Places to visit in Oman
Oman is a large country and although to the uninitiated, on the map a lot of it looks like desert, there is a huge amount to see. Most itineraries combine sightseeing in Muscat with time in the mountains and desert before heading back down to the coast for some all important beachtime.
Here are some of the main areas that you might want to consider including on your itinerary.
Muscat & the nearby beaches
The capital city is in a fabulously picturesque location, situated on the Gulf of Oman with a dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains. It is a wonderfully heady mix of ancient and modern. Contemporary buildings stand alongside white-washed traditional houses and date palms line wide boulevards containing century old forts and mosques. The city centre is a delightful maze of narrow, pedestrianised streets full of fascinating shops and stalls. Children will love rummaging amongst the colourful textiles and ancient artefacts on sale, gasping at spotting real frankincense, myrrh and gold and enjoying the intoxicating scents of the many spices. Get them bargaining in Mutrah souk before relaxing over an aromatic coffee (deliciously flavoured with cardomon and cloves) and nibbling on some dates.
The Grand Mosque, with its richly decorated interior, is well worth a visit and its vast marble courtyards providing a welcome relief to the intense heat. Please note this is closed to children under 10. The city is replete with numerous parks and gardens which are the perfect place to relax and enjoy some people-watching. Riyam Park offers a variety of rides if you have some adrenalin junkies in the family – it also offers stunning views of the harbour and sea cliffs.
There are numerous different beaches to choose from, starting with Qurum, the closest to Muscat centre. This is one of the longest beaches in Oman and a wonderful place to sit and watch the locals do their morning exercise. Palm trees provide necessary shade for a family picnic and there are numerous beach loungers available if you need a break from splashing through the water at low tide. There is an exciting array of water sports on offer and a good selection of resorts to choose from.
The golden sands of Al Bustan (named after the luxurious Al Bustan Palace Hotel) are overlooked by the mountains surrounding Muscat lending it a very dramatic feel. For a contrast, Bandar Jissar is a secluded beach where children can happily explore the rocky shore when the tide is out. The crystal-clear waters lend themselves to snorkelling and there is also a dive centre here.
Boat trips from Muscat
The seas off the Omani coast are an idyllic turquoise and wonderful to explore by boat. You can stick to the ocean in search of whales and dolphins or stop at one of the shallow and peaceful coral reefs to enjoy some of the best snorkelling or diving in the world. There are also a number of beautiful islands and beaches that can only be reached by boat where you can camp out (in style) under the stars. Alternatively, keep it short with a relaxing sunset cruise from Muscat. We are able to arrange a wide range of different yachts either for shared or private use.
Sur & Ras Al Jinz
Sur is a picturesque seaside town with an attractive corniche, a lovely stretch of beach, ancient forts and a number of shipyards that still make traditional Omani sailing boats. Children will be fascinated to watch the craftsmen at work on these impressive vessels. Sur has a very laid-back feel to it – sit beneath one of the watch towers and witness the fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour, then enjoy their catch at a friendly fish restaurant.
The nearby beach at Ras Al Jinz is a prime spot for turtle-watching. This beautiful location has a backdrop of dramatic sea cliffs and high sand banks. Turtles can be seen all year round although the best time is from June to November with the peak summer months bringing hundreds of turtles to these shores each night. Watching the endangered green turtle laboriously crawl ashore to lay their eggs in holes they fastidiously dig in the beach is a spine-tingling experience – a true privilege and an incredible example of Mother Nature at her best.
The Wahiba Sands are a vast area of immense sand-dunes that reach more than 100m high and are constantly shifting with the winds. The best way to enjoy this huge sand sea is on an exciting 4WD expedition to a remote desert camp where you can spend the night in traditional goat hair Bedouin tents. Children of all ages will adore sitting around the camp fire beneath the stars, feasting on a Bedouin barbeque and regaling parents with wild explorer tales. Wake the brood early to clamber up one of the dunes that soar above the camp and enjoy a magical sunrise over the spectacular desert landscape.
Al Hajar Mountains
The Al Hajar mountain range is a dramatic and barren landscape of rugged and remote beauty. Two of the main attractions are Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun), at 2,000 metres the second highest peak in the Arab Gulf, and Jebel Akhtar (Green Mountain).
Jebel Shams is known as Oman’s Grand Canyon. The scenery is stunning with the massive canyon stretching for miles through this breathtaking landscape. One of our favourite activities is the Balcony Walk which leads through the canyon to a deserted village. Children will enjoy exploring the village with its deserted houses and the views on the walk are sensational.
Jebel Akhtar is an impressively scenic plateau with steep mountainsides irrigated by streams and valleys filled with date and banana palm groves. Hike through juniper and olive orchards, lush gardens, terraces and wadis (dried river beds) – the picturesque deserted village in Wadi Ban Habib makes for a great place to explore.
The oasis city of Nizwa, about 1 ½ hours from Muscat, was once the capital of Oman. It contains many beautiful historic buildings, a huge palm oasis that is 8km long, an imposing fort and a bustling souk. Children will love wandering the narrow alleys here, watching the silver and coppersmiths at work and rummaging through trays of old silver jewellery and battered ceremonial daggers.
Nearby lies the impressive Jabrin Fort, beautifully located in the heart of the date palms. The labyrinth of corridors and courtyards inside the fort will provide a superb playground for a game of hide and seek and the views from the walls of this wonderfully preserved castle are stunning.
This incredibly beautiful peninsula juts out from the northeast tip of Arabia and is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the area as well as being one of the best places in the world to watch dolphins. Huge sheer cliffs (some 2,000m high) soar out of the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf in an extraordinarily dramatic combination of mountain and sea.
The coastline is cut with impressive fjords (rather like an Arabian Norway, with guaranteed sunshine!) and offers fabulous opportunities for exploring by boat, with diving and snorkelling that is some of the best in the world. The peninsula is separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE – an internal flight is the best way to reach this idyllic place.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Oman in pictures
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