Cardamom-scented souks, wave after wave of rolling desert dunes and off-road rides through mountains; holidays to Oman are an astonishing Arabian adventure
Experience that red-hot haze over desert sands, dawn’s evocative call to prayer, a capital city filled with cream-coloured architecture and indigo skies home to the brightest of stars. As dusk falls, light twinkles over Oman’s most beautiful buildings – the marble and sandstone Grand Mosque, the world-famous Royal Opera House and the private residence of the Sultan’s Palace. Oman holidays are an extraordinary adventure.
Life here is quieter than elsewhere in the Middle East, steeped in old Arabian tradition and filled with the scent of sandalwood and rose. We’ve been to Oman and can tell you first-hand that the hotels are out of this world – extravagant spas, magazine-worthy pools and sublime service – and that the landscape gives you a true feel of Middle Eastern customs; men and women are dressed in dishdashas and abayas, souks are filled with spices and leather and Malabar hardwood dhows bob up and down in the water. There’s the taste of sugar cane, coconut and strong Arabian coffee, the fluttering eyelashes of desert camels and wild spinner dolphins gleefully playing off the Muscat coast. Lie back on damask cushions as you sail by traditional Omani boat over Gulf waters through those photogenic Musandam fjords, discover ancient fortresses and tombs in the cities of Nizwa and Bahla and get ready for an epic 4X4 drive into Bedouin desert.
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- Home to immense mountains, dramatic coasts and desert oases, you can experience completely diverse landscapes all in one country
- The preserved ancient architecture of palaces and forts make Oman an interesting alternative long-haul stop-over destination to Dubai and Abu Dhabi
- With stretches of largely untouched coastline and a number of decadent hotels to choose from, Oman is an excellent option for a luxury escape
Best time to visit Oman
The best months to visit Oman are March, April, September and October when the days are largely warm and dry, with temperatures averaging between 26 and 35°C. January to March is slightly cooler and you are more likely to experience occasional rainfall. During the summer months it becomes very hot and humid – so much so that many hotels close a number of their outdoor restaurants and bars.
Oman holiday highlights
Oman is a wealthy country where hospitality is outstanding, tradition is prized and heritage rich. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Muscat Opera House for a look at exotic Islamic architecture, and enjoy a haggle in the Muttrah Souk where you’ll find antiques, textiles and gold. If you want to swim among coral reefs and turtles, hike through cities high up in the mountains and walk along golden beaches where coconut and banana plantations fringe the coast. You’ve got a choice of forts, the most popular being Nizwa where you can climb to the top for fantastic city views and see lots of Bronze Age beehive-style tombs.
Around Jebel Akhbar and Al Hajar braver hikers can tackle vertical cliff drops and balcony walks in the spectacular Omani mountains, and rock climbers can end an amazing ascent with Oman’s first zip line. If you prefer to snorkel and sunbathe, you’ve a choice of beaches from Al Qurum in Muscat, one of the most beautiful and popular in Oman; and Bandar Jissah, a resort of golden sands, bright blue seas and coconut and banana plantations just outside of the capital city. Swim deep into turquoise waters in tropical-like wadis and head into the desert for a breathtaking adventure on rolling red dunes. Much of Oman is covered in desert known as the Empty Quarter while Wahiba Sands, just three hours drive from Muscat, has dune bashing and Arabian sunset feasts. Spend the day away from the city exploring undulating red and white dunes in a 4x4 or choose a night under the stars at an authentic Bedouin desert camp.
Separated by the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates, Musandam is perfect for those seeking even more adventure; rock climbing, canyoning, hiking, sea kayaking and scuba diving. Alternatively, opt for a more sedate experience with a cruise on a traditional dhow cruise around the stunning Musandam khors (fjords) and try to spot the bottlenose and spinner dolphins that frequent these waters. You can reach the capital city of Khasab by a flight from Muscat or by road from the United Arab Emirates.
Where is Oman?
On the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman shares borders with the United Arab Emirates to the north-west. The Musandam peninsula is an exclave separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates, which juts into the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
Hiring a car is the most convenient way to travel around Oman as public transport is limited. A car and driver itinerary is the best way to explore the mountain villages, wadis (valleys) and desert dunes. Our suggested itineraries include an experienced driver to navigate the steep mountain roads and take you into the Omani countryside for an enlightening cultural tour. Taxis are available in Muscat – they are orange and white – but are not metered, so make sure to fix the fare before you get in.
You’ll find both international and high street brands in lavish malls in Muscat but the real adventure lies in shopping in the traditional souks. Muttrah is the most famous of these, filled with a maze of tiny alleys with stalls selling everything from jewellery to wooden handicrafts and Arabian perfumes to decadently embellished textiles. In Nizwa and Salalah you’ll also find captivating souks, with the latter known for its famous Dhofari frankincense. And while the shopping malls may be filled with well-known brands, it’s the supermarkets that are a highlight, where you can pick up Yemeni honey, huge jars of dates, exotic spices and sandalwood soaps.