Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman. Its name is popularly given to the whole area, including Wadi Ghul and Wadi Nakhr.
The narrow and deep gorge is one of the top places to visit in Oman, often called the Arabian Grand Canyon.
It is difficult to capture how impressive it is, but below is my guide to help you plan your visit: road, views and the Balcony walk.
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Why visit Jebel Shams in Oman ? Video
Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman at 3009 meters.
Access is not allowed as it is military ground. However, a road can take visitors to the plateau with incredible views of the gorge (depending on the book or Internet sources it is Wadi Ghul or Wadi Nakhr; considering the map I bought there and my observations, I would say it is Wadi Nakhr).
The plateau can be reached on a day trip or you can enjoy an overnight stay at one of the resorts.
Except for those, you won't find much up there. It is all open to enjoy the view with 1000m high vertical cliffs.
Although with the same limestone formation, the views are very different from Jebel Akhdar and its plantations. In Jebel Shams the terrain is dry.
Virtual tour - Video
Let's start with a short video where you can discover the bottom of Wadi Nakhr and its high vertical cliffs, snapshots of the road up to the plateau and the views of the Jebel Shams Oman canyon from the top. A great place to include in your Oman itinerary.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning tips & Map - Jebel Shams, Oman
Where is Jebel Shams in Oman - Map
This location is included (with GPS coordinates, map of region and planning info) in my travel guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Oman road trip:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
How to get to Jebel Shams - do you need a 4WD
- Road paved almost the entire way
- Only 7 kilometers at the end of the drive are unpaved - it is a little bumpy but graded
- You don't need a 4WD to reach the top, but it is recommended
- It is a mountain road with turns and drops, but not extremely difficult
Need to rent a car in Oman?
Jebel Shams Tours
- Many operators offer Jebel Shams Tours from Muscat for the day or overnight
- If you don't want to drive, take a day trip from Muscat - seat back and enjoy the scenery all the way to the top! Check out the program and book
Best time to visit Jebel Shams
- It is a great place to visit all year-round
- When it is hot in the valleys, the cool temperature at the top offer a nice reprieve
- Because of the high altitude, it can have snow in Winter
- It can be visited as a day trip, but the best times are, of course, sunset and sunrise. Therefore, I recommend an overnight stay.
- Most people head only to the top, but you can also hike in the wadi to see the impressive cliffs from the bottom (see further in the article)
- There are only a few vendors and houses on the plateau.
- The main structures are the Jebel Shams resort and the Jebel Shams Height resort
- The Balcony walk (part of W6) is the recommended walk for views of the canyon, but it is not for people with vertigo - see the dedicated section below
- Otherwise you can just walk to the rim of the canyon above - there is a section with railings across from the vendors
- There is a hiking track up to the southern summit of Jebel Shams: W4. More info on the Oman Tourism website
Where to stay in Jebel Shams
- Jebel Shams Camping - Wild Camping is allowed anywhere but remember it can be cold during the night and because it is mountainous, it can rain heavily. For more practical info, check out my article about wild camping in Oman
- Jebel Shams Resort - There are several hotels at the top of the canyon. I stayed in a mountain lodge at the Jebel Shams Resort and it was clean, comfortable and with a great buffet. If you want, you can also pay to camp inside and get access to the facilities - Check out availability
Where to stay in Oman?
- Muscat - capital city - see best rated accommodations
- Nizwa - to explore the forts and hinterlands - see best rated accommodations
- Sur - for the turtles, beaches, wadis... - see best rated accommodations
- Wahiba Sands - for the experience of sleeping in the desert - see best rated accommodations
- Salalah - the explore the Southern lands - see best rated accommodations
- Khasab - to explore the Musandam Peninsula - see best rated accommodations
Walk at the bottom of Wadi Ghul / Wadi Nakhr
Before starting the climb to the plateau, my guide suggested a walk at the bottom of the gorge, Wadi Nakhr.
A discreet sign indicated a track to the village of A'nkhar.
At the beginning, the road was in very good condition, but we soon discovered that roads often have to be redone in wadis as water washed big boulders on the way.
Remember - do not enter a wadi after heavy rain!
The end of the road for us.
We continued the discovery of the Jebel Shams canyon on foot, almost alone (we just crossed path with the person working on the road and a local family).
Road to Jebel Shams
The road to Jebel Shams Oman climbs steadily up to the plateau.
Most of it is paved and in good conditions. Towards the end there are 7 kilometers which are still unpaved.
When I took it, it was an easy drive. However, rain can change road conditions drastically to be careful.
4WD is not mandatory to get up there, but strongly recommended.
Here are some pictures of the drive:
Lookout on the Omani Grand Canyon
First you will reach the Jebel Shams Height Resort and at the end of the road you will find the Jebel Shams Resort.
In between is a sort of viewing platform and across from the area, local women are selling crafts.
It is already impressive from there and the only "protected" area for those with vertigo.
You can see the magnificent Arab Grand Canyon under you!
Jebel Shams Balcony Walk
The road stops at the Jebel Shams resort but you can continue on a track to a couple of houses in a place called Al Khitaym. This is the departure point of the Jebel Shams Balcony walk, a portion of the W6 hiking trail that takes you alone the canyon but not at the top.
Difficulty of the Balcony Walk
The full balcony walk is a 4hour return hike indicated with the red/white/yellow painted flag. I did only half of the whole length. The part I did was not technically difficult but that huge drop on the side made me quite dizzy so I did not feel strong enough to go further.
This is a spectacular walk but not for people with vertigo.
See the track:
Views from the Jebel Shams Balcony Walk
I must admit that the views were pretty incredible, especially as you reach some kind of flat platform in the middle of the walk. You will likely cross path with goats who play daredevil.
View from across the Jebel Shams Resort
After this emotional walk, I rested in my room and then decided to go for a walk.
From the Jebel Shams Resort I just crossed the road and walked straighten towards the canyon. The sun was getting down I shadows were appearing.
Overnight - Where to stay in Jebel Shams
I stayed at the Jebel Shams Resort, which is the last one on the road up to the canyon. From there you can walk around on the plateau all the way to the canyon.
- Location: There is nothing else on this plateau, just you and the mountains. 10/15 min walk to the rim of the canyon.
- State: Clean and very spacious rooms. Common area for with buffet lunch, dinner and breakfast. not good wifi (of course, considering the isolation). The pool was being cleaned when I was there.
- Check-in: Nice staff. No issues.
- Breakfast: The buffets are all quite nice.
- Check out more photos and availability
If the Jebel Shams Resort is full, not far is the Jebel Shams Height Resort.
Sunset at Jebel Shams Oman
If you are staying at the grand canyon, you can enjoy the sunset.
As the sun went down I left the canyon which was getting dark and impossible to photograph and took the direction of the sun hoping for a nice sunset place. I took a track getting a little higher than the resort and sat down to enjoy a peaceful sunset.
Just don't forget a flashlight to walk back to your accommodation!
Jebel Shams or Jebel Akhdar?
WOW, the choice is difficult.
Those are 2 very different experiences...
Although with the same limestone formation, the views are very different from Jebel Akhdar and its plantations.
- Jebel Shams is completely dry, but with an impressive canyon
- While in Jebel Akhdar, you will see different plateaus with plantations
Below is a photo of Jebel Akhdar to give you an idea. You can see many more in my article.
Want to see more of Oman?
- Best of photos from Oman - Landscapes - read article
- Where to stay in Oman - read article
- Best days trips from Muscat - read article
- Planning a road trip in Oman - read article
- Renting a car and Driving in Oman - read article
- Best Things to do in Muscat - read article
- The impressive Wadi Shab - read article
- The Bimmah Sinkhole - read article
- The desert of Wahiba Sands - read article
- The Ras Al Jinz turtle reserves - read article
Planning a trip to Oman?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
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