The Sultanate of Oman. Just the name of this country transports you to an exotic ancient place full of jewels and Sinbad-like characters.
But Oman is also an upcoming travel destination that will give you so much variety of experiences: mountains, canyon, beaches, wildlife, history, and architecture. Discover some of the top places and things to do in Oman and pack your bags!
1. The wildlife
One of the highlights of any trip to Oman is to admire the turtles nesting on the beach and making their way back to the sea just before sunrise.
Their effort to find the perfect spot to lay their eggs and then sliding back to the sea is admirable. They are really not meant to be on land. And if you are lucky you could even spot babies hatching and trying to make it to the ocean.close
The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve offers this experience every morning. Book in advance as it is a nature reserve and access is limited.
Other wildlife activities include snorkeling in the Daymaniyat islands or chasing the elusive Arabian leopard.
2. The architecture
Built between 1995 and 2011, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a breathtaking piece of Islamic architecture. Located in the flat area of Muscat the building, its garden and 5 minarets stands out in the landscape.
You can explore the outside with the long corridors full of mosaics and arches, or admire the decor of the main prayer room with the 21-ton hand woven carpet. It is also home to a magnificent chandelier: 14 meters in height, 8 meters in diameter, 1122 light bulbs and 600,000 crystals!
Another jewel of Omani architecture and technical mastery is the Muscat Opera House with its wooden decor and state of the art sound set up.
3. The history
Selecting the best fort in Oman is not so easy. There are many and several of them are similar.
One of the most famous is the Nizwa fort and castle. You can even climb to the top of the 34-meter high tower for great views of the city. The Souq around the castle is a local meeting point making the visit interesting on many levels.
Built at the beginning of the 17th century, it took 12 years to complete. The Omani government does a great job at restoring and maintaining it. Most rooms have displays showing visitors how people used to live and how the fort was protected.
4. Unesco World Heritage sites
The Sultanate of Oman has 4 sites on the Unesco World Heritage List (as of 2016). The most famous is the Aflaj irrigation systems which can be seen in many old villages.
Other fascinating sites are the necropolises of Bat and Al-Ayn. At Ay-Ayn, the beehive tombs are aligned on a ridge with amazing scenery. Built by nomads, they are evidence of life during the Bronze Age in the Omani region.
5. The beaches
Oman has a great variety of beaches: the classic flat stretches of sand, the coves between mountains and others surrounded by desert.
North of Muscat, Al-Sawadi beach is covered with shells. And at low tide you can cross to the Sawadi fort located on an island. It is a favorite for locals in the weekend.
6. The mountains and Oman’s Grand Canyon
But more than its beaches, Oman is famous for its mountains, especially the areas of Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams.
The latest is a top destination for visitors as it is home to Oman’s Grand Canyon. The deep rift, next to the 3000-meter high mountains, has vertical cliffs dropping over 1000 meters. A hike on a balcony walk is definitively not for travelers with vertigo.
7. The wadis
Another one of the best things to do in Oman is to go deep into the wadis.
The most famous are Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid. The latest is easier to access. The first pools are within 10 min of easy walking and another 10 minutes of walking and climbing over boulders will take you to a swimming area where the turquoise waters contrast with the white of the cliffs and rocks.
8. The deserts
Considering its location on earth, most of Oman is covered by desert, the largest one being the Empty Quarter.
The most visited one, however, is Wahiba Sands. Located only 3 hours away from the capital city, its longitudinal sand dunes cover 180km of lands North to South. Permanent camps have been set up for visitors but wild camping is also permitted if you feel more adventurous. As always sand dunes offer wonderful sunrises and sunsets.
As you can see, you will be amazed every day on a trip to Oman.