Oman is one of the most beautiful countries on the Arabian Peninsula. With stark mountain peaks meeting the Indian Ocean, lush plantations, wadis (valleys) dissecting the mountain ranges and small villages dotted throughout, there is an abundance of natural beauty to explore in the Sultanate. If you’re staying in the capital Muscat, there are plenty of natural sights and attractions within easy reach.
Lying off the coast, 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Muscat, the nine Daymaniyat Islands offer a snorkelling and scuba diving paradise. Colourful reef fish, turtles and even whale sharks can be spotted and the environment is pristine due to the relative difficulty of getting there. The best way to enjoy the islands is to go on an organised snorkelling or diving trip, with permits and gear provided.
Most visitors stop off at the picture-perfect Nakhl Fort, but they are often missing out on the true treasure beyond. Just down a track, past palm plantations, lies the small village of A’Thowrah. Its main attractions are the hot springs that warm the meandering stream, offering plenty of rock pools for paddling. As a perfect spot for a picnic, at weekends this place is teeming with local families playing music and barbecuing, while kids catch the small fish and frogs in the stream.
With a beach of shells, great views, clear sea and an island dotted with ancient watchtowers, there’s no better spot to bring a family than Sawadi Beach. Less than an hour’s drive from Muscat, the beach is a great location for a day trip or even a whole weekend at the nearby beach resort. Plenty of water sports are available here, but the best thing to do is search for perfect shells. At low tide, walk across to the island and clamber up to the watch tower for views along the coastline.
Qantab Beach, just past the old town of Muttrah, is famous for its dolphin watching and scuba centre. The rugged coastline is stunning, with rocks hemming this small beach in a perfect bay that invites you to walk, explore or go snorkelling. Daily early morning excursions set off to spot the dolphins that frolic along this coast and the vantage point from the boat is perfect to see islands and forts, as well as spotting the Sultan’s Palace.
Both Jebel Shams, also known as the Sun Mountain, and Jebel Akhdar, the Green Mountain, are majestic natural places to see when in Oman. Roughly 150 kilometres (93 miles) inland from Muscat, both mountains could not be more different. Jebel Shams is home to Oman’s Grand Canyon, and offers lengthy hiking trails, whereas Jebel Akhdar is a veritable garden. You’ll find fields of roses, harvested for the local perfume industry, and gardens full of pomegranate trees. Set in the dark and imposing Hajar Mountain range, the views are astonishing, and the air is cooler and more refreshing than in the valleys, even in summer.
On the way to White Sand Beach make a stop at the Bimmah Sinkhole, an amazing emerald-green natural pool, surrounded by rocks and fed by the sea and underground fresh water. A long set of steps leads down 30 metres (98 feet), and you’ll be able to immerse yourself among the small fish taking shelter here. There is a park with picnic facilities just above, so it’s a perfect spot for a lunchtime stop and dip.
Just over an hour drive from Muscat, between the towns of Bimma and Fins, you’ll find what is locally known as White Sand Beach where practically snow-white sand hems the ocean. It is a local and expatriate favourite place to pitch a tent and stay a while. The water is clear and more often than not you’ll actually be able to swim with turtles. There is not much around, so you will need to bring your own supplies, but the tranquillity is worth it.