Oman is celebrated not only for its cultural charm, but also for its history and architectural gems. Although a short visit will not do the country justice, if you only have a few days, focus on these must-see attractions.
In the Muscat Governorate, the Muttrah Souq is a traditional market on the Muttrah Corniche and comprises several small shops that sell Omani products, such as colourful fabric, traditional clothes, silver and gold jewellery, and souvenirs. It’s one of the must-visit attractions in Muscat and a great place to take pictures.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, built in 2001 in the Bawshar area of Muscat, is the most famous mosque in the country. With its large golden dome, minarets, arches, engraved walls, decorated interior, unique lamps and central crystal chandelier, the mosque is truly an architectural wonder.
The Musandam Governorate makes up the northernmost part of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the UAE. With the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf surrounding most of the area, it has many beautiful white-sand beaches. Khasab beach is one of the most popular stretches of sand in Musandam.
The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve lies in Ras Al Hadd in eastern Oman. It’s a natural reserve for endangered green turtles, with approximately 20,000 females returning here every year to lay their eggs. In addition to the marvellous beach, crystal waters and golden sands of Ras Al Jinz, you can enjoy watching the turtles digging their nests and laying eggs, and even see the small turtles hatch and head back to the sea. The reserve organises turtle viewings in the early-morning hours.
Wadi Bani Khalid is a beautiful slice of paradise. The wadi (valley) lies in the Ash Sharqiyah Region and has several water pools as well as a spring (ayn in Arabic) that flow inside the wadi all year long. Wadi Bani Khalid is also home to several villages and colourful plantations. With its spectacular landscape, including unique red rock formations, the wadi resembles a painting.
Oman has a unique heritage, and you can learn about and appreciate its ancient history and culture through its different forts and castles. Must-visit sites include Nakhal Fort, Nizwa Fort, Jibreen (Jabreen) Castle, Al Hazm Fort, Al Rustaq Fort and many others in every corner of Oman.
Salalah is a pretty city in the Dhofar Governorate in southern Oman. It’s well known for its annual Khareef Festival, taking place from July to September every year; it celebrates the monsoon season, allowing the landscape to take centre stage. If possible, spend a few days enjoying this splendid natural escape.
The towering Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) is part of the Al Hajar mountain range in the Ad Dakhiliyah Governorate and takes its name from the green areas and plantations dotting the area. The mountain has several hiking trails and farming villages.
The National Museum, which officially opened in December 2015 in Muscat, highlights Oman’s history and culture. Covering an area of 13,700sqm (147,466sqft), it comprises 14 permanent galleries – including Oman and the World, Maritime History and Splendours of Islam – all of which feature big electronic monitors that bring the exhibited crafts to life.
Jebel Shams (Mountain of Sun) is another impressive mountain in the Al Hajar mountain range. At 3,028m (9,934ft), it’s the highest point in the range and offers spectacular views of the sunrise, inspiring its name. The mountain also has great hiking trails.
Majlis Al Jinn is the second-largest cave chamber in the world. At approximately 1,380m (4,528ft) above sea level, you can only enter the cave through a few holes at the top. It’s the perfect destination for climbing and hiking adventures, and a great place for taking pictures.
Masirah Island, off the eastern coast of Oman, is the biggest island in the country. In the past, shipbuilding was an important industry here, and you can see a few abandoned ships in Ras Hilf, the island’s main town. Today, it’s primary industries include traditional textiles and fishing.
The distinguished Omani architecture of the Royal Opera House Muscat, which opened in 2011, resembles a palace. It makes its home in the Shatti Al Qurum area and is the main venue for musical arts in the capital city. In addition to Omani creations, it also hosts international performances.
Wadi Damm, also spelt Wadi Dhum or Wadi Dham, is another gorgeous valley. In the Ad Dhahirah Governorate, the wadi’s rocky formations are especially interesting, as their features are varied. Some of them are huge and rough, while others are smooth. Some have unique lines, while others have holes. It also has sparkling water pools, making the wadi a spectacular nature escape for outdoor enthusiasts.
If you love desert landscapes and dunes, then you should visit the largest continuous sand desert in the world. Rub’ al-Khali, or the Empty Quarter, lies in western Oman and covers parts of the UAE, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. With an area of 650,000sqkm (250,966sqmi), the desert has a unique biodiversity and is considered to be the world’s most oil-rich area.
The Bimmah Sinkhole, in eastern Oman near Muscat, is a natural swimming hole, created when the limestone eroded, eventually giving way. Amazingly beautiful, it’s known for its turquoise waters as well as its surrounding rocky formations, making it a top must-visit attraction.
Sur is the capital city of the Ash Sharqiyah Region in northeastern Oman. It has relaxing beaches and was an important destination for sailors historically. You’ll still find people here who build dhows (a type of Omani ship) by hand. It has a must-see corniche, two ancient forts and a natural turtle reserve, making it a perfect destination for those interested in Oman’s natural and architectural beauty.
The Ash Sharqiyah Region has some of the most impressive coastlines, especially Ras Al Jinz, the previously mentioned natural reserve for green turtles. It also has wadis such as Wadi Bani Khalid, which makes it a perfect destination for camping and star-gazing.
The capital city of Oman combines both natural and architectural beauty. It’s home to beautiful beaches such as Al Qurum and Al Bustan, the Royal Opera House Muscat and a range of accommodation options. Wherever you go in the city, you’ll find a unique activity to do or a scenic natural place to enjoy.