Oman 03.05.2019 David Abram
In Oman, the locals are amused by their neighbours in the Emirates building giant skyscrapers, and shopping malls with ice rinks and ski slopes. “Why bother when we have Wadi Nakhr?”
Why indeed . . . The Sultanate boasts more than its fair share of the region’s natural wonders, and together they provide a compelling prospect for any traveller looking to experience the Arabian Peninsula’s wilder side.
Here we give a rundown of our favourite places and experiences. They all feature on our fabulous 14-night, tailor-made ‘Grand Tour’ of Oman, a link to which appears at the end of this article.
- Wadi Nakhr, Al Hajar Mountains
Whether you peer into it from above or sample its grandeur from the ‘Balcony Walk’ that scythes across its gigantic cliff faces, Oman’s ‘Grand Canyon’ is an un-missable landmark on any journey through the mighty Al Hajar Mountains.
2. Ras al-Jinz
On the far easternmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Ras al-Jinz is a beautiful, sand-lined bay backed by rugged cliffs where every winter a population of female Green marine turtles crawl ashore to lay their eggs. It’s one of 275 spots on the Omani coast where this extraordinary natural spectacle occurs, and we know just the place to stay so you can be there at dawn, when the turtles return to the surf – one of Asia’s most heart-warming spectacles. An amazing experience for the childern if you're on a family adventure.
3. The Wahiba Sands
Everyone who travels to Oman wants to experience the distinctive atmosphere of the Arabian Desert, and if it’s towering, finely sculpted dunes you’ve come to see, the Wahiba Sands is the place to head. Known locally as ‘Ramlat al Wahiba’, the area encompasses one of the largest expanses of shifting dunes in the region. It’s largely uninhabited, but thanks to a couple of well placed luxury tented camps, you can spend a comfy night deep the dunes. After breakfast the following day, enjoy a camel trek with local Bedouin tribesmen.
4. The Empty Quarter
If you thought the dunes of Wahiba were impressive, wait until you set eyes on the giants of the Empty Quarter, in the far south of Oman. To the Bedouin tribes whose forebears used to transport frankincense across it in past centuries, this vast desert is known as the ‘Rub’ al Khali’. These days it’s almost completely uninhabited save for a handful of remote military outposts, but if you include Salalah in your tour, you can look forward to experiencing the region’s distinctive grandeur in a day trip or, better still, by spending a night or two in one of our favourite luxury camps – worth the trip for the starry skies alone!
5. Musandam Fiords
The Musandan Peninsula is the rugged and mountainous promontory jutting into the Straits of Hormuz from the southern flank of the Gulf. Although a Governorate of Oman, it is geographically separate from the rest of the country and more easily reached from the UAE (Dubai is just a 2-hour drive away) than Muscat (5–6 hours, depending on road conditions). The main incentive to make the journey is to explore its striking, fijord-like bays, where the mountains of the interior plunge sheer to sea water the colour of opal, lapis and cobalt. Dolphins and whales regularly approach the coastline, which is best explored by dhow, yacht or sea kayak.
6. The Bimmah Sinkhole
The locals believe this hole in the coastal strip was formed by a meteorite, but it was actually caused by the collapse in the limestone surface, which revealed a pool of turquoise water beneath – the perfect excuse for a leg stretch to break up journeys along the Omani shore.
7. Boswellia Sacra
This enigmatic tree thrives on the feast-and-famine climate of Dhofar in southern Oman, which for three months of the year drowns in monsoonal downpours, and for the rest of the time is bone dry. Its bark, when sliced, exudes a sap that once fuelled the rise of great cities and trade routes across the Arabian Peninsula and ocean: frankincense.
8. The Al Hoota Cave
At the foot of Oman’s highest mountain, this 4.5-km-long cavern is the Arabian Peninsula’s only show cave. Its 5-million-year-old formations have been lit to spectacular effect.
9. Palm Forests
Okay – the palm forests that carpet the floors of Oman’s more fertile wadis are technically man-made, but they’re still an undeniably fabulous – and green – spectacle, even at the height of summer. Sample the famously succulent dates produced by local farmers, along with Omani peaches, pomegranates and bananas, in the souqs of Muscat and Nizwa.
Experience all the wonders featured in this article on a tailor-made TransIndus tour of Oman. Check out some suggested itineraries, devised by our team of experts: