Resting in the rugged splendour of Oman’s ancient landscape are some of the most captivating architectural wonders: the magnificent Oman forts that echo tales of a rich and storied past.
These formidable structures stand as proud sentinels, guarding Oman’s history and heritage. They’re a reminder of how far the country has come since its nascent days.
Most of these forts were built in the 17th and 18th centuries to safeguard Oman’s ports, cities, and trade routes. Many have served as residences for sultans and governors over the years.
The imposing walls, tall bastions, and beautifully carved motifs will transport you to a bygone era as soon as you step foot in the forts. They are a delight for history buffs and anyone who loves to explore ancient architecture.
But which of the 1000 forts in Oman should you add to your itinerary?
Don’t worry. We have a list of the best Omani forts for you right here. But first, let us share a few useful tips on visiting the ancient forts in Oman.
Tips for Visiting Forts in Oman
We all want to make the most of our trips, whether we’re sightseeing or exploring Oman’s ancient forts. If you’re visiting these majestic structures for the first time, the following tips will be of great help.
- Always check your chosen fort’s website to be sure of their opening and closing hours (and even then, be mindful that information may not be 100% up-to-date and accurate).
- If you’re heading to a less touristy fort, keep in mind that they have extremely limited opening hours.
- Fridays are mostly closed to visitors. Even if a fort is open, the timings are narrowed.
- Usually, the timings are – 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday to Thursday, and 8 am to 11 am on Friday.
- Avoid visiting close to closing hours, as you wouldn’t be able to explore the fort properly.
Of course, you must wear light clothing and comfortable shoes to explore the forts. There’s a lot of walking and climbing involved.
Also, ensure you carry plenty of water with you, as it can get really hot during summer.
Now, for the most exciting part – the list of best forts in Oman.
The Best Forts of Oman
As highlighted, Oman has no shortage of forts and castles. As per the famous museum in Nizwa Fort, there are 1000 such famous buildings in Oman. You, obviously, can’t check them all out on a single trip. So, we are only going to share the most popular ones with you.
Forts in Muscat
The port of Muscat will greet you with two magnificent forts that stand proudly on either side. To the east is the Al-Jalali Fort, and to the west, you’ll find Al-Mirani Fort.
Both these beautiful constructions sit atop rocky cliffs, offering a breathtaking view of the shimmering blue waters of the Gulf of Oman.
Let’s look at each one separately.
Al-Jalali Fort, Muscat
Al-Jalali Fort is also known as Ash Sharqiya Fort. It was constructed by the Portuguese in the 16th century and was once a prison. Today, however, it stands as a private heritage museum.
Unfortunately, the fort isn’t open to the general public. You’ll need a permit for which you can apply through the Ministry of National Heritage website. If that doesn’t work, you can book a private tour to admire the fort from the outside.
There are also boat tours that sail through the harbour and day trips from Dubai to Muscat that include a brief stop at Al-Jalali Fort. These tours will cost you upward of $100.
At night, the fort illuminates with beautiful lights that make it a romantic and picturesque sight. Inside, the fort displays artifacts like rugs, jewellery, household items, weapons, and pottery.
The neighbouring, equally mesmerizing Al-Mirani Fort was also built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It is much bigger than Al-Jalali Fort and offers a stunning harbour view.
Like Al-Jalali Fort, Al-Mirani also doesn’t allow visitors inside the fort. However, you can take a stroll to admire the architecture and view from the outside. The best views are observed from the Old Riyam Road and the seaside.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fort, you can take a private tour that lasts about two hours. During this time, you’ll get an insight into the fort’s history and stories of pirates and battles that took place here.
Omani Forts Around Nizwa
Nizwa is the largest city in Oman outside of Muscat and the historic centre of the country. It is situated on a plain with palm plantations and rivers that only flow during certain seasons. The city is home to a few museums and forts, one of the most popular being Nizwa Fort.
The iconic fort was built in the 17th century. It is, to date, one of the most visited sites in Oman. Nizwa Fort is a castle, a fort, and a museum – all at the same time. The highlight of this fort, however, is the massive tower that stands tall and proud with a commanding view of the city. You’ll have to climb a flight of 60-70 steps to reach the top.
If you’re driving from Muscat to Nizwa, it’ll take you 90 minutes to reach the fort. Sur is at a greater distance, so you might have to drive for approximately 3.5 hours. It’s long, but it’ll be worth every minute.
The castle part of Nizwa Fort features a Date store, a kitchen, Imam’s (and his family’s) rooms, and a few guest rooms. In the museum, there are exhibits of weapons, pottery, palm-leaf engravings, jewellery, coffee making, and traditional masks.
Nizwa Fort is open to the public and does not require any specific permit. Tickets are available at 5 OMR for adults and 3 OMR for kids aged 6 and above.
One of the castles in Oman, Jabrin Castle, was built in the 1700s. This monumental structure was later luxuriously renovated in the late-1900s and opened to the public. The lavishly stained wooden ceilings, the Moorish arches, and the engraved walls will take you to another era.
The castle is located 5km South of Jabrin Town. From Muscat, it’s an approximately 2-hour long drive. You’ll have to take Route 15. We suggest you take a day trip and cover all the forts in the area.
The castle has a few splendid exhibits, including the Sun and Moon Hall, the staircase, and the Date room.
The castle is open to visitors on Saturday through Thursday from 9 am to 4 pm and on Friday from 8 am to 11 am. Adult visitors are required to pay an entry fee of 500 Baisas.
There’s only one right way to define Bahla Fort: impressive. The fort was built in the 13th century and has a long list of historical events attached to it.
It is believed that Bahla was the residence of the first traceable dynasty of Oman, the Banu Nebhan.
The fort is located at a distance of 2 hours from Muscat and half an hour from Nizwa. From the outside, it looks like a big castle made of mud bricks surrounded by two defensive walls.
Inside the fort, you’ll find a few ancient rugs, jewellery, household items, weapons, and pottery.
Bahla Fort is open to visitors from 9 am to 5 pm and is free of charge. There are also a few shops near the fort where you can buy souvenirs and traditional items.
You can visit the fort from Saturday to Thursday between 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. On Fridays, the fort only opens from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. You’ll have to pay 500 Baisas as an entry fee.
Other Forts in Oman
Sohar Fort, Sohar
Sohar is the capital of the Governorate in Northern Oman. It is located on the Batinah coast and is home to a stunning 17th-century fort named Sohar Fort.
The fort was believed to be built by the Nasrids in the 14th century and has gone through several modifications. A museum inside the fort showcases artifacts from the time of the Banu Nebhan dynasty.
The fort is open to visitors from Saturdays to Thursdays. Fridays are closed. The entry fee is 500 Baisas for adults and 600 Baisas for kids.
Omani Forts on the Rustaq Loop
Rustaq is another city in Oman that is famous for its beautiful forts and castles.
The Rustaq Loop, a route of about 68 kilometres, is the best way to explore all these forts. This loop will take you through Al-Hazm Castle, Rustaq Fort, and Nakhal Fort.
All these are open to the public and have an entry fee. You can check with the respective authorities for more information about opening times and entry fees.
Omani Forts FAQs
There are believed to be over 1000 forts in Oman.
Bahla Fort, found at the foot of Jebel Akhdar, is the largest fort in Oman. The UNESCO-listed fort was last restored in 2012.
Further Oman Travel Planning Resources
Before you head off to Oman, don’t forget to check these detailed Oman travel guides we have to help you plan your family trip to Oman:
- Top 10 Best places to visit in Oman – a great way to start drawing up an itinerary for Oman with inspiration on where to visit
- Seeking out the most beautiful Wadi’s in Oman
- You mustn’t miss these 5 incredible beaches in Oman on your road trip itinerary
- An Oman highlights tour with kids – adding to our Muscat itinerary, tour the east coast highlights of the country
- The best time to visit Salalah in the south (not just during khareef!) – understand the different microclimate of the south coast and
- Visiting the Musandam Peninsula of Oman – an Omani exclave that sits in the Persian Gulf, why you won’t want to miss this remote but exceptionally beautiful governate off your itinerary! Along with our guide Muscat to Musandam by air, sea & road to see how exactly you get there!
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