Discover Oman: Jewel of the Arabian Peninsula  ⋆ Tredwell Travel

Discover Oman: Jewel of the Arabian Peninsula 

Whether it’s luxury time on the beach, camping amongst endless sand dunes, snorkelling with turtles or hiking up canyons, Oman has something to offer every holidaymaker. Within a day’s drive of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the growing Omani tourism industry is seeing an influx of visitors to the neighbouring UAE choosing to escape the busy cities of the Emirates in exchange for the gentler pace of life that Oman offers. 


1) Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

Most trips to Oman start and end in Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city. The city is spread over a large area and, with limited public transport, a car is incredibly useful to maximise your time in the city. Headline sites include the mesmerising Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, opened in 2001 (picture 1), the vibrant Sultan’s Palace and the National Museum of Oman – which houses an extensive collection revealing the history of the area from the early palaeolithic era right up to the modern day. Basing yourself in Muttrah, located between the Grand Mosque and Palace, places you in the centre of the old city providing a window into historic Muscat with forts looking out from above you as you walk along the harbour front. For a particularly memorable experience visit Muttrah Souq after an evening walk along the corniche, allowing yourself to wander amongst the smells of burning frankincense, brilliantly coloured spice displays and fresh street food. 

To escape the heat and bustle of the city, stay at one of the resorts located to the east of Muscat. A short drive out of the city brings you to the Bandar al Khairan area where small roads wind down to secluded beaches and mangrove forest (picture 2). Kayaking, guided hikes and boat trips to further explore the inlets and islands can be organised either from your hotel or public beaches. There is no need to worry about crowds here, this is one of Oman’s most peaceful corners. 

2) Sunset at Bandar al Khairan

Another popular excursion from Muscat is a day trip to the Daminyat Islands (picture 3). Trips run from both Muscat and Seeb, offering snorkelling, diving, and swimming opportunities with regular sightings of multiple turtle and shark species as well as, with good fortune and timing, whale sharks! It is possible to stay overnight on the islands for the ultimate island retreat, however accommodation options are rudimentary. 

3) Al Daminyat Islands

The Eastern Loop 

From Muscat, visitors can drive a loop to take in many of Oman’s best sites stopping as frequently as the time you have allows. Begin either by heading inland to Nizwa and the Hajar mountains or along the coast towards the coastal city of Sur. If taking the coastal route, make a quick stop at the Bimmah Sinkhole with steps down to the water allowing you to swim surrounded by the rock walls. Continuing East brings you to Wadi Shab where you can park up and walk into the canyon along a well maintained track (picture 4).

4) Wadi Shab

After approximately an hour of walking the path becomes submerged and from here you can swim onwards to explore caves and pools further up the valley. Sur is less than an hour’s drive from Wadi Shab. A beautiful, historic town, aim to arrive in time to visit the Dhow building workshop – where the traditional wooden boats still used today are crafted – before heading up to one of the nearby forts to watch the sunset (picture 5). 

5) Evening in Sur, dhows – traditional Omani boats – can be seen under the bridge

Leaving behind Sur, you will quickly find yourself emersed in the arid, stony landscapes of rural Oman. It’s not just humans that enjoy the tranquillity of this area, with four turtle species using these shores as breeding grounds, primarily from May through to September. Staying a night at the Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve allows you to witness the spectacle in a non-intrusive manner with organised sunrise and sunset viewings. Watch the landscape trasnform from rock to sand as you turn away from the coast and make for the Wahiba Sands – an area of desert with sand dunes rolling for miles. A number of desert camps facilitate overnight experiences, offering “dune bashing” in 4WDs and allowing you to see the stars like you never have before. 

To continue the loop head to Nizwa, one of the oldest cities in the country. Nizwa Souq, although rebuilt in a modern style, still offers a window into former times with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, silverware, ceramics and much more. Visit not long after sunrise on a Friday morning to witness the live goat market taking place (picture 6), then head to Nizwa Fort, Oman’s most visited national monument, for a further insight into the history of this important city. If you wish to avoid the crowds, Bahla Fort and Souq are within an hour and, although smaller than Nizwa, are equally as enjoyable to discover at your own pace. 

6) Nizwa Goat Souq

The final stops on your loop should be to Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar. Only drivers of 4WD vehicles are permitted to access the latter, whilst the former is a challenging (but possible!) drive in a 2WD provided there has been no rain. The so-called Grand Canyon of Arabia sits beneath Jebel Shams – the tallest mountain in Oman – and is best experienced by completing the balcony walk, a path that runs along the edge of the canyon leading to the abandoned village of As Sab (picture 7). Jebel Akhdar is a wonderful place to explore, home to authentic Omani villages, a labyrinth of wadis and stunning views of the Hajar mountains. From here, return to Muscat to continue your journey. 

7) The Balcony Walk, Jebel Shams


The Musandam Peninsula needs to be seen to be believed. Isolated from the rest of Oman by the UAE, it is located to the south of the Strait of Hormuz and characterised by dramatic mountains plunging into the ocean, leading to its colloquial naming as the Fjords of Arabia. The most rewarding activities on the peninsula are based around the water with day and overnight Dhow cruises running from Khasab including frequent dolphin sightings and the best views of the dramatic landscape (picture 8). It is possible to fly to Khasab from Muscat (1 hour) or take the twice weekly ferry from Shinas (north of Muscat, travel time: 4 hours) which allows you to see the remote east coast cliffs of the peninsula as you cruise north. 

8) Musandam Peninsula

Masirah Island 

A possible extension to the “Eastern Loop” described above, Masirah Island is a popular tourist destination for Omani’s and, increasingly, foreign tourists. A commercial car ferry runs twice daily from Shannah Port, transferring you to Masirah in under an hour. Masirah is home to undisturbed beaches and has a true desert island sense to it thanks to the wild camels roaming and the dry rocky interior, it is also a popular kitesurfing location due to reliable winds in the summer. 


Salalah has a very different feel to the rest of Oman, especially if you visit around monsoon season. The desertscape bursts to life following the annual rains, with Wadi Darbat the best place to see this transformation. These rains were essential to the thriving frankincense trade which first established the Dhofar region on the global stage, a product that is still proudly farmed today and commemorated with The Museum of Frankincense Land and the archaeological site at Khor Rori. The coast that stretches in both directions from Salalah is worthy of further exploration with stunning beaches to the West such as Mughsail (picture 9) and historic towns such as Taqah, Mirbat and Sadah.

9) Dramatic coastline West of Salalah

Driving inland offers the chance for more desert exploration into Oman’s “Empty Quarter” (picture 10). Salalah airport is served by international flights and regular services to Muscat however, if time allows you to drive the coast road north then some of the best driving tourism awaits on the road north of Hasik. 

10) Sand dunes in the Empty Quarter

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