Relatively unknown until recently (to me at least), Oman is increasingly attracting travelers from around the world looking for incredible landscapes and an authentic Arabian experience. Crystal clear seas and infinite golden dunes, arid mountains and lush oasis, incredible mosques and mud-brick villages, vast arid plains and gigantic canyons: Oman is a country of contrasts, a guarantee to leave you amazed.
Oman (officially the Sultanate of Oman) has so much to offer you could easily spend 10 to 15 days there. But if time is of the essence, a 7-day itinerary is a great start to visit some of the most beautiful places in Oman.
Full disclosure: since I live in Dubai, I had the chance to visit Oman several times. I did several weekend trips to Muscat and recently a 5 days road trip around the country. I built the below 7 days itinerary based on these various trips to Oman.
OMAN – 7 DAYS ITINERARY
DAY 1 – Muscat
What better way to start a holiday in Oman than visiting the country’s largest and most impressive mosque? Sultan Qaboos mosque opened in 2001 in celebration of the Sultan’s 30-year reign. The architecture of the mosque is breathtaking. The 90m-high minaret, the beige walls, the impressive arches reflecting in the marble floor as well as the surrounding gardens are some of the features that make the mosque both very majestic and very tranquil. The prayer hall is also a masterpiece. For a while, the prayer carpet and the crystal chandelier were the largest in the world – an achievement for this otherwise unassuming country. (Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi now holds the title for both largest carpet and largest chandelier in the world).
The mosque is open to non-Muslims from 8am to 11am, Saturday to Thursday. Both men and ladies should be dressed modestly, with arms and legs covered. Ladies should also wear a headscarf.
Take advantage of being in the neighboorhood to have lunch in Kargeen, Oman’s cutest restaurant. Sit in the garden filled with Arabic lanterns, plants, trees, fountains and traditional furniture. Maybe order a shisha, and definitely order some cheese bread! If you want to visit Kargeen for dinner, book ahead.
After lunch, head over to Mutrah, the heart of Muscat. Spend some time walking along the Corniche or stop in one of the little cafes for a fresh fruit juice and observe the local life. From 4pm onwards, head over to Mutrah souk. The main aisles of the souk are very touristic, but it is a great place to shop for souvenirs (just don’t forget to negotiate a little). Get lost in the small side alleys to explore the real local life of the souk, where you can buy abayas, gold, spices etc.
If you still have time before sunset, walk or drive up to Mutrah fort for a beautiful view of the harbor and the coastline.
Where to stay in Muscat?
– Sheraton: Quite a good value-for-money option well located in Muscat. The rooms are comfortable, the breakfast really good and the staff friendly. More of a business hotel feel, but I quite liked it.
– Grand Hyatt: Old and (once upon a time) grandiose the Grand Hyatt is a good option if you want to relax. With a massive pool, and a garden facing the sea, it is also a very family-friendly option.
– The Chedi: Quite likely the best hotel in Oman, the Chedi is an amazing hotel with a stunning infinity pool, an understated Arabic architecture, and full-size Aqua Di Parma amenities.
– W Muscat: If quirky is your style, you can’t really go wrong with the W hotel. You can also sip a drink facing the sea at the Buddha-Bar there.
Discover more hotel options in Muscat here.
DAY 2 – Daymaniyat Islands
For turquoise blue water and a close encounter with wild turtles and incredible corals, book a half-day trip to the Daymaniyat islands. The trip starts at 8 am from Al Mouj Marina, close to Muscat airport. After a 45 min boat ride, we stopped in a quiet bay, with amazing corals and colorful fishes. We snorkeled for about 1 hour and spotted a few turtles. I was so excited, feeling like a kid again! We also experienced the weirdest thing ever: a school of thousand of small silvery fishes jumping out of the water, and bumping straight into you in the process. I admit screaming and giggling a little, but it was really fun!
For the second stop, the captain dropped us on a small island with options to relax on the beach, climb to the top for a beautiful view (apparently we could spot some friendly sharks, but we didn’t) or do some more snorkeling. We opted to walk around the island and admired the view for a while before swimming in a smaller beach tucked further away, completely alone.
The lunch on board was simple but good, with cheese sandwiches, cookies and fresh slices of watermelon. I appreciate the efforts done by the company to promote sustainable travel practices. Except for cookies’ packaging, there was no plastic / unnecessary packaging used. They even offered each one of us a metal water bottle, that we could refill from the main water tank during the trip and take with us as a souvenir.
During the whole morning, we didn’t encounter any other boat or group of tourists, which made the experience even more enjoyable. We were back at the marina by 2pm, enchanted.
Some good practices to respect this beautiful ecosystem :
– Stay calm in the water, and the animals will come close to you but don’t try to touch them.
– When observing turtles, don’t swim directly over them. They need to come to the surface to breathe and will be scared by your giant shadow over them. Swim around 1 meter to the side.
– Consider using coral – safe sunblock. Most commercial sunblocks are very detrimental to coral life.
– Do not leave any trash behind.
In the afternoon, drive back to the other side of Muscat and check out the strangely modern and colorful architecture of the Sultan’s palace, Al Alam. (You can’t enter but you can see the facade of the building from outside the gates). While you are there, visit the National Museum of Oman to get to know more about the Sultan. There are 2 forts nearby (Al Mirani & Al Jalali forts) but unfortunately they are not open to the public.
DAY 3 – Bimmah Sinkhole & Wadi Shab
Muscat – Bimmah Sinkhole: 130 km
One of the most famous places to visit in Oman, the Bimmah sinkhole is a 20m deep natural freshwater pool, created by erosion and subsequent collapse of the ground’s upper layer. (Although the rumor is that the Omanis believe it was a meteorite crash. I let you pick your favorite story!)
All the pictures I had seen before made me think it was a very wild space in the middle of nature … but not quite. I had a real-life “Instagram vs Reality” moment when I discovered there was a park built all around, with a gate, toilet facilities, a children’s playground, and a wall surrounding the Sinkhole. The only advantage is the staircase that was built to go down the sinkhole and swim in the turquoise water.
The park is open from 8 am to 8 pm. The Bimmah sinkhole gets very crowded so I recommend you to come very early and to avoid weekends and public holidays.
Bimmah Sinkhole – Wadi Shab: 31 km
From the Bimmah Sinkhole, Wadi Shab, Oman’s most popular wadi is only a 20 min drive away (take the scenic coastline road instead of the highway).
From the parking lot, a small motorboat will take you to the starting point of the wadi hike. (1 OMR / pax, from 7 am to 5 pm). From there, it is an easy 45 min hike to the natural pools. Although it is not a challenging hike, you will need to walk up and down some large boulder rocks and a good pair of shoes is recommended (at least a pair of sneakers, avoid flipflops and other sandals).
Look up and admire the scale of the canyon. Soon looking down you will discover the turquoise blue water that makes Wadi Shab so popular.
Once you reach the first pool, tuck your stuff away somewhere and start swimming in the refreshing water. If you want to go all the way to the end of the wadi, I recommend you to come with some water shoes, as you will need to walk through some very slippery and rocky parts. I didn’t have such shoes so I didn’t go all the way to the end. If you do, and if you are not claustrophobic, swim in between two narrow rock formations to get to the final cave, which is apparently very beautiful.
OMAN ITINERARY – IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME
Consider hiking Wadi Tiwi, a stunning Wadi going through 9 villages, a few farms and a very lush landscape. Read more about hiking Wadi Tiwi here. It is definitely on my to-do list for next time I am in Oman.
DAY 4 – Sur – Wadi Bani Khalid & Wahiba Sands
Wadi Shab – Sur: 50 km
Sur is a calm and charming fisherman village almost at the tip of the Oman East coast. Not necessarily a destination in itself, Sur is a good stopover between Muscat and the immense Wahiba Sands desert.
We started by visiting the Al Ayjah lighthouse and its pretty blue dome. Although you can’t enter the lighthouse, it is a beautiful viewpoint over the town of Sur.
We then crossed over the Al Ayjah bridge and admired the deep blue sea, the colorful boats to the right and the dhow building yard to the left. Finally, we drove to Sunaysilah fort, which unfortunately was closed, but we had a beautiful view of the city and the ocean from that elevated viewpoint.
If you have more time, consider taking a stroll along the corniche, visiting the Ladies souq and watching the sunset from the Al Ayjah watchtower. We didn’t have time to do these and they make me want to go back!
Sur – Wadi Bani Khalid: 130 km
After our quick tour of Sur, we drove 2 hours to Wadi Bani Khalid. Contrary to Wadi Shab, Wadi Bani Khalid has been quite heavily developed for tourists with bridges to cross the wadi, a restaurant, a parking space, etc. Don’t stop in the first pools that don’t feel very natural. Instead, start hiking further into the wadi to find some quieter and wilder pools. The hike is not physically difficult, but the rocks are particularly polished and slippery, so you’ll need to take care. Although we have seen several families, I wouldn’t recommend bringing young children here. In any case, bring some good shoes … I was wearing sandals and didn’t make it very far.
Wadi Bani Khalid – Wahiba Sands: 52 km
From Wadi Bani Khalid, we drove 50 min to Wahib Sands desert, one of the places you absolutely must visit in Oman.
The desert … is there anything more fascinating than endless dunes, golden sands, and caravans of camels? I am just celebrating 4 years in Dubai and I am still amazed by the beauty of the desert, so you can trust me: the Wahiba Sands desert is a must in your Oman itinerary.
The best way to experience the desert is to book a night in one of the camps tucked among the dunes. Most likely they will pick you up somewhere along road 23, and drive you to the camp. If you are an experienced off-road driver with a good 4×4 car, you could also just follow them in your car.
We spent the night in Alsarmadi Desert Night camp, and I loved this night of glamping. The staff was very welcoming and gathered us around the fire to show us how they were cooking the dinner meat, and how to cook some traditional bread on the fire ashes (and we ate that bread with some Nutella, so what else can you ask for!). The sky was incredible, the food delicious and the bed super comfortable. We were asleep at 9.30 pm and woke up at 6 am to catch the sunrise … It was magical and I would have loved to spend the day there, dune driving, reading a book, and watching the sunset we missed.
OMAN ITINERARY – IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME
This day in our trip was too packed and we didn’t have time to truly experience and enjoy any of the stops. We even missed the sunset in the desert. So if you have more time, consider breaking this into 2 days: 1 relaxing day in Sur followed by a morning in Wadi Bani Khalid and an afternoon in the desert.
DAY 5 – Wahiba Sands & Nizwa
Wahiba Sands – Nizwa: 180 km
We woke up at 6 am to admire a gorgeous sunrise, and after a delicious breakfast, we left Alsarmadi camp and drove 2 hours to Nizwa.
We visited Nizwa fort, and walked a little around the souk, although a lot of stores were closed. Nizwa fort is okay but there is almost no explanation or context given. To understand better the intricacy of a typical Omani fort, I recommend visiting Jibreen Castle, half an hour west of Nizwa. The fort is beautifully restored and decorated, and the audio guide available in several languages provides many more insights.
This being said, Nizwa gets very entertaining if you happen to visit on a Friday early morning. It is the cattle market day and you will see the farmers trying to sell their cows, goats, etc. The auction process is intriguing and entertained me for quite a while!
DAY 6 – Al Hamra and Misfat Al Abriyyin
Nizwa – Al Hamra & Misfat Al Abriyyin: 50 km
Al Hamra and Misfat Al Abriyyin are two traditional villages built on the rocky mountainside. Wandering around the narrow lanes, in between the mud-brick houses, and along the falaj, the traditional irrigation system gives you a strong sense of history and what Omani life must have been decades ago. To get a deeper understanding of traditional Omani life, culinary methods and handicraft, visit Bait Al Safah, a 400 years old house turned into a small living museum about Omani lifestyle. I didn’t get a chance to visit myself, but it comes highly recommended by a friend of mine.
Consider adding to your Oman itinerary a hike around Misfat to marvel at the mountainous landscape, leafy plantations, and traditional farming methods.
DAY 7 – Jebel Akhdar
Al Hamra – Jebel Akhdar: 98 km
Your Oman itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a stop by the mountains of Jebel Akhdar and/or Jebel Shams. Jebel Shams is the highest point in Oman, at over 3000 m, and offers the best views over Oman Grand’s canyon and has endless hiking routes.
Nearby is Jebel Akhdar, Oman’s Green Moutain that reaches an elevation of 2000 m. Because of its almost Mediterranean climate the area is green all year long, and propitious to farming and is well known for producing pomegranates and rosewater. We decided to visit Jebel Akhdar, mostly because we dreamt of staying at the Anantara Resort.
To reach Jebel Akhdar, you need a 4×4 car to climb some very steep roads, and very good breaks to drive down safely. There is a checkpoint at the start of the climb, and for your own safety, they won’t let you through if you don’t have a suitable vehicle. In that case, any of the Jebel Akhdar hotels can organize a pick-up.
In the morning, we hiked the Village Walk, a beautiful trail crossing 3 picturesque villages and offering stunning views of the terrace plantations and the canyon. It took us around 2 hours including (many!) pictures stop to complete the return trip from Al Aqur to Al Shuraijah. Part of the return trail goes sharply upwards and I was out of breath for a while … I blame it on the thin high altitude air! But the views are worth every last breath!
OMAN ITINERARY – IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME:
Or if you pick Jebel Shams over Jebel Akhdar, consider hiking the Balcony Walk. This 3.5 km, mostly flat trail on the edge of Oman’s Grand Canyon is said to be the most beautiful easy hike in Oman.
OMAN – PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Below are a few practical pieces of information to help you organize your Oman itinerary.
– When is the best time to visit Oman? : Much like the rest of the Arabian peninsula, Oman is a dry and hot country. April to October are the warmest months, with temperatures climbing over 40 degrees Celcius. The best time to visit Oman is from November to March when the weather is warm and sunny during the day and slightly chilly at night. It even gets pretty cold in the mountains.
– Do I need a visa to enter Oman? Except for GCC nationals, all nationalities need a visa to enter Oman. More than 70 countries can apply for an online visa (including the EU countries, most of North and South America, Australia, China, Russia, etc). Until now (Dec 2019), it is still possible to obtain a visa on arrival, but that is supposed to stop and the information about it is unclear, therefore I would strongly suggest getting a visa before your arrival in Oman (online or through the local embassy).
– What is the best way to travel around Oman? Unfortunately, Oman is completely underdeveloped in terms of public transports and most places to visit are far away from each other. If you are planning to stay in Muscat and only do some day trips you can hire a car with a driver or take a taxi to most nearly places. For a longer trip across the country, the best is to rent a car, preferably a 4×4. Roads are overall in great condition, and it is easy to drive around.
– What should I wear in Oman? Oman is a traditional Muslim country so it is recommended for both gents and ladies to dress modestly. This being said, the Omani are very welcoming and accepting of others, and it is unlikely that you will get any kind of remarks or stare. In some wadis, it is recommended to swim in a short and a t-shirt (especially if there are many locals around). As always, ladies should wear a headscarf, and cover their legs and arms to visit a mosque.
– How can I get money in Oman? The local currency is the Omani Rial, a very strong currency (in Dec 2019 – 1 OMR = 2.6 USD). You can draw cash from ATMs in most cities, and pay with a credit card in most touristic locations. Keep some change for small roadside shops, souvenirs, tips, etc.
Here you go! I hope you now have all the information you need to prepare an itinerary through the Sultanate of Oman. Of course, there is so much more to see in this beautiful country, but I think if you visit all these places you will leave Oman with a sense of having seen a bit of everything that makes this country so unique. Do not hesitate to leave me a comment below or get in touch through Instagram should you have any questions. I will be more than happy to help!