Things To Do in Oman
The Middle East is a popular destination, mainly for travelers heading to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. However, neighbouring the United Arab Emirates on the South, beautiful Oman stretches along the Gulf. From stunning resorts along to coast to lush Wadis, a red sand desert and impressive mountains, the country has a lot to offer and a week-long visit is almost too little to explore all the things to do in Oman.
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Outfit: Banu Label turleneck // VIKTORIA LOUISE palazzo pants // Pashmina scarf // Aigner bag // Linda Farrow sunglasses
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A trip to Oman has been on my personal bucket list for years. Mostly because of some of the incredible hotels, but as it quickly turned out the country has so much more to offer than just aesthetically pleasing accommodations. On a mission to escape the cold January in Vienna, we flew to Oman’s capital Muscat via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines*. There are no direct flights from Vienna to Muscat, so the connection via Turkey is your best choice. A stopover in Istanbul’s new terminal is highly recommended – the Turkish Airlines business class lounge is the most impressive lounge I have ever set foot in. The food was 100% my thing (think: turkish mezze, lots of vegetables, fresh salads), the wifi was free and speedy, the bathroom the most lavish I have ever stepped foot in and the lounge even houses houses 12 suites with 12 showers. Needless to say, our 6-hour layover almost felt too short! Also worth mentioning is the service on board and in-flight meals. Those that know me, know that I always bring my own food – but in this case, the mezze delight continued at 36.000 ft and I actually enjoyed the cold meal.
Upon our arrival in Muscat (1.30am) we were greeted by untypically low temperatures for the region. 17°C and rain were on the forecast. Luckily, it didn’t stop us from exploring various things to do in Oman. When the sun was out, we were hiking in lush Wadis, when it was cold we visited the Grand Mosque (for which you need to cover your arms and legs anyway) and when we were craving adventure, we went climbing in the mountains!
Things to do in Oman:
- The Grand Mosque in Muscat: The mosque is built from 300,000 tons of Indian sandstone and makes for a beautiful backdrop against the clear blue sky. Visitors are only allowed in the mornings (between 8.00 and 11.00 am) and the entrance is free of charge. Women and men need to cover arms and legs including ankles and wrists, additionally women need to cover their hair.
- Wadi Shab: In Oman, the desert landscape includes a vertical dimension in the form of soaring limestone cliffs incised with canyons, which are referred to locally as Wadis. Many of which are home to beautiful green palm and mango tree lined oases. Despite the fact that these Wadis are a popular point of interest amongst tourists traveling to Oman, they are free to visit (if you are up for a little hike). We visited Wadi Shab, to which the locals take you across the river (for 3 OR) before you embark on a hike by foot that takes approximately 45 minutes. Flipflops or sandals are not a good idea – wear hiking shoes or sneakers. And a bathing suit if you care to take a dip in the beautiful waters of the natural pools. Wadi Shab is just short of a 2-hour drive from Muscat and can easily be done without a guide. We booked a rental car for 25 OR and drove by ourselves. All roadsigns are both in Arabic and English.
- Mutrah Corniche: While I found the souk in Oldtown Muscat very disappointing (cheap, lots of plastic, nothing compared to Marrakech), the corniche made for a beautiful walk just before sunset. 4.30 pm is a great time to wander along the harbor and enjoy the afternoon light against the backdrop of oldtown.
- Nizwa: The former capital of Oman is Nizwa. Nizwa is about 140 km (1.5 hours) from Muscat. It was once a center of trade, religion, education and art. “Today it remains one of the most popular tourist attractions with its historical buildings and imposing fort built in the mid 17th century by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’ribi, The town’s immense palm oasis stretches for eight kilometers along the course of two wadis. It is famous for its bustling souq where tourists can buy exquisite copper and silver jewellery and other craft items.” (via)
Unfortunately we only drove by Nizwa on our way to the mountains but did not time to stop – just another reason to come back one day…
- Jebel Akhdar (or Al Jabal Al Akhdar): My personal highlight of our trip to Oman were the two days spent in the mountains located above Nizwa, part of Al Hajar Mountains range in Ad Dakhiliyah Governorate of Oman. At over 2.000m elevation, the beautiful resorts open up to breath-taking views of the mountains, surrounding local villages and canyons. We went rock-climbing (serious stuff!!), did the Three Village Hike and watched the sun set magically over the mountains!
A 4 x 4 is necessary to enter the mountain area, which is military terrain. Be prepared for check-points.
- Sharqiya Sands (Wahiba Sands): a coppery orange ocean of dunes stretches out about 3 hours south of Muscat. Unfortunately, our timetable did not allow a visit to Wahiba Sands, but an overnight stay at one of the desert camps comes highly recommended by anyone who has been (including friends of ours). When you plan your trip and the things to do in Oman, be sure to schedule enough time to visit the desert!
Good to know: in contrast to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, the cities of Oman are much more traditional. Going out to fancy restaurants or clubs is not much of a thing, instead, the local culture and stunning landscape, incredible resorts to unwind and amazing spa experiences should be the reason for planing a trip to Oman.
Also: Never take photos of people without asking them first. Especially official government or military employees.