Not far from the sea, the sand dunes of Wahiba Sands Oman stretch from North to South over 180km. As in all deserts, spending the night in such an isolated environment is a bliss. Discover its beauty with sunset and sunrise pictures. Below is Guide with many photo to help you plan your visit including access and accommodations.
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Video - One Night in the Wahiba desert
Before with discuss how to visit the Wahiba sands desert, let's start with a short video of my drive into Wahiba Sands and the night I spend wild camping in the desert. You will see why it became one of my top places to visit Oman.
About the Omani Deserts
Most of Oman is covered by desert or semi-desert environnement. The largest desert is actually the Empty quarter that expands on a large portion of the Arab peninsula. However you need to get a lot more South and West to reach it.
In this article, I focus on the wonderful Wahiba Sands, also known as the Sharqiya Sands.
- It is the most well-known by the tourist because it is easily accessible from the capital Muscat
- The desert covers 180km North to South and 80km East to West
- Apart from the touristic camps, there are no permanent settlements, only bedouin temporary camps
- Have a look at Google Earth and you will see how longitudinal the dunes are from North to South
- The Dunes of Wahiba Sands can reach 100 meter in height
- Bradt guide also recommends to go 7km further east from Bidiyah Castle to Al Huwayah to see an oasis encircled by sand dunes.
PLANNING TIPS - Wahiba Sands Oman
Wahiba Sands Map and location
The desert of Wahiba sands is located South of Sur, and South East of Muscat. The travel times below are to Al-Wasil, before entering the desert:
- Muscat to Wahiba Sands - 2h drive
- Sur to Wahiba Sands - 1h40 drive
- Nizwa to Wahiba Sands - 2h20
- Easiest entrances are at Bidiyah Castle (24km gravel road and then sand tracks) and Al Wasil (mix of gravel path and sand tracks)
On the Map, you can see with the orange dots the location of the desert and some of the 4WD tracks to enter.
Wahiba Sands is included in my eBook:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
How to get to Wahiba Sands - Self Drive
- OPTION 1 - you rent a 4WD and are comfortable with driving on the sand, so you can get to the campsites in the wadis between the longitudinal dunes.
- OPTION 2 - drive to the towns at the foot of the desert and get the accommodations to send a 4WD to take you to the campsite
- It you are doing a self-drive day trip from Muscat, is often combined with Wadi Bani Khalid
Wahiba Sands Tours from Muscat
- OPTION 3 WAHIBA SAND DAY TOUR - If you don't want to drive, you can join an excursion from Muscat - the 4WD trip will take you in the dunes of Wahiba Sands as well as to the beautiful Wadi Bani Khalid - Check out the program
- OPTION 4 OVERNIGHT TOUR - even better, you can join a trip that includes a night at one of the desert camps in the desert!!!! Check out the program
- If you are staying in Muscat, check out my suggestions for the best days trips
Exploring Wahiba Sands Oman
- Wild camping is allowed anywhere (except too close to the camps)
- It is possible to cross North to South but only if you are an experienced sand dune driver and with enough provision for several days
- Do not go off road between the hottest months April to October
- Don't forget to bring plenty of water, flashlight and warm clothes for the night.
Wahiba Sands Weather - best time to visit
- Summer time - the heat of the Summer (June to August) should be avoided but even from mid April to late September, you will have extremely hot days
- Winter Time - from October to beginning of April is when it is bearable and can even be enjoyable 🙂 I have found December lovely. Although when the wind picks up it can get cold. You will get 25 to 35°C during the day and 15 to 25°C at night
Accommodations - Wahiba Sands Camps vs Wild Camping
You have 2 options to stay in the desert of Wahiba Sands
Wahiba Sands Desert Camps Oman
You can stay at one of the several desert camps situated in the northern part of the desert. The camps will pick you up at the desert entrance if you need. They offer activities such as sunset viewing, camel rides, quad, dune bashing etc. Their facilities level vary up to some luxury.
The advantage is that you have all the facilities you need. They are located in the flat areas between high dunes and you will find them in different valleys. Some of the best rated on Booking.com include:
Wahiba Sands Camping (wild camping)
Thanks to my guide I went wild camping in the Wahiba Desert.
We drove past the campsites, as the dunes are smaller there. However they are still big sand dunes. Only experienced 4WD driver should attempt it!!!
The advantage is that you can wander and be on you own! As you will see later, I wandered for sunset and sunrise and it was fantastic!!!!
See where I left the car?
Driving in the Wahiba Sands desert
Approaching the sand
With my guide we entered the desert via Al Wasil. First we stopped to remove some air from the tires. A local stopped by and gave us a hand. Omanis are so sweet!
In Al Wasil you will find many mechanical shops if you need help.
As you can see, the dunes really start just like that. It is all flat in front of you and then the dunes rise.
Driving in between the sand dunes
On the way in we drove on one side along a high sand dunes. This was a sand track allowing us to drive quite fast.
We drove past 2 permanent touristics camp: the Desert Nights Camp and the Arabian Oryx Camp. We continued furthered until the track disappeared and the dunes started.
My guide chose this place, because the dunes are smaller and it is easier to drive and find a camping spot.
But I did not take pictures when the driving became more difficult...
Wahiba Sands Pictures - Sunset over the sand dunes
While my guide was setting up camp, I walked around and admired the dunes changing colors as the sun set. I took hundreds of pictures and it is hard to select only a few.
Sharqiya Sands Pictures - Sunrise
After a good night sleep in icmplete silence, I woke up early to be sure not to miss the sunrise. Not magnificent clouds but a peaceful feeling that I miss. A little later I heard a rooster so a bedouin family must have had settled on the other side of the big dune.
As I had some time, I walked higher and higher and discovered different shapes of dunes.
Here are some close shots at the sand texture and the lines created by the wind. I hope you will enjoy them.
The half face
On my evening walk, I spotted a half face in one of the dune. Can you see it?
Planning a road trip around Oman? Check out the eBook I created the facilitate the planning of your trip:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
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