When you think of visiting the Middle East, thoughts usually turn to destinations like the Dubai or Abu Dhabi (in the U.A.E.), Petra (in Jordan) or even the pyramids of Egypt but one gem that’s often overlooked in Oman!
See, when it comes to sights to see – particularly on the natural front – Oman isn’t like a lot of Middle Eastern countries and boasts some amazing natural wonders you probably wouldn’t expect to find here. As it’s the Middle East, I expected deserts and lots of Arabesque archtiecture but Oman is about so much more than that (no exaggeration here)!But rather than rambling on about why this is the case, let me show you with the 11 places you have to visit in Oman!
1.) Wadi Nakhr Gorge
Lovingly known as the Grand Canyon of Oman, Wadi Nakhr is a truly monumental site and spans part of Jebel Shams which is the tallest mountain in the country. This oval shaped canyon has depths of up to 1km and the Balcony Walk offers the best views of the jaw-dropping landscape. Guided tours and hikes are available of this natural wonder and it is an unmissable site during your visit to Oman.
2.) Bahla Fort
Located in the northern part of Bahla in central Oman, the Bahla Fort is one of the best-preserved examples of a military structure in the country. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this expansive fort has been recently restored and stands as a testament to the creativity of the Banu Nebhan Tribe. Today the fort stands in fantastic condition and you can walk through the various passageways, on the battlements and learn about the history of this defensive structure.
3.) Musandam Fjords
Many people would not expect to find huge mountains and strikingly beautiful Fjords in Oman but the Musandam Peninsula is bursting with this type of landscape. To be honest, even before I found out about all the other sights to see in Oman, it was photos of these fjords that made me seriously start considering Oman as a destination to visit! Who would expect this here, eh?
Throughout the region, you can find snaking paths that wind through the mountains the run past picture perfect bodies of water. Amazing (and quite luxurious) boat cruises of several of the lakes are available here, and it is even possible to swim in some of the waters – if you are truly lucky, you may even be able to spot a Dolphin! (I know, right? A dolphin in Oman?! 😲)
Located on the north eastern edge of the country and facing the Gulf of Oman, Muscat is a hugely popular city and has a great deal to offer. Declared the Arab city of culture in 2012, Muscat has a fantastic combination of historic building combined with a touch of modernism. Here you can find a host of interesting museums, the bustling Muttrah Souq, and the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
5.) Ras-al-Jinz Beach
This amazing stretch of coast is covered with picture perfect golden sands and backed by rugged barren outcrops. Aside from the wonderful scenery, this beach is particularly renowned for its population of turtles that hatch their eggs here. (Another thing I really didn’t expect to find in Oman). Green Sea Turtles annually return to Ras-Al-Jinz between June and August and this natural phenomenon is a truly memorable experience to witness.
6.) Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
As the only mosque open to non-muslims, the Grand Mosque is an absolute must if you wish to gain an insight into the country’s culture and religion. Clad in smooth white marble, the structure stands out against the backdrop of the Hajar mountains. Inside the mosque, the decoration is intricate and quite unbelievable, and every inch of the interior is a sight to behold and looks like its covered in its entirety with traditional Arabic and Islamic artwork.
7.) Muttrah Corniche
Located to the east of Muscat, Muttrah is a beautiful town that retains much of its 19th-century colonial charm. The seafront or Corniche at Muttrah is a charming part of the town and offers a different side of this country. Here you can stroll along the water’s edge, walk through the busy Souq, climb to the top of the watchtower for views of the town, or simply find a cafe or restaurant to relax and have a drink.
8.) Wahiba Desert
When people think of Arabia, they picture scorching golden sand dunes that rise and fall in dramatic patterns – this is exactly the type of landscape you can see in the Wahiba Desert. For those that were looking for deserts (I almost spelt that as desserts – my mind never seems to stray too far away from food 😆) – this is the place for you!
The dunes here can reach up to 150m in height and provide some unbelievable photographic opportunities (so, y’know – don’t forget that camera). Camping tours and overnight stays in the beautiful region of Oman are a great way to get a truly authentic Arabian experience.
9.) Frankincense Trail
In the southern region of Oman, you can find in abundance the prized commodity of Frankincense… though if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure what Frankincense is used for these days. Nonetheless, the original trade route for Frankincense is preserved today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, starting at Wadi Dawkah.
Here you will find an expansive forest with over 5000 Frankincense trees – the sight of which is absolutely incredible. Traveling through the countryside, the trail continues until its end at Khor Rouri which contains a series of ancient temples and wells. Traversing this ancient route will provide a fantastic history lesson and give you insight into this much-sought after plant.
(*Just googled it now and turns out, it’s still a very popular product for perfumes and incense – even your fancy Diptyque stuff is made of this).
10.) Nizwa City
As the former capital of Oman, Nizwa is packed full of culture, history and interesting sights. Surrounded by mountains and desert, Nizwa is a true oasis and is a far cry from the bustling coastal cities of Oman. Notable sites include the ancient Nizwa Fort, the weekly livestock market, and the Al Qala’a Mosque.
11.) Jabrin Castle
Located fairly centrally in Oman and approximately 1.5 hours to the west of Muscat, Jabrin Castle is often considered to be the most beautiful in the country. Created by Sultan Bil’arab Bin, the castle reflects his love of poetry and the arts and this is seen through its lavish decoration and design. Within the walls of the castle, you can still see some Arabic artwork, verses from the Koran and various quotes of poetry.
And there you have it! Now do you see why I said how surprising some of the amazing sights in Oman are? 😃