The Sultanate of Oman is rapidly becoming known as one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the Middle East. This small country sits on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula and has so much to offer anyone coming for a visit.
Although I've decided to call Oman home and live in Muscat, I know that's not an option for everyone. So whether you're moving here like me and are eager to explore your new home abroad or are only to come to Oman for a quick visit, get excited because your itinerary can fill up quickly!
From Wahiba Sands and Ras Al Jinz, to Wadi Bani Khalid and the famous Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, here is my round up of the most beautiful – and the most famous – places to visit in Oman.
Most Beautiful Places in Muscat
Almost all visits to Oman start in the capital city - Muscat. And there are some gorgeous sights you must not miss, to kick your trip off in style. With plenty of things to do in the capital city, it's no wonder many of the tourist attractions (and hidden gems!) are found here.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Oman. The beautiful chandelier in the men’s prayer hall is 14m high, holding 600,000 Swarovski crystals and 24 carat gold plating, and the 70m by 60m handwoven, central carpet took Iranian weavers four years to complete.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is open to non-Muslims every day except Friday, from 8am-11am.
Muttrah Fort and Corniche
In Muscat, you must also see the former fishing settlement of Muttrah and its lovely Corniche. This is the centre of the old Portuguese colony, and is a lovely place to visit in the late afternoon to walk along the Corniche and explore the maze of streets around the souq.
The castle at the far end of the bay, Muttrah Fort, was built by the Portuguese to defend their colony. It's free to enter and has great views over the harbor.
Royal Opera House Muscat
If you are looking for a bit more architectural inspiration, the lovely Royal Opera House is also a beautiful sunset spot in Muscat. Head to one of the cafes for a fruit juice as the setting sun turns the white marble of the Royal Opera House a glowing shade of burnt orange.
Most Beautiful Places Outside of Muscat
Once you have seen the sights of Muscat, it is time to head to see the most beautiful places in Oman. This corner of the Arabian Peninsula has some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of the Middle East. Just be sure before diving into all of the fun activities and outdoor adventures you arm yourself with international health insurance to cover you in case of emergencies. I prefer Safety Wing for affordable and coverage everywhere.
Do keep in mind though that the time of year you plan your visit to Oman will play a role in which of the places you can best enjoy. For example, summer is a great time to spot wildlife but it's impossible to go to the desert given the incredible temperatures. On the other hand, summer is the perfect time to score great deals at luxury hotels and get even more beauty in and outside of your room.
These places strewn throughout the country shouldn't be missed for those really aiming to see the stunning natural landscape in Oman.
The Wahiba Sands desert is made up of over 125 miles of golden dunes. Only two and a half hours drive from Muscat, this is the most convenient desert camping destination for most visitors.
It is legal to camp almost anywhere in Oman - including in the desert. Waking up amongst the dunes of Wahiba Sands is a memorable experience. However, if a tent and sleeping out in the great outdoors is not your thing, fear not. Wahiba Sands also has plenty of luxurious glamping camps to cater to the more discerning traveler!
When visiting the desert, I would strongly urge you not to go dune bashing. Dune bashing is when you drive at extreme speeds over the dunes, in either jeeps, ATVs, or other vehicles. Across the Arabian Peninsula, dune bashing is the leading cause of severe desertification, causing the permanent loss of desert vegetation and wildlife.
The Al Hajar Mountains
The Al Hajar Mountains of Oman begin in the Musandam Peninsula, and stretch across the northeast of the country to Sur. The section to the southwest of Muscat, known as the Western Hajar, is the most easily accessible for visitors.
This stretch of mountains is home to the highest and most dramatic summits in Oman – Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams.
Jebel Akhdar (known as the “Green Mountain”) is one of the top hiking destinations in Oman, with official routes marked all across the mountains. If you are looking for a more extreme burst of adrenaline, Jebel Akhdar’s two most famous luxury hotels both have Via Ferrata routes.
Every year, from mid-March to mid-April, Jebel Akhdar erupts into pink and green as thousands of beautiful damask roses bloom. Local farmers harvest almost twenty-four hours a day to turn the roses into rose water. You can visit independently – just follow the route of the W18b trail. Even outside of rose season, this is one of the most beautiful places in Oman to visit.
Jebel Akhdar is one of the most popular weekend camping destinations in Oman, but it is also home to two of the most famous luxury hotels in Oman. If you want to treat yourself, book a night at the beautiful Anantara or, my personal favorite, the Alila Jebel Akhdar hotels.
Getting to Jebel Akhdar requires a 4WD. There is a police check point at the bottom to confirm you have the right vehicle, or your hotel can arrange a transfer.
Roughly 240km from Muscat, Jebel Shams is Oman’s highest mountain and home to the Grand Canyon of Oman – Wadi Ghul. If adventure is your thing, this is the destination for you.
It is home to one of Oman’s best hikes, along the rim of the canyon. It is a 4km walk (staring here) and takes around three hours. Many people turn back at the abandoned village, but if you keep going the path climbs up above the village to a small pool and cave.
If you want to see the top of Oman’s highest mountain, the strenuous W4 route takes you to the southern summit of Jebel Shams. The round trip is around 10-12 hours hiking covering 1,000m of elevation gain.
Camping on the edge of Wadi Ghul and seeing the night sky fill with stars is a memorable way to spend a night. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, I think this is a "must do" on a trip to Oman. The most popular spots are just after the main view point, and can get busy at the weekend.
Whilst visiting Jebel Shams, try to make time in your trip to visit the beautiful beehive tombs at Al Ayn. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the most complete necropolises from the 3rd millennium BC anywhere in the world and continue to be explored by archaeologists looking for clues to Oman’s ancient history.
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Misfat al Abryeen
If you are heading into the mountains, one of the best places to visit is the oasis village of Misfat al Abryeen, in the foothills of the mountains. There are two lovely, very gentle, walks at either end of the village. Routes are marked by the familiar yellow, green and red flag that marks most hiking tracks in Oman.
If you are feeling less energetic, head to Alstromeria Café for good coffee and lovely views over the village from the terrace.
Misfat al Arbyeen is one of the few mountain villages accessible by 2WD.
Wadi Shab is always top of tourist must visit places to visit in Oman. And it is not hard to see why - it is one of the most beautiful places in Oman.
After parking in the park park and short boat journey takes you to the other side of the river, before a 45 minute walk brings you to three interconnected pools of spectacularly blue water.
The first two pools are mostly shallow enough to stand in, but the third gets fairly deep. Once you swim to the end of the third pool, you will see a small crack in the rock, which if you squeeze through, brings you into a hidden fourth pool with a waterfall. Come early and avoid the weekends to escape the crowds!
Other Beautiful Wadis
My other favorite wadis to visit are Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Arbaeen. Wadi Bani Khalid is probably best for families as there is a café and changing area. Wadi Arbaeen is a local weekend favorite, and requires a bit of off road driving. If you want a real adventure, Wadi Tiwi is a full day off roading escape.
Just up the east coast from Wadi Shab is Bimmah Sinkhole. Geologists believe it was created when a limestone cave collapsed, but Omani tradition suggests a piece of the moon fell from the sky and carved out the giant hole.
Bimmah Sinkhole is open 8am-8pm, and free to enter.
Whilst making the trip down the coast towards Bimmah Sinkhole, be sure to stop at Fins Beach. The famous blow holes are one of the most beautiful places in Oman, and a top camping destination. If the beach is very busy, just head on a little further - this part of the coast is covered in beautiful little beaches, and you are sure to find your own!
Nizwa Fort and Town
Nizwa is one of the most visited places in Oman. Nizwa Fort dates back to the 9th century making it the oldest castle in Oman. It was a stronghold against raiding forces and held a strategic location at the crossroads of vital trading routes. Every weekend, the Fort hosts performances with traditional Omani dancing and singing in the courtyard.
Whilst making the trip to Nizwa, you must also visit the famous souq. It is one of the best places in Oman to buy souvenirs to take a bit of Oman home with you! And if you are here on a Friday morning, the Nizwa goat market is a fun outing!
Other famous forts and castles include Bahla, and the beautifully restored Jabreen Castle. Bahla is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both give you a chance to get close to the history of Oman. You could visit both as an easy day trip from Nizwa, or could add them to your Jebel Shams or Jebel Akhdar itinerary.
Ras al Jinz
Along the east coast near the historic ship-building town of Sur, green sea turtles come ashore at Ras al Jinz Beach in huge numbers to lay their eggs. They can been seen all year round, but the highest numbers are during nesting season in the summer months. Early morning is the best time to see the baby turtles hatching and making their perilous journey to the sea at the turtle reserve.
The town of Sur is also one of the best places to visit to come face to face with Oman’s history. Sur is one of the rumoured homes of the mythical sailor Sindbad and has one of Oman’s last remaining dhow-building factories. Dhows are built by eye from Indian and Burmese teak, with no plans. The factory produces two or three large dhows at any given time, and all are built to order.
Today, a ride on these traditional Omani boats is one of the top tourist things to do in the beautiful fjords of the Musandam Peninsula, in the far northern part of Oman. This region of fjords is one of the less well known tourist places in Oman to those visiting from overseas.
The Musandam fjords are surrounded by the United Arab Emirates, so worth visiting if you are coming from either Muscat or Dubai.
Salalah and the region of Dhofar
The south of Oman – the city of Salalah and surrounding region of Dhofar – is a very different to the north of the country. Between July and September this part of Oman is covered in mist and jungle-like greenery thanks to the monsoon rains from across the Indian Ocean.
This spectacular transformation is still relatively unknown outside of the Middle East region, but it is a memorable sight amongst the usually parched landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula.
During the winter months, Salalah is also home to some of the best beaches to visit in Oman. My favourite is Dahariz Beach - Khor End. It is one of the most easily accessible beaches from Salalah, making it an oasis close to the city. This beautiful beach, with its white sand and swaying palm trees, is one of the best in Oman.
You'll Fall in Love with Stunning Oman
You've been warned: After spending time at all of these most beautiful places in Oman, it'll be nearly impossible not to fall in love with this country. With far more than just the endless desert sands that we're known for, you'll face incredible natural beauty and unique architecture at every turn.
By biggest suggestion? Stay as long as you can to soak it all up.