Lots of people have been asking/ assuming we hired a guide to help us with our trip around Oman. However, we actually planned and drove the whole trip by ourselves.
We loved the freedom planning our own tour, we weren’t tied to someone else’s plan or to a group of other peoples speeds and toilet needs. Also, guides are super expensive and no traveller has the money for that!
Luckily, Oman is insanely easy to drive around. All the roads are good quality – apart from in the mountains and the obvious lack of road in the desert – and all have really clear road signs in both Arabic and English. Plus, Omanis are really conscious and considerate drivers, meaning we never felt uncomfortable on the road.
The only part of driving which worried us was the fact we’d never driven a four-wheel drive, or even driven on the other side of the road. However, in the end we found the whole experience pretty smooth, and if we can do it, you more than likely can too!
So, if like us you want your own freedom and want to to avoid hiring a guide, we’ve written down our Oman itinerary to help you get started.
Disclaimer: In this post we haven’t gone into too much detail about each destination as there’s a lot to get through. However, you can read more about our favourite places here.
Rather than our first day, you could probably call this our first evening. We arrived late at around 22.40, so all we did was pick up our car at the airport and head over to Centera Muscat Hotel – around a 15-minute drive away.
Now, there are many options when choosing a hire car. However, we decided to go with Budget as we’ve used them before and the car was reasonably priced.
In addition, we chose to stay at Centera Muscat Hotel because it’s pretty close to Sultan Qaboo’s Mosque – which was our main destination in Muscat – and we wanted to be there super early the next day. Oh, it also has a rooftop pool…
Despite being pretty exhausted after the flight and late night, we were up at 6am to get ready and take full advantage of our buffet breakfast. However, we made sure we didn’t dwindle at breakfast to long and drove over to Sultan Qaboo’s Grand Mosque for 8am – as soon as the doors opened to non-Muslin tourists.
Top tip: The mosque is open everyday apart from Fridays between 8-11am.
We spent around three-hours wandering around the mosque and its surroundings. It honestly took our breath away and is a must-do on your trip to Oman!
Afterwards, we headed to the The Royal Opera House. We decided to take in the view from outside as we’re much more exterior architecture people then ‘conventional art’ people, but you can organise a tour around the Opera House if you wish.
Then we headed to Sultan Qasr Al Alam’s Palace – which you can only view from the outside – and the Mutrah Fort.
The fort is the Mutrah Fort is the perfect pit-stop for stunning views over Mutrah and the sea. Plus, the drive along coast is pretty great, you can stop off wherever you want on the way to take in the view. However, be careful when crossing the road – they don’t slow down!
Once we’d spent the morning exploring, we headed back to the hotel for some R & R – soaking in the sun, reading some good books and maybe even a little nap.
In the evening, feeling refreshed, we drove back to Mutrah for its famous Souq and to explore the markets – open from 4-9pm everyday.
Post-window shopping – although there were so many trinkets we would have love to buy! – we grabbed some dinner at the Fast Food N’ Juice Centre along the beach front. A great place if you’re looking for grilled meat, hummus, flat bread and, of course, fresh juice.
Once again we were up early to check out and drive from Muscat to Bimmah Sink Hole – around an hour and a half.
We arrived just after 9am and it was already starting to get busy, so we’d recommend getting there even earlier! We spent about an hour and a half swimming in the turquoise water and soaking in the sun on the rocks. You could spend less time if you didn’t want to swim, or more time if you wanted to relax on the rocks all day.
Once we’d dried off we drove 30-minutes along the coast to Wadi Shab.
At Wadi Shab we parked our car and paid 1OR to get a boat across the lake. Once across we walked along a path which takes you too a rock gorge. This take around 40-minutes before you reach natural pools, here you can kickback and relax, or you can walk/swim through the pool to reach the waterfall in the cave at the end.
Top tip: You may need to swim through a small crack – sometimes underwater – to get into the cave, so make sure you bring a waterproof bag!
Once we’d reached the cave we didn’t want to leave, probably bobbing around for about half an hour before making our way back.
By the time to got back to the car we were hunngryyy, so we drove to Resort Sur Beach Holiday to check-in – about 30-minutes down the coast – before heading to Sahari Restaurant on the water to tuck into more meat, hummus and flat bread.
Then, just as the sun was setting we visited Sur Lighthouse to take in the stunning view.
On our fourth day we had another early start… can you see a theme here?
We left Sur and drove to Wadi Bani Khalid, around a two-hour drive. At Wadi Bani Khalid we walked along the rocks, past the main pool, and found the perfect place to relax and soak in the sun. Of course, jumping into the water to cool off.
Unfortunately, we only has around two-hours here, but we could have spent all day lounging around.
Although it wasn’t all bad, as our next stop was a very exciting one…
We needed to be in Bidiyah – around an hours drive from Wadi Bani Khalid – by 3pm as it was time for our stay at Safari Desert Camp! First, you meet at their offices to check-in and then drive – carefully – across the desert to the camp. Now, we probably did leave a bit too much time to reach Bidiyah, but we didn’t want to miss the convoy to the camp!
Top tip: You’ll need to need to deflate your tiers down to about 16-20 before driving across the sand dunes.
The drive from the head office to the Safari Desert Camp was around 45-minutes from Bidiyah. Lucikly, we were able to drive in convoy across the desert with other visitors and staff members – we would have never have found it on our own!
Once we arrived at the camp and dumped our bags in our hut, we signed up for the sunset camel safari before dinner. Up and over the dunes, to a viewpoint where all you can see is sand and the sun setting behind the hills.
As we were spending two nights at Safari Desert Camp we spent the whole day exploring the desert and relaxing.
Giving ourselves a slight lie-in before breakfast, we watched the morning camp activities through the window from our beds. Then after breakfast, we went for a walk around the sand dunes, although it’s tough on the way up, we had a great time sliding back down.
Once we arrived back at camp we were the only visitors left – most people only stay at the camp for one night – so we had the camp all to ourselves. The owner of the camp made us an amazing lunch, so much so we spent the rest of the day lounging around and reading our books until the next lot of visitors arrived.
Top tip: Stay for two nights – one simply isn’t enough!
After dinner that evening we ended up dancing the night away with the workers at the camp, local guides – who gave us some great tips – and our fellow visitors.
We left the camp bright and early as we were heading to Wakan, a village high in the Al Hajar Mountains. However, after a chat with one of the local guides the night before we decided we wanted to make a teeny detour to Nizwa, the old capital of Oman.
It turned out to be our longest driving day with a 2-hour-40 minute drive to Nizwa and then another 2-hour and 40-minute drive to Wakan. However, our detour to Nizwa was 100% worth it!
Once we’d arrived in Nizwa we headed straight to Nizwa Fort. The fort has fantastic views over the city, as well as a great juice bar! We then walked down to the Souq, where you can find traditional, handmade items, food and lots and lots of pottery.
After we’d explored Nizwa – and bought a magnet for a very special friends collection – we jumped in the car and drove to our hotel in the mountains, Sama Wakan.
Now, although on the map Nizwa and Wakan are basically neighbours, you have to drive around the mountain range which makes it an extra long trip. Plus, if we’re honest this was the hardest drive of them all. The roads aren’t solid as you would like them to be when driving next to a sheer drop, but the views make it all worth it.
Top tip: Buy some service station vegetable samosas to the car journey – it makes it a whole lot better.
After a very steep and dusty drive we made it to Sama Wakan in time to catch sunset, eat dinner and relax.
After watching the sunrise over the mountains – another must-do! – and eating breakfast, we were all ready for our hike to explore the mountains of Wakan.
Setting off early from Sama Wakan we walked through the village to find a gate marked with a yellow, white and read trail sign as this is where the hike starts.
Once through the gate we walked between the houses and fields along a stone path. After around 20-minutes the path arrives at a viewpoint – it’s stunning but has nothing on what’s to follow! From there we followed the yellow, white and read trail signs, often on the rocks and mountain face.
The path takes you higher and higher into the mountains, we won’t lie the further you go the harder it becomes to walk. There are parts of the hike where you will need to climb and walk along narrow edges, so it’s not easy. However, the views make it well worth it!
Top tip: Make sure you take plenty of food and water, as well as appropriate shoes – some parts are not the easiest.
We spent about two-hours walking up before heading back down, of course with a few pit stops on the way. But, if you wanted to make a full day of it, then you can continue walking and the path will eventually lead you between to rocks and out to the other side of the mountain range.
Once we’d made it back down to Sama Wakan we had one last drink while taking in the mountain view. Later that afternoon we set off back to Muscat – we wanted to get down the mountain before dark due to the steep road!
The drive to Muscat is just under two-hours. We arrived at our hotel, the Radisson Collection Muscat, Hormuz Grand around 7, just in time to tuck into dinner.
Our last day in Oman had been earmarked for pure relaxation at the Radisson Collection Muscat, Hormuz Grand pool. However, being back in Muscat we couldn’t resist one last visit to Sultan Qaboo’s Mosque.
So, we signed ourselves up for another 6am wake up call and arrived at the Mosque 8am. We have to say it was just as good the second time!
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, grab our books and spent to whole day reading, napping and eating – what more could you ask for after such an adventurous few days?!
Now, in all honesty, if we were to go back to Oman we would slightly alter our itinerary. Would we like to spend more time at Wadi Bani Khalid? Yes! Would we like to spend more time in Nizwa? Yes! We simply just needed more time.
However, as we’re being honest, we also had a bloody great time and saw everything we wanted to. So, we’re going to sit here and be a little smug that we did all this without a tour guide.
We hope we can encourage you to do the same!
Have any questions about Oman? Read our FAQs about road-tripping Oman.