Oman is just unique a country as any is. However, the Sultanate is oftentimes overlooked by travellers. What escape the ordinary tourists’ eyes are the exotic and incredible attractions and cities the country has to offer.
In this brief guide, we will list some of the best destinations you can check out on your first (or next) trip to Oman.
Best Places to Visit in Oman
Oman is one of the most underrated places you can go to in the Middle East. There are actually plenty of desert landscapes, incredible mountain ranges, historic forts, and warm beaches to enjoy in this exotic country, depending on your kind of adventure or idea for a vacation. But, in this list, we give you several destination spots which are a “must-see” when visiting Oman anytime in the year:
Misfat al Abryeen
While most cities in the country have adopted a modern look, there are still those which have preserved their traditional atmosphere and quaint charm, such as the small village of Misfat al Abryeen. This mountain village is made of stone buildings in shades of orange and brown, and it can look more like an Italian mountain village than something you might expect to find on the Arabian Peninsula.
A closer look into the city and you would see what mountain life in Oman is. Tread a steep road towards the mountain and walk among buildings under the shade of banana trees and lush greenery. Also, be sure to check out the ancient watchtower above the village that you can climb to see Misfat al Abryeen, as well as the surrounding fields and dams filled with water.
Off the coast of Oman is the island of Masirah, which is an ideal place for travellers in search of sun, beaches, wildlife, and history. The island is home to an Omani air base, but the towns are relatively small. This generally means small crowds and plenty of secluded spots to explore. It’s quite easy to get to the place, since regular ferries are available to get you to and from the mainland. Some of the things you can enjoy on the island include swimming, checking out the abundance of shipwrecks just off the coast, and watching the more than 30,000 turtles that appear annually during hatching season.
Another great place to visit in Oman is the northern city of Bahla. A kind of desert oasis, Bahla has been a stopping point of travelers for centuries. The city prides in its historic fort, the Bahla Fort, which dates back to as early as the 13th century, when it was widely under the control of the Banu Nebhan tribe. Aside from exploring the Fort, visitors can also admire the city walls, which are made from adobe and stretch for nearly seven miles in length. There is also a souvenir market, where you can find an impressive selection of local pottery, which Bahla is widely known for.
Down south, a city regarded as second to Muscat, Salalah remains relevant to this day because it is the ancestral home to the Sultan Qaboos, the reigning sultan in Oman since 1970. A visit to this city will give you a first-hand view of the Qaboos Palace, and appreciate older architecture in the Old Town, known as the Haffa. There’s even the unique Al Baleed Archaeological Site, which you can visit if you’re into history and cultural heritage spots. As Salalah is known for its frankincense trade, be sure to pick up a souvenir from the souk in Haffa. From June to August, however, monsoon clouds from India bring a constant rain to the area and, as a result, the coastal region around Salalah is transformed into a green oasis with seasonal waterfalls and streams.
Locally translated as “Green Mountain,” the Jebel Akhdar is a part of the Al Hajar Mountains. However, don’t be misled by the green description, as the region is primarily composed of limestone. The area also has the highest point in Oman. Furthermore, don’t expect to see lush forests, but the elevation makes for cooler temperatures and more agricultural growth than in the desert below. The area is now under protection by the local government, but you can hike through beautiful terraces and even spot trees laden with fruit. While hiking in the desert doesn’t seem to sound very appealing to most, visitors know that this is one of best pastimes in the region.
Ras Al Jinz
To the east of the Sultanate is Ral Al Jinz, where you can find a turtle reserve that helps to populate and protect the sea turtles of the Indian Ocean. When you visit the area during the summer, or between the months of May and October, you can spot turtle nests along the beach and even watch the baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean, pretty much like what you’d see in the Galapagos on the other side of the world. While a visit to this natural reserve is possible as part of a day trip from Muscat, most visitors opt to spend the night at the resort and check out other attractions like the Turtle Visitor Centre and Museum.
The Musandam Peninsula is located in the northernmost region of Oman, and it is separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. The Musandam Fjords stretch north and provides breath-taking sceneries. If you visit the Musandam Fjords, be sure to check out activities like boat trips to explore the coasts and peaks rising up from the water, spotting dolphins from a Dhow, or traditional Omani boat, and scuba diving out at sea. The area is sparse in human population but wildlife in abundance. Because of this, the region is considered as one of the best places to visit in Oman for nature lovers.
During the 6th and 7th centuries, the city of Nizwa served as the capital of Oman. Owing to this fact, the area still is widely recognized for its incredible fort, which was built in the 17th century under the direction of Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’ribi, with some parts of the fort even dating back to the 9th century. The most iconic landmark in the city is the enormous cylindrical tower at Nizwa Fort. The fort, to this day, has some interesting defence mechanisms, including honey traps and unusually shaped windows for shooting approaching enemies. The fort has also become a museum, where you can explore 17th century life in Oman. When in Nizwa, you need to check out the souq (outdoor market), as well as the unusual goat market held two days each week in the city centre.
If you’re pressed for time during your stay in Oman, and can only afford to explore one place, it would have to be the modern capital city, Muscat. The city is a combination of traditional and modern amenities such as forts, palaces, museums, and markets. While you can’t visit the interior of the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace, you can head over to the harbour to get a close view of the amazing structure. Guarding the palace are the twin forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani, which have been converted into museums and are now accessible to the public. Non-Muslim travellers can also check out the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque on most mornings, where they can admire huge crystal chandeliers, marble wall panels and the second largest Persian carpet in the world.
The beauty in visiting a country like Oman is that not much is known about the country, and so you’re experience can only be the most authentic as it can get. And while you’re at it, be sure to take pictures (where it is allowed) and to spread your travel experience in the country!