Oman is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the Middle East and arguably, across the entire globe. There are so many beautiful places to visit in Oman that it is difficult to shortlist the highlights!
Few people plan a trip to this culturally rich Arabian Gulf country which is a shame because Oman simply has so much to offer. Think traditional medinas, souks and desertscapes just like in Dubai but before all the tourists and rich expats arrived, and you are halfway to envisaging the undisturbed charm and beauty of Oman.
There are places to visit in Oman to suit travellers of all interests. Oman is an Arabian nights fairy-tale come to life and is one of the Middle East’s best kept secrets.
Oman is home to paradisaical desert wadis, oases and pristine sandy beaches perfect for hiking, swimming and relaxing. Similarly, Oman is filled with fascinating historical sites, crumbling ancient ruins and ghost towns, and a rich culture unlike anywhere else in the world.
The places to visit in Oman suggested in this guide will hopefully act as a little inspiration and food for thought for planning your own Oman itinerary.
Places to Visit in Oman:
- The abandoned city of Fanja
- Fins Beach
- Misfat al Abriyeen – A town frozen in time
- The crumbling ruins of Al Hamra ghost town
- Nizwa fort
- The charming seaside town of Sur
- The otherworldly Bimmah Sinkhole
- The scenic corniche at Muttrah
- Wadi Shab
- Wadi Bani Khalid
- The desertscapes of Wahiba Sands
- Jebel Shams
- Jebel Akhdar
- The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat
- Jabrin Fort
Places to Visit in Oman:
Why Travel to Oman?
Oman carries the tagline “beauty has an address” and that is certainly fitting. Some of the most stunning sites in the Middle East can be found here.
Not only does travel to Oman present visitors with incredible scenery, the fact that Oman lies off the typical tourist track means that when travellers venture to all of these beautiful places to visit in Oman, they are free from tourists, especially if travelling during the shoulder and off-peak seasons.
Where else in the world could you have pristine beaches and desert oases practically all to yourself, bar the occasional friendly local?
The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Oman
Gasp in Awe at the Natural Beauty of Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams, meaning “mountain of the sun” in Arabic is certainly one of the most breathtaking places to visit in Oman. Standing proud at 3009m, Jebel Shams is Oman’s tallest mountain. That said, the beauty of this place lies not in the mountain trails themselves, but in the incredible views that travellers can enjoy from the peak.
From atop Jebel Shams, travellers can peer into Wadi Ghul – a canyon featuring unique, jagged rock formations, vertical cliffs and flat top mesas and plateaus. Wadi Ghul has been affectionately nicknamed as “the Grand Canyon of the Middle East” as a consequence of its similarities with the midwestern American landmark.
It is not possible to hike down into Wadi Ghul as it is at the actual Grand Canyon, however, Jebel Shams is well worth a stop for the viewpoints, and trekking is possible in the nearby Hajar mountain range.
Pay Your Respects at The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat
With its white-washed walls and grand archways, Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the most spectacular structures in the Omani capital. This is the only mosque in Oman that allows non Muslim visitors to enter and even those who are not religious or spiritual will be blown away by the exquisite detail that has gone into the decor.
From the royal blue ceramic tiles that cover every inch of wall space, to the incredibly detailed, intricate hand woven carpets.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque once held the accolade of being home to the world’s largest chandelier, and the world’s longest carpet. That is, until the Emiratis and the Qataris came in, took measurements and made theirs slightly larger! Nonetheless, the mosque is quite a sight to see.
Hop from Rock to Rock at Wadi Bani Khalid
When it comes to enjoying a little relaxation beneath the Middle Eastern sun, Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the best places to visit in Oman. The paradisaical desert Wadi is famed across the country for its beauty.
Set against the backdrop of the Hajar mountains, the translucent cerulean waters of this desert oasis are perfect for swimming.
Wadi Bani Khalid is comprised of a network of natural pools tucked into the rocks. From the first spot, it’s possible to hike or swim through underground tunnels to other smaller “hidden” pools.
A few minutes drive from Wadi Bani Khalid there is also an ayn (natural spring) which is said to offer healing properties to those who decide to soak inside it.
Admire the Views from the Peak of Jebel Akhdar
Situated close to Jebel Shams, Jebel Akhdar (“the Green Mountain”) is a stunning spot nestled in the Hajar Mountains. Decorated by mother nature with lush greenery, dense woodlands and terrace plantations, Jebel Akhdar is a favourite place among locals for walking, enjoying a picnic, or simply pitching up a camping chair and soaking in the ambiance.
From Jebel Akhdar, temperatures are cooler, even during the summer months, making conditions perfect for trekking through the beautiful scenery. Many old villages, canyons, plateaus and hiking trails twist and turn through the area.
Since it’s possible to “free camp” anywhere in Oman, it’s possible to spend a day or two camping in the Hajar Mountains and enjoying the ambiance of this incredible natural scenery.
Learn About Sinbad at the Coastal Town of Sur
The coastal town of Sur in southeastern Oman offers a serene and tranquil ambiance that makes a nice change of pace for those that have been basing themselves in the sprawling Omani capital of Muscat.
Visitors to Sur can enjoy pleasant walks along the corniche, or enjoy a cup of Yemeni tea as they watch the sun set over the gulf of Oman.
Sur is famed for being the birthplace of the fictional Sinbad the Sailor. As travellers walk along the seafront promenades, they can stop and observe traditional wooden boats (dhows) being constructed.
Sur also makes a good base for those interested in visiting the Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve and viewing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Plunge into the Bimmah Sinkhole
Bimmah Sinkhole is arguably one of the most unique places to visit in Oman. Filled with dazzling turquoise water, the sinkhole awaits travellers in a relatively nondescript location in the middle of the hot, dusty Omani desert.
The sinkhole, as the name suggests, is quite literally a hole within the ground with pools of translucent waters and an intricate network of underwater caverns and tunnels inside. The pool is 20m deep and is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike.
There are scientific explanations for the sinkhole of course, but it is known locally as Hawaiyat Najm, translating to “fallen star” in Arabic. As the name suggests, local legend has it that Bimmah Sinkhole was formed when a star fell out of the sky and formed a hole in the ground.
Whether you believe the tale or not, it is a lot more interesting than the scientific explanation that it was formed by limestone erosion!
Race Over Sand Dunes at the Wahiba Sands
At the mention of travelling in the Middle East, one’s mind conjures up images of roaming through desertscapes and rolling sand dunes that extend as far as the eye can see. Likely, there are also camels and Bedouins involved in the image a la Lawrence of Arabia style.
That fantasy becomes a reality in the Omani desert of Wahiba Sands. The dunes here extend over a length of more than 180 km spanning from northern to southern Oman.
It’s possible to wild camp in the Wahiba Sands (though you should be an experienced 4 wheel drive driver and prepare thoroughly!) or opt to stay at a local Bedouin campsite.
There are few more magical Middle Eastern travel experiences than falling asleep beneath the twinkling stars in the heart of the desert.
Swim in the Clear Pools of Wadi Shab
With incredible opportunities for swimming and hiking, Wadi Shab is one of the most stunning sites in Oman. Comprised of a collection of pools filled with clear turquoise waters, the desert wadi is the perfect spot to relax and cool down from the intense Omani sun.
The hiking trails that lead around the area will capture the hearts of even the most reluctant trekkers. From the first pool at Wadi Shab, one can follow trails that lead through shallow rock pools, stunning cave networks and past incredible natural waterfalls.
Lush greenery grows around the waters of the wadi and picturesque pastel coloured flowers and wildlife make for a delightful ambiance.
Along with Fins Beach and the Bimmah Sinkhole, Wadi Shab is one of the best places to visit in Oman to break up the drive from Muscat to Sur. It’s easily accessible if you have your own transport. Alternatively, certain day tours depart from Muscat.
Relax at the Breathtaking Fins Beach
The gorgeous Fins Beach is situated close to the village of the same name, in the Sharqiya region of Oman. Accessible by a scenic coastal road that leads towards Sur, Fins beach feels reminiscent of a desert island paradise.
The perfect white sands and crystal clear blue waters project a very tranquil and relaxing ambiance. Those considering “free camping” during their Omani adventures will be pushed to find a place more beautiful than Fins.
Escape the Heat in Tropical Salalah
Situated in southwestern Oman, Salalah is one of the most unique places to visit in Oman. Salalah is home to a climate and atmosphere that is quite unlike the remainder of the country.
Though one may associate Oman with being a hot, desert country, Salalah boasts lush green rain forests, alluring oases and a tropical climate. Salalah is a popular travel destination for Omanis during the summer months, at which time the locals flock southwards to escape the intense heat of the rest of the country.
Historical and Unique Places to Visit in Oman
Wander Through the Eerie Ruins of Fanja
Fanja is a town situated some 25k from Muscat. The modern part of the town here is charming. Bordering the picturesque Wadi Fanja, it is home to traditional markets selling handicrafts and local produce from the nearby farmlands.
The most fascinating attraction of this area though is the abandoned ancient city of Fanja. Hidden away down an unsuspecting trail that leads high above the village that stands today, the ruins of Fanja were once an important site and defensive fortress in Omani history.
The old fortress still stands today, with rusting cannons scattered along the walls still seemingly protecting the area. To this day, some old people still reside within the crumbling houses here, reluctant and far too stubborn to move on from their hometown.
The town of Fanja isn’t completely forgotten though, Omanis still come here in the summer months during Eid celebrations. At this time, it is tradition to fire the ancient cannons and shoot guns into the air to celebrate.
Situated at the end of an unmarked desert road, it can be tricky to locate ancient Fanja. If you ask locals for advice, they will be sure to point you in the right direction.
Explore the Abandoned Streets of the Ghost Town of Al Hamra
As you drive through the Omani countryside, you are met with the crumbling remnants of many old towns that are are now abandoned and uninhabited.
From afar, it can be difficult to see which towns are occupied and which are not. That is, until you approach those towns up close and encounter the almost spooky desolate streets and abandoned houses with doors left ajar.
One of the most expansive of Oman’s abandoned towns is Al Hamra. Al Hamra situated in the Ad Dakhiliyah district of Oman, close to Nizwa and is certainly one of the most fascinating places to visit in Oman.
Al Hamra is incredibly well preserved, comprised of winding narrow passageways filled with mud brick houses. Al Hamra is seemingly frozen in time. Old city walls, gates and watchtowers still stand, as if still guarding the town from intruders from rival settlements.
Decades ago, Oman was a relatively poor country and people lived in these kind of mud brick houses. Once the oil was discovered and Oman transformed into a rich nation, people abandoned their mud villages and moved to Muscat for work, leaving many eerie settlements such as Al Hamra scattered throughout the countryside.
Learn the Gory History of Nizwa Fort
The Nizwa Fort is Oman’s most visited site and for good reason: This defensive structure provides an excellent insight into Omani history. The structure dates back as far as the 9th century, with the site being renovated by Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Yarubi in the 17th century.
Nizwa fort is far from your average crumbling fortress. There are many gruesome and innovative defense mechanisms scattered throughout the site that show what life was like in ancient Oman.
As travellers make their way around the fortress complex, they will stride over pitfalls covering tomb-raider style spike pits (now covered with perspex but I strode over them just to be sure!), gun-shooting windows, and appropriately named “murder holes” from which burning hot date juice was poured on enemies leaving them deceased but delightfully seasoned.
Enjoy a Sunset Stroll Along the Muttrah Corniche
Strolling along the Muttrah corniche, travellers feel transported back in time, or at the very least, as though they have been plonked down in the middle of an Aladdin inspired fairytale.
The promenade that borders the corniche leads past latticed buildings, intricately designed mosques with minarets that shimmer in different colours, and the tented canvases of traditional souks.
At one end of the corniche, the Muttrah fish market is a fascinating place to watch locals haggle in the early hours of the morning. On the other end, the Muttrah fortresses is worth the climb for excellent panoramas across old Muscat and the port.
The area is particularly beautiful in the evenings as the sun begins to set, and the lights of the buildings cast shadows across the jagged mountain ranges that border the city.
Fall in Love with Quaint Misfat Al Abriyeen
Nestled high in the mountains of Al Dhakhiyla, Misfat Al Abriyeen is a farming village that has resisted modernisation and retained its authentic historic roots.
The old houses here are perched almost precariously on top of cliffs and solid rocks. People in Misfat Al Abriyeen still live in traditional mud brick houses with palm roofs and ancient methods of farming and irrigation are still used in the area.
The farming terraces that surround the village cascade down the mountains like Southeast Asian rice paddies but instead, the farms here consist of palm trees that grow bananas, dates, pomegranates papayas and an array of other tropical fruits.
There is a pleasant walking trail that leads visitors through the narrow alleys and passageways of Misfat, past farmlands and beautiful gardens and providing incredible panoramas over the valley below. Just follow the signposts that sport the Omani yellow, green and red flag and lead you around one of the most beautiful places to visit in Oman.
Take a History Lesson at Jabrin Fort
Dating back to 1670, the well-preserved ruins of Jabrin fort possess a fascinating history and backstory. The fort was originally a castle, however defensive mechanisms and towers were added to the site retrospectively in order to transform it into a fortress once the then Imam Sultan of Oman (Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’arubi) decided to make Jabrin the capital of Oman instead of Nizwa.
Like the fortress at Nizwa, Jabrin fort is filled with aptly named “murder holes”, trap doors and spike pits in order to ward off any intruders. The complex has been transformed into a living museum and provides an interesting insight as to what life was like for an Omani Sultan centuries ago.
Jabrin fort contains expansive living quarters that were occupied by the Imam, his wife, and their consorts, in addition to a mosque, a Quran school, courtyards and prisons. This could well be the most impressive fortress in the Sultanate of Oman.
When to Travel to Oman
The majority of Oman has a dry, hot desert climate. Owing to its location in the heart of the Middle East, Oman remains relatively warm all year round. The winter months of November to February are among the most pleasant for visiting the beautiful places to visit in Oman on this list.
At this time, temperatures range between 25 to 30 degrees Celsius making conditions warm enough to enjoy the beaches and nature spots, without being overbearingly hot.
Summer in Oman often sees temperatures soar well above 40-45 degrees Celsius and being outside during the day is pretty much out of the question for the most part. The exception to this is Salalah whose tropical climate makes Summer the optimum time to visit.
Are you considering a trip to Oman? Have any further questions about these wonderful places to visit in Oman, solo female travel in Oman or Omani adventures in general? Let me know!
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