When people ask us about our time in Oman they usually ask ‘Where was your favourite place?’, and unfortunately this is something we simply can’t answer. There are so many places in Oman that took our breath away and we will remember forever. There isn’t one location, one attraction, or even one restaurant. However, one thing we can say is that when visiting Oman you can’t stay in one place!
We spoke to a lot of tourists and travellers when we were in Oman, and pretty much everyone we spoke to had travelled far and wide to take in this magical country. Yet, we also spoke to some people who had only stayed in Muscat. Now, don’t get us wrong, we loved Muscat – especially Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque – but to only stay there would have been a waste of our trip.
We would have missed out on the clear turquoise waters of Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Sham, missed the beautiful sunrise in the Al-Hajar Mountains and missed driving over the sand dunes of the Wahiba Sands desert – all things we loved and will never forget.
Therefore, if you’re planning on visiting Oman, hit the road and explore this amazing place. Need some inspiration? Here’s our top seven things to do.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, located in heart of Muscat, was by far our favourite place in Oman’s capital city. Built as a gift from the sultan to the people, the mosque has become the main mosque in Muscat and the biggest in Oman – if needed the mosque can hold up to 20,000 people.
The tranquillity and beauty of the mosque is breathtaking, we were truly speechless as we walked through the gate and up to the magnificent mosque towering over us. From the well-kept and colourful gardens, the prayer halls and even the corridors, every detail is intricate and beautiful.
The mosque was designed by a collaboration of architects, meaning the exterior has a lot of the different colours and intricate patterns, most of which are totally unique to each other. Plus, the mosque is built from Indian sandstone, which means the early morning light reflects off the walls to create a magical reflection on the floor – probably our favourite part!
Non-Muslim visitors are welcome to visit the mosque everyday between 8am – 11am, expect on Fridays when it is closed for a special speech for worshippers. However, it can become very busy from 9am onwards, so we suggest arriving at 8am sharp to truly see the mosque in all its glory.
Top tip: To enter Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque you need to be fully covered to your wrists and ankles. Ladies will also need to wear a headscarf to cover your hair.
Omanis believe the Bimmah Sinkhole was created when a meteorite hit the ground. However, some sceptics say it was when the roof of a large cave chamber collapsed. Whatever the truth, it is one of the most beautiful natural creations we’ve seen – as well as a perfect swimming spot!
Located around an hour and a half away from Muscat, literally in the middle of nowhere, the Bimmah Sinkhole is a great place to cool off in the midday sun. The water is crystal clear, a deep turquoise and unbelievably refreshing.
We stopped off on our way to Wadi Shab, spending the majority of the morning swimming around, sunbathing and watching the world go by – particularly watching others, far more brave than us, jumping into the water from great heights.
As with anywhere, we suggest arriving earlier rather than later. As we were leaving around 11am we could see numerous coaches pulling up to the car park.
Wadi Shab is the perfect place for those who love to hike, swim and explore nature – it even has a hidden treasure trove at the end. However, you need to be prepared to walk through water, climb over boulders and swim through a tiny gap in a cave to get there. 100%. worth. it!
Located around two-hours from Muscat and an hour and 15-minutes from Sur, Wadi Shab is a popular destination to explore the natural beauty of Oman.
It starts with asking a local to take you across the river in a small boat, usually around 1 – 2 rials per person. Then you’ll hike through a green oasis before reaching the main swimming area. From there you can decide to sit down and relax, or you can continue and swim/walk up the river to reach the magical cave at the end.
Overall it probably takes around three-hours there and back. But, if we’re honest, it ended up taking us around five-hours as there were so many amazing spots to stop off. Plus, we spent at least half an hour in the cave at the end – we worked hard to get there, so we were going to make the most of it.
Top tip: Take a waterproof bag! At some points – most likely at the end – you will fully submerged in water, therefore a waterproof bag is a must to keep your belonging safe. We also recommend wearing shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
Wadi Bani Kalid
Wadi Bani Kalid is a lot more relaxed compared to Wadi Shab. It’s also a lot more conservative with the dress code, which could be why it’s calmer. You will need to wear clothes which cover your knees and shoulders until you get further into the wadi. They even advise wetsuits when in the water, but not many people follow this.
Like Wadi Shab, Wadi Bani Khalid has the deep turquoise water contrasting with the white rock. We have to admit we preferred it to Wadi Shab, it was much calmer and less busy. We had the time to sit on the side of the water and relax, read and really take in our surroundings.
Unfortunately, we only had a few hours, but we could have spent all day here if we were given the chance. Most people were set up for the day with towels, books and a picnic – we have to say we were a little envious.
To reach Wadi Bani Kalid you walk from the car park down a short path, at the end it opens out into large open space which looks like an oasis – absolutely stunning! Once you’ve taken in the beauty you continue walking over the large flat rock and then down the side of the stream, or lazy river as we referred to it!
We didn’t walk all the way to the end due to our limited amount of time. However, we believe the path gets a bit more adventurous the further you go.
Wahiba Sands was hands down our favourite part of the trip. We spent two days in the desert with the Safari Desert Camp and had the most wonderful time.
On our first day we arrived in Bidiyah, where their main office is based, to meet someone who was going to help us drive across the desert. Yes, you read that right, we were driving across the sand dunes!
The drive to the camp was about 45-minutes. At first we were nervous, but it turned out to be an amazing and exhilarating experience.
Once we arrived we threw ourselves straight into desert life and booked a sunset camel ride. This is when we realised we had somehow ended up on another planet. This place was insane! Sand dunes as far as you could see in every direction.
We ended up spending the two days playing in the sand, walking around Mars and eating some of the best food we had on the whole trip! We even squeezed in the only down time we had on the trip and spent a few hours reading in one of the bedouin tents.
We genuinely had to drag ourselves away from the desert and the Safari Desert Camp staff. If we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel Oman again, heading back here would be top of our list.
This was a little bit of a diversion for us. We didn’t plan to go to Nizwa on our original itinerary. However, after speaking to a local tour guide while in the desert he convinced us we were committing a travel crime by not going. So, the next morning we found ourselves driving to Nizwa.
Nizwa is the original capital of Oman, before it was changed to Muscat many years ago. It’s home to Nizwa Fort and Nizwa Palace, as well as many little souqs.
Nizwa Fort and Nizwa Palace were lovely to see. The architecture was beautiful and there full of information about the old city and old crafts. However, the only slight downside was that they’d been so modernised we felt they’d lost a bit of their charm.
Next, we headed to the Souq. Probably the calmest, cleanest and ‘un-hasslie’ souq we have ever been to in our lives. It’s actually hard to get a vendor to engage with you, and haggling is out of the question. But, the handmade, traditional products are amazing and it’s a wonderful place to have a little wander in the sun.
The Al-Hajar Mountains were the last stop on our road trip. We were so excited to see the mountains and get our trek on. The views in every direction are absolutely stunning, but you are made to work for it.
We were staying in the village of Wakan which sit 2000 meters above sea level and the road to get there is a tad on the stressful side. However, once your up there, you find a new side to Oman. You find the slightly less travelled, more rural and local side to the country.
We spent our time here watching sunsets and sunrises, hiking around the mountains, befriending goats and spending every second in awe of the views around us.
Luckily, Wakan has it very own hiking trail which leads straight into the Al-Hajar Mountains. If we’re honest, it isn’t the easiest trek, but offers you some insane views.
Now, we didn’t complete the whole trek as it takes you into the next valley and we didn’t have enough time or energy for that. However, we scaled as high as we could on the Wakan side and the round trip took just over 4-hours.
The Al-Hajar Mountains showed us a completely different side to Oman, one that we weren’t expecting. It was a much more humbling experience than anywhere else we went and we believe it should be on everyones hit list!