Surrender to the charms of classic Arabia
Encompassing the green heights of the Jebel Akhdar, the fortresses and minarets of the valley floor and the serene fjords of Musandam, Oman will charm your socks off. A strong national identity and local pride translates to a great welcome for visitors, and whether you choose to dune-bash in the Rub Al Khali desert, wander the shady date plantations surrounding a jumbled hill village or explore one of the many Wadis, the variety on offer in this laid back country makes it ideal for culture buffs, divers, hikers, wildlife-watchers, beach bums and shoppers alike.
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Top things to do in Oman
There are many wonderful experiences to be had in this desert-clad land. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts at the foot of this page, but in the meantime here are our top three things to do in Oman.
Bring your haggling skills
Picture a quintessential Middle Eastern souk and you’ll no doubt imagine warrens of narrow alleys scented with frankincense and brimming with little shops selling exotic trinkets and handicrafts. You have just conjured up the delights of Muttrah souk in Muscat, the most atmospheric and extensive in Oman. Veer off the main thoroughfare and poke about in the back lanes to bag yourself a more authentic experience and the best value. Look for Omani rosewater, jewellery, spices, incense, textiles and furniture.
Wadis are seasonal watercourses that have sliced deep canyons into the rocky terrain. Some are small and peaceful, some are imposingly large, but all offer a cool and shady escape from the heat in scenic surroundings. Trek through the abandoned village of Sap Bani Khamis in Oman’s Grand Canyon, swim in the turquoise pools, or zip wire 100m above Snake Canyon at Wadi Bani Awf... these are just some of the activities available in Oman’s many Wadis.
In search of flora and fauna
A total of almost 500 species of birds have been recorded in Oman, which sits at the crossroads of migration routes between Africa, Asia and Europe. Of those species only around 80 are permanent residents, but even so the birding is generally good. Flocks of migratory birds can be spotted in the verdant, marshy region of Salalah, and among the lagoons of the coast. Thousands of turtles come to lay their eggs on Oman's beaches. See them at Ras Al Jinz between July and October.
Oman’s Wahiba Sands are an iconic region where the beauty of the landscape is a major draw. Classic Lawrence of Arabia scenes of rippling sand dunes undulating towards the horizon provide the romance and intrigue of the desert, making it the perfect destination for an overnight wilderness experience in a tented camp or a desert excursion by camel or 4x4 vehicle.. The dunes are aligned north to south in clear lines, and exhibit some dazzling colours and formations.
Lesser-known highlights in Oman
While there are many well-known things to do in Oman, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Omani adventure.
You can’t fail to be impressed at how even the most inhospitable landscapes can support a village or two, clustering around springs or desert oases. Constructed from natural materials and blending effortlessly into the environment, these perched villages are among the most evocative sights in Oman, delighting photographers and adventurers alike with their classic Arabian charm. Head for Bilad Sayt, Misfat al Abryeen and Birkat Al Mauz for a taste of rural life in Oman.
Enjoy the ever expanding views as you wind your way up the 30 kilometres of smooth tarmac to the Saiq Plateau, the green and pleasant land scattered with picturesque villages and scented (in blooming season) with roses. Gaze down into the canyons or ‘wadis’, hike the trails to quant Al Aqr and Al Ayn or stock up on top quality Omani rosewater, produced here from the various rose plantations. The panorama of the Western Hajar's arid peaks is unmissable, and visible from almost everywhere on the Plateau.
Get to know Nizwa
In a pleasant highland location nestled between the Eastern and Western Hajar mountains, Nizwa is a significant town in a key location. The former capital is home to a clutch of historical and cultural sights and makes a good base for sightseeing in the surrounding area. The impressive fort is the one unmissable piece of architectural and cultural heritage, but you won't regret time spent in the lively and very local souk, a noisy, aromatic and eye popping maelstrom of goats, fish, and much more besides.
Bask on the Beach
There are some decent beaches in Oman, though many of the best are only accessible to those staying in one of the plush resorts that monopolise the finest stretches of coast. Town beaches are a feature of the whole length of Oman's coastline, though many are not well used and rather scruffy. The most interesting stretches of coast for sun and sand seekers as well as divers and snorkelers are around the Musandam peninsula and between Muscat and Sur.
When is the best time to go to Oman?
October to May is the best time to visit Oman, for glorious sunshine, negligible rainfall and tolerable heat. Peak season runs from November to February. From June-August it is extremely hot in the north, with refreshing monsoons in the south, greening the desert and cooling the ferocious midsummer heat to a manageable level. Note that during Ramadan many businesses will operate reduced opening times and eating in public is not allowed.
Interesting facts about Oman
Oman is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat took over six years to build and can accommodate 20,000 worshipers.
- 80% of the Omani territory is desert.
- Oman is the oldest of the Arab nations.
- There are more than 500 castles and fortresses dotted throughout Oman.
- There are perhaps 40 different kinds of dates grown in Oman, and it is customary to serve dates with coffee.
- Frankincense is one of Oman’s most renowned and high quality products and its scent is a constant companion.
What to read before you go to Oman
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Oman, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'Travels With A Tangerine' by Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Walking in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, who undertook an incredible 30 year journey in the 14th century, Mackintosh-Smith offers an in-depth look at the Middle East and compares past with present.
'Sultan In Oman' by Jan Morris
An engaging first hand account in the style of a journal of the first crossing of the Omani desert interior by motorised convoy. A snapshot of 1950s Oman at a pivotal moment in its history.
'Cities Of Salt' by Abdel Rahman Munif
A novel exploring the fallout of the discovery of huge oil reserves in a rural oasis community. It explores the moral and material issues involved in petro-capitalism.
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