The Best of Oman in a 1 Week Road Trip

by Ray Kua
Wadi Shab, Oman

For driving enthusiasts, you would be surprised what a gem an Oman road trip can be. With its beautiful natural landscapes, your senses regularly feast on the panoramic views during your drive. This includes stunning sand dunes, picturesque mountains, and crystal clear wadis.

With tourism in its infancy, your Oman road trip would not only be picturesque but one where you enjoy plenty of privacy and space. Furthermore, with its public transportation still developing, the best of the country can only be seen if you do Oman on a road trip.

As one of the most liberal and safest countries in the Middle East, Oman is also a good stepping stone for your first foray into the Middle East.

Contents

Self-Drive and Travel Tips

Visa

Most nationalities would need to apply for a 30-days tourist visa to travel in Oman. You could do so online before arriving through Oman eVisa Online.

Or you could choose to queue for the Visa On Arrival from the currency exchange desk just before immigration at Muscat International Airport. This costs 20 Omr or you could pay in any currency, etc 60 USD (even though it should be lesser if you go by conversion rate) if you do not have Omr ready yet. Do take note there are no ATMs around so do have cash ready.

What Type Of Car Do You Need

Our 4WD ride in Wahiba Sands, Oman
Our 4WD ride for our Oman road trip

A 4WD is much recommended for a road trip in Oman. Though the general roads are well maintained, you would find yourself driving along mountainous roads, deserts, and off-track roads. Thus a 4WD is definitely worth the splurge to get the full experience.

We booked our car through Discover Cars which costs around 70 USD per day for car insurance and super cover (protects against any damages and covers all excess). This is one of the most competitive pricing for car rental in Oman. Together with their transparency over returning of deposit, it is a peace of mind to rent with them.

We also got a car navigation system that came in handy for our road trip as we read that mobile data may not work for mountainous and desert regions. With the mountainous and desert road that your adventure will take you on, I would recommend going for the super cover.

The car rental would be the most expensive big-ticket item for your trip. The petrol costs at 40p a litre which is cheap, and tips is not necessary at the petrol stations!

Dressing

Oman is considered one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East. Just take note to try to cover your knees and shoulders. For entry into religious sights, a stricter dress code may be enforced with cover up till the ankles and elbows.

Accomodation

Our accommodation mostly centered around booking through Booking.com and Agoda.com. Even though most of the accommodation may look dated in cities outside Muscat, they are still mostly fully equipped with hot shower, Wifi, and Air-Conditioning. More importantly, the ones we booked were clean.

Do take note that some of the accommodations can be quite far from tourist attractions as their tourism is still in infancy. So do a double check on the location before booking!

Sim Card

You could get an Omantel SIM card right after you exit the customs. All the staff speaks good English, and a Hayyak “New Welcome Pack” cost 2 OMR for 1.5 GB of data that is valid for 10 days. A sufficient data package is important as you would be relying on Google Maps a lot for your road trip. Many times, your data functions even faster than that of your hotel’s WiFi.

Travel Costs

Food is relatively cheap, so you could get by sufficiently with around 5 USD per meal. Many hotels, shops, and restaurants only accept cash. I had found it hard to find money exchanges outside of Muscat, thus do change enough of it at the airport to last for at least 4 full days before reaching Muscat.

Map of our Itinerary

Oman road trip route
Oman Road Trip Route

Day 0: Arrival at Muscat International Airport and drive to Nizwa for the night

We arrived on a late flight at Muscat International Airport at 930pm, Thursday. We proceeded clear immigration, bought our sim cars and our car. The idea was to drive to Nizwa as early as possible so that we could partake in the goat market experience which only occurs on Friday mornings in Nizwa souq.

Al Karam Hotel Apartment in daylight
Al Karam Hotel Apartment in daylight

As it was our first time in the Middle East, we did not know if the roads would we well-lit, thus the hurry to be on the way early. Surprisingly, the roads leading to Nizwa was very well maintained and well-lit. The trip took about 2 hours in the dark before we reached Al Karam Hotel Apartment.

Living room of Al Karam Hotel Apartment
Living room of Al Karam Hotel Apartment
24 hours concierge of Al Karam Hotel Apartment
24 hours concierge of Al Karam Hotel Apartment

The apartment was a bit out of nowhere and you would miss it if not careful. It was an apartment-style with a living room and two bedrooms, complete with a kitchen. For its proximity to Nizwa, while accepting late check-ins, and fully equipped with hot shower/high-speed WiFi, it provided for a good rest after the long drive.

Day 1: Nizwa Souq, Nizwa Fort, Jebel Shams

Nizwa Souq

Parking can be challenging at Nizwa Souq
Parking can be challenging at Nizwa Souq
Goat Market at Nizwa Souq is nly open on Fridays
Goat Market at Nizwa Souq is only open on Fridays

The Nizwa Souq is only daily on two timings-except for Fridays where it is only opened in the morning. From Thursday to Saturday, the souq starts at 6am. Markets closes at 1pm for lunch and prayer before it restarts again at 4pm until 10pm.

The parking may be a challenge though, especially on Friday mornings, so give yourself extra time to find a spot.

The trade goes live in circles!
Men dressed in traditional Omani Garb attend the Goat Market
Men dressed in traditional Omani Garb attend the Goat Market
The Bendouin frequent the Goat Market in Nizwa Souq
The Bendouin frequent the Goat Market in Nizwa Souq
All kinds of lifestocks are on trade in the Nizwa goat market
All kinds of lifestocks are on trade in the Nizwa goat market
Goat is successfully auctioned at the Nizwa Souq in Oman
Goat is successfully auctioned
A man bring his goat away from the goat market in Nizwa Souq, Oman

Nizwa souq has a popular Goat Market that is open only every Friday morning. The goat market is a livestock trade that takes place at the back of the market.

Men and women dressed in Bedouin costume and traditional Omani garb partakes in the market to sell and buy their animals! Thus if you love the traditional culture at its purest, do plan your Oman road trip around attending the Nizwa souq on Friday morning.

Fish section of Nizwa Souq
Fish section of Nizwa Souq
Fresh produce section at Nizwa Souq
Fresh produce section at Nizwa Souq
Nizwa Souq
Nizwa Souq
Lifestock section at Nizwa Souq
Lifestock section at Nizwa Souq
Lifestock section at Nizwa Souq
Lifestock section at Nizwa Souq
Pottery section at Nizwa Souq
Pottery section
An abundance of unique pottery for souvenirs in Nizwa Souq
An abundance of unique pottery for souvenirs
Date Market at Nizwa Souq
Date Market at Nizwa Souq
Oman is famous for their dates
Oman is famous for their dates

Nizwa souq is a goldmine for souvenirs. Separated into different sections that cater to different focuses, one could find a date market, a poultry section, a pottery section, a textile section, and also a fresh produce section.

Other than the Mutrah Souq in Muscat which is more city-like, this is the other most popular souq which lies more on the traditional side. Give yourself a good 2 hours to take pictures of the nice looking forts and shopping.

I had actually held back on buying souvenirs here thinking that the Mutrah Souq would be more well suited. I regretted it as Nizwa souq has more traditional stuff that you would not find elsewhere.

Nizwa Fort

Entrance of Nizwa Fort
Entrance of Nizwa Fort

Oman is home to many forts due to its history of using them for defense. Nizwa fort is one of the most popular ones and was recently only given a new makeover in 2017. More suited for tourists now, it is home to a museum that welcomes visitors with traditional Omani music and folk arts.

A festival-like atmosphere will greet you after paying for your entrance fee, where you could explore the various turns and corners in the fort.

Various festive-like activities are on display in Nizwa Fort
Various festive-like activities are on display in Nizwa Fort
Central Square of Nizwa Fort
Central Square of Nizwa Fort
Traditional Omani food is sold at Nizwa Fort
Traditional Omani food is sold at Nizwa Fort
Carvings can do done too at Nizwa Fort
Carvings can do done too

You should also head up to the top of the fort for a scenic view of the entire city of Nizwa. For a first-timer to the Middle East, the scene of the fort-like city built in Middle Eastern culture was something uniquely special.

Nizwa Fort has many passageways
Nizwa Fort has many passageways
The main square in Nizwa Fort
The main square in Nizwa Fort
Omani Flag hung high in Nizwa Fort
Omani Flag hung high in Nizwa Fort
Nizwa City View from the top of Nizwa Fort
Nizwa City View from the top of Nizwa Fort

Jebel Shams

Misfat Mountain Village
Misfat Mountain Village
Misfat Mountain Village entrance
Misfat Mountain Village entrance
Falaj system for irrigation in the Misfat Mountain Village
Falaj system for irrigation in the Misfat Mountain Village
Old House Misfah
Old House Misfah

Our Oman road trip carried on towards Jebel Shams after lunch. Along the way, we took a pitstop at the Misfat Mountain Village. Misfat Al Abriyeen, as it is locally known, is a mountain settlement surrounded by plantations and entwined by the falaj system irrigating the terraced farm.

More than 400 years old, a secret well-hidden water reservoir in the mountains supply water to the village’s lush greenery and plantations. The city is also popular for its mud architecture, with all the houses made up of boulders, stones, clay and soil sourced from the nearby mountains.

Like Nizwa Fort, the village is made up of fort-like passageways. You could also dine at the Old House Misfah, a guest mud house that is 450 years old.

Highway to Jebel Shams
Highway to Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams
Driving up Jebel Shams
Driving up Jebel Shams

Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman, and one of the highest in the Middle East. Its serenity and peaceful atmosphere make it a highlight for any Oman road trip.

The journey from Misfat Mountain Village to Jebel Shams takes about 2 full hours. I cannot emphasize how important it is to start this journey at the latest 2 pm. The route is mountainous and many times it is only one way. If you are not experienced with mountainous driving, it can be quite dangerous especially if you are fighting time.

Give yourself ample time for the drive, not just to stop for the mountainous scenery, but to also reach your destination before dark. It is very dangerous to drive in the dark en route to your resort as there would be no lights along the roads. There is also no petrol station uphill, so a full tank of petrol is preferable for your trip uphill and downhill.

Driving up Jebel Shams
Driving up Jebel Shams
Our accommodation at Sama Heights Resort, Jebel Shams
Our accommodation at Sama Heights Resort, Jebel Shams
Right outside our rooms in Sama Heights Resort
Right outside our rooms in Sama Heights Resort
Vast mountainous views atop Jebel Shams
Vast mountainous views atop Jebel Shams
Sama Heights Resort
Sama Heights Resort
Sama Heights Resort Restaurant
Sama Heights Resort Restaurant
Sumptuous dinner and breakfast provided during your stay in Sama Heights Resort
Sumptuous dinner and breakfast provided
Our room at the Sama Heights Resort
Our room at the Sama Heights Resort
The hotel concierge at Sama Heights Resort
The hotel concierge at Sama Heights Resort
Book your activities inside the Sama Heights Resort concierge
Book your activities inside the concierge

Most of the resorts are near the very top of the mountain. I had chosen to stay in the Sama Heights Resort.

The Sama brand is popular for its all-in resort-style accommodation. We were treated to a buffet-style sumptuous dinner and breakfast here. You could also book activities such as the Summit Hike or Balcony Walk for the next morning.

Upon reaching our resort, we were treated to vast plain lands of mountainous scenery. With hiking only recommended in the morning with sunlight, we enjoyed a small walk around the resort, taking in the mountainous breeze and also filling our cameras with pictures.

There would be no internet connection atop Jebel Shams. You would be isolated from the world and able to spend some quiet time with your loved ones.

Day 2: Explore Jebel Shams,Wadi Ghul, Bahala Fort, Ibra

Explore Jebel Shams

Views at the Balcony walk of Jebel Shams
Views at the Balcony walk of Jebel Shams

We got up early for our morning trek along the Balcony Walk of Jebel Shams. It is a part of hiking route W6. A short drive from our resort, we arrived at Khateem, a small village acting as the starting point of the walk.

The Balcony Walk is arguably the most famous hike in the country and one of the most popular in the Middle East. The scenery is unique with its extremely high cliffs, forming somewhat a natural amphitheater of sorts. You do not need to hike the whole walk, just a short 20 minutes walk to and fro Khateem, and you would be treated to the most marvelous views of tOman

The villagers here sell various fossils, trinkets, and woven keychains (cool for souvenirs) as well as some fruits and mountain berries from the mountain.

Khateem Village
Khateem Village
Souvenirs from Khateem Village
Souvenirs from Khateem Village
Rocks and stones from Jebel Shams
Rocks and stones from Jebel Shams
Pictures does not do the Balcony Walk justice
Pictures does not do the Balcony Walk justice
Standing on top of Jebel Shams
Standing on top of Jebel Shams

The summit of Jebel Shams is restricted due to military use. The highest peak would be that of the Southern Summit. Driving out of Sama Heights Resort, we did take a turn and follow the graded road to a wadi with an open space suitable for parking. There is also a sign indicating the start of the famous W4 route that leads to the Southern Summit.

I did not do the hike, as even at the open space, you would be treated with breathtaking views of the landscape already. You would literally be so high up that you are in the clouds at the top of the mountain. If you do do the hike, it hike would take around 12 hours for a round trip. So do ensure you have sufficient time and fitness if you are keen to do so.

Entrance of Sama Heights Resort
Entrance of Sama Heights Resort
Parking space for the start of the hike to the Southern Summit at Jebel Shams
Parking space for the start of the hike to the Southern Summit at Jebel Shams
Breathing taking views at Jebel Shams
Breathing taking views at Jebel Shams
Stand among the clouds atop of Jebel Shams
Stand among the clouds atop of Jebel Shams

Wadi Ghul

Wadi Ghul
Wadi Ghul right at the back
The Grand Canyon of Oman, Wadi Ghul
The Grand Canyon of Oman, Wadi Ghul
Mountainous views on our trip down Jebel Shams
Mountainous views on our trip down Jebel Shams

After our morning hike, we proceeded to continue our Oman road trip to Bahala Fort. Along the way, we passed by the Grand Canyon of Oman, Wadi Ghul. You would not be able to venture into the canyon itself, but you can drive along it to admire the splendid views on display.

We also took a little detour to the Al Hoota Cave tour. It is the first and only show cave in the Arabian Peninsula with a total length of around 4.5km, of which just 500m is easily accessible to the general public. Nothing spectacular, but more of a rest stop after our tiring morning activites.

Al Hoota Cave Tours
Al Hoota Cave Tours
Cable car that would send us into the Al Hoota caves
Cable car that would send us into the Al Hoota caves
Al Hoota Cave Walk
Al Hoota Cave Walk

Bahla Fort

Entrance of Bahala Fort
Entrance of Bahala Fort
Main square of Bahla Fort
Main square of Bahla Fort
It gets scorching hot at the top of Bahla Fort
It gets scorching hot at the top of Bahla Fort

Our Oman road trip brought us next to Bahla Fort. Bahla Fort is the only UNESCO-listed fort in Oman. It is way bigger than the Nizwa Fort. Unlike the Nizwa Fort, it does not have much tourist investments in it.

The Bahla Fort is massive and higher and retains much of its pure traditional charm as one of the oldest forts in Oman. It gets really hot at the top of Bahla Fort especially in the afternoon so be in loose clothing or it may end up too much for you.

Ibra

Ibra Motel
Ibra Motel
Ibra Motel Room is basic
Ibra Motel Room is basic
Ibra Motel concierge
Ibra Motel concierge
Popular kebab restaurant across the street of Ibra Motel
Popular kebab restaurant across the street of Ibra Motel
Kebab dinner in Oman
Kebab dinner in Oman
Breakfast place below Ibra Motel that serves terrific prata
Breakfast place below Ibra Motel that serves terrific prata
Free flow prata by purchasing just a bowl of curry at the restuarant below Ibra Motel
Free flow prata by purchasing just a bowl of curry at the restuarant below Ibra Motel

Driving to Ibra from Bahla Fort took us about 3 hours. This was one of the toughest drives during road trip in Omanas much of it was spent in complete darkness on the small roads.

If given more time, I would have done this drive in the day time. You would pass by mountains and cities which are unlit, with the complete darkness amplifying the difficulty.

Ibra is a small city, ultimately a pit stop to the next morning’s highlight at the Wadi Bani Khalid. We stayed at the Ibra Motel, which was nothing fantastic but provided basic facilities for its budget. It has a fantastic Prata shop right below it for breakfast and a popular restaurant across the road for a kebap dinner.

There is also a money-exchange which offers decent rates. Throughout our road trip in Oman so far, we have not seen any other exchanges. Thus make sure you get some cash changed as the next exchange would be in Muscat.

Day 3: Wadi Bani Khalid, Wahiba Sands

Wadi Bani Khalid

Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid

Our Oman road trip peaks at the Wadi Bani Khalid. It was akin to swimming in a desert oasis, with crystal clear water being surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant palm dates.

Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the most accessible and convenient wadis in Oman. For starters, you are only a 5 minutes walk away from the public car park, compared to a 45 minutes hike+10 minutes boat ride to reach the Wadi Shab.

Wadi Bani Khalid has also a restaurant perched on top of a hill and decently size toilets to get by. Yet even with these add-ons, Wadi Bani Khalid is still able to retain its natural lush beauty.

Public carpark at Wadi Bani Khalid
Public carpark at Wadi Bani Khalid
Restaurant and toilet facilities at Wadi Bani Khalid
Restaurant and toilet facilities at Wadi Bani Khalid

The other wadis like Wadi Shab may have been completely untouched by human infrastructures. Yet it is precisely these little add-on of convenience to Wadi Bani Khalid that makes it such an enjoyable experience etched in my mind. Do avoid bikinis for females and trunks for men as this is a Muslim country. Be dressed in well-covered swimwear for the wadis.

Wadi Bani Khalid starts off with the main pool at the entrance with shallow water. It starts to get deeper when you swim in. You would need to be a competent swimmer to fully enjoy this wadi as there are potions you would need to thread water at length.

First pool of the Wadi Bani Khalid
First pool of the Wadi Bani Khalid

As you venture deeper in, you would also need to climb through obstacles such as boulders stacked on top of each other, or even slide down short waterfalls. At times, you would even need to hike through algae-filled water and even squeeze through rocks!

This makes the adventure seem like a natural oasis obstacle course. The more you venture in, the heavier the demand on your fitness levels too, as you would need to get through the same exact “obstacles” to head back.

Swim, climb and hike in the Wadi Bani Khalid
Swim, climb and hike in the Wadi Bani Khalid
You would need to squeeze through  tiny spaces to proceed in Wadi Bani Khalid
You would need to squeeze through tiny spaces to proceed in Wadi Bani Khalid

The Muqul cave can be explored at the end of the Wadi Bani Khalid. I would also recommend you to wear shoes for the swim. This is because the rocks and floor is slippery and some sharp rocks are even painful. With all the climbing, hiking, squeezing and sliding, getting your shoes wet should be the lest of your worries in exchange for the comfort.

I spent 3 hours swimming to and fro, and taking photos (please bring an underwater camera to capture the beautiful memories!), but you could easily spend the whole day here.

I will definitely be back someday!

Beautiful Wadi Bani Khalid
Beautiful Wadi Bani Khalid

Wahiba Sands

Wahiba Sands
Wahiba Sands

We backtracked on the road to Al Wasil, the entrance to our desert adventure in Wahiba Sands.

Remember to head to a local mechanic (Al Wasil has many of these) to let off some air in your 4WD tyres (no 2 WD please) before heading into the desert. This is especially important for a smooth ride. Just let the mechanic know you are heading in and they would know what to do.

Keep a lookout in Al Wasil for the various signs that would lead to your resort. At Al Wasil, you would find yourself on this straight road with resort signs pointing to turns

This can be quite a frustrating experience as it is not easy to locate. Be patient and look for the right entrance (our is Sama Al Wasil Desert Camp ). This is important because if you choose the wrong entrance, you will mostly end up getting lost and it is not easy to navigate in the desert once you are in the wrong direction. Once you locate yours, make the turn and head straight.

Entrance of the Wahiba Sands
Entrance of the Wahiba Sands
Camels can come out from anywhere in the Wahiba Sands
Camels can come out from anywhere in the Wahiba Sands

The paved roads would lead to desert roads in a drastic contrast, and in an instant, our Oman Road trip has entered a full-fledged Middle East desert. Just get ready as no mobile connection is available in the desert. Nor does any navigation system work.

It is important you follow the car tracks that would have been made by a previous vehicle. As previously mentioned, if you enter through the correct entrance, you should be set on your way just by going straight. Bring warm clothes and loose clothes for the cold at night and the warmth in the day respectively too, as temperature fluctuations is common in the desert.

Follow the car tracks left behind by the previous car in Wahiba Sands
Follow the car tracks left behind by the previous car in Wahiba Sands

This is a natural desert which is vast. You can most definitely get lost if you do not know your bearings. If you are really not confident, you can pay for your accommodation guide to drive you in. That said, the drive through the desert by yourself makes up a good part of the fun! Just like Jebel Shams, enter during the daytime and you should be fine if you follow the above instructions.

Do drive on the tracks that have been made by the previous vehicles. You could try to venture off to the side to experience the sand dunes, but you may get stuck if they are too thick and sinking. I would suggest staying discipline until we reach your resort, where you could get any help if any accidents occur.

The Wahiba desert is an ocean of sand dunes. It is vast and large and is as natural as it gets. Its empty beauty coupled with the isolation brings an out-of-the-world relaxation.

Al Wasil Desert Camp
Al Wasil Desert Camp
Our accommodation at Al Wasil Desert Camp
Our accommodation at Al Wasil Desert Camp
Our accommodation at Al Wasil Desert Camp
Rooms in Al Wasil Desert Camp
Rooms in Al Wasil Desert Camp
The main square in Al Wasil Desert Camp for lazing
The main square in Al Wasil Desert Camp for lazing

We had booked our accommodation at Sama Al Wasil Desert Camp Family Bungalow. Part of the Sama brand from the accommodation we booked at Jebel Shams, we were treated with the same good service we received there. Hot water, air conditioning is provided in the rooms. There is no WiFi as no mobile coverage gets through here.

With dinner and breakfast provided buffet style (Camel kebab is on offer here!), and a spacious relaxing pod in the middle of the camp, it is the perfect lazy yet relaxing resort for you to chill under the stars.

Entrance to our dining area of Samal Al Wasil Desert Camp
Entrance to our dining area of Samal Al Wasil Desert Camp
Outdoor dining seating at Al Wasil Desert Camp
Outdoor dining seating
Indoor dining seating at Al Wasil Desert Camp
Indoor dining seating
Freshly made skewers at our dinner buffet in Al Wasil Desert Camp
Freshly made skewers
Buffet for dinner and breakfast inclusive in your stay at Al Wasil Desert Camp in Wahiba Sands
Buffet for dinner and breakfast inclusive in your stay

Come night time, the desert gets completely dark, with only the stars as your guiding light. We headed out during sunset for a drive behind the resort and even tried some sand dune bashing ourselves (which I promptly got stuck a bit).

We also headed out for a night drive when nightfall came. Take note to the only drive NEAR your resort as I mentioned, you can get lost and it is easier to do so at night. Be it during the day or night, you would see herds of camels navigating through the sand plains. Just drive slow during the night as you may hit one unknowingly which is considered a crime in Oman.

Driving at night in the desert
Sunset in Wahiba Sands
Sunset in Wahbia Sands
Vast emptiness of Wahiba Sands
Vast emptiness of Wahiba Sands

As much as you may be having fun with all the sand bashing, remember to book your activities for the next morning. We booked the Camel Ride and the Sand Dunes Bashing. Both activities are not taxing and can be done in one morning. If you are feeling adventurous you could even do Para Motor Ride or Quad Biking.

Lobby of Al Wasil Desert Camp
Lobby of Al Wasil Desert Camp
Concierge of Al Wasil Desert Camp
Concierge of Al Wasil Desert Camp
Activities that Al Wasil Desert Camp offer
Activities that Al Wasil Desert Camp offer

Day 4: Dune Bashing, Camel Walk, Sur Shipyard, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve tour

Dune Bashing

Sunrise at Wahiba Sands
Sunrise at Wahiba Sands

The Bendouin tribe have inhabited the desert for centuries and know the place better than anyone else. They also primarily double up as tour guides and hotel receptionists.

We were loaded up to a sturdy 4WD by our Bendouin guide who drove us to a part of the desert with high-rise sand dunes. The part where we stopped was also a vast plain land, with nothing in sight for miles. Surrounded by the high-rise sand dunes, we were engulfed in a desert-like city with the sand dunes acting as skyscrapers.

Sand dunes in Wahiba sands can be really high
Sand dunes can be really high
Wahiba Sands
Alighting from our dune bashing at Wahiba Sands
Alighting from our dune bashing

Dune bashing is akin to a roller coaster drive up and down the sand dunes. The guide will skillfully navigate up and down the dunes, and the thrill will set your heart rising up and down! While heading up the dunes, it was also a sight to witness the vast desert empty lands beneath you, before the drop.

After the bashing, the guide will find the best scenic spot for us to enjoy the sunrise.

Perfect spot for the sunrise view in Wahiba Sands
Perfect spot for the sunrise view in Wahiba Sands

Camel Walk

Tourists getting off the camels in Wahiba Sands
Tourists getting off the camels

After breakfast would be the time for our Camel Walk. To clarify, the camels in Wahiba sands are not held captive or reared in an enclosure. What the guides actually explain to us is that the camels are actually free to roam. If the guides receive a booking for a walk, they would head out to find any nearby camels! Then they would guide the camels to the base for our tour. That explains why they were late for a good 1 hour as they said time is unpredictable due to the “search and found” concept.

It is amazing to know how much knowledge the guides posses, to be able to track and tame the wild camels down for our tour. And as much as animal cruelty for tourism goes, I guess this may be one way that they try to mitigate any of such effects.

Riding on the camel in Wahiba Sands
Riding on the camel in Wahiba Sands
Heading up the Wahiba Sands dunes
Heading up the Wahiba Sands dunes
Riding on our camels at Wahiba Sands

Every step that the camel took, you could literally feel his feet sinking into the sand. After a warm-up walk, the guides leading our camels will direct them to walk up the sand dunes. Like the dune bashing, this has a roller coaster effect, just at a much slower pace.

Our Bendouin guide attending to the camel
Our Bendouin guide attending to the camel

Sur Shipyard

Zaki Hotel Apartments
Zaki Hotel Apartments
Concierge of Zaki Hotel Apartments
Concierge of Zaki Hotel Apartments

Our next destination was Sur, where we would be within the driving range of the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Tour at night. A 2 hour drive from Al Wasil, we reached Zaki Hotel Apartments for our check-in. Zaki Hotel Apartments come with complimentary breakfast and has rooms that mirror the design of luxury hotels. For its price, it was a bargain to enjoy the luxury that comes with the stay.

Shipyard at Sur
Shipyard at Sur
Functioning Sur shipyard
Functioning Sur shipyard
Traditional Omani ships in construction
Traditional Omani ships in construction
Omani ship models for sale
Omani ship models for sale
Sur prides itself on its ship building industry in Oman
Sur prides itself on its ship building industry in Oman

Sur is a quiet coastal town more commonly used as an Oman road trip stopover before heading to the nearby Turtle Reserve. The Sur Shipyard is one of its few tourist attractions, with a functioning shipyard and a small museum. The Sur Shipyard pays tribute to the history of Sur as one of Oman’s main shipbuilding port and aims to educate the public on that. The souvenir shop sells small replicas of wooden ships if you are a fan of toy models.

Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve

Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve

The drive to the turtle reserves borders on the coastal side. For all the sands and mountains we have seen so far in Oman, it was refreshing to be able to do the road trip beside the sea.

The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve is a turtle sanctuary that provides resort-like accommodation. It is coupled with offerings of activities that focuses on the educational aspect of turtle conversation. It has a long stretch of beach that is a popular spot for migrating turtles to nest and lay their eggs in the early morning and late at night. The turtle reserve tour is the most popular activity here.

The turtle reserve tour is only available in the night at 830pm or early morning at 430am. The museum closes at 815pm so I would recommend heading there around 630pm for a walk through the museum which educates you on the lifespan and various types of turtles.

Baby turtle eggs on display in the Ras AL Jinz Turtle Reserve museum
Baby turtle eggs on display in the museum

I did not stay at the reserve itself, considering it is quite expensive to do so. There was also nothing else to do besides the museum and the tour back then. Currently, though, they do seem to have invested in more activities as listed on its website. From dolphin watching to snorkeling, it may be worth the money for a day or two here as Sur does not have much going on too.

The tour starts at exactly 830pm and is being done in complete darkness. Sightings through frequent, are not guaranteed, so we were reminded to manage our expectations.

To prevent interrupting the turtles’ natural habitat, the guide does not want us to use our torchlight and instead rely on our night vision to walk to the beach. It is quite a far walk to the shoreline so be careful of your steps. We were also told to be quiet and no flash photography is allowed. All these were to ensure the turtles could go about their intimate activity of laying eggs without any disruption.

Turtle sighting at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Turtle sighting at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
A turtle laying its eggs

The turtles as explained by our guide, come ashore to nest and lay their eggs. They do so by digging a hole first, then lay their eggs, before they return back to the sea. We were really lucky to have two sightings of turtles doing exactly just that.

We formed a semi-circle around the turtle, as we witness how it digs up the sand before laying its eggs. The turtles would then scramble back to sea once they are done. You could check out Chris Travel Blog for some really detailed and well taken pictures on the experience.

Day 5: Wadi Shab, Bimmah Sinkhole, Quariyat Dam, Muscat

Wadi Shab

Wadi Shab start point
Wadi Shab start point

Parking at Wadi Shab

Parking in Wadi Shab is limited
Parking in Wadi Shab is limited

Wadi Shab is the most popular and famous wadi in all of Oman. It is also the most naturalistic as no tourist infrastructure has been installed there like Wadi Bani Khalid. It is a beautiful valley with an oasis running through it. The end of the oasis leads to a hidden waterfall that I recommend you try to get to.

Getting to Wadi Shab though, is tough. Having gone to Wadi Bani Khalid before this, we were expecting a similar level of difficulty, or maybe just a bit longer or tougher to reach there. We were wrong!

Firstly, a simple entry of “Wadi Shab Parking” will get you to the spot from Sur, about 1.5 hours of drive. From here, do use the restroom to change up as this would be your proper rest room to use before you are back here again.

Only proper restroom in Wadi Shab
Only proper restroom in Wadi Shab

You can choose one of three evils. Firstly to bring your valuables along and put them in a ziplock bag so that water would not enter it when you swim. Or you could choose to leave them in your car as it is pretty safe there as long as you lock it up properly. There would be no one guarding your belongings when you eventually reach the Wadi so that is the third evil if you do decide to leave it there before you start your swim.

Please bring your shoes along! We trekked in sandals and it was a totally wrong choice. The trek is a full-blown hike that is not easy and straightforward! Together with the very sharp stones that would be in the wadi, a shoe is much necessary for this entire journey.

Starting Your Trek

Mandatory to cross the river to start your hike to Wadi Shab
Mandatory to cross the river to start your hike to Wadi Shab
River crossing in Wadi Shab
River crossing in Wadi Shab

To start your trek, you need to cross the river which is only accessible by boat at 1 Rial per person for a two way trip, by cash. They are normally operating between 8am to 5pm but do confirm with them on this timing as you do not want to be stranded.

After reaching the other side, you would start hike. It starts off easy with straight roads, before it leads into steep climbs. You would not need to use your hand to climb anywhere, and at all times the route is walkable. It just gets steeper , higher, and sometimes narrower. It is, I repeat, not an easy climb! Though I did see many older folks walking through, I would advise to bring a hiking stick along if you are not confident.

Animals can appear out of nowhere during your hike in Wadi Shab
Animals can appear out of nowhere during your hike in Wadi Shab

The hike would take around 1.5 hours to 2 hours in full. Though tough, you are treated to the beautiful scenery of the canyon. This is most spectacular when you reach halfway through the hike, where you could see the crystal clear water in the gorge right below you. This part of the hike is also when the rocks get slippery so be careful!

You would also likely catch some people jumping off the cliffs here. I would not recommend that as this is not exactly the location where swimming is allowed and it may be dangerous. It is at least 3 storeys high and may have unknown presence of sharp stones underneath the water.

1.5 hours of hiking to reach Wadi Shab
1.5 hours of hiking to reach Wadi Shab

Do not give up, and not before long you would see the first pool with plenty of people around. You would not miss it and that would mean you have reached the starting point of your swim. There would not be any definite signs, so do ask for directions (you would not need to as it is a straight path) if you need them from the people walking back.

Swimming/Walking In The Wadi

Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab

The first area of the wadi would be packed with tourists taking photos and belongings are left all around. It seems pretty safe but do take caution as there is no official security or cameras here that can look after your stuff.

The wadi is made up of a few pools separated by trails of rocks. A few of those trails are very sharp and it can sting very badly if you are not wearing footwear! To have fun in the wadis, shoes are a must for a comfortable experience.

Treading water in the deep waters of Wadi Shab
Treading water in the deep waters of Wadi Shab

The water gets very deep in some of the pools. You really have to be a good swimmer who can tread water for a good amount of time, and be able to swim at lengths of at least 30 to 50 metres without stopping. Unlike Wadi Bani Khalid, the stretch of water here is longer and there is no place for you to hang on at the side if you get tired. Thus you would need to tread water when resting.

The end of the Wadi leads to a secret cave, which can only be accessed by a very small and narrow hole. You could either squeeze your head through it, or you can hold your breathe and dive underwater through it. The hole is so tiny that only your head would fit through so it would not be recommended if you are claustrophobic.

The cave is a relatively small space, with sunlight entering from atop acting as the only guiding presence. There is also a steep waterfall at the end which has a rope. If you are adventurous and strong enough, you could give this a go and climb out of the cave from the top. If not, just take the same route back from where you started.

Waterfall in the secret cave at the end of Wadi Shab
Waterfall in the secret cave at the end of Wadi Shab
You can try your hands on the rope climb up the Wadi Shab cave waterfall
You can try your hands on the rope climb up the Wadi Shab cave waterfall

Though the journey was tough and quite rough as compared to Wadi Bani Khalid, the naturalistic and untouched element of Wadi Shab makes it a must-see in Oman for sure. Just be adequately ready for the hike and swim with the appropriate gear, and with you some patience, you should be fine.

For a more extensive guide on how to trek Wadi Shab, you could take a look at the Buketlistly Blog or Follow Me Away as they provide a comprehensive article that eased my travel there.

Bimmah Sinkhole and Quariyat Dam

Our Oman road trip ends off at Muscat City after our Wadi Ash adventure. Along the way we made two pit stops at Bimmah Sinkhole and Quariyat Dam.

Bimmah Sinkhole

Bimmah Sinkhole park
Bimmah Sinkhole park
Proper infrastructures for you to explore the Bimmah sinkhole
Proper infrastructures for you to explore the Bimmah sinkhole
You can swim in the Bimmah sinkhole too
You can swim in the Bimmah sinkhole too

The Bimmah Sinkhole is a water-filled depression, structurally a sinkhole in a limestone. It is located within a small park, and you could climb down and even swim in the water. Nothing much spectacular compared to the Wadis we have seen earlier, but a good pit stop to stretch your legs during this last leg of an Oman road trip.

Quariyat Dam

Quariyat Dam is set in a limestone Wadi
Quariyat Dam is set in a limestone Wadi

The Quariyat Dam is one of the largest dams on the whole Arabian Peninsula! It provides a source of irrigation and protection for the nearby villages and reduces floods too.

It is constructed and set in a limestone Wadi, exhibiting a contrast of natural Omani beauty and human engineering.

Parking spot at the Quariyat Dam
Parking spot at the Quariyat Dam
Picnic spot at the Quariyat Dam
Picnic spot at the Quariyat Dam

Wadi Dayqah Dam is one of the largest on the Arabian Peninsula and a source of irrigation and protection for the surrounding villages, as it reduces the number of flash floods in the area. A picnic area has been built atop the dam with great views for all to enjoy.

The whole park is pretty vast for a good walk, and you could even do a picnic at the picnic area while enjoying the view.

Quariyat Dam
Quariyat Dam

Muscat

Our last leg of our Oman road trip ultimately ends off at Muscat. You would start to notice the highways being brightly lit, and you would know you are reaching. Be careful with driving there if you have taken the route we have done so far.

A road trip in the countryside of Oman has been peaceful with much space and privacy for every vehicle. The speed of city life would catch up with you once you reach Muscat. If you are unfamiliar with Middle Eastern driving ethics like we were, do drive slow and take your time!

International brands in Muscat
International brands in Muscat
Big shopping malls in Muscat unseen in rest of Oman
Big shopping malls in Muscat unseen in rest of Oman

Muscat in contrast to the rest of Oman, is filled with skyscrapers, shopping centers and international brands. It was like a different world having spent the last 5 days in the other parts of Oman. We had thought that a middle east country would look like we saw, but entering Muscat brings you to the reality of how modern Middle Eastern cities can be nowadays.

We choose our accommodation at the Golden Tulip Hotel Headington which is situated in Ruwi. Ruwi is a business district and is dated compared to most parts of Muscat. That said, it is safe and much cheaper to stay here than other parts of Muscat. You could choose to stay in Mutrah Corniche if seaview is your thing or Al Qurum which is the more well off district in Muscat.

Golden Tulip Hotel Headington Concierge
Golden Tulip Hotel Headington Concierge
Golden Tulip Hotel Headington has a private carpark with security
Golden Tulip Hotel Headington has a private carpark with security

Our hotel comes with a swimming pool, spa, private parking space with security, and a glittery concierge. By far the most luxurious hotel we splurged on in the trip, it is good retreat for our last lap of the Oman road trip The rooms are designed luxuriously with a modern touch that is on par with continental hotels that I have tried during my travels.

Day 6 and 7:

Must Sees: Mutrah Corniche, Mutrah Souq, The Grand Mosque

For a city the size of Muscat, the tourist attractions are limited and are cover-able within 1.5 days if you are driving. Mutrah Corniche, Mutrah Souq, and The Grand Mosque would be the must-sees, while you could take a look at Al Almeen Mosque, Seeb and Al Alam Palace if time allows.

The Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman
The Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman

The biggest highlight in Muscat, the mosque is open from 8:00 am to 11:00 am for non-Muslims every day except Friday. Also known as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, it is one of the few mosques in Oman that allows non-Muslim visitors.

You would have to dress conservatively in long pants and covered shoulders, with women needed to cover their hair appropriately. Take note that the rules are strict and I saw many women trying to do a light cover-up of their hair getting turned away. This resulted in them needing to buy the really expensive scarfs at the souvenir shop to enter. So be prepared if you do not want to spend that money.

The garden at The Grand Mosque in Muscat
The garden at The Grand Mosque in Muscat
The garden at The Grand Mosque in Oman

Beautiful mosaics and art patterns are found throughout the mosque. Coupled with detailed carvings, the mosque reflects the architecture of traditional Omani ceilings. As you wander throughout the mosque, you would find the designs both meticulously carved and beautiful.

Main Prayer Hall in The Grand Mosque of Oman
Main Prayer Hall
Main Square of The Grand Mosque in Oman
Main Square of The Grand Mosque in Oman
White marble design is everywhere in The Grand Mosque
White marble design is everywhere in The Grand Mosque
White marble design is everywhere in The Grand Mosque

The main prayer hall is the highlight. Home to what was once the world’s largest carpet and chandelier, the Omani government had spared no expense at making the mosque one of the most beautiful and extravagant modern mosques in the world. Featuring a blend of Islamic, Middle Eastern, and Omani architecture, it is a treat for anyone with a passion for architecture.

Do check out this piece at Park Inn by Radisson Blog for more extensive write up of the detailed facts of The Grand Mosque.

Mutrah Corniche

Mutrah Corniche
Mutrah Corniche
Enjoying the sea breeze at Mutrah Corniche
Enjoying the sea breeze at Mutrah Corniche
Seaside walk at Mutrah Corniche
Seaside walk at Mutrah Corniche

The Mutrah Corniche is the city’s old commercial center. Lined with 19th century merchant house, a sunset stroll during the event provides one a sweeping seafront view.

You could start at the Mutrah Fish Market if you are there in the morning (6am to 10a), and walk past the Mutrah Fort which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Climbing atop of it gives you a comprehensive view of the harbour.

The restaurants here are mostly catered to tourists and prices are not cheap. That said, do get one that has outdoor seating as it allows you to dine with the sea breeze next to you. A vibrant yet relaxing side of Muscat, it is an inviting dining atmosphere after 5 days of road trip in Oman.

Outdoor dining at the Mutrah Corniche
Outdoor dining at the Mutrah Corniche
Our dinner at Mutrah Corniche
Our dinner at Mutrah Corniche

Mutrah Souq

Mutrah Souq
Mutrah Souq
Hustle and bustle at Mutrah Souq
Hustle and bustle at Mutrah Souq

The Mutrah Souq can be found along the Mutrah Corniche. Opened during two timings (Thurs to Sat 8am-1pm and 5pm-9pm, Friday only 5pm-9pm), you should include this together with a stroll and dinner along Mutrah Corniche.

The Mutrah Souq retains a traditional Arabian chaotic market vibe. Its maze of alleyways and varying sections caters to different focuses. These can range from traditional pottery to daily tools such as house appliances and even toys. Some bargaining should be done for items that do not have a price tag.

Entrance of the Mutrah Souq
Entrance of the Mutrah Souq
Souvenir shops at Mutrah Souq
Souvenir shops at Mutrah Souq
Alleyway at Mutrah Souq
Alleyway at Mutrah Souq

Even though the Mutrah Souq retains its Arabian culture, much of the item here is catered to tourists. The number of tourists here also creates a more travelers centered market in the market. I personally prefer the Nizwa Souq as it is more local oriented and retains not only the Arabian culture, but the items are more local-specific and make for a more memorable buy.

If you have time: Seeb, Al Almeen Mosque and Al Alam Palace

Al Almeen Mosque

Al Almeen Mosque
Al Almeen Mosque
Al Almeen Mosque
Gorgeous lights emitting from the Al Almeen mosque during night fall
Gorgeous lights emitting from the Al Almeen mosque during night fall

If you are one to look outside your side windows during a drive, you would not miss the Al Almeen Mosque. Situated right on top of a hill, the lights coming from the mosque under the night sky makes it beauty during the night.

You could drive right up the hill and take a walk around the imposing structure. Much less touristy, you would have more privacy to admire the architecture of the mosque compared to The Grand Mosque.

Al Alam Palace

Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace restricts entry
Al Alam Palace restricts entry

Again another place for architecture enthusiasts, the Al Alam Palace is Oman’s most flamboyant example of contemporary Islamic design. It is impressively stage-managed, only reachable via a long pedestrianized boulevard with government buildings on its side. Visitors are not allowed, but you could stand outside to take a look and take some pictures of this beautiful Omani Palace.

Seeb

Seeb Fish Market
Seeb Fish Market
Huge fishes are on sale at the Seeb Fish Market
Huge fishes are on sale at the Seeb Fish Market
Other large seafood such as octopuses and squid is sold at the Seeb Fish Market too
Other large seafood such as octopuses and squid is sold at the Seeb Fish Market too
Shark sold at the Seeb Fish Market
Shark sold at the Seeb Fish Market

With some extra time to spare, you could head to the coastal town of Seeb near Muscat. A relaxing fishing town, it a good respite from all the city hustle and bustle if you are looking for a quiet spot in Muscat.

The fish market in the morning is home to some really huge catches and they are open to tourists. Just make sure you stay out of the way of the vendors as real business is conducted here in the mornings.

Conclusion

Paranomic views in Oman
Paranomic views in Oman

Oman is also known to many as the Norway of the Middle East. With its natural and beautiful fun-pack Wadis and deserts, an Oman road trip would slowly become a tourist choice of destination as time goes by.

In my opinion, now is the best time to visit as much of the country is left untouched by tourist investments and infrastructures, allowing it to retain its Omani culture along with much space for yourself.

The 1-week Oman road trip guide that I did comfortably allowed me to complete all the main highlights of Oman. The activities may seem quite packed, but by doing a road trip in Oman, you would comfortably be able to do all of it in 1 week.

One aspect that I did not manage to explore was driving off-road, as there was not much information on the internet on how to do so. I would wonder that there are probably some very good scenic spots among this oasis of a country.

If you have any information on this or any other possible places a tourist should spend time in, do comment and share with the rest of us!

Oman's Wahiba Sands
Oman’s Wahiba Sands

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