When we talk about vacationing in the Middle East, you most likely think of deserts, mountains, sand, and a dry and hot climate.
Would you believe there is somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula where you can experience green mountains, lush waterfalls and natural phenomena?
This is exactly what you can expect and more in Salalah.
Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city is located on the southern coast of Oman. But what’s so different about this coastal desert region, you ask?
Well, it is hot and humid during some months; however, it becomes a natural wonder in the monsoon season, also known as Khareef. It does not experience torrential rains, but light rain showers make the city a true tourist attraction!
With lush green mountains, waterfalls, light rain, and a mystical fog covering everything, visiting the tourist spots in Salalah is a one of a kind experience.
Apart from this, Salalah has a fascinating history of trade, buildings with intricate architecture and beach resorts that are the epitome of luxury!
So, if you’re planning a visit to Salalah in the Dhofar Province of Oman, we have put together 10 of the best places to visit during your trip to the south coast.
How do I get to Salalah?
As Salalah is the furthest city in Oman from Muscat, it is considered a remote location and is often overlooked by tourists. If you’re visiting from outside Oman, you can easily book a flight from Dubai, Jeddah, and other places direct to Salalah.
Salalah is located approximately 1000 km from Muscat by road; both public bus and self drive are popular options if you’re setting out from Muscat.
If you want to save time or get to Salalah fast, you can get a flight from Muscat International Airport, but it would be a bit pricey, especially if you are travelling with family.
However, if you’re up for enjoying the beautiful landscapes along the coastal highway, going by your own car would be a better and cheaper option. You can view the amazing tourist sites, including the Tropic of Cancer, several beautiful mosques, beaches and gardens on your road trip to Salalah – we describe the best routes to take to Salalah here!
Your other alternative is to take the Muscat to Salalah bus. It will get you there in around 12.5 hours with just a couple of stops along the way, taking the slightly less scenic inland route.
With that sorted, let’s move on to the best places to visit in Salalah.
Top 11 Places to Visit in Salalah
For a perfect summer getaway and to experience a unique ecosystem, the ideal time to visit Salalah is during the Khareef season. But, you can visit any time of the year and still experience these majestic sites in Salalah
Regardless of when you plan your trip, here are the top tourist spots in Salalah that you must check out!
1. Sultan Qaboos Mosque
If you want to have a first-hand experience of modern and historical architecture, you should visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Salalah. Located in City Centre, this monumental mosque is the largest mosque in the Dhofar region.
As the mosque draws nearer, you can see the colossal white domes and minarets embellished with golden shapes. If this isn’t enough to leave you awestruck, step inside to be swept off your feet!
As soon as you enter the prayer hall, you’ll see plush green carpets, intricately designed wall patterns, and imperial chandeliers. A true example of classic Arabic architecture, the Sultan Qaboos Mosque is a tourist attraction you should not miss on your Salalah trip!
2. Waterfalls at Wadi Darbat
We weren’t kidding when we said you’d find waterfalls in the desert! But, to see this wonder of nature, you’ll have to visit Salalah in the Khareef season.
Wadi Darbat in Salalah is like heaven on earth: A lush green valley with a stream flowing from between the mountains! And depending on the amount of rain, you can witness waterfalls too from July till September.
This is the most visited place in Salalah and is packed with tourists, especially during Khareef. People can enjoy many activities here, like hiking, picnicking, boat riding, or just enjoying the beauty of this scenic place.
3. Al Mughsail Beach
While you will find many beaches in Salalah, the Al Mughsail beach is slightly different from the rest. It is a white sand beach with turquoise water as clear as crystal. But what makes this beach the most beautiful is the lush green mountains surrounding it. And that’s just one thing that adds to the beauty!
There are picnic shelters, surrounded by Frankincense trees, where you can enjoy a quiet afternoon. Moreover, the rugged edges of this beach have blowholes that dramatically erupt with seawater every few minutes!
So, a beach, a mountain, and a fountain, all in one place? Isn’t that a sight to behold?
4. Taqah Castle
As we mentioned that Salalah is famous for its history and architecture, the Taqah Castle is a true example of that!
Built in the 19th century, the Taqah Castle is located in the fishing village of Taqah, 33 km east of Salalah. It was once the residence of Sheikh Ali bin Taman Al Ma’shani, the great-great-grandfather of Sultan Qaboos.
It has been turned into a museum that houses several weapons, tools, and items from the past that gives you an insight into the ancient Omani way of living. Apart from this, the astounding architecture of the castle shows us how skilled people were back in the day!
5. Land of Frankincense
Another historical Salalah tourist attraction is the Land of Frankincense. It consists of four archaeological sites as per UNESCO World Heritage Site, including Al Baleed, Sumharam Old City, Ubar the Lost City, and Wadi Dawkah.
Al Baleed and Sumhuram are ancient seaports used to export Frankincense to Africa, China, India and Europe. Ubar was used for inland trading of Frankincense, and Wadi Dawkah is the place where Frankincense trees were planted.
Here you can see the archaeologists at work and visit the ruins to catch a glimpse of how things worked back then.
For more information about the Land of Frankincense, visit this website.
6. The Salalah Festival
If you want to come out of the past and into the present, the Salalah Festival is the place to be! And just like you can witness the waterfalls in Khareef, the Salalah Festival also takes place during this season, from 15th July to 31st August to be exact.
This festival is open for all and consists of lively music, scrumptious food, funfairs, theatre, and stalls selling clothes and other cultural items that you can buy as souvenirs. It is a fun and vibrant place to be, where you can enjoy the true essence of the Salalah monsoon season.
7. Jabal Samhan
Located at around 50 km from Salalah, Jabal Samhan is the highest peak in Dhofar. From this point, you can view the thick clouds around the mountain. There’s a proper track with fences where you can stroll around and view the scenery around you.
On days when there are no clouds, you can view the canyons and expanse of the ocean surrounding Salalah. It’s a very picturesque place, and you can take many memorable photos from the summit.
There are several food stalls here, too, so you can enjoy a snack or two while exploring this amazing fairyland of a place!
8. Al Husn Souq
The Middle East is known for its famous Souq markets, and the Al Husn Souq is one of them. Therefore, if you’re looking for items that you won’t find anywhere else, head over to the Al Husn Souq when in Salalah (also known as Al Haffa Souq).
From traditional Omani clothes to decor items, perfumes, the famous Frankincense, and any other everyday item you can think of can be found at this open-air market. But, to get the best price for everything, you’ll need to bargain a bit with the vendors.
9. Tawi Atair Sinkhole
The Tawi Atair Sinkhole is also known as the Well of Birds. It’s a 200 meter deep and 60-meter long sinkhole, which houses tons of birds in the many cracks, hollows, crevices, and holes in its walls; hence the name!
The Tawa Atair is one of the largest sinkholes in the world, and you can get there by car in approximately 30 minutes; however, we would recommend taking a guide with you. The sinkhole has a viewing area but is surrounded by thick shrubs and bushes; therefore, it is difficult to get a clear view.
We would not recommend crossing the vegetation to get near the hole as it is quite steep and dangerous. However, several tour companies arrange to go inside the sinkhole with the help of a rope or via a muddy trek.
If you’re visiting Salalah, visiting this natural wonder is a must!
10. Anti-Gravity Point
Now for something otherworldly!
If you want to witness one of the unexplained mysteries of science, travel on the route between Mirbat and Salalah. Here, you will find a stretch of desolate land where your car starts moving uphill at 35 km/h in neutral mode, surrounded by fog!
Many tourists get spooked out by the phenomenon and have named this area the anti-gravity point! You’ll find it on Google maps as “Gravity Hill Salalah”.
11. Atlantis of the Sands – Legendary Lost City
Last but not least, who can resist a local legend?
Ubar, or as it’s more commonly known by the name coined by T E Lawrence – Atlantis of the Sands – is believed to sit at the end of Rub’ Al Khail (the Empty Quarter).
Straddling a large portion of the Arabian Peninsular, from Saudi Arabia, across the UAE and Oman, whether you will discover the lost city of Ubar in Oman is another matter. Just like Atlantis – there’s much conjecture over where the ancient city lies, but the village known as Shisr in Dhofar Region seems to be a popular opinion with a sign posted site to explore.
We’ll admit, there’s not an awful lot to see, but a day trip across the Qana Mountains to experience the desert dunes is one of the most breathtaking experiences to enjoy in Salalah. History buffs, however, will be totally in their element. Go with an experienced guide to fully appreciate the stories and legends that are held in the dunes.
How to see the top attractions in Salalah
Undoubtedly, having your own vehicle is the easiest way to get around the main attractions of Salalah as they are quite spread out. Most visitors fly into Salalah though, so will not have their own car.
Our top tip is to hire a car for a day and get to some of these further to reach nature and history spots. You can find the best local car hire prices using DiscoverCars.
Alternatively, why not join a half day or full day tour? This way your transfers will be included, plus you’ll get a knowledgeable guide to show you around. Just choose the itinerary that suits your interests best.
Ready to visit Salalah?
Salalah might be remote in location, however, it is home to many historical places and tourist spots. From ancient buildings to souq markets, historical sites, and scenic mountains, you will find a mix of desert and greenery in this place.
So, pack your bags, get those hiking boots ready, and start your journey towards Salalah to visit all the family-friendly attractions it has in store for you!
More on Salalah & Oman
If you’re planning a trip to Oman you may also be interested in:
- The most beautiful family resorts in Salalah
- Picking the best times to visit Oman
- Take a breathtaking tour of the Musandam Peninsula
- Family-friendly highlights of Oman
- Best of Muscat with Kids
- What to wear in Oman; dress code advice for all the family
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