Easily the most rewarding attraction in Al Batinah is the so-called Rustaq Loop, a fine day’s drive combining magnificent mountain scenery with three of Oman’s finest castles – at Nakhal, Rustaq and Al Hazm. There are also a few other minor sights en route, while the surrounding mountains offer endless possibilities for off-road driving through spectacular wadis. Unfortunately, the loop has (temporarily, at least) lost some of its lustre thanks to the closure for renovation of the castles at Rustaq and Al Hazm. Hopefully these will have been restored to working order by sometime in 2012, although as with all Omani restoration projects, it’s best not to hold one’s breath.

The loop is strung out along single-carriageway Highway 13, a fast, and usually fairly traffic-free (except between Barka and Nakhal) stretch of road. The only accommodation on the loop itself is a single, rather unappealing option at Rustaq, although the trip can easily be done in a day from either Barka, Seeb or even Muscat.

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