Where are the best places to go in Oman?
Oman captivated us! A land with grand forts, endless sand dunes, colorful souqs and crystal clear wadis. Dating back to 3,000 B.C., Oman has a fascinating heritage with cherished traditions and rich culture.
Our few days here were filled with excursions throughout Oman, and visiting sites in Muscat.
Here are our recommendations on what to do/see, where to go/stay/dine, and how to get there.
There are several sites to see in the capitol city of Oman, where you’ll find a modern commercial center coexisting with the historic town and its traditional culture. One of the first impressions we had was the dramatic landscape, where Muscat is cradled in a natural volcanic bowl, and looks out to the beautiful Sea of Oman.
Here’s our shortlist of highlights:
- The Grand Mosque: An elegant religious landmark built in sandstone with classic Arab styles. We were amazed at the craftsmanship and unique Islamic architecture. Be sure to take a close look at the huge prayer rug in the main area of the mosque, and the Swarovski crystal chandelier. Good to note! Observe the Islamic dress code – ladies need to dress so they are fully covered, so carry a head scarf, and men should wear trousers – no shorts.
- Muttrah Corniche: Walk the waterfront promenade next to the harbor, and watch the locals play and work.
- Muttrah Souk: Stroll through the colorful souk and find some souvenirs – scarves, traditional hats and shoes.
- Bait Al Zubair Museum: This museum’s private collection showcases national treasures that trace Oman’s rich history and heritage.
- Muscat Fish Market: Early risers can watch the local fishermen bring in their catch of the day at the wharf, and the busy fish market.
- Al Alam Palace: The official palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos protected by the 16th century Portuguese forts Al-Mirani & Al-Jalali.
Villages of Oman
Nizwa – Birkat Al Mauz – Wadi Al Madeen – Jebel Akhdar – Saiq – Wadi Bani Habib
This day excursion starts with a spectacular drive through the Hajar mountains through the oases of Fanjah and Birkat Al Mauz, to reach Nizwa to see the souk and the impressive 17th century round-tower fort.
Along the way, we passed the pretty village of Birkat Al Mauz, and walked through the lush green date plantations. We continued to Wadi Al Madeen and drove about 30 miles on a winding road that leads to the top at 6,000 ft, Jebel Akhdar, the green jewel of the Al Hajjar mountain ranges, a truly unique spot in the Arabian Peninsula.
Al Jebel Al Akhdar is known for its terraced fruit orchards on the slopes of mountains, that draw on the Aflaj or ancient water systems and natural springs.
We also visited the villages of Saiq, Wadi Bani Habib (“the village of the old houses”) & Al Ain that overlook dramatic peaks, gorges and wadis.
Don’t forget to smell the roses of Jabal Al Akhdar! The scent fills the air with fragrance when in full bloom (March / April). Rose water is distilled in the homes of the villagers.
The Wahiba Sands & Wadi Bani Khalid
The Wahiba Sands is a vast mass of undulating red and white sea of sand and dunes rising up to 600 feet! After about a 3 hour drive from Muscat, you’ll find yourself looking out at an endless horizon of sand that leads to the sea.
Photographers love visiting the Wahiba sands and taking photos of the ever-changing patterns of the dunes. While there, you can visit a Bedouin house in this desert wilderness.
Just another 45 minutes drive from Wahiba, and you can swim in the deep blue water of Wadi Bani Khalid, and visit the small pretty mountain villages along the way.
Where to Stay?
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa – If you want luxury in a dramatic Oman setting, check into the Shangri-La Muscat Resort, just 15 minutes from Muscat. Three hotels at this resort are cradled by majestic mountains, with beaches touching the deep turquoise blue waters of the Sea of Oman. We stayed in the Al Husn Hotel, and loved our rooms overlooking the sea.
Rebecca Platt, Shangri-La Muscat Executive highlights each hotel, “The first hotel, Al Waha lives up to its name with several swimming pools merging to form a serene oasis, and many families love to stay here. Date palms and traditional Dhofari architecture remind you that you are in Arabia. The second hotel, Al Bandar Hotel is in the center of the resort property offering a mélange of fine restaurants. Then finally, the third hotel is the beautiful Al Husn Hotel is like an Arabian palace.”
Don’t leave without a spa treatment at the Chi Spa! We enjoyed relaxing treatments at the resort’s spa.
The Chedi Muscat – When we arrived to The Chedi Muscat, we found modern elegance surrounded by a garden oasis. We loved our spacious villas! Be sure to take a swim in each of the three pools. Our favorite was the Long Pool, next to the fitness center and extravagant spa. Located near the center of Muscat, and along the coast of the Gulf of Oman.
Chirstoph K. Girsch, Executive Assistant Manager at The Chedi Muscat shares, “This sublime yet central location equally suits leisure and business travelers while six distinct restaurants, a just opened thirteen-suite Balinese spa, three swimming pools, including the 103-metre Long Pool, 400-square metre health club plus two executive meeting rooms enhance Muscat’s considerable cultural attractions.” A GHM Luxury Hotel located close to the center of Muscat.
How to Get Here?
We flew Emirates Airlines from Dubai to Muscat – only about a 1 hour flight! Easy and direct. If you prefer to drive, then it could take between 4-6 hours depending on traffic and the border control.
Global Adventuress thanks Rough Guides for providing us with our guidebook on Oman, and to PacSafe for providing a travel bag. Also, we thank Shangri La Muscat and The Chedi Muscat for hosting us during our stay. Finally, we thank Zahara Tours for our transfers and excursions in Oman.