Oman’s climate is much the same as across the rest of the Gulf – insanely hot and humid in the summer, and Mediterranean in the winter. So unsurprisingly, when researching your travel to Oman, you will find the same advice on the best time to travel everywhere – come in the winter months, and avoid the summer!
But is the best time to visit Oman always that straightforward?
There is no getting around it... summer is swelteringly hot and pretty miserable at times. October to April is pleasantly warm across the country (25-30C), while between June to August average temperatures are scorching (45-50C).
If you are planning to do the “classic” Omani itinerary – mountains, deserts, beaches, and wadis – stick to the winter months to enjoy the wild Omani landscapes. Just be aware this is peak season, so prices are higher and there can be more crowds.
Advantages to Visiting in Summer
One perk to the summer months is the amazing deals you can score on the super luxurious, five-star hotels in the Hajar Mountains which run across the north of Oman.
The Anantara and the Alila Jebel Akhdar are the top of the bunch, and offer rooms reduced by as much as half price during the summer. Given the rates at these hotels are usually in the many hundreds per night, it might be your one chance to soak up the luxury!
Although given the limited things to do in the north of Oman during the hot temperatures, I think it's only worth taking advantage of these deals if you already live in the region.
There are however two major reasons to travel to Oman in the summer: the khareef and the wildlife.
The city of Salalah and the surrounding region of Dhofar have a completely different climate to the north of the country. Khareef is an Arabic word for autumn, and between July to September southern Oman is covered in mist and rainfall which leads to an explosion of lush greenery thanks to the rains from across the Indian Ocean.
This gloriously cool weather draws tourists from all across the Gulf region, looking for an escape from the unbearable heat further north. This spectacular transformation is still relatively unknown outside of the region and is a memorable sight amongst the usually parched landscapes of Arabia.
Hotels book up quickly, so book early if you want to witness this natural phenomenon.
The summer months are also the time to witness two of Oman's most magical wildlife encounters. Along the coast near the historic ship-building port of Sur, green seas turtles come ashore at Ras al Jinz to lay their eggs and further up the coast near Muscat, mysterious whale sharks gather to feed in large numbers.
During the turtles’ nesting season, between July and September, almost 20,000 turtles come ashore to lay around 50,000 to 60,000 eggs. Early morning is the best time to see the baby turtles hatching and making their perilous journey to the sea. The conservation project at Ras al Jinz can arrange guided walks to view them.
Whale Sharks are the largest known fish species – the largest ever recorded was a whopping 18.8m long! They live for about 70 years, in warm tropical waters, and come to the seas around Oman to feed between July and September every year. Snorkeling with these gentle giants is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check out Daymaniyat Shells if you want to arrange a trip – they are a wonderful company with a real environmental and sustainable ethos.
Advantages of Visiting in the Shoulder Seasons
If you can cope with hotter temperatures, the shoulder months on either side of the summer can be a good time to visit. Prices are lower than in peak winter months so there are some good deals on hotel rates to be negotiated, and while it is too early to see the splendors of the khareef, April and May are blossom season in the northern mountains.
Every spring, the small Omani mountain village of Wakan in the Western Hajar Mountains is covered in beautiful pink and white blossoms. The village residents are known for their agricultural produce and between mid-February and mid-April, Wakan is awash with flowering apricot and pomegranate trees.
It is an easy day trip from Muscat or a tranquil stop on your tour of the Hajar Mountains.
Likewise, every year, from mid-March to mid-April, Jebel Akhdar erupts into pink as 7,000 blooming damask roses cover the mountain. Jebel Akhdar translates as the Green Mountain, and early summer is the only time you can see why the mountain got its name.
For the entire month, they are in bloom. Local farmers will harvest virtually twenty-four hours a day before turning the roses into one of Oman’s most well-known exports – rose water. You can visit independently – just follow the route of the W18b trail – or you can hire a guide to learn about this traditional industry. The main hotels will also organize excursions.
Braving Wahiba Sands
The desert, such as Wahiba Sands or the Empty Quarter, is unfortunately completely off the itinerary in the summer months – it is simply far too hot. But during the shoulder seasons, the weather is much more mixed and you might get lucky with a cooler day. It makes for the perfect time to take a private tour and enjoy!
Camping can be a bit risky as temperatures fluctuate considerably and you might find yourself cooking alive inside your tent. Fixed desert camps, therefore, offer a more comfortable option in shoulder months as the rooms have fans and/or air conditioning - and remarkably, even a swimming pool at one!
If you come in the later summer months – around September – you might be lucky enough to see the desert in bloom. Summer rains mean the amazingly resilient plants that live in this inhospitable environment come to life, with desert roses and multiple types of grasses and bushes springing up across the sand.
Tips for Dealing with the Omani Weather
Beyond avoiding the blistering summer sun, there are some general tips for dealing with the Omani weather:
- Don’t underestimate how frigid the winter evenings can be, especially up the mountains or in the desert in December and January. Pack plenty of layers and even a warm hat if you plan to camp.
- Never, ever camp in the wadis. Although it can look completely dry, even a small dump of rain further up the mountain can quickly lead to flash flooding. Sadly every year people are killed in Oman, whilst out in the wadis. Always check the forecast before heading off for a walk or a swim in a wadi.
- Oman has year-round strong winds, especially in the late afternoon. Keep this in mind when planning water-based activities and expect to get sand everywhere no matter what you do, when you head to the desert. Given the offshore wind, there is a burgeoning adventure sports community and more and more people are heading to Masirah Island for kite surfing.
- Be aware not just of the effects of heat on you but also on your vehicle. Last August we decided to head up to the Salma Plateau – a famous off-road drive in Oman which takes you to the 5,000-year-old “beehive tombs” – in the hope of finding enough elevation that it would be cool enough to camp. Stupidly, we didn’t factor in the heat whilst driving up the steep mountain track… and our car overheated a grand total of five times as we slowly limped our way to the top! A lesson well learned!
Visiting Oman During Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth – and most holy – month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which more than a billion Muslims worldwide celebrate Allah giving the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed in 610AD. It lasts around 30 days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next. It finishes with the holiday of Eid al Fitr.
Most guides tell you not to visit Oman during the Holy Month of Ramadan, as many places will be closed. However, visiting during Ramadan offers you the opportunity to experience culture in an Islamic country during the holiest period for Muslims around the world.
The weeks leading up to Ramadan are filled with excitement as decorations go up in shop windows and fairy lights festoon everything. There is a real party atmosphere as all manner of sweet treats appear in every shop. Although some of the best things to do in Muscat might be closed, you'll get to see a whole new side of the city most miss out on.
Being invited to a Muslim friend or colleague’s home for an iftar meal is a real honor – this is the meal at dusk, when the day’s fast is broken. If you are only visiting, most hotels will offer an iftar buffet, giving you the opportunity to sample some traditional foods.
If you travel to Oman during Ramadan, you simply need to do a bit more preparation. Finding somewhere to eat is the big one.
In Oman – as with many Muslim-majority countries - it is illegal to eat or drink in public during Ramadan. This includes foreigners living in Oman, tourists, and non-Muslims.
Most restaurants in the large international hotels remain open and will continue to serve non-Muslims during the daylight hours – although black-out blinds and screens will be erected so that those eating will not be seen. As opening hours are limited, book in advance if you want to eat out in the evening.
It is sensible to keep a few snacks in your bag in case you are unable to find somewhere to buy lunch. Just remember you must eat away from public spaces or anywhere you will be visible to others – this includes inside your car. You should also adhere strictly to modest dress requirements and should refrain from any public displays of affection – including holding hands. Smoking is also prohibited, and you should not play music that can be heard by others.
The other thing to be aware of if you visit Oman during Ramadan is the driving… the combination of rushing home to share an iftar meal with family and having fasted all day does not improve road safety! If you can, avoid the post-work rush hour – not least as the roads will be gridlocked as everyone leaves work at the same time.
When Is The Best Time for You to Visit Oman?
While Oman is a fantastic country to visit any time of the year, your experience will change based on when you decide to travel to Oman. That being said, the best time to visit all depends on what you want to do! So, when will I see you in Oman?
Featured photo by shutterstock.com/Hamdan Yoshida.