Over the last two decades, Oman has emerged as one of the most desirable destinations in the Middle East. Despite remaining relatively untouched by over-tourism, Oman continues to attract outdoor enthusiasts and adventure lovers interested in getting off the beaten path.
Oman’s landscape is particularly noteworthy. Not only will you find mountainous valleys, steep canyons, and rolling sand dunes, but you’ll also get the chance to relax at the beaches or port-side marinas along the coast. Paired with the historic forts and archeological ruins, Oman is guaranteed to be one of the most awe-inspiring countries you’ll visit.
17. Wadi Bani Khalid
Nestled between the jagged hills and sandy dunes is a little slice of paradise known as Wadi Bani Khalid. Located a few hours from Muscat, this hidden oasis is home to several sparkling turquoise pools, which are starkly contrasted to the browns and oranges of their dusty, dry surroundings.
Go for a swim in the refreshing waters or explore the narrow caves and canyons. If you’re not ticklish, you can also dangle your feet in the water to receive a nibbling fish pedicure.
16. Jebel Shams
The winding drive to the top of Oman’s highest mountain is almost as exhilarating as the mountain itself. As you navigate along the bends and curves in the road, you’ll have unparalleled views over the impressive “Grand Canyon of Oman,” Wadi Ghul.
To make the most of your trip, it’s worth spending at least one night at Jebal Shams. There are plenty of campgrounds at the summit, where you can spend the evening stargazing and admiring the spectacular views. Thrill-seekers should also attempt the balcony walk, a narrow trail that skirts the side of the mountain.
15. Jabrin Fort
Dating back to 1670, this beautiful Jabrin Fort was once used to house the ruling Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan. The fort’s military-grade defense system is still mostly intact, and you’ll be able to see weaponry and canyons throughout the complex. You’ll also be able to wander through the different rooms and quarters that were occupied by the Imam and his wives.
Explore the intricately carved ceilings in the bedrooms, the rooftop Mosque and Quran school, and even the tomb where the Imam was buried.
14. Misfat al Abriyeen
Situated atop the Jebel Sham mountains lays the charming and fascinating village of Misfat al Abriyeen. As you walk through the labyrinth of cobblestone alleys and passageways, you’ll come across Misfat al Abriyeen’s famous lush gardens, agricultural terraces, and clay houses.
The contrast of the green palms and gardens against the brown mud architecture makes this village one of the most stunning attractions in Oman. You could easily get lost for hours just admiring the buildings and views of this quaint, walkable village.
13. Nakhal Fort
Learn more about Oman’s military history with a visit to Nakhal Fort. The fort was originally built in the 7th-century to ward off invading tribes, although it also served as a residence for Imams of both the Wadi Bani Kharous and the Ya’arubah dynasty.
Nakhal Fort is now a museum. You can still see the spiked doors and towers that were used over the last few centuries, in addition to guns, traditional furniture, and local handicrafts. If you happen to be visiting the fort on a Friday, you’ll also get the chance to see the weekly goat market that takes place within the walls of the fort.
12. Masirah Island
If you’re looking for a real desert island experience, look no further than the rugged island of Masirah. The breezy coasts are ideal for kite surfers and kayakers, and the quiet town of Hilf is home to charming cafes and guesthouses. You can also relax one of the many deserted beaches dotted around the island.
Masirah Island is also a great destination for wildlife viewing. Not only will you find the largest colony of Loggerhead turtles (who venture to Masirah to nest), but you’ll also see bottlenose dolphins and flying fish.
11. Sumhuram Old City
The fortified city of Sumhuram is one of Oman’s most popular archeological attractions. Although it was once a major trade port for Southern Arabia, it was eventually abandoned and left to crumble for over 1,500 years.
Most of the city has been reduced to a few ruins and limestone slabs, although it’s still possible to make out the shapes of the different buildings, gates, and temples. It’s also worth visiting for the dramatic views of the flowing Wadi Darbat River from the top of the mountainous lookout.
10. Wadi Bani Awf
For spectacular scenery and dramatic landscapes, head to Wadi Bani Awf in the South Batinah Governorate of Oman. As one of the largest wadis in the country, Bani Awf is home to steep valleys, rural villages, and adventurous hiking trails. Not to mention, the winding dirt roads and passageways also make for an exhilarating off-roading experience.
However, the highlight of Wadi Bani Awf is the picturesque Snake Canyon. The narrow canyon walls are so close that you can stand in the middle and touch both sides at the same time. You’ll also find crystal pools and cascading waterfalls bursting from the rocky outcrops of the canyon.
9. Al Ayn
Isolated in the middle of Al Dhahira is the archeological site of Al Ayn. This area is home to 19 beehive-shaped tombs, which are believed to date as far back as 3100 BC. You can easily spot them lined up in a row along the spine of the highest hill. Each of these stone structures once held up to 30 different bodies inside, which was an impressive architectural feat for its time.
There are two other necropolis sites nearby, although Al Ayn is the best preserved of the three. The archeological site of Bat consists of 100 graves, while the Al-Khutm ruins have giant monumental stone towers.
8. Wadi Nakhr Canyon
If you’re interested in outdoor adventure, make sure to visit the stunning Wadi Nakhr Canyon – the “Grand Canyon of Oman.” Located just two hours from Muscat, Wadi Nakhr Canyon is a vast, mountainous range full of waterfalls, limestone rock formations, and small villages.
While there are plenty of activities to do – like hiking, mountain climbing, and 4×4 off-roading – many visitors simply come to admire the panoramic views. The cliff walls can be as steep as 5,000 feet, making Wadi Nakhr Canyon one of the most breathtaking sites in all of Oman.
7. Nizwa Fort
The astounding Nizwa Fort is easily one of Oman’s most popular tourist attractions. Built in the mid-1600s, Nizwa Fort was the administrative seat for the ruling Imans. It also acted as a protective defense system against tribes and forces that tried to break into the town.
In the center of the fort is the giant circular drum tower, which can only be accessed by a winding staircase that leads down inside from the top. You can find other structures used against potential enemies, including the hidden pitfalls, spike-studded doors, and plenty of secret tunnels. Once you step foot inside the fort, you’ll see why it remained practically impenetrable during these impending attacks.
6. Muttrah Souk
The vibrant and colorful Muttrah Souk is a shopper’s paradise. As Muscat’s primary market, Muttrah Souk is packed with shops, stalls, and booths selling everything you could possibly imagine. While it’s mostly an indoor market, you’ll find the less touristy shops spilling into the back alleys behind the building.
Although it takes some effort to navigate the maze of items, you’ll find everything from frankincense and jewelry to traditional handicrafts and souvenirs. Don’t forget to haggle for your purchase. Half the fun of shopping at the Muttrah Souk is being able to negotiate for your valuable possessions.
5. Jebel Harim
Soak in the pristine mountaintop views with a road trip up to Jebel Harim. As Oman’s highest peak, Jebel Harim towers almost 7,000 feet above sea level and is one of the country’s most striking landmarks. Although the summit is off-limits, you can still enjoy breathtaking views of the valleys and boulders as you make your way around the mountain.
Besides the sweeping views, you’ll also pass by petroglyphs that were carved into the mountain’s cliffs. It’s also possible to see fossils from mollusks, fish, and clams from thousands of years in the past.
4. Khor ash Sham
Unlike the rest of Oman’s dry and mountainous landscape, the sparkling blue waters of Khor ash Sham is a sight for sore eyes. Not only is Khor ash Sham home to a vast abundance of marine life, but the trail of rural villages along the coast are also waiting to be explored.
During your trip, it’s also worth making the journey over to Telegraph Island, which was used by the British during the mid-1800s. Although it’s now abandoned, you can still trek up to the top of the ruins or soak in the bird’s-eye view over the Khor ash Sham.
3. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
No trip to Oman would be complete without a visit to the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Constructed with Indian sandstone, colorful woven carpets, and Italian chandeliers, it’s a true architectural masterpiece. It was built to accommodate 20,000 worshippers, including a private prayer hall for up to 750 female worshippers.
The prayer hall is open to non-Muslims at select hours of the day. Even if you don’t get the chance to walk through the inside of the mosque, you’ll still be amazed by its imposing structure as it looms over the city of Muscat.
2. Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Get up close and personal with some of Oman’s most adorable creatures at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve. Locate just a short 15-minute walk from the beach, the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve aims to protect the vulnerable turtles that flock to the shores to nest.
Turtles are rarely spotted during the day, so your best chance of seeing them is by booking a night tour. There are several different species of turtles to see at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, including the Green Turtle, Loggerhead Turtles, Olive Ridley Turtles, and the endangered Hawksbill Turtle.
1. Wahiba Sands
The vast, barren landscape of Wahiba Sands stretches for as far as the eye can see. Located in eastern Oman, this sprawling desert is easily one of the most stunning attractions in the entire country. The copper-orange and golden-yellow dunes form giant ripples, some of which can be over 300-feet high.
Spend the night camping underneath the stars, or explore the depths of the desert on the back of a camel. For a more exhilarating experience, rent a 4×4 and tour the desert at your own pace by cruising along the massive dunes at top speed.