Let's plan your trip to Oman! Wadis, Desert, Tradition, Beaches... The Sultanate of Oman has a lot to offer. This guide includes general information about areas, places to visit, things to do, time, transportation and accomodation to help you plan your vacation in Oman.
My own trip to Oman happened in December 2015. Being the planning freak that I am I still did a lot of research plus I noted many information as I discovered the country. This is how I created this Oman Guide.
WHERE IS OMAN?
Oman is located on the Arabian peninsula at the South East Corner. Its neighboring countries are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Below is a google map to help you realize where Oman is:
OMAN REGIONS AND THEIR HIGHLIGHTS
What surprised me the most about Oman is that it offers a large variety of landscapes. I had assumed thinking of the arabina Peninsula that it would be all desert and sands but when I reasearched it I discovered all it has to offer. And my trip confirmed the many reasons to travel to Oman.
Below are the various regions and all they have to offer. To find detailed posts about specific things to do in Oman, check out my Destination Guide - Oman.
The Musandam peninsula is an area separated from mainland Oman. It is quite close to Dubai, at the northern point of the Arab peninsula. This region is mountainous and surrouned by fjord-like khors with abrupt cliffs. The main town is Khasab.
Things to do in the Musandam Peninsula include:
- 4WD adventure in the mountains with views of the bay, petroglyphs and old villages
- Dhow cruising (traditional boat), watching dolphins, snorkeling, and camping on one fo the islands
Muscat is the capital city of Oman. It combines tradition and modernity. one furth of the Omanis live in this city nested between bays and mountains.
Places to visit in Muscat include:
- Recent architecture with the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House
- Traditional markets and Souqs
- Forts, Palace and Museums
For more ideas, check my complete list of things to do in Muscat.
Sohar and Northern Coast Area
Located North of Muscat is a narrow coastal plain between the sea and the Al Hajar mountains. It is one of the most fertile area in Oman. The region is also called Al Batinah.
Highlights in the Sohar region include:
- Beaches including some covered with shells
- Fortifications including the famous Rustaq fort
- Fishing villages, farming area and palm tree plantations
East Coastal Area
Landscape-wise, one of the most diverse area in Oman: sand dunes, beaches, mountains and wadis... Easily accessed South of Muscat, if you only have a few weeks in the country this is the region I suggest you visit.
Things to do on the Eastern coast include:
- The town of Sur and the nearby turtle reserve
- The high sand dunes of the Wahiba Sands Deserts
- The many stunning wadis such as Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid
- Masirah island
Nizwa and inland
Called Hinterland, the Nizwa area is home to old villages and living traditions. This is where the Imman used to live and contest the authority of the Sultan.
Places to visit in the Hinterland include:
- Majestic forts such as Nizwa, Bahla and Jabrin
- Ruins of old villages and Unesco listed Falaj irrigation systems
- The mountainous area of Jebel Akdhar
Ad Wusta is an empty band in the middle of Oman. Most people only cross this area to get from the North to Salalah. On the west side is the grand desert of the Enpty quarter.
Highlights of Al Wusta include:
- Caves such as Al Raki
- The Arabian Oryx Reserve also known as the Wousta Wild Reserve
The Dhofar is the region South of Oman, close to the border with Yemen. It is home to the second largest city in Oman: Salalah. The Dhofar is quite different from the rest of the country as it is isolated in the South and subject to the monsoon in summer (June to September).
Things to do in Dhofar include:
- Desert adventure in the Empty Quarter
- Stunning beaches
- Mountainous areas and green gorges
- The franskincense trees
To plan your trip
Use the online Destination Guide - Oman with articles location by location
Check out the Experience Oman eBook with Maps, photos, GPS coordinates and much more
PLAN THE BEST TIME TO VISIT OMAN
If you are wondering when to go to Oman, here are some information that could help you decide:
- From October/November to February/March
- this is the touristic season as temperature get into the 20°C
- February is one of the busiest month
- From March/April to September/October
- It is not recommended to travel to North Oman during that period. Temperature can be unbearable above 40°C.
- The only area you can travel to in that period in Salalah. Thanks to the monsoon the area is great and cooler. Even the locals travel there to enjoy some relief.
High Turtle Activity
You get the highest number of turtles in the reserves between Auust and October, however turtle come nesting all year round. In December I spotted 2 turtles but no babies.
Oman is a muslim country. So do not forget to check the dates of the Ramadan during which you will not find restaurant or places to eat during the day outside of International Hotels.
TIME NEEDED TO TRAVEL AROUND OMAN
The following number of days to stay in each regions are only indications. Of course it is always possible to dedicate a whole holiday to just one place. These are what I think a good number of days to grasp the area and its variety:
- Muscat - 2 to 3 days
- Musandam Peninsula: 2 to 3 days
- Salalah and Dhofar region: 3 to 4 days
- 5 days if you want the highlight or coast and mountains from Muscat
- 8 days loop to cover most main sites of Northern Oman (Coast, desert, hinterland and mountains)
I will soon write a Suggested Itineraries Post. Stay tuned!
Below are you vairous options to get around the Sultanate of Oman.
Seft drive is a great option. It is actually pretty easy to to drive.
- In the cities most drivers are reasonably relaxed and roads are wide in the newer suburbs.
- Between cities road are new and in very good conditions
- There are sites that can only be reached via 4WD but not that many
- Just be careful after heavy rains in the wadis and mountains
Check out my post dedicated to Driving in Oman with a video to give you an idea of what to expect.
And you can compare prices with major brands on Auto Europe
Organised tour or private guide
As always you can book an organised tour or a private guide. This will limit your flexibility but gives you peace of mind in terms of driving and finding your way.
Practical in the cities, you can find them white and orange. No meters, you have to agree on the price first.
I met a traveler who went to Jebel Shams from Muscat in Taxi (a first one to Nizwa and 4WD one up the mountains). He does not recommend it. And at the end I don't think a private guide would be much more expansive than the cost of taxis both ways.
Baisa busses (minibusses) drive around in most cities have set itiniraries and price but it is hard to find the one you want. Large busses connect major cities 2 to 3 times a day. However there is nothing to get out of the cities
ACCOMMODATION IN OMAN
Wondering where to stay while in Oman. Below is a high level overview of your options. As always I do not recommend hotels as I have not been to all hotels, the quality can change quickly and I don't know what you like.
Hotels and resorts
The main cities have a good range of hotels and resorts, as well as the touristic areas such as Jelel Akhdar and Jebel Shams.
At the moment most tourists find the accomodation expansive for the quality of the service but it should improve as tourism develops.
In more rural areas you can sty in Guesthouse. This is a great way to meet locals and hear fascinating stories. This is what i enjoyed in Misfat Al Abriyeen.
There are not camping ground in Oman at the moment but wild camping is allowed almost anywhere! Check out my Wild Camping in Oman article for more information and advice.
You can find some Airbnb accomodation in the main cities. However for now (December 2015) it seems that mostly expats are running them. It is a good option for a clean place to stay for less than the costs of the hotels.
For more information, suggestions and reviews, check out my article on Oman Hotels and Accommodations.
And don't forget to purchase Travel Insurance!
I wish you a very smooth trip, but my policy is: better be prepared.
I personally use World Nomads. Get a quote online here.
When it is getting closer to leave for your amazing trip, you can also check my post on preparing and packing for a trip to Oman!
Discover the things to do and places to see in Oman in my online Oman Destination Guide.
Oman Suggested Itineraries (TBW)
Ready to discover Oman?