Oman is such a great country to travel round! There is so much nature to experience here, from desert safaris to swimming in wadis, to seeing turtles being rehabilitated back into the wild. The cities are equally stunning too, with many things to see in the capital Muscat, or you can experience the unique khareef season down in Salalah! Check out the travel itinerary below to find out all the best things to see and do in Oman!
Travel through Oman is best done by car. Oman is such an easy country to road trip in! Infact it is probably one of the best countries in the world to take a road trip round! The roads are good and the fuel is very, very cheap!
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
The magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the only mosques in Oman that allows non-Muslim visitors. Entrance is free and opening times for non-worshippers is only from 8am-11am every day except Friday! But get here before 9am as it gets pretty busy after this! It is not permitted for visitors to enter on Fridays as this is the Holy Day in Islam.
The mosque is stunning and very impressive both on the outside and in the interior, and it is a must visit when in Muscat. The mosque is very large and peaceful and it used to have both the world’s largest chandelier and carpet. However their Emirati and Qatari neighbours came and measured them and subsequently took these titles away from them!
Women must be covered to their ankles and wrists and must wear a headscarf otherwise they won’t be allowed in. If you forget to dress appropriately however, there are abayas you can hire for 2.5 reals.
Click here for the Google maps location of Sultan Qaboos Mosque.
Mutrah is a district in Muscat located by the port. It is located to the east of the modern part of Muscat and near the Old Quarter of Muscat. Mutrah is a really nice place to wander round and explore. It focuses around The Corniche – the busy seafront area. Stroll along the 2 kilometre long Corniche around the bay and enjoy the sea views with the mountains as a backdrop – it is really beautiful!
Click here for the Google maps location of Mutrah Corniche.
The souq (traditional Arabic market) here is supposedly one of the oldest bazaars in the world. It is a great place to buy spices, souvenirs, scarfs and perfumes amongst other things. There are a few different routes you can take inside the souq, but it is very safe here, and not like the chaotic markets of other Middle Eastern countries. Remember if you want to purchase something that you need to haggle a price to avoid overpaying!
The shops in the souq are often open from around 8am to 1pm, then they close for a long lunch. They open up again from around 4pm to 10pm. Click here to see the Google maps location of Mutrah souq.
Muscat Old City
The Old City of Muscat is separated from modern Muscat by the mountains. The charming Old Quarter of Oman is where you’ll find the real culture of Muscat, as well as lots of history. There are Portuguese forts surrounding the Old City, that were built by the Portuguese in the late 1500’s during their occupation here. The Old City is surrounded by the City Walls, which you can stroll along. Visit Bait Al Zubair museum to learn more about Muscat.
Click here to see the Google maps location of Old Muscat.
Al Alam Palace (Palace of Sultan Qaboos)
Located in the heart of the Old City of Muscat is Al Alam Palace (“Flag Palace”). This is the official palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and he often comes here to receive guests. Al Alam Palace was built in 1972 and displays a mix of modern and Islamic architecture. Although you cannot go inside the palace, it is stunning from the outside and well worth a look. It is a very unique building, located at the end of an elegant long pedestrianised boulevard, and it is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Click here to see the Google maps location of Al Alam Palace.
Accommodation in Muscat
Muscat Hills Resort
If you are looking for traditional Omani accommodation, but at the same time you want luxury and relaxation, Muscat Hills Resort is the perfect solution. Muscat Hills Resort lies along the coast just east of Muscat – it is not in the city, it is a beach resort. Muscat can however be reached by car within 30 minutes, and it is on the way towards Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Shab if coming from Muscat, making it a great location to do day trips.
The resort is really relaxing: all accommodation is in traditional Barasti beach huts. Click here to read my article on Muscat Hills!
DAY TRIPS FROM MUSCAT
Roughly 1.5 hours drive from Muscat lies Bimmah Sinkhole. This beautiful natural swimming hole lies amidst Oman’s desert-like wilderness. It is believed by locals that Bimmah Sinkhole was created by a falling star. Infact, it’s name in Arabic in ‘hawiyat najm’ which translates to ‘fallen star’. Geologists have however confirmed that it was caused by erosion.
The sinkhole is filled with fresh water and sea water, which gives the water this incredible turquoise colour, and it is often referred to as the world’s most beautiful sinkhole.
Bimah Sinkhole is free to visit and there is free parking on site. The car park is just a couple of hundred metres from the sinkhole and there are several picnic tables here in the shade for you to relax under.
Swimming in Bimmah Sinkhole
If you want to swim whilst you are here, make sure you arrive decently dressed with clothes over your swimwear. Do not just turn up in your bikini and a towel or short shorts, otherwise the locals sat at the entrance gate may not let you in. If you need to change into your swimming costume, change in the bathrooms once you get through the gates at Hawiyat Najm park. Again, once you are changed into your swimming gear, put appropriate clothes on top whilst you walk down to the sink hole. Respect that Omanis are very conservative and there are often local families here.
Bimmah Sinkhole is 20 metres deep and 50 metres wide, and whilst many locals jump in from this height, it is advised for tourists only to jump in if they are experienced cliff jumpers as several tourists have actually died whilst jumping from here. Personally I would never jump this and I didn’t see anyone jump when I was there. I was more than happy to just swim in the beautiful water, which you can reach by climbing down the stairs. There is plenty space on the rocks to leave your belongings whilst you swim.
How to get to Bimmah Sinkhole
Public transport in Oman is almost non-existent, so the only way to get to Bimmah Sinkhole is by car or by a tour from Muscat. Hiring a car is much cheaper than paying for a tour though. Note when you are driving, the road signs will say ‘hawiyat najm’ and not Bimmah Sinkhole. Follow these brown signs to lead you to the sinkhole.
Click here for the Google maps location of Bimmah Sinkhole.
Bimmah Sinkhole is on the way to Wadi Shab, which is 45 minutes away by car, so most people combine the two in a day trip.
‘Wadi’ is the Arabic word for ‘valley’ and they often have water in them. There are literally hundreds of wadis in Oman but Wadi Shab, also known as Wadi Ash Shab, is probably the most famous. It is a 45 minute drive from Bimmah Sinkhole (about 1 hour 45 minutes from Muscat) and they can easily be combined on a day trip from Muscat.
When using Google maps to find Wadi Shab, type in Wadi Shab parking – this will lead you to the car park. Do not just type in Wadi Shab! To get to the start of the walk at Wadi Shab, once you park your car you actually need to take a short boat ride to get to the wadi. Then you walk about 45 minutes each way to get to the water, where you swim until you get to the waterfall.
Some parts of the wadi can only be reached by swimming, and in total it is about a 3 kilometre hike to get to the waterfall cave. It is truly stunning here. To read about the Wadi Shab hike in much more detail, click here.
Note: If you plan to continue driving east after visiting Wadi Shab, along to Sur, Ras al Jinz and to explore the desert: instead of driving back to Muscat and going back on yourself, consider staying overnight in Sur after visiting Wadi Shab and continue your sightseeing from there the following day.
Also known as the White Beach, Fins Beach is named the most beautiful beach in Oman. I disagree however – I find the beaches down in Salalah more beautiful! Fins Beach is only a 20 minute drive from Bimmah Sinkhole so stop off here along the way. Sometimes you’ll even spot flamingoes here!
Click here to see the Google maps location of Fins Beach.
Other popular day trips from Muscat:
Nizwa – a 2 hour drive south of Muscat takes you to Nizwa. Nizwa has a beautiful 17th Century fort castle you can explore. If you want to visit Nizwa, you will need to do it on a day trip from Muscat.
Jebel Shams (“mountain of the sun“) is the highest mountain in Oman at over 3000 metres high. It offers some incredible views as is often referred to as Oman’s Grand Canyon. To get to Jebel Shams from Muscat you need to go via Nizwa. The total journey takes over 3.5 hours drive from Muscat to Jebel Shams, and it is highly advised to only go if you have a 4×4.
Wadi Bani Khalid
Another beautiful wadi in Oman is Wadi Bani Khalid. Wadi Bani Khalid is less touristy than Wadi Shab as it is further away from Muscat (almost 3 hours drive). But it is easier to access! The car park is only 5 minutes from the wadi and pools, in contrast to the long walk at Wadi Shab!
Wadi Bin Khalid is 1 hour 45 mins drive from Bimmah Sinkhole, so it is quite unlikely you’ll be able to see Bimmah Sinkhole, Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid all in one day if you are coming from Muscat. Instead, visit Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole one day, then stay overnight in Sur (1 hour drive from Bimmah Sinkhole). Then you can visit Wadi Bani Khalid from Sur the following day, which is much closer (1 hour drive from Sur to Wadi Bani Khalid). Wadi Bani Khalid is located in between Sur and Sharqiya Sands (the desert), so again to avoid backtracking, you can head straight to the desert after visiting Wadi Bani Khalid.
Click here to see the Google maps location of Wadi Bin Khalid.
Sur is a port city and makes a convenient base to explore the east of Oman. Like Mutrah, there is a corniche and souq as well as a couple of forts and even a lighthouse to discover.
From Sur you can easily visit several wadis, as well as Ras al Jinz, which is a turtle reserve 45 minutes away from Sur.
Ras al Jinz
Ras al Jinz is known throughout the world as a place for nesting endangered turtles. You can go onto the beach and watch the turtles make their way back into the ocean: an incredible site to witness. Click here to visit the official website and see the rates to watch the turtles. You can even stay overnight in their hotel or luxury eco-tents too!
When in the Middle East, you must experience staying overnight in the desert, it is so magical! Sharqiya Sands, also known as Wahiba Sands, is a region of the desert here located near Wadi Bani Khalid and Sur. They have several desert camps where you can stay in traditional tents, clamping tents, or in houses. They will pick you up and drop you off and provide you with a typical Bedouin desert experience. Popular companies include Safari Dunes camp, Desert Nights camp and 1000 Nights camp.
You can go camel riding, 4WD sand dune bashing or watch the sunrise here. Definitely an experience you will remember! Whilst I didn’t visit here due to time constraints, I lived in the UAE for over 3 years and several times I did desert safaris and stayed overnight in the desert. Click here to read about my experience at the world’s most luxurious desert resort, located in the desert in Dubai!
Click here to view the Google maps location of Sharqiya Sands.
The Middle East in the summer is ridiculously hot – except for one place that transforms into a lush green oasis with cool temperatures: Salalah! This incredible phenomenon is known as khareef: If you wish to witness Salalah in khareef season, visit from June to September when it is at it’s most beautiful (and most expensive unfortunately!).
Salalah is located in the Dhofar region of Oman, not far from Yemen, and it is the home of the best quality frankincense in the world, so pick some up when you are here!
For 2 days in Salalah I suggest:
West Salalah: Mughsail beach and Murneef Cave, Al Fazayah beach, Ayoub tomb.
East Salalah: Taqah old city and castle, Wadi Darbat, Ayn Razat oasis, Al Haffah souq (Salalah city).
Click here for the detailed 2 day itinerary of Salalah and important information you need to know!
Do bear in mind that it is a very long drive down to Salalah, so if you prefer you can get a cheap flight from Muscat to Salalah with Oman Air or Salam Air.
OMAN 7 DAY ITINERARY
You can still see a lot in Oman if you organise your time well. Check out this 7 day Itinerary of Oman. You can pick and choose and edit it to suit your timing.
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Mutrah Souq + Corniche
Muscat Old City
Al Alam Palace
Overnight in Muscat
Overnight in Muscat
Overnight in Sur
Ras Al Jinz
Overnight at Ras al Jinz.
Wadi Bani Khalid
Stay overnight in desert camp.
Day 6 & 7:
Salalah (see Salalah itinerary above).
What to wear in Oman:
Oman is a Muslim country and the people are very conservative. Please dress appropriately. It is not necessary for females to wear a headscarf (unless you are at Sultan Qaboos Mosque), but aim to keep your legs, shoulders and chest covered.
Is Oman safe for female solo travellers?
YES! Oman is very safe for female solo travellers. Infact it is one of the safest and easiest countries for female solo travellers to travel around. The local people are very respectful. I have travelled to Oman twice on my own and never had any issues. The men here are very respectful towards female solo travellers and won’t hassle them, unlike in some other Middle Eastern countries. Click here for more information about travelling solo around Arabic countries as a Western woman.
What are the Omani people like?
The Omani people are known for their warmth and hospitality. They are such kind, genuine people and have kept their traditions and culture alive throughout the generations. If they come and chat to you, it’s because they genuinely want to chat to you or help you.
When is the best time of year to visit Oman?
Try to avoid visiting Oman during the summer months of May to September. It is very hot here during this time – temperatures can exceed 50 degrees Celsius! The cooler months are much more pleasant, with temperatures less than 30 degrees Celsius, however ultimately this is when prices are higher and places are busier.
Transport in Oman
It is best to hire a car as it will be much cheaper than taking taxis or hiring a driver. Plus petrol is very cheap in Oman – I had a small car and to fill the whole tank cost less than £20! The roads going through Muscat are a little busy, but the drivers in Oman are a lot more considerate and polite than drivers I have seen in other Middle Eastern countries. The roads throughout the rest of the country are well maintained and everything is well signposted.
How much is car hire in Oman?
It cost me 31 Omani Reals (£65) for 2 days rental for a small car. Most cars are automatic but you can get some manual ones which are cheaper. There are plenty car hire companies at the airport, and it is advisable to pre-book a car beforehand, although many people do just turn up,
Do you need a 4WD for Oman?
In some places only 4WD’s are permitted, but you can easily still road trip around Oman in a regular car.
Typical Omani food
Traditional Omani dishes you should try include qabouli and shuwa, both of which are meat and rice. Filling but delicious! Seafood is also popular along the coast. Food is pretty cheap here in Oman.
Visa for Oman
Beware that by the end of 2019 Oman will not offer visa on arrival – you need to apply for an e-visa online! CLICK HERE to head to the website.
How to get to Oman
From the UAE:
Etihad Airways operates several flights a day to Muscat from Abu Dhabi. It also offers seasonal flights to Salalah during khareef season (June – September roughly).
Emirates also operates multiple flights every day to Muscat from Dubai.
The countries National Airline, Oman Air flies to several destinations in Europe, including London, Paris, Milan and Munich. It also flies to several Asian and Middle Eastern destinations.
Salam Air is an Omani low-cost airline that offers flights to several nearby countries.
Muscat unveiled their new airport in 2018 and it is very luxurious and modern!
Can you drive from Muscat to Dubai?
Yes, it is totally possible to drive from Oman to the UAE and many people living here drive between the two countries when they have days off. The drive between Muscat and Dubai takes about 5 hours.
If you are renting a car however, do check with the rental company if you are able to take the car across the border as there are usually some limitations. If you do decide to drive, be sure to stop off at the Hatta Dam along the way.
Although with flights between the two cities being little over half an hour, many people choose to fly between the two cities, or even to Abu Dhabi.
Like this Oman travel itinerary post? Pin it!