Oman is a charming Arabian Gulf destination that offers a glimpse into the past with serene coastlines, mudbrick villages, date plantations, and rugged mountains. It also has vast deserts and bustling cities like Muscat, Salalah, and Sohar. Check out our list of top things to do in Oman.
This article is inspired by our Rough Guide to Oman — your essential guide for travelling in Oman.
Ras al Jinz, situated 17km from Ras al Hadd, is Oman's most important turtle-nesting beach, where thousands of magnificent green turtles visit every year to lay their eggs in the sand. The smart, modern visitor centre is the starting point for your visit, where you'll wait for a guide to scan the beach, visit the informative museum, and sometimes see newborn turtles.
After sunset, you'll walk across the sands in the darkness with your guide to the edge of the waves to see ghostly silhouettes of green turtles emerging from the surf to lay eggs. This natural cycle is a magical experience that reveals the beauty of this ancient tradition that has been in existence for over two hundred million years.
Located in the Ghubrah suburb of Muscat, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a stunning contemporary Islamic architectural masterpiece. The mosque opened in 2001 and is the only one in Oman open to non-Muslims. It is a favourite for locals and first-time travellers to Oman.
It can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers in two prayer halls and the surrounding courtyard. The mosque has a walled compound with five minarets, four at the corners and one larger in the middle of the northern wall. The mosque's design features white and red-brown marble, with nods to traditional Egyptian, Omani, and Persian styles. Its latticed golden dome over the central prayer hall is a unique and impressive feature.
Muscat’s Muttrah Souk is a labyrinth of commercial activity. You'll find here ceramics, jewellery and camel-themed souvenirs. The best buys are butter-soft llama wool pashminas, leatherware and exquisite gold jewellery.
Most stalls are open to bartering, but there’s less wiggle-room on jewellery (which is sold by weight). If you’re a haggling novice, start with an offer of around 40–50 per cent of the vendor’s opening price, and aim to meet somewhere in the middle.
Take a dhow cruise through Musandam’s most spectacular khor (fjord), keeping an eye out for pods of frolicking dolphins. Khor ash Sham stretches for some 16km in total. It is hemmed in between two high lines of mountains, the bareness of the craggy surrounding rocks offering a surreal contrast with the invitingly blue waters of the khor itself.
A string of remote hamlets dots the shoreline, accessible only by boat; each is home to just ten or so families. All water has to be shipped in by boat, while children must commute to school in Khasab.
The province of Dhofar, located on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, is separated from the rest of Oman by a vast desert and has a distinct culture and history as the source of the legendary frankincense trade. Its centrepiece is the laidback city of Salalah, which offers a tropical twist to Oman with its endless white-sand beaches, coconut and banana palms, and pastel-painted houses.
Especially during the annual khareef from June to August/early September, when the rains of the southeast monsoon turn the area into a fecund riot of misty green. While rain might be overrated by most visitors from outside the region, the magical explosion of green, seasonal waterfalls and streams make up for it.
To reach the tombs in Al Ayn village, visitors need to walk for about 10 minutes from the road. Although there is no clear path, they can cross the wadi bed and climb up a track that is roughly opposite the big mosque at the entrance of the village. Al Ayn is situated 37km east of Bat and is renowned for its impressive Bronze Age necropolises.
The tombs are located on a narrow ridgetop that offers a stunning view of Jebel Misht, one of Oman's biggest geological wonders. With a total of 21 well-preserved tombs, the best time to visit is in the late afternoon to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Sur, located on a miniature island surrounded by a tranquil lagoon, is considered the most attractive town in Sharqiya, and is rich in history as a former bustling port and trading centre.
Visitors can explore the town centre's vibrant souk and seafront corniche, which stretches for 1km towards the old harbour that houses the dhow-building yard and a trio of watchtowers, before reaching the charming village of Ayjah. This beautiful area is well worth a visit and is even a great place for wild camping.
Hiking in the Western Hajar is one of the best things to do in Oman. The Western Hajar provides limitless trekking opportunities with stunning mountain views and established trail networks recognized by the Oman government.
Despite the marked routes, it's advisable to have a specialized guide due to the inhospitable terrain. You'll also want to carry sufficient water, and warm clothing at all times due to sudden weather changes in high altitudes.
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Frankincense is a valuable natural product in Oman with a distinct and strong aroma that can be found in many places, from homes and souks to office buildings and hotels. The resin is obtained from the Boswellia sacra tree, which grows in the mountainous areas around Salalah. These short and rugged trees are often found growing straight out of solid rock in inhospitable conditions.
Frankincense is a crucial part of traditional Omani life, used for perfuming clothes, hair, and beards, as well as in perfumes and Omani bukhoor. Although Somalia is now the main producer of frankincense, Omani frankincense is widely considered to be the finest.
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The Saiq Plateau is a stunning natural attraction located approximately 32km away from Birkat al Mawz along a winding highway. The road leading up to the plateau dramatically hairpins upwards into the hills, offering magnificent views of the rocky mountainside dotted with hardy shrubs and trees, such as wild olive and juniper.
The mountains are a testament to geology, comprising large slabs of limestone tilted sideways over millions of years to form the evenly sloping mountainsides and right-angle summits visible today. The changing light casts a unique sere, green-grey hue on the mountains, contrasting beautifully with the reddish ophiolite hills below. Visitors can stop at a series of viewpoints to take in the increasingly expansive views.
Jabrin Fort, located in the small town of Jabrin, Oman, is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in the country's rich history and culture. This picturesque fort is nestled amidst palm trees and surrounded by high walls and a gravel courtyard, providing visitors with a unique and immersive experience.
Inside, the labyrinthine interior is packed with dozens of little rooms around a pair of courtyards, each with its own story to tell. The fort also features a small mosque and a deep falaj that flows through the building, providing visitors with a glimpse into the ancient irrigation system that was once used in Oman.
Misfat Al Abryeen is a charming village in Oman known for its beautiful ochre-colored stone buildings that resemble a medieval Italian hill village. Despite its small size, the village boasts a maze of twisting alleys, covered passages, and steps leading to the falaj, a man-made irrigation system surrounded by lush vegetation. Visitors can also climb the rocky hillside to reach a picturesque ruined watchtower that's said to be over a thousand years old.
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Diving in Oman is a must-try activity, with some of the region’s best diving spots available. The coastal waters remain unspoilt, with fine coral gardens and spectacularly large marine life. Muscat has an extensive list of dive centres, offering a range of dives, PADI courses, snorkelling trips, and boat cruises.
Daymaniyat Islands, Musandam, and Mirbat are some of the top diving destinations in Oman, each with their own unique offerings for divers and snorkelers. Diving is one of the best things to do in Oman.
Al Batinah's Rustaq Loop is a must-visit attraction that offers an exceptional driving experience through Oman's picturesque mountains. The loop consists of three magnificent castles - Nakhal, Rustaq, and Al Hazm - along with some minor sights en route. While the castles at Rustaq and Al Hazm have been renovated to their former glory, Rustaq Fort remains empty.
However, the Nakhal and Al Hazm forts feature museum-style exhibits and interior decor that provide a glimpse into the lives of their former inhabitants. The loop is easily accessible via Highway 13, a fast and usually traffic-free road.
Oman’s most historic town, with a picture-perfect huddle of souks and sand-coloured buildings clustered around one of the country’s mightiest forts. Nizwa, a historic city in Oman's interior, served as a crucial hub for rulers for over a thousand years. Despite its reputation for conservatism, it has become a welcoming destination for travellers exploring the Western Hajar region.
The old town features a stunning restored fort, mosque, and traditional souqs, exuding a village-like atmosphere, particularly after dark. Visitors can witness the Friday Goat Market and see Bedu women and older men in traditional dress. Visiting here is one of the best things to do in Oman.
West of Muscat is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert. It extends across the Arabian Peninsula and is a tourism hub. It is covering not only parts of Oman but neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.
Rub’ Al Khali (the ‘Empty Quarter’) is an estimated 583,000 square kilometres of uninhabited dunes. Photographers are spellbound by the play of light on these rippling hillocks of sand, solitude-seekers venture here to camp under the stars. Additionally, it’s increasingly a destination for adventure travel.
Musandam's mountainous interior offers some of Oman's wildest and most spectacular landscapes, including the Ru’us al Jebel or “Peaks of the Mountains”. The highest peak is Jebel Harim, at 2087m, which offers breathtaking views of Khasab and Dibba.
Visitors can explore the mountains on a half or full-day mountain safari with a local driver aboard a 4WD. Half-day safaris usually take in Wadi Khasab, Khor an Najd, Sal al A’la, A’Saye and Jebel Harim, while full-day trips continue beyond Jebel Harim to the Rawdah Bowl. The mountains are studded with fossils of ancient submarine creatures, and the view from the top is simply magnificent.
Find more accommodation options to stay around Jebel Shams
The newly tarmacked highway north of Hasik offers some of Dhofar's most spectacular scenic highlights. Beyond a police checkpoint, the road is sandwiched between the white sand beach and towering limestone cliffs sculpted smooth by wind and rain.
The highway ascends steeply to the top of the plateau, offering sweeping Grand Canyon-like views. Continuing north, the highway heads inland through the desert for the 150km drive to Sawqirah. Wadi Ash Shuwaymiyah, one of Oman's remotest and most memorable sights, is lined with towering white limestone cliffs, rock pools, and palm groves, and offers plenty of camping spots and a chance to spot wildlife.
Shatti al Qurum, located west of Qurum Heights, boasts a beautiful stretch of golden sand that extends towards the suburb of Hayy as Saruj and offers views of the rocky Fahal Island. For those looking to sunbathe, the areas around the InterContinental and Grand Hyatt hotels provide a relatively hassle-free experience.
However, it is worth noting that female visitors may receive unwanted attention elsewhere on the beach. At the eastern end of the beach sits the Crowne Plaza hotel atop a small rocky outcrop, while the Qurum Nature Reserve south of the beach protects a rare stretch of coastal mangrove forest.
The Bimmah Sinkhole is a natural wonder located in the Al Sharqiyah region of Oman that is well worth a visit. This stunning geological formation was created by the collapse of a limestone cavern, leaving behind a crystal-clear turquoise pool that is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
With its picturesque setting and clear waters, the Bimmah Sinkhole offers a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors to Oman.
The Wahiba Sands, also known as Sharqiya Sands, is a vast desert region located in Oman and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. It offers a unique opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of the Omani landscape and explore its vast sand dunes, some of which reach up to 200 meters high.
Visitors can take part in various activities such as camel riding, sandboarding, and quad biking. The desert also provides a fantastic stargazing experience, with the clear night sky offering an unforgettable view of the stars. This is a fantastic place to catch the sun in the winter.
Find accommodation options to stay at the Wahiba Sands
Wadi Bani Khalid is a beautiful desert oasis that offers a refreshing contrast to the harsh desert landscape of Oman. With its crystal clear turquoise pools and lush palm trees, it's a great place to relax and cool off from the heat of the desert.
Visitors can also take a dip in the natural pools and explore the surrounding rocky terrain, including hidden caves and waterfalls. Additionally, the wadi is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including birds, fish, and various reptiles.
This list could truly go on. Oman is one of the most beautiful places in the world and is well worth a visit. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out the Rough Guide to Oman.
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