Oman is so much more than a stopover. Travel to this historic country to discover magical Muscat and the treasures beyond the capital …
Many Middle Eastern cities are regarded as mere stepping stones for travellers on their way to the Far East and beyond. Those who do so are missing a trick, as the urban hubs here have many delights of their own. None more so than in Oman, a nation that impressively knits together the modern with time-honoured bedouin values.
Stay for a few days to discover why it’s one of our favourites. Given that our experts have a lot of travel experience between them, making sure they can deliver not only great value for money but also the best on-the-ground trip recommendations, that’s a great tip of the hat to get.
Your first port of call should be its capital, Muscat. A melting pot of cultures thanks to its geographical position along ancient trade routes, it’s a perfect blend of traditional and opulent buildings. The waterfront is its beating heart though: dhow boats line Muttrah’s waterfront and you can mix with locals in its namesake souk and fishing market. Indulgent architecture is also plentiful: gasp at the marble-laden Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and gold-and-blue Al Alam Palace. Muscat’s Royal Opera House is the only one of its kind in Arabia, too.
Beyond the city
But more jewels can be discovered beyond Muscat’s perimeter. For adrenaline-seekers, take on the boulders and trails of Little Snake Canyon two hours’ drive away, which wind up to the cooling pools of Big Snake Gorge (Wadi Bimah), nestled in the Al Hajar Mountains.
To the south, the emerald-green waters of Wadi Bani Khalid makes for a refreshing stop before arriving at Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands, whose mountains of grains shift colour from pale yellow to rustic red. Camp with Bedouins to see stars and the sun rise above the dunes.
It’d be wrong not to also enjoy the country’s 3,165km of coastline. See dolphins (spinner and long-nosed common) and whales (Bryde’s and humpback) off Muscat’s marina, while the scuba diving is also spectacular: off the capital’s coast lie the Daymaniyat Islands, a haven for coral, moray eels, stingrays and leopard shades. Turtles (hawksbill and loggerhead) regularly flock to the islands to nest, while Ras Al Hadd and Ras Al Jinz, on Oman’s eastern tip, are home to green turtles.
So, next time you’re heading on an Asian adventure, pause for a few days to soak up Oman’s wonders – you’ll find your trip started earlier than you thought.