Oman can easily be called one of the Middle East’s most underrated gems. It’s a country with abundant natural beauty, including beautiful beaches and wadis, dramatic mountains and deserts, historical monuments, museums, a rich culture, and a generally welcoming population.
Plus, with its developed tourism infrastructure and many tourist places in Oman, it’s also fairly easy to get around both independently and by road, making it a great place for a road trip.
How long do you need in Oman?
There is an abundance of beautiful places in Oman. It is a country where your family can easily fill a 10-day to two-week holiday (or even longer) with a variety of activities.
If you don’t necessarily have lots of time, Muscat is a nice place to spend a few days, with plenty of options for nearby day trips.
Due to the travel distances involved, to completely see and experience the country, you’d want to allow 3 weeks.
So with that in mind, here are some of the best places to visit in Oman:
Explore Muscat, Oman’s Capital
Oman’s seaside capital Muscat has plenty to explore and discover. Set along the Arabian Sea, hemmed in by terracotta mountains, it’s a picturesque city with whitewashed buildings, dramatic Arabian architecture, and all the commercial conveniences.
The Mutrah corniche is wonderfully scenic, great for a walk and watching the sunset. Early risers can check out the fishermen bringing in their catches at the Mutrah fish market from 6-10 am every day.
Wander the Mutrah Souq, a great covered market and bargain for silver jewellery (Oman is known for its silver), textiles, antiques, or anything else.
The Bait al-Baranda is a museum with kid-friendly exhibitions covering Muscat’s history and pre-history. The Mutrah Fort, Kalbuh Bay Park, and the Portuguese watchtower offer a good view of the city and the sea.
Visit the Sultan’s Palace in Old Muscat, which is quite a sight with its grand courtyard of royal buildings and palms. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a well-known Muscat attraction, dazzling with its beautiful mosaics, gardens, and the second-largest Iranian rug in the world.
There are also many nearby beaches, hiking, and 4WD excursions easily accessible from the city – Daymaniyat Island being a must.
Experience Camel Racing at Sharqiya Sands
This part of the Omani desert has lots of unique outdoor activities for visitors. The rolling sand dunes offer adventure options like 4WD excursions, camel riding, and even camel races, which are usually held between mid-October to mid-April.
Coming here is also a way to get a glimpse into Bedouin life. The Bedouins, or “Bedu,” here raise camels to race. You can stay the night in a desert camp’s Bedouin tent and watch camels stroll by as the sun sets over a seemingly endless stretch of sand.
How to get there: Just two hours by road from Muscat. Buses also run from to and from Sharqiya from Muscat and Sur.
Climb the Fort in Nizwa
Nizwa is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oman. Its most popular site is the Nizwa Fort, which was built in the 17th century. Its 40 metre-tall tower is great to climb for its view of the town and mountains. There are also cultural artefacts like tools and jewellery on display inside.
The Nizwa souq is known for its silver khanjars, or traditional Omani daggers. There’s also a livestock souq on Friday mornings.
Nizwa is also the closest “base” for exploring the surrounding mountains like Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar. It’s also near the historical sites of Bahla and Jabrin.
Forty minutes from Nizwa is Bahla, an extensively walled city most known for its 12th-century fort built by the Banu Nabhan tribe. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its wall conceals a labyrinth of mud brick houses and cultivatable land, which was watered by an extensive well system during the medieval Islamic period.
Nearby Jabrin Castle from the 17th century was an important centre for learning. It’s a fun place to explore with many hidden and quirkily-themed rooms, like the special bedroom for the Sultan’s horse.
How to get there: Two hours from Muscat by car. Buses and minibuses are available from Muscat, as are taxis.
Admire the View Atop the Highest Mountain Jebel Shams
At 3,075 metres, Jebel Shams is Oman’s highest mountain, located in the Hajar Mountain range. If you drive to the top, there’s a great view over Wadi Ghul (aka Wadi Nakhr or Al Nakhur), known locally as the “Grand Canyon of Arabia.” Visitors can picnic at the top or go hiking, as there are several hiking routes of varying difficulty. The road to the top is a bit treacherous, bumpy and rough so 4WD is a must.
How to get there: From Nizwa, it’s about two hours by car, and a roughly 4-hour drive from Muscat.
Wander the Lush Greenery at Jebel Akhdar
Jebel Akhdar (“Green Mountain”) is actually the Saiq Plateau, which is about 2,000 metres high. The Saiq is separated into an upper and a lower plateau, and it has lush orchards and green gardens to wander through at the top, along with beautiful views. This is another area that requires 4WD to ascend.
How to get there: This is also two hours from Nizwa, and a four-hour drive from Muscat.
- Check out the stunning Anantara al Jabal al Akhdar Resort for one of the most stunning Eco retreats in the country on the mountain slopes.
Take it Slow in Sur
With its whitewashed buildings framing the sea, Sur is a pretty, laid-back spot to relax in for a day or two and use as a base for trips to Raz Al-Jinz and Sharqiya Sands. The 200-year-old Bilad Sur Castle is nearby, as is the 300-year-old Sunaysilah Castle. It’s also fun to stroll along the corniche to the pretty fishing village of Ayjah and check out its old lighthouse. There are other nice beach options nearby.
Sur is also known for its carpentry and its tradition of dhow making. You can visit a dhow workshop and watch artisans making these traditional boats in the time-honoured tradition without nails or glue.
How to get there: About 2 hours by car from Muscat. A couple of buses travel from Muscat to Sur with a travel time of about 3-4 hours.
Visit Raz Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve
About 45 minutes south of Sur, Raz Al-Jinz is an important nesting site for the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Between 20-30,000 return to this beach each year to lay their eggs. It is one of the few official places where the public can come to watch the turtles’ nesting process.
The government deemed the entire area a protective area in 1996, and now can only be visited through an escorted tour. Be sure to book in advance. Night tours and dawn tours are available. Stay at the eco-reserve on site to join a dawn tour.
While turtles arrive on the beach every night of the year, July is the peak laying season, and September-November is the best time to see egg laying and hatching at Raz al-Jinz.
How to get there: It’s about a 40-minute drive from Sur. There’s no public transport between the two but private cars can be arranged.
Swim at Wadi Bani Khalid
Oman has many wadis, which are deep and narrow ravines, and Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the most beautiful. It’s an oasis of green in the midst of an arid, rocky landscape. The natural spring at the top of the wadi flows down to the lower parts, collecting in deep pools of beautifully clear water. They are great for swimming.
If you continue farther up the river path, the water gets deeper and the rocks smoother with few places to hold onto, so it’s best to cautious. Also, some caves and certain pools are only accessible through swimming passageways.
Women should wear bathing suits that cover them; some tourists even swim in their t-shirts. It helps to bring swimming floats for the little ones, water shoes and your own towels. There are public toilets and basic restaurants on site as well.
How to get there: About 2.5 hours from Muscat. Can stay the night in Ibra, if needed.
Experience the Tropical Feel of Salalah
To get a different taste of Oman, head south to Salalah, which is the capital of Oman’s southern Dhofar Region. With a character reminiscent of East Africa—the site of many of Oman’s former territories—this area sees an annual monsoon season, giving it a green and tropical feel. Explore the coconut, banana, and papaya plantations near the city’s corniche and the Al-Husn Souq. Diving and snorkelling are also popular here.
You can visit the ancient site of Al-Baleed, which is where frankincense was shipped to India via the trading port of Zafar during the 12th century. The Museum of Frankincense Land tells the story of this historic place in Oman, which was settled in 2,000 BC. There is also 3km of surrounding walking paths to explore.
Salalah is most famous, though, for the summer khareef. Whilst most of the Middle East is basking in the summer heat in the mid-40s, Salalah is experiencing monsoon season, bringing appealing cooler weather and a blanket of green.
How to get there: Salalah is a 1.5-hour flight from Muscat, and there are four flights daily. Buses of varying levels of comfort make the 12-13 hour trip to/from the capital as well.
Otherwise, it’s a roughly 10-hour drive between the two cities in a private car – we explain exactly how to drive Muscat to Salalah here!
Explore the “Fjords” of the Musandam Peninsula
This small, non-contiguous region of Oman lies in the northern part of the Arabian peninsula and borders U.A.E. It’s known as the “Norway of Arabia” mainly for its impressive khors, or coves. The peninsula itself also boasts a dramatic mountainous landscape with plenty of outdoorsy and adventurous activities.
Places like the mountain Jebel al Harim and Bukha Fort are some of the attractions. But the most recommended thing to do here is to take a dhow trip around the khors. There are many options for small cruises, and some Musandam tour packages include options for 4WD tours in the mountains, visits to Khor villages, snorkelling and scuba diving.
How to get there: It’s a one-hour flight from Muscat to Khasab, the main village of Musandam. A five-hour ferry ride is also possible from Muscat. From UAE, it’s possible to enter easily by road, via Ras Al Khaimah.
- You’ll find here our complete guide to getting from Muscat to Musandam
- Or from within the UAE, our Dubai to Musandam road trip guide
Further Reading on Oman
If you’re planning a family trip to Oman, you may also want to dive deeper into our Oman stories, including:
- What to pack for a trip to Oman – dress code advice for tourists, from the cities to the best of nature experiences in Oman + a downloadable packing list for Oman
- The best times of year to visit Oman – plan your trip with the seasons and special events; there are opportunities to explore Oman year-round
- A Dubai to Muscat road trip planner – how to cross the international border with ease and the quickest and most interesting routes to take on this city-to-city Middle East road trip
- A complete guide to hiring a car and driving in Oman – given the driving distances involved and the lack of public transport, you’ll almost certainly want to hire a car to make the most out of visiting Oman
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