Welcome to a land of mighty mountains, wildlife-rich coastline, and lush leafy vales. Whether you’re a hiker, diver, or would-be camel rider, Oman has adventures aplenty…
On a long, hot afternoon, there’s nothing more refreshing than plunging into a wadi pool – its cool, clear water washing away the dust and heat of the day. Shaded by date palms and fruit trees, these natural oases are absolutely adored by Omanis, who flock to them for picnics, parties, and impromptu diving contests.
Ask around for recommendations; everyone has their favourites, and they’ll be glad to show you the way. Don’t be surprised if they offer to come along too: the best ones are notoriously hard to find.
Get a front-row ticket to Oman’s greatest wildlife spectacle: the nightly green turtle nesting on Ras Al Jinz beach. By the light of the moon, the turtles drag themselves from the waves to lay their eggs in the sand, as they have done here for millions of years.
Female turtles always return to nest on the same beach on which they were born, making the pilgrimage from hundreds of kilometres away. Watching this final chapter of their journey is spine-tingling stuff.
Beach access is strictly regulated, and visitors must be accompanied by a guide from the Ras Al Jinz visitor centre. Advance booking is essential.
The sand dunes of Masirah Island rise up from the sea like a golden mountain range, their soft peaks ever-shifting with the salty breeze. Away from the mainland, nature is king: swarthy camels patrol the dunes, while the beaches have been claimed by nesting green turtles.
Few visitors set foot on this lonely isle, but more fool them: Masirah is a fantastic hiking and wild camping spot. A light touch is essential, however: the landscape is pristine, and it’s your responsibility to help keep it that way.
All sheer-sided cliffs and razor-edge peaks, the Western Hajar mountains rip through Oman’s vast interior – a landscape that couldn’t feel further from those flat desert plains. Up here, you’ll find awesome hiking routes and heart-in-mouth viewpoints – especially atop Wadi Nakhr, dubbed the country’s ‘Grand Canyon’ for its vast, yawning chasm.
Millions of years ago, Oman’s lofty highlands were actually under water. Don’t believe it? Look closely at the limestone beneath your feet: it’s littered with the swirls and swells of tiny marine fossils, preserved for eternity in these magnificent mountains.
Closer to Dubai than it is to Muscat, the Musandam Peninsula is a tiny nugget of Omani territory, separated from the mainland by the UAE. It’s a short flight from Muscat, but well worth the effort: this mountainous coastline pokes out into the Strait of Hormuz – where inquisitive dolphins surf in the wake of fishing boats, pirouetting in the warm turquoise waves.
For now, it’s a blissfully crowd-free spectacle, best enjoyed from the upper deck of a wooden dhow boat. Many of these traditional vessels have been converted especially for dolphin watching, and also offer jaunts to quiet coves for snorkelling and beach barbecues.
You might think that the Wahiba Sands desert is inhospitable: who could possibly survive in this barren, sun-baked emptiness? But remarkably, the Wahiba wilderness is home to a handful of hardy Bedu communities – some of whom welcome visitors into their nomadic lives.
Enterprising Bedus have opened up modest safari-style camps, in tents woven from goat hair and palm leaves. You’ll spend the day exploring the sands in a hardy 4WD, before coming home to tasty campfire-cooked meals – followed by stargazing and storytelling, an age-old tradition.
Wadi Ghul – or ‘ghoul’ – is so-called for the mischievous jinns (spirits) that supposedly dwell in its walls. Not that you’d notice anything amiss as you wander between the fruit trees and rock formations of this steep-sided ravine – a long, leafy corridor carved into the Western Hajar mountains.
It’s a peaceful, plentiful spot – with mango trees nurtured by trickling streams, and goats grazing on wildflowers. Hike with a local guide, as the route can be disorientating; they’ll point out ancient rock paintings, too, and tell tales of those disobedient spectres.
Green turtles, whale sharks, huge manta rays… who knew you’d find such incredible marine life beneath Oman’s waves? Just off the Muscat coastline lie vast coral gardens – flourishing reefs sheltering sea horses, hawksbills, leopard sharks and more. If you prefer snorkelling, head to the Daymaniyat and Sawadi islands (north of the capital) to wallow in crystal-clear, wildlife-rich coves.
Oman’s dive centres are dotted all along the coast – and in addition to scuba and snorkel trips, many offer windsurfing, wakeboarding, kayaking and kite-surfing too.
Bigger than Belgium, the Netherlands and France combined, Rub' al Khali – the ‘Empty Quarter’ – certainly lives up to its name. This sun-scorched desert stretches from Yemen and Oman, all the way up into the UAE and Saudi Arabia, covering a whopping 650,000km².
Needless to say, a trip into Rub' al Khali is not to be taken lightly: even the Bedu are wary of this desolate terrain. But for those who were transfixed by the tales of Wilfred Thesiger – the first foreigner to cross the Saudi Arabian section – camel trips and 4WD tours can be arranged, and even overnight camping with experienced guides. It’s an unforgettable way to experience the majesty – and menace – of this incredible land.
British Airways flies directly from London to Muscat up to five times week. To find out more visit ba.com/muscat.
Just outside Muscat city centre, nestled against the backdrop of rugged mountains lie two distinct Shangri-La Resorts. Spread across Al Waha and Al Bandar hotel wings, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is a fully integrated destination resort. Its adjacent sister property, Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa, offers unapparelled levels of luxury and authentic cultural experiences.
Every inch of Al Waha was designed with families in mind – from the excellent kids’ club and children’s swimming pool, to the in-room PlayStations and action-packed watersports centre.
We love: That the restaurants are family-friendly too. Samba’s huge menu will please even the pickiest eater, while Surf Cafe – with its computers and smoothies – is a popular hang-out for teens.
In true Omani style, this five-star hotel is renowned for its hospitality and warm welcome. It’s the perfect couples’ retreat, with romantic restaurants aplenty – such as Bait Al Bahr, which serves fresh seafood just a few steps from the beach – and the fabulous CHI, The Spa, which boasts a Turkish hammam as well as spa treatments galore.
We love: That all rooms have balconies, overlooking either the gardens or the beach.
Perched on a clifftop, Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa offers a higher level of service, upscale amenities and luxury privileges, including complimentary minibar, afternoon tea, and pre-dinner drinks to the most discerning of travellers. With butler service, a glorious infinity pool, and acres of pretty gardens overlooking the sea, it’s like staying in your very own Arabian castle.
We love: Relaxing with a lavish ‘Omani Honey Heaven’ treatment at the new Hareer Spa by L’OCCITANE – a softening scrub and deep massage using local honey.