The 16 Best Things to Do in Oman

Explore Oman's stunning natural beauty, ancient history and distinctive culture through a range of uplifting and meaningful experiences
Written by
Jack Beckford

Published on: December 4th, 2023

Last modified: December 4th, 2023

Set on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East, Oman is overflowing with incredible things to do. Here you can explore ancient forts and castles in Nizwa, hike or cycle through rugged mountain ranges, swim with whale sharks and watch sea turtles hatch in Ras al Jinz reserve, or wander among the markets and mosques of Muscat.

Beyond all the beautiful places to go and things to see in Oman, we’re especially enamoured with the endless array of bespoke and interactive experiences. Picture a picnic beneath a frankincense tree, a desert camping trip, a sunset sailboat ride or a traditional cooking class. These activities will take you beyond sightseeing to fully experience the essence of Oman.

When thinking about how long your trip to Oman should be, consider the things you'd like to do. If you’re mostly interested in specific destinations or and a handful of experiences, six or seven nights in Oman may be enough. But if you’d also like to enjoy the country's gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters, get off the beaten path and really dive deep into the local culture, we suggest spending up to two full weeks here. One thing is for sure; you won’t run out of outstanding things to do in Oman.

1. Immerse yourself in the aromatic history of frankincense in Salalah

Salalah is the second-largest city in Oman, offering plenty of opportunities to delve into its intriguing history. Here you can relax in the shade of ancient Boswellia trees; visit the ports from which frankincense and myrrh were once shipped all over the globe; discover historical landmarks like the ruins of Al Baleed and the domed tomb of Bin Ali; or marvel at hidden natural springs and idyllic white sand beaches.

2. Camp out in comfort at Sharqiya Sands

Formerly known as Wahiba Sands, Sharqiya Sands is a vast expanse of desert where you can still encounter authentic Bedouin culture. Stay in a luxurious tent at Desert Nights Camp to see the stars and sunrise among the dunes. You can go sandboarding or traverse the dry terrain in a 4×4, and relax in the evening as you listen to local stories and music. For an even more remote experience, opt for a roaming camp that’s only reachable by private yacht.

3. Relax on Oman’s beautiful beaches

Oman has more than 3,000 kilometres of coastline, so it’s no wonder that you’ll find unbelievable beaches here. Complement the more adventurous days of your itinerary with some time spent reclining on the soft sands of Al Haffa Beach in Salalah, Al Qurum Beach in Muscat or Khasab Beach on the Musandam Peninsula. Khasab Beach isn’t far from Six Senses Zighy Bay, an exceptional coastal resort designed to feel like a traditional Omani village.

4. Float in the turquoise Bimmah Sinkhole

In the middle of the dusty landscape between Muscat and Sur, you’ll come across a miraculous oasis. Known locally as Hawiyat Najm (‘the falling star’), the Bimmah Sinkhole is a deep natural pool with brilliant blue-green water. It’s worth making the journey to swim in this whimsical spot for just a moment – or you can while away the whole afternoon floating peacefully on its surface, surrounded by stratified limestone cliffs.

5. Tour the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Salalah

This is the biggest mosque in Salalah, and one of the largest in all of Oman. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque with an expert guide to learn about its cultural significance, grand architecture and ornate decor; take special note of the enormous marble dome, soaring minarets and intricate chandeliers. Keep in mind that the mosque is only open to visitors at certain times, and you must adhere to a specific dress code to enter.

6. Go dolphin watching in the Arabian Sea

Seeing dolphins in the wild is an unforgettable experience, and the sea around Salalah is the perfect place to do it. We can organise a private boat trip with a guide who will take you straight to the best places to spot various dolphin species, and often other marine life as well. You’ll get to observe these majestic animals from a respectful distance, minimising impact on them or their habitats.

7. Cool off in the clear waters of Wadi Bani Khalid

You can easily access Wadi Bani Khalid from the bustling capital of Muscat – especially lovely to visit on hot days. This wadi (natural oasis) consists of several pools with dazzling turquoise waters. It’s a fantastic place to go for a swim surrounded by date palms and the stark wilderness of the Hajar Mountains. You could easily spend a whole day exploring its different sections and relaxing in the sun on the surrounding rocks, or just stop for a quick dip on your journey through Oman.

8. Explore the forts, castles and ruins of Nizwa

Join a local expert to discover the charms of Nizwa, an alluring old city that was once the capital of Oman. Located at the base of the Hajar Mountains, it’s full of famous historical sites. Your guide will take you to the 17th-century Nizwa Fort, known for its distinctive cylindrical shape, and the lively Nizwa Souq beside it. You can also explore fascinating nearby landmarks like Bahla (the biggest fortress in Oman and UNESCO protected), Jabreen Castle, the Jaylah beehive tombs and the abandoned village of Birkat Al Mouz.

9. Go hiking in the Hajar Mountains

If you want to experience the wilder side of Oman, head out on a hike through the Hajar Mountains, which are among the highest in the Arabian Peninsula. Apart from dramatic peaks and rocky outcroppings, you’ll also find remote villages and ancient irrigation systems with green terraces carved into the hillsides. Ascend Jebel Akhdar, passing through bountiful orchards along the way, or climb the opalite mountains behind Muttrah to earn unreal views. 

10. Watch sea turtles nest and hatch at Ras Al Jinz

The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve is an absolute must for animal lovers, or anyone who’s ever dreamed of seeing baby sea turtles find their way to the sea. Here you can observe this miraculous spectacle without disturbing the animals, thanks to designated viewing areas and guided excursions. There’s also an interactive museum for curious adults and kids alike. For the best chance of seeing the turtles hatch, the best time to visit Oman is from June to September.

11. See the sunset from a traditional sailboat

Step aboard a dhow (traditional wooden sailing boat) to glide out of Muscat and toward the horizon. You’ll watch the sun sink below the azure waves as the sky shifts from blue to pink and orange, lulled by the gentle lapping of the water and the sea breeze. This is not only a fabulously romantic excursion, but also an authentic way to get a glimpse of Oman’s maritime culture and get to see part of its marvellous coastline up close.

12. Shop for antiques and handmade treasures at Mutrah Souq

It’s easy to get lost among the winding pathways and myriad vendors of Mutrah Souq, Muscat’s legendary covered market. Visiting it with a local guide will help you keep your bearings and find exactly what you’re looking for, whether you’re interested in vintage furniture and souvenirs; artisanal silver jewellery and daggers; or locally sourced spices, incense and perfumes. Don’t forget to visit a café or street food stall to sample some typical snacks, sweets and coffee.

13. Cycle through the mountains to Al Hamra

It may be a cliché, but sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination – and that’s certainly true of this cycling adventure to the 400-year-old town of Al Hamra. You’ll pedal through plantations, palm trees and centuries-old houses, with no sound but the occasional birdsong to distract you from your thoughts. This is a chance to enjoy the peace and quiet of northern Oman’s countryside, drinking in views of its valleys, caves and villages along the way.

14. Snorkel with whale sharks in the Gulf of Oman

Just off the coast of Muscat, you’ll find a smattering of small islands boasting some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving spots in Oman. Visit the protected Daymaniyat Islands or the rocky Al Fahal – also known as Shark Island – from September to November for the best chance of seeing whale sharks in the wild. You might even be lucky enough to encounter one of these enormous – and entirely harmless – creatures beneath the surface.

whale-shark

15. Learn how to cook local dishes in Mirbat

Make your way to the fishing town of Mirbat for a calm coastal escape – and the chance to learn the secrets of local cuisine. Traditional Omani food reflects diverse influences from other cultures, and is usually flavoured with spices and herbs. Join a local chef to prepare local favourites like majboos (rice with vegetables and meat), mashuai (grilled fish with lemon sauce) and halwa (a sugary sweet made with honey, rose water, nuts and spices).

16. Wander through atmospheric Muscat after dark

Muscat is a lovely city at any time of day, but once the sun sets it becomes truly enchanting. Its emblematic buildings like Al Alam Palace and imposing forts like Al Jalali are illuminated at night, making them even more eye-catching than usual. You can meander through the narrow streets of Old Muscat, stopping for a drink or dinner at one of the locals’ favourite spots, and spend your evening soaking in the magic of Oman’s age-old yet contemporary capital.

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