Great things to do in Oman. Where to start?! It’s full of stunning natural beauty, history, and opportunities for adventure that is also blessed with friendly and welcoming people. With over 500 forts, turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, the ruggedly beautiful Al Hajar mountains, and the shimmering sands of the Wahiba dunes, the country is an undiscovered jewel. And it’s probably safer than your home country. There are so many things to do and see in Oman that you will be spoiled for choice It’s one of my favourite places, I’ve been many times and always look forward to returning.
12 Great Things to do in Oman
1 Get Away from It All
How many people do you know who’ve been to Oman? Unless you live in the Gulf region there’s a good chance the answer is ‘none’. Oman has lots of space, not many people and few tourists. It’s a great place to get away from the crowds but tourism is growing so the advice is to go soon and discover the country before the rest of the world catches on.
2 Visit Over 500 Forts
Yes, 500! There are forts dotted around the country with the biggest concentration in the northern one third of the country. Many are little more than ruins but some have been restored and give a sense of life in the Oman’s turbulent past: Bahla fort, the oldest in Oman and a World Heritage site, stands in a charming town with winding alleyways, old mosques and a traditional souk. Or there’s Nizwa fort, built around 1650 by the imam who expelled the Portuguese from Oman and is one of the best known sites in the country. Nizwa souk is one of the biggest in the country selling everything from meat and vegetables to handicrafts, pottery and jewellery. On Friday morning the souk is busy with villagers who come to buy and sell goats, donkeys, cattle and sheep. Muttrah fort, sitting atop a rocky hillside in Muscat, was built in the 1580s by the Portuguese and captured by the Omanis about 70 year later. You can climb the steep staircase to the outside of the fort (it’s currently closed for renovation) and gaze out to the Gulf of Oman and the shipping routes the fort once protected.
3 See the Desert Turn Lush and Green
In the summer months, when the rest of the Arabian Peninsula is arid, brown and baking under an unforgiving sun, Salalah in southern Oman is wrapped in the cooling mists of a monsoon. The khareef, (the Arabic word for ‘autumn’) is a south western monsoon which turns the desert around the city of Salalah lush and green between July and September. People flock here from all over the Gulf region to escape the scorching heat at home and to explore the souks and dramatic coastline.
4 Watch Dolphins Play Alongside Your Traditional Arabian Dhow
Ten different kinds of dolphins can be found in Omani waters with the coast of Musandam and the sea off Muscat being the most popular areas to view them. Click here to read about the thrill of watching these smart, social cetaceans in their natural habitat.
5 Hike the Highest Mountain in Arabia and Marvel at Oman’s Grand Canyon
Rising over 3000m from the surrounding plains, highest mountain in the Arabian Peninsula, Jebel Shams, is a barren, rugged limestone land of high peaks, deep canyons and million-year-old fossils. As you drive up the precipitous, winding mountain road you pass an abandoned village; tracks lead to other villages, inhabited but unseen and goats forage by the roadside.
There are marked hiking trails on the mountain. You can take a relatively easy walk along the edge of the spectacular Wadi Ghul, the 1000m deep chasm popularly known as the Grand Canyon of Oman, or a challenging hike up to southern summit of the ‘sun mountain’ as Jebel Shams means in Arabic (the true summit is a military installation and therefore off-limits). Sturdy hiking boots are recommended for the hike up the mountain as the path is very rocky and uneven.
There are simple small resorts on the mountain or you can wild camp if you bring everything you need with you.
6 Explore 1700km of Coastline
Ranging from deserted sandy beaches to rugged rocky cliffs, the coastline has something to please everybody. Find a peaceful piece of beach to call your own; watch the waves of the Arabian Sea crash against the rocks in the south; or hook up with a local fisherman and accompany him out to sea for a glimpse of the coastline from the water.
7 Cruise the ‘Norway of Arabia’ in the Musandam Peninsula
A stunning Omani enclave encircled by the UAE, Musandam is where the barren mountains of the Northern Al Hajar mountain range crash down into the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf. Take a cruise through fjords on a traditional wooden dhow, pass villages only accessible by sea, snorkel amid multi-coloured fish in the warm clear waters of the Strait of Hormuz, and watch pods of dolphins play alongside the boat. Accessible as a day trip from Dubai this is one of my favourite days out anywhere in the world. Click here for a full description and photos.
8 Get Your Thrills in the Great Outdoors
With mountains, desert and sea, Oman is an ideal outdoor adventure destination offering an array of adventures: hiking, rock climbing, via ferrata, kite surfing, caving, canyoning and scuba diving to name but a few. Go on an organised tour or do it on your own.
9 Experience the Magic of Turtle Nesting Season
Every year around 20,000 sea turtles make their way to the beaches of Oman to lay their eggs and the Sultanate takes its important conservation role seriously, with strong penalties for anybody caught harming the creatures. Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be found here, including green turtles and loggerhead turtles. Raz al Jinz Turtle Centre is an eco tourism project within a nature reserve dedicated to protecting green turtles and their natural environment. Guests at the centre can take a nightly guided walk to witness green turtles struggle ashore and painstakingly excavate a hole for their eggs before carefully covering them over with sand and heading back out to sea. It’s a magical experience to watch these magnificent creatures under the light of the moon.
10 Explore the Wahiba Sands and the Empty Quarter
Follow in the footsteps of the great explorer Wilfred Thesiger who trekked through the Wahiba Sands on the edge of the world’s biggest sand desert, the Rub al Khali – the Empty Quarter – in search of the fabled Lost City of Ubar. Today there are luxury Bedouin style eco camps allowing visitors to experience the stunning beauty of the dunes without the hardship that Thesiger endured.
11 Haggle at a Traditional Souk or Be Awed at the Grand Mosque in Muscat
The capital of the Sultanate, Muscat, has developed rapidly since the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, came to power in 1970 but remains an utterly charming city. The mainly white, low rise buildings are scattered amid rocky hills leading down to the ports of Muttrah and Old Muscat. The pride of the city is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which can hold 20,000 worshippers and is open to non-Muslims. There’s also an international opera house, a fort, the buzzing Muttrah souk, a palace complex, museums, lots of great restaurants and fantastic luxury hotels.
12 Get Your Motor Running For Some Greating Driving in Oman
When Sultan Qaboos took over as ruler in 1970 there was only 16km of paved road in the whole country. Now there is a network of around 13,000km of very well maintained roads throughout the sultanate. With thousands of kilometres more of graded road the country is a dream for drivers whether on the excellent highways or for the more adventurous driving off road through wadis and mountains. Click here for details on driving in Oman.
Have you been to Oman? What was your favourite part of your visit? If you’ve not been, what would you love to do there? Looking forward to your answer in the comments.