11 great reasons to visit amazing Oman now

The Sultanate of Oman is a country of dramatic landscapes, endless coastline, rich history and friendly people. Enjoy the luxury hotels of the laidback capital Muscat, hike a mountain or escape into the Empty Quarter. This little known gem on the Arabian peninsula is just waiting to be discovered. With ambitious plans to grow tourism and double the number of hotel rooms by 2020, the time to go is now – before everybody else realises what they’re missing.

1. Explore 3,165 km of coastline

Everything from jagged cliffs to empty sandy beaches awaits you at Oman’s coastline. Have a picnic on beach all by yourself or strike up an instant friendship with a local fisherman and set out to sea with him for a glimpse of the coastline from the ocean waves.

Beach

2. Discover over 500 forts

There are some 500 forts and towers scattered around the sultanate. Some are now merely ruins while others are preserved as World Heritage sites and offer magnificent windows into the country’s turbulent past. From Bahla fort, surrounded by a a charming town with a traditional souk, stone alleyways and old mosques; to Muttrah fort in Muscat, sitting atop a hillside and gazing out to sea; to the most magnificent of all, Nizwa Fort. Nothing gives a sense of the rich history of Oman more than exploring these impressive fortifications.

Bakla

3. Haggle in the souk

Relax, this isn’t going to be a barrage of hardsell. Oman’s souks are laid back and friendly places where you can mix with locals and soak up the atmosphere. Nizwa souk is one of the largest in the country and sells everything from jewellery, handicrafts and pottery to vegetables and meat. It comes alive on Friday morning when folk from outlying villages come to buy and sell cattle, donkeys, sheep and goats. If you’re not in the market for some livestock it’s also good place to buy a souvenir kanjar, the traditional Omani dagger.

Souq

4. See the desert turn lush and green

In the summer months, when the rest of the Arabian Peninsula is arid, brown and baking under an unforgiving sun, Salalah in southern Oman is wrapped in the cooling mists of a monsoon. The khareef, (the Arabic word for ‘autumn’) is a south western monsoon which turns the desert around the city of Salalah lush and verdant between July and September. People flock here from all over the Gulf region to escape the scorching heat at home and to explore the souks and dramatic coastline.

5. See dolphins in their natural habitat

Ten different varieties of dolphins can be found in Omani waters with the coast of Musandam and the sea off Muscat being the most popular areas to view them. Having these sociable, smart cetaceans choose to play alongside your boat is an incomparable thrill for adults and children alike.

6. Hike the highest mountain in Arabia and marvel at Oman’s Grand Canyon

Rising over 3000m from the surrounding plains, highest mountain in the Arabian Peninsula, Jebel Shams, is a barren, rugged limestone land of high peaks, deep canyons and million-year-old fossils. A precipitous, winding mountain road takes you up the mountain to the marked hiking trails beyond the villages. You can take a relatively easy walk along the edge of the spectacular Wadi Ghul, the 1000m deep chasm popularly known as the Grand Canyon of Oman, or a challenging hike up to southern summit of the ‘sun mountain’ as Jebel Shams means in Arabic. Sturdy hiking boots are recommended for the hike up the mountain as the path is very rocky and uneven.

Wadi

7. Cruise the ‘Norway of Arabia’ in the Musandam Peninsula

A stunning Omani enclave encircled by the UAE and reaching out towards Iran, Musandam is where the barren mountains of the Northern Al Hajar range crash down into the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf. Take a cruise through fjords on a traditional wooden dhow, pass villages only accessible by sea, snorkel amid multi-coloured fish in the warm clear waters of the Strait of Hormuz, and watch pods of dolphins play alongside the boat. Accessible as a day trip from Dubai but worth staying overnight to explore.

8. Experience the magic of turtle nesting season

Every year around 20,000 sea turtles make their way to the beaches of Oman to lay their eggs and the Sultanate takes its important conservation role seriously, with strong penalties for anybody caught harming the creatures. Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be found here, including green turtles and loggerhead turtles. Raz al Jinz Turtle Centre is an eco tourism project within a nature reserve dedicated to protecting green turtles and their natural environment. Guests at the centre can take a nightly guided walk to witness green turtles struggle ashore and painstakingly excavate a hole for their eggs before carefully covering them over with sand and heading back out to sea. It’s a magical experience to watch these magnificent creatures under the light of the moon.

9. Explore the Wahiba Sands and the Empty Quarter

Follow in the footsteps of the great explorer Wilfred Thesiger who trekked through the Wahiba Sands on the edge of the world’s biggest sand desert, the Rub al Khali – the Empty Quarter – in search of the fabled Lost City of Ubar. Today there are luxury Bedouin style eco camps allowing visitors to experience the stunning beauty of the dunes without the hardships that Thesiger endured.

Wahiba Sands

10. Be awed at the Grand Mosque in Muscat

The capital of the Sultanate, Muscat, has developed rapidly since the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, came to power in 1970 but remains a charming city. Its low rise buildings are scattered amid rocky hills leading down to the ports of Muttrah and Old Muscat. The pride of the city is the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which can hold 20,000 worshippers and is open to non-Muslims. There’s also an international opera house, a fort, the buzzing Muttrah souk, a palace complex, museums, lots of great restaurants and fantastic luxury hotels.

11. It’s safe, welcoming and friendly

Oman may be in a troubled neighbourhood but it’s a peaceful country which is probably safer than your home town. The people can be a little reserved at first but are welcoming and just plain happy to see you visiting the country that they are understandably proud of.

Village

Candice Bain is Founder at Desert to Jungle.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Comments (21)

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  1. tere camargo says:

    Beautiful Sultanate…. that is a dream come true…
    The Towers and the mountains were the protection for Babylon and the other side Persia…. the antiques empires

  2. Sepehr says:

    Great piece, Candice!
    Very thorough & convincing. I’m a believer. Looking forward to planning my trip…

  3. Candice Bain says:

    I’m sure you’d love it Sepehr, lot of great outdoor stuff to do.

  4. Jade says:

    I’ve been researching Turkey as a possible destination for me and 8 friends on a reunion who love luxury and pampering but also like a bit of adventure and something different. Oman sounds absolutely perfect! I hadn’t even thought of it, thanks for your post.

  5. You make it sound amazing… a cruise through the Fjords, now your talking! Dolphins, Turtles and a picnic by the beach, here I was thinking it was just sand. All your photos, especially your first photo are beautiful.

  6. Candice says:

    Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe, glad you liked it. Oman *is* amazing, so rich in scenery and in history, and really not on most people’s travel radar. Yet. I’m sure it will be in the next few years.

  7. Tracey says:

    Our Opera House should have a section here it’s simply stunning, in amazing gardens with shopping malls in there and cafés and hosts amazing performances including ballets and opera performances. The gardens are manicured 😊

  8. Patricia says:

    Stunning fotos. I never thought of Oman as a place to visit, but your Obvious love of the country makes it very interesting and puts it on my list of places to visit.

  9. Reeta says:

    My experience of Oman so far is a car trip from Dubai to Muscat and back in the same day so I certainly missed all these wonderful expriences that you’ve outlined so temptingly in your article.

    Hope to go back at a more gentle pace one day!

  10. I don’t have much knowledge about Oman’s tourism……
    Yes, it is really a little known travel destination…..
    But the reasons you mentioned are really good and Oman deserves a visit…… castles, deserts and long coastline…… it should be interesting to visit…..

  11. Candice says:

    Reeta, I’ve made that journey a few times but never there and back in one day! Oman is a complete contast to Dubai. For visitors just discovering the Middle East I think it would be an excellent two centre choice to combine Oman with Dubai.

  12. Leslie says:

    Awesome post! I never knew Oman had so much to offer. Looks like I have a new country to add to my bucket list!

  13. Steven says:

    Articles like this simply inspire more wunderlust. Oman has leapt high up the travel bucket list.

    Great post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Billy Riley says:

    Beautiful piece, beautiful write up, beautiful pictures.

    As Lyn mentioned I thought that region was just sand.

    Who would’ve thought turtles and dolphins would frequent the coast.

    I particularly like the idea of the forts. They look like grown ups sand castles!

    Thank you for the superb read.

  15. Ruxandra says:

    Looks amazingly beautiful! it’s always been on my travel wishlist

  16. Candice says:

    Thanks everybody for your comments. I love Oman and think it has somebody for everybody. I hope you all get to go soon!

  17. Candice says:

    Sorry, something for everybody not somebody for everybody. That would be a very different prospect!

  18. Al says:

    Having recently spent 18 months living in Oman I can happily say that it is a beautiful, diverse and welcoming country. The beaches, mountains and deserts provide a variety of things to see and do. Omanis are wonderfully friendly and will take huge pleasure in showing their awesome country off to you!

  19. Aline Dobbie says:

    Visited Oman off luxury cruise ship when lecturer on India. Intriguing place with neatness and cleanliness, coffee pot roundabouts, toy forts, falage system of watering inland….all very interesting, like to return and write about it.

  20. P T says:

    So excited. Heading there this October and wish we had time to see Salalah, but will only stay five days.

  21. Candice says:

    You can see a lot in five days, PT and I hope you have a wonderful trip. I’m sure it will leave you wanting to see more!

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