Top Menu

Travel Guide To Oman

Grand Escapades’ Travel Guide To Oman – 1001 Nights Flair, Ancient Culture, Stunning Landscapes & Such Gentle People!

View of Nizwa Souq from Nizwa Fort

Oman is special. Where else on the Arabic Peninsula has some of the “Sinbad the Sailor” feeling survived? Besides this 1001 Nights flair, we were stunned by lush oases, ancient fortresses, sandy beaches, dramatic mountain scenery, rolling desert dunes, picturesque wadis, deep fjords and overly friendly people. All in one country!

Itinerary And Time Of The Visit

We spent 2 weeks in Oman over X-mas 2012 & New Year 2013. Our itinerary covered Muscat (the capital), Jebel Shams & Jebel Akhdar (the mountains), Nizwa (oases, fortresses and more), the Wahiba Sands (desert), Ras Al Jinz (turtles) & last but not least Musandam (the lonely peninsula on the Strait of Hormuz). This is roughly the route we covered, with many more places in between.

City of Muscat

City of Muscat

Why Travel To Oman?

Honestly, when we booked the flight to Muscat, we had no real idea what to expect… Only when we started reading travel blogs in more detail, did we find out that the 2 weeks we had would never be enough to visit all major attractions. The south with its abundance of incense trees around Salalah, we had to save for another trip.

Bahla Castle or Hisn Tamah

Bahla Castle or Hisn Tamah

Challenges Organizing The Trip – What Would We Have Wished To Know?

Organizing a trip to Oman is actually quite easy – Guide books (especially the Bradt Guide) are excellent, answers from Guesthouses or local agencies (car rental, desert stays…) come quickly and are accurate. The only question that was difficult to answer for us was Sedan Car or 4WD (see bellow, Getting Around In Oman).

Curious encounter in the Wahiba Sands

Curious encounter in the Wahiba Sands

Highlights Of The Trip

  • The Omani people

    Al Misfah village, Jebel Al Akhdar

    Al Misfah village, Jebel Al Akhdar

  • Small town Khasab on the Peninsula of Musandam – guarding the Strait of Hormuz

    Dhow Cruise in the Fjords (Khor) of Musandam

    Dhow Cruise in the Fjords (Khor) of Musandam

  • A few days in the Wahiba Desert

    Sand Dunes, Wahiba Sands

    Sand Dunes, Wahiba Sands

  • Driving into the heart of the Hajer Mountains on a windy dirt road, that reminded us tremendously of Bolivian “Death Road”

    Crossing the Jebel Akhdar,

    Crossing the Jebel Akhdar,

  • Hiking Wadi Ghul – Oman’s Grand Canyon

    Spectacular hiking at Wadi Ghul, Oman's Grand Canyon, Jebel Shams

    Spectacular hiking at Wadi Ghul, Oman’s Grand Canyon, Jebel Shams

  • Gazing at the 5.000 year old tombs of Al Ayn – just us


    Archaeological Sites of Al-Ayn, a UNESCO World Heritage site

  • Fortress hopping – and we only visited 8 from the nearly 500…

    View of Nozwa Souq from Nizwa Fort

    View of Nozwa Souq from Nizwa Fort

  • The haggling at Nizwa’s goat market on Fridays, at least very early morning, before busloads of tourists arrive
  • Meeting Khalfan in his very personal museum in Al Kamil

    Al Khamil, Khalfan Alhashmi's great Museum, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula

    Al Khamil, Khalfan Alhashmi’s great Museum, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula

  • Egg-laying turtles at Ras Al Jinz

    reen Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas), Ras Al Jinz, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula - This picture was actually taken in Cap Skirring, Casamance, Senegal

    reen Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas), Ras Al Jinz, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula – This picture was actually taken in Cap Skirring, Casamance, Senegal

  • Walking through the tranquil gardens of a tiny oasis on the fringes of Wahiba Desert

    Wadi Bani Khalid, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula

    Wadi Bani Khalid, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula

How To Go Off The Beaten Track?

  • Heading further south – Most visitors are on tours and concentrate on the area between Muscat, Nizwa, Ibri & Rustaq, plus Wahiba Sands and to a lesser scale Musandam. As soon as you leave this area, or when stopping at some smaller towns in-between, you might be the only visitors of the day…
  • Oman for outdoor people… – Those who like sleeping in tents may also have an amazing time in Oman. Camping is possible on lonely beaches (fishermen shuttle you back and forth), in the mountains, in the desert and probably everywhere else. But be aware! Nights are chilly at this time of the year, especially in the mountains, where we watched the wind fiercely beating the few bushes from our cozy hotel room. But the intrepid camper may find this heavenly. Also hikers can live up to their passion: countless trails, short and long (up to 8 days) take you through the spectacular scenery of the Hajer Mountains.

    Spectacular hiking at Wadi Ghul, Oman's Grand Canyon, Jebel Shams,

    Spectacular hiking at Wadi Ghul, Oman’s Grand Canyon, Jebel Shams,

What Will We Especially Remember?

  • Gentle, friendly and open-minded people – the Omani are really special
  • Huge contrasts: within a few kilometers, you move from the most modern 21st century city to a village that could be in the Middle Ages
  • A stunning capacity to embrace technological changes and to safeguard traditions – how many times did we wonder at young men dressed in the traditional Dishdasha, surfing on their iPhones.
  • Indian food, which seemed to be the base of our diet during 2 weeks

What Would We Do Differently?

  • Spectacular hiking at Wadi Ghul, Oman's Grand Canyon, Jebel Shams

    Spectacular hiking at Wadi Ghul, Oman’s Grand Canyon, Jebel Shams

    Slightly change the itinerary: fly into Dubai (instead of Muscat), take a taxi (2,5 hours) to Khasab on Musandam and the ferry (5 hours) to Muscat. Then start the loop there and finally fly from Muscat back to Europe, probably via Dubai.

  • Skip Scuba diving – visibility was really disappointing
  • Spend more time in the Hajer Mountains, Jebel Shams and trekking along Wadi Ghul – And trek Wadi Ghul in the afternoon
  • Head south to Salalah – with the time saved on the changed itinerary and scuba diving, it could fit in a two week trip – although the perfect time to visit this region is supposedly September

Is It Safe & Is It Morally Justifiable To Travel To Oman?

Some unusual politics? Oman is not only the oldest independent state in the Arab world, but also one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the beginning of the 1970s, one of the most isolated. In its heydays it stretched out along the East African coast and included paradise-like Zanzibar.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said is omnipresent in Oman. His portrait seems to adorn every room, public or private. So do billboards along the perfect roads built under his ruler ship. The respect and admiration he receives from his citizens is equally ever-present. Not surprising considering what he has achieved! Educated in Britain, he overthrew his overly conservative father in 1970. More or less single-handedly he then moved this country from the Middle Age to the 21st Century, turning it into a prosperous, modern state.

A transformation so deep, but nevertheless so smooth that it makes Oman stand out. The result is a unique, peaceful place in an otherwise not so stable region of this world. Maybe it helped that his subjects are only a flock of 2 millions and there is plenty of oil, although in modest quantities compared to its neighbors.

Just to give you an idea where he started off: in 1970 Oman had merely 3 kilometers of tarred road, one hospital with 12 beds, no schools. Sultan Qaboos’ father was so conservative that wearing sunglasses or playing music was forbidden. All this changed under Qaboos’ rule, but he made sure to balance the move forward with a healthy conservation of Oman’s cultural heritage. Today modern cities, excellent roads, state of the art telecommunication, excellent schools and universities (for men and women) equal western European standards. Nevertheless, none of the skyscrapers that dominate Dubai or Abu Dhabi can be found here, only elegant oriental architecture prevails.

Harbour of Khasab, Musandam

Harbour of Khasab, Musandam

Best Time To Visit Oman

Oman’s climate is typical of the Arabic Peninsula, with blisteringly hot summers (April to September, when temperatures rise far above 40 degrees Celsius) and pleasantly mild Mediterranean winters (October until March).

Salalah is an exception, with a monsoon season, called the khareef, between June and August, with bearable temperatures.

Communication (Language Barrier?)

Communication is extremely easy in Oman, with a vast majority of the people speaking perfect English.

Getting Around In Oman

There is no network of public transport, so you have to have a car. Car rentals are cheap in comparison to Europe and gasoline costs close to nothing, nevertheless this remains a significant part of the budget: 350 € per person for the 2 weeks.

Sedan or 4WD? This we asked ourselves quite a bit before we started off. Roads are excellent, so a sedan car will do for reaching most places, except crossing the Hajer Mountains, going from Nakhal to Jebel Shams. Even Wahiba Sands is doable in a sedan, since most of the agencies will pick you up for a small fee.

Red Tape

Visa On Arrival is readily available at Muscat International Airport or at the border crossings that are open to foreigners. Note that if you drive from Oman to Musandam through the United Arabic Emirates, you will have to buy a new visa.

Photography – Oman: A Photographers’ Dream!

  • Key Factors For Taking Great Pictures?
    • Bahla Castle or Hisn Tamah

      Bahla Castle or Hisn Tamah

      Wide Angle Lens – Our EF-S 10-22 mm lens turned out to be quite useful during this trip, especially to take pictures of the outside and inside of Fortresses.

    • Polarization Filter – Too much light is your major challenge while photographing in Oman. Hence, you should use one pretty much all the time when photographing outside in Oman, to improve contrasts.
    • Timing – The real challenge is to be at the right place for the perfect light, like for the “Blue Hours”, shortly after the sunset. Getting up early enough for the soft morning light can even be harder… Being early enough enables you also to avoid the busloads of tourists at some points, like the Cattle Market in Nizwa, where we enjoyed great photo opportunities in the very beginning, and could no longer take any pictures after one hour due to the number of tourists.
  • Best Opportunities For Great Pictures
    • Omani Woman at the Cattle Market in Nizwa on Friday Morning

      Omani Woman at the Cattle Market in Nizwa on Friday Morning

      People – Do not hesitate to ask: if some people refused being photographed, many people gently posed for the picture.

    • Landscapes – We found some of the most spectacular landscapes in Oman, which offer great opportunities for photographers: Mountains, Canyons, Deserts, Lush Oasis, …
    • Architecture – The many Omani Forts are simply spectacular and offer great subjects.

Best & Most Inspiring Travel Blogs For Oman

Coming Soon…

Conclusion About Oman…

Oman is the perfect (family) destination for a two to three week trip escaping the European winter. The country is really easy to travel, offers a huge variety of highlights and some of the most gentle people on this planet, but is expensive!

Khor as Sham, the longest Fjords of Musandam

Khor as Sham, the longest Fjords of Musandam


6 Responses to Travel Guide To Oman

  1. Kevin Hayden 29. December 2014 at 18:11 #

    Bravo for a great and informative blog/guide to Oman.
    I will be there for 15 hours on January 9th and would like to rent a car for the day.
    I’m a photographer and would like to explore the landscape and villages, could you recommend
    the best places within 200kms of Muscat please?

    Kind regards,


    • Gilles Barbier 30. December 2014 at 1:26 #

      Hi Kevin,
      15 hours is a short time, but I would recommend to head East to Nakhal & Rustaq and to drive the loop between those two places. It is scenic, you drive through a few villages, and get two see two fortresses.
      I think it is your best bet.

  2. Juliette 8. February 2015 at 4:35 #

    Salut Gilles,
    Juste un petit coucou, je relisais tes textes sur votre voyage à Oman… On y va dans quelques jours, j’ai hâte, je pense qu’on va se régaler!! Bonne continuation à toi,

    • Gilles Barbier 8. February 2015 at 7:53 #

      Salut Juliette,
      Oui, vous allez surement passer un très bon moment, Oman est fabuleux…
      Je pensais en fait que vous y étiez déjà.
      A bientôt

      • Kevin Hayden 8. February 2015 at 10:43 #

        Ma journée à Muscat, Nakhal et Snake canyon était formidable Abdullah Alraisi me donné une grande tour
        de son pays qui c’est evident il adore.
        My day with Abdullah Alraisi who obviously loves his country was really wonderful and I’m so happy
        I accepted his kind invitation.
        I’m always dubious when something is “free” but Abdullah refused all my attempts to pay for anything including
        petrol for his car.
        I’ll be coming back!

        • Gilles Barbier 8. February 2015 at 18:08 #

          People in Oman belong to the friendliest we ever experienced…
          No surprise someone took the time to help you discover his country!
          Cheers, Gilles

Leave a Reply