavour as a result of Oman’s former territories, and plantations of bananas and papayas add to this feeling.
Sur was once a major port, trading mainly with East Africa, and exemplifies Oman’s seafaring traditions with an attractive cornice, some beautiful beaches, two forts and the dhow yards where these vessels have been built for centuries.
The Wahiba Sands are one of the country’s most isolated desert areas where majestic dunes blown by the wind tower above the desert floor. As the sun moves through the sky the sands reflect a multitude of ever-changing hues. The Wahiba Sands is a fantastic place to visit in Oman to experience the silent beauty of the desert.