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Ahh, the Sultanate of Oman. Just the name of this country transports you to an exotic ancient place full of jewels, deserts, souk markets, and Sinbad-like characters.
The country is reveling in history, ancient traditions, stunning mosques, and a deep connection with nature. As more and more people looking to travel off the beaten path, Oman is gaining popularity amongst travelers.
And for good reason. Not only is Oman a very safe country to travel in, but there are tons of things to do in Oman, from exploring mountains, canyons, beaches, wildlife, history, and architecture.
But if you’re not sure what top attractions in Oman to add to your itinerary, then don’t sweat (save that for Oman!). In this guide, we’ve listed everything you’ll want to do in Oman plus a few hidden gems.
Top Things to Do in Oman
Ready to explore the Middle East? Then go and pack your bags! It’s time to show you the top things to do in Oman!
1. Discover the wildlife – especially nesting sea turtles
One of the highlights of any trip to Oman is to admire the green turtles nesting on the beach and making their way back to the sea just before sunrise.
Their effort to find the perfect spot to lay their eggs and then slide back to the sea is admirable. They are really not meant to be on land. And if you are lucky you could even spot babies hatching and trying to make it to the ocean.
The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve offers this experience every morning. Book in advance as it is a nature reserve and access is limited.
Other wildlife activities include snorkeling or scuba diving in the Daymaniyat islands or chasing the elusive Arabian leopard. You can also see dolphins in their natural habitat off the shores of Muscat.
2. Admire the Stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Built between 1995 and 2011, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a breathtaking piece of Islamic architecture. Located in the flat area of Muscat the building, its garden, and 5 minarets stand out in the landscape.
You can explore the outside with the long corridors full of mosaics and arches, or admire the decor of the main prayer room with the 21-ton hand-woven carpet. It is also home to a magnificent chandelier: 14 meters in height, 8 meters in diameter, 1122 light bulbs, and 600,000 crystals!
Another jewel of Omani architecture and technical mastery is the Muscat Opera House with its wooden decor and state-of-the-art sound setup.
3. Learn About The History of Oman at Nizwa fort
Selecting the best fort in Oman is not so easy. There are many and several of them are similar.
One of the most famous is the Nizwa fort and castle. You can even climb to the top of the 34-meter-high tower for great views of the city. The Souq around the castle is a local meeting point making the visit interesting on many levels.
Built at the beginning of the 17th century, it took 12 years to complete. The Omani government does a great job of restoring and maintaining it. Most rooms have displays showing visitors how people used to live and how the fort was protected.
4. Visit Unesco World Heritage sites in Oman
The Sultanate of Oman has 4 sites on the Unesco World Heritage List (as of 2016). The most famous is the Aflaj irrigation system, which can be seen in many old villages.
Other fascinating sites are the necropolises of Bat and Al-Ayn. At Ay-Ayn, the beehive tombs are aligned on a ridge with amazing scenery. Built by nomads, they are evidence of life during the Bronze Age in the Omani region.
5. Play on The Oman Beaches
Oman has a great variety of beaches: the classic flat stretches of sand, the coves between mountains, and others surrounded by desert.
North of Muscat, Al-Sawadi beach is covered with shells. And at low tide, you can cross to the Sawadi fort located on an island. It is a favorite for locals on the weekend.
6. Explore The Mountains and Oman’s Grand Canyon
But more than its beaches, Oman is famous for its mountains, especially the areas of Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain) and Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman and part of the Al Hajar Mountain Range.
The latest is a top destination for tourists as it is home to Oman’s Grand Canyon.
The deep rift, next to the 3000-meter high mountains, has vertical cliffs dropping over 1000 meters. A hike on a balcony walk is definitively not for travelers with vertigo.
7. Swim in the Wadis of Oman
Another one of the most famous things to do in Oman is to go deep into the wadis. Wadis are like an oasis in the desert. They are a valley or gorge that is often dry, except for the rainy season when they are full of glistening rivers and waterfalls you can swim in.
It’s accessed by a 45-minute hike and is only accessible on foot. Soon, you’ll find the valley gets narrow and here you’ll find the glistening water that you can swim in. You’ll find a cave with a waterfall, whilst being surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs.
You’ll have to do some walking and climbing over boulders, but that’s all part of the adventure. The turquoise waters contrast with the white of the cliffs and rocks and its a nature spot you’ll never forget.
8. Explore The Deserts of Oman
Considering its location on earth, most of Oman is covered by desert, the largest one being the Empty Quarter.
The most visited one, however, is Wahiba Sands. Located only 3 hours away from the capital city, its longitudinal sand dunes cover 180km of land from North to South. Permanent camps have been set up for tourism but wild camping is also permitted if you feel more adventurous. As always sand dunes offer wonderful sunrises and sunsets.
As you can see, you will be amazed every day on a trip to Oman.
9. Relax on the Mutrah Corniche
The Muttrah Corniche is a stunning promenade in Muttrah and one of the most popular places to visit in Oman. It stretches along the harbor and has many stunning gardens, water features and fountains, artistic sculptures, and incredibly scenic views of the city.
If you’re looking for more relaxing things to do in Oman or free things to do in Oman, then wandering along the Muttrah Corniche has to be one of the best.
Pack a picnic and enjoy the sunset from this pristine spot.
10. Get Lost in Mutrah Souq Market
You cannot visit the Middle East without venturing into a souk market. These are centuries-old, traditional markets selling everything from clothing, scarves, jewelry, spices, and more.
The Mutrah Souq is one of the longest-running and most traditional bazaars in Oman. It has an old-fashioned interior and sells everything local and antique.
This is the best place to pick up souvenirs to take home. If you’re not sure what things to buy in Oman, I highly recommend picking up some gold or silver jewelry since these metals are found here, it’s slightly cheaper than buying in the west.
Or, pick up some incense. Frankincense is going to be the aroma you smell the most on your trip, so take some home to remember it by!
11. Explore the Capital City of Muscat
If you’re visiting Oman, the likelihood is that you will venture into its bustling capital city at some point. Don’t use it as a gateway, spend some time exploring the city and checking out the gorgeous architecture and culture here.
Since it’s the capital, it’s the most populated city in Oman and a great place to immerse yourself in the culture. The city is packed with bazaars and souks, plus it’s on the coast so you’ll find some of the best seafood in the country here.
One of the top things to do in Muscat is to check out the Royal Opera House Muscat, which is a stunning example of Islamic-Italianate architecture. The complex sits right by the water and has a concert theater and gardens.
12. Take a Musandam Fjords Dhow Cruise
The Musandam Fjords is a stunning area of natural beauty that lies off the coast of Oman. The mountainous Omani peninsula is separated from Oman by the UAE, but it still remains part of Oman’s territory.
Its coastline resembles a fjordlike inlet which is known as khors in Arabic. It’s possible to see dolphins and other marine life in the waters here, and it’s a popular place to go snorkeling and enjoy some water sports.
Because of its location, it’s only accessible by boat trip. You’ll get to board a local ‘dhow’ boat, which sails around the stunning vistas and waters.
13. Check Out The Empty Quarter
Although the name sounds ominous, the Empty Quarter is actually a top thing to see in Oman. Otherwise known as Rub al Khali, which is its name in Arabic, is an expansive sea of desert that stretches across the Arabian peninsula, through Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the UAE – needless to say, it’s pretty huge.
In fact, it’s the largest uninterrupted stretch of desert in the world.
The desert has been featured in many Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars, so you can pack your pretend lightsabers and live out your sci-fi fantasies here.
The desert is sparse in life, and only a few nomadic tribes travel across the harsh environment. But if you want to, you can even choose to camp in the desert!
Tips for Visiting Oman
Before you start booking your attractions in Oman and planning your itinerary, we have just a few words of advice before you visit:
- Oman is hot, all year round. Make sure you wear lose fitting clothing and drink plenty of water.
- Oman is a deeply religious Arabic country and therefore it’s quite conservative. Put the hot pants and crop tops away for this trip. Dress conservatively and have your knees and shoulders covered.
- You do not need to wear a headscarf as a woman, but pack a headscarf with you as you’ll need to wear one to enter places of worship.
- Alcohol is only usually found in hotels and resorts, but don’t go crazy on the booze. They are not fond of alcohol so won’t appreciate you slurring how much you love them.
Before You Go
So there you have it, those are the top things to do in Oman, and as you can see, there’s quite a big selection of amazing attractions!
Oman is full of history, rich culture, and some incredible places to visit.
But before you go, make sure you have your accommodation booked in advance. There is not a huge selection of hostels, apartments, and hostels, so make sure you are well prepared to make sure you have somewhere to stay.
Looking for more destinations in the Middle East? Caroline recently traveled to Jordan and loved it. You can find all her Jordan travel tips here.