Think of Arabia and you think of Arabian nights, rolling sand dunes, flowing white robes and faultless hospitality. Visit some parts of the Arab world - Dubai in particular - and it often doesn't match the Arabia of your imagination. However, that's not the case with Oman, and in many ways the country is the best place to experience Arabian culture.
There's more to it than that though: Pristine coastline, bustling markets, pretty wadis (valleys) - not to mention golden sandy beaches and guaranteed winter sunshine. On top of that, Oman receives few visitors, and outside of Muscat, Western influence swiftly recedes. Here are our top five things to do in Oman.
1. Taking in the view over Wadi Ghul
Within a few hours of leaving Muscat you enter the jagged towering mountains of the Al Hajar, the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula. Winding your way up to the top of the plateau is an experience in itself, but the sweeping views of Wadi Ghul, Oman's Grand Canyon, will rival anything you've seen before.
2. Strolling along the beach at Sur
Once a centre of trade with East Africa, Sur is still retains its maritime importance as one of Oman's most important dhow (boat) building towns. A wander through the many traditional wooden dhows moored on the shore is a fascinating glimpse into the past, with pretty white washed buildings and distant mountains creating the perfect backdrop.
3. Dune bashing in the Wahiba Sands
A more exhilarating way to experience the magnificent ochre dunes at Wahiba is to drive - literally up and over the steep, shifting slopes. The incredible scenery and guaranteed adrenaline rush make for an afternoon of serious fun but be warned - it takes considerable skill to drive through these soft desert sands so don't try this one on your own.
Whilst other capital cities in the region gleam with shiny steel and glass, Muscat retains an authentic and relaxed charm that sets it apart as a must see. Old meets new in the most understated way in this city, which stretches between a rugged coastline and jagged red hills. Don't miss experiencing a slice of Omani life at the old fish souk but get there early - it's best around six in the morning.
5. Market day at Nizwa
Watch the locals haggle over the price of cattle and goats at Nizwa's Friday market and you're witnessing something that could easily be taking place centuries ago. Wander the stalls and also head to the souk to see mountains of fruit, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts and countless handicrafts.
Make it happen
Check our Oman destination page for more information on the country as well as itinerary ideas. All our trips are private and can be tailor-made to your requirements and dates. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.