Visit Oman and discover one of the oldest civilisations in the Arabian Peninsula – an exotic mix of traditional Arabian heritage, dramatic landscapes and cities that blend modern facilities with old world charm.
With its rich heritage of hospitality, dramatic scenery, range of historic and cultural sights and choice of majestic 5-star resorts, Oman offers all the ingredients you need for a fascinating Middle East outdoors adventure.
Having only recently opened its doors to tourism, the Sultanate of Oman is one of the least known and least explored destinations in the Middle East.
Things to do and see
Famous for the outstanding natural beauty of wind-swept sand dunes dotted with palm-fringed wadis (dry valleys or riverbeds), rugged mountains peppered with historic forts and a dramatic coastline fringed with numerous golden-sand beaches, Oman is the perfect destination for a range of outdoor activities, including rock climbing, abseiling, caving and hiking, as well as four-wheel drive adventures such as dune-bashing treks into the desert.
At Wadi Shab, discover a desert oasis of stunning waterfalls, aquamarine pools and terraced plantations where you can spot kingfishers and cool off with a swim. Explore the world’s second-largest cave at Majlis al-Jhinn’s, where crystal clear streams flow through a maze of watery subterranean passages. Discover several rock climbing routes that range from 120m to 500m amid the rocky limestone towers of Wadi Al-Ghool, at Jabal Mishfat and Jabal Misht.
Descend into the subterranean passages of the world’s eighth-largest cave at Majlis Al-Jhinn, rock climb the Hajar Mountains, explore the barren fringes of the Rub'a Al-Khali (the Empty Quarter) in a four-wheel drive or experience desert life on a camel safari through the rolling sand dunes of the Wahiba or Sharqiya deserts.
Hike the Jebel Akhdar plateau, Dhofar’s verdant green pastures and the terraced plantations at Wadi Shab where you may spot native kingfishers and can admire stunning waterfalls or cool off with a swim in aquamarine pools.
Explore unspoiled beaches on foot and rocky fjords by boat along the 1700km-long coastline that stretches from the Straits of Hormuz to the border of South Yemen – perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving and beachcombing.
Experience Oman’s underwater paradise, home to 85 species of soft and hard coral and more than 900 species of fish. Some of the country’s best dive sites are found just an hour’s drive south of the capital Muscat and include: Bander Khyran, home to beautiful corals, the Al-Munassir wreck and several secluded beaches; Fahal Island, with two wrecks and a tunnel dive; Ras Abu Daud, a small chain of islands with steep walls, shallow reefs and a wreck dive; and the colourful coral gardens of Daymaniyat Islands Marine Park, a chain of islands to the north of Muscat.
Go bird watching for herons, ospreys, laughing doves and Egyptian vultures at Al-Ansab lagoons and Qurum National Park and spot flamingos and spoonbills at Barr Al-Hickman (October to April is the best time).
Hook up a game fishing charter to chase black marlin, swordfish and tuna in the Gulf of Oman and surf the 1.5m waves around Masirah Island.
In Muscat, stroll the sweeping Mutrah Corniche past a crescent of old merchant houses decorated with overhanging balconies. Explore the covered alleyways of Muscat’s labyrinthine and traditional Old Mutrah Souk, browsing for gold and silver, gold and copper handicrafts, khanjars (Omani daggers), coffee pots, saddles, frankincense, hand-woven textiles and carpets.
Discover Old Muscat, home to the whitewashed castellated walls of the Sultan’s Royal Palace, set between the picture-perfect 16th century Portuguese forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani, overlooking the harbour. Ponder various memorabilia inside the forts, learn more about the history of Oman at the Bait Al Baranda Museum and view the Grand Mosque in nearby Shatti al-Qurm, home to the largest hand-made carpet in the world (at 70m by 60m wide).
Discover your own secluded beach to sunbathe, swim and snorkel, just a short drive from the capital, Muscat. Or simply relax on the beachfront at one of Oman’s magnificent coastal resorts – try the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, consistently voted one of the best hotels in the Middle East.
Don’t forget to visit some of the 2000 ancient crenellated castles that dominate many of Oman’s lush green oases and otherwise desolate landscape.
Enjoy a day trip from Muscat to the ancient fortress town of Nizwa, with its spectacular 17th century fort and lively souk, located at the base of the Hajar Mountains. From here it’s easy to explore on foot or by four-wheel drive the Jebel Akhdar Mountains, famous for their terraced gardens, Jebal Shams and the Grand Canyon of Oman.
Along the way, don’t miss the impressive 17th century Jabrin Fort, with its exquisitely painted wooden ceilings, panoramic desert and mountain views and the towering remains of Bahla Fort.
To the north of Nizwa lie the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn, which together form one of the world’s most complete collections of settlements and ancient burial mounds from the 3rd millennium BC.
Some of the best buys in Oman include khanjars (Omani daggers), coffee pots, saddles, frankincense, hand-woven textiles, carpets and traditional silver, gold and copper handicrafts.