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Oman is a country located in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, sharing borders with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Its coastal areas stretch along the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Oman, offering a diverse landscape that includes mountains, deserts, and a beautiful coastline. It’s often referred to as “The Jewel of Arabia” and for good reason. It quickly won me over and I can’t wait to return.
Oman is a place where history comes alive, landscapes enchant, and warm hospitality embraces you. From ancient forts to breathtaking wadis and modern mosques, Oman offers a wide of unique experiences. This 10-day itinerary will take you on an unforgettable adventure through the heart of Oman, including the historical city of Nizwa, the stunning deserts of Wahiba Sands, and the turquoise waters of the Daymaniyat Islands.
How to Get to Oman
Getting to Oman is relatively straightforward, as the country is well-connected to various international destinations. The most common way to reach Oman is by air, with Muscat International Airport (MCT) serving as the main gateway. Several major airlines offer direct flights to Muscat from major cities around the world, including Dubai, Doha, London, Frankfurt, and Mumbai, among others.
For travelers coming from neighboring Gulf countries or nearby regions, driving to Oman is also an option. The country has well-maintained road networks, and border crossings are open for travelers with the necessary documentation. However, you will not be able to cross the border in a rental car.
How to Get Around Oman
Getting around Oman is fairly easy and there are various transportation options available to explore the country.
Car: This 10-day Oman itinerary is best done as a road trip. Public transportation is limited, so renting a car is a popular choice for travelers, as it provides flexibility and the freedom to explore at your own pace. The roads are well-maintained/marked and driving in Oman is generally safe. Google Maps worked well the majority of the time.
A car can easily be reserved for pickup at Muscat International through any of the big rental companies, such as Budget, Europcar, and Hertz. I recommend booking a car in advance, especially if you need an automatic or a 4×4. A 4×4 is necessary if you plan on driving in the desert or mountains.
Bus: Public buses connecting major cities are available and are an economical option for budget-conscious travelers. However, bus services may have limited schedules, and it’s essential to plan your itinerary accordingly. Government-owned, Mwasalat is the leading public transport company.
Taxis/Rideshare: Taxis are available in urban areas and ride-sharing apps are available in larger cities like Muscat, providing a convenient means of transportation within metropolitan areas.
For more remote destinations or excursions to the desert and mountains, guided tours and private drivers can be arranged through tour operators, hotels, or local agencies.
10-Day Oman Itinerary:
Day 1: Muscat to Nizwa
Al Hamra Village, Bahla Fort, and Jabreen Castle – A Glimpse into Oman’s Past
Today you will wake up bright and early and begin your Oman road trip. You’ll end your day at a hotel in Nizwa but will make three stops along the way. These include Al Hamra Village, Bahla Fort, and Jabreen Castle. The drive is roughly 2-hours to your first destination.
Al Hamra Village
Al Hamra is a small village located on the southern slope of Oman’s Hajar Mountains, dating back to the 17th century. It offers a glimpse into the country’s ancient architecture and cultural heritage. The village has been abandoned for over 50 years, but its mud-brick houses remain well-preserved, making its winding streets an excellent place to explore. It’s unclear as to exactly why Al Hamra became a “ghost town” but it’s most likely that residents simply left because they wanted modern amenities (electricity, running water) and liked the idea of the city.
Bahla Fort, located in the historic town of Bahla, is an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was constructed sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries, making it one of Oman’s oldest forts. Its massive walls, watchtowers, and intricate design reflect the architectural brilliance of the region and offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into Oman’s ancient forts.
Jabreen Castle, also known as Jabrin, is a magnificent 17th-century castle known for its exquisite architecture, intricate carvings, and beautiful frescos. The castle was built under the Yaruba Dynasty by Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan and basically served as his palace.
Unlike Oman’s forts, it was built during a time of peace. Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan was passionate about science and art and the castle became an important center of learning for astrology, medicine, and Islamic law. It has three stories, two towers, and many interior rooms, some even hidden. The interior design is stunning and features wooden balconies, decorated windows, and stunning archways.
Where to Stay in Nizwa (2 nights)
There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to lodging in Nizwa, but Intercity Hotel is a great option. The hotel was recently built; it’s very clean and even has a pool onsite. It’s conveniently located next to a mall in case you need to grab any last-minute necessities for your Oman road trip.
Bait Al Aqr is a small boutique-like hotel. The hotel is a one-of-a-kind experience and feels like you are in an old Omani home. It’s tucked away in an alley of old Nizwa and features traditional architecture and furnishings. Bait Al Aqr is just a short walk from Nizwa Fort. It’s the perfect location if you don’t have a vehicle.
Day 2: Nizwa
Nizwa Fort & Souq – History and Culture
On your second day, you’ll discover the charm of Nizwa, one of Oman’s oldest cities. Start your morning at 8 am with a visit to the majestic Nizwa Fort (admission: $13 USD) and then explore the Nizwa Souq.
I suggest revisiting the fort at sunset. It’s great having it to yourself in the morning but sunset is incredible. Depending on the sun, the colors of the fort walls seem to differ throughout the day. It’s amazing to experience both early morning and sunset. A visit to Nizwa Fort is a must-do on this Oman itinerary.
Nizwa Fort is an iconic historical landmark. Constructed in the 17th century, the fort played a crucial role in Oman’s defense. Its massive circular tower and imposing walls reflect traditional Omani architecture and showcase the country’s military prowess. Today, the fort has been beautifully restored and transformed into a museum, where visitors can explore its rich history and artifacts as well as panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Dating back over 400 years, the souq has been a hub of trade and commerce, preserving the essence of Omani heritage and culture. Visitors can wander through its narrow alleys filled with stalls selling an array of goods, including colorful textiles, aromatic spices, beautiful pottery, and silver jewelry, making it an ideal place to pick up unique souvenirs.
Day 3-4: Nizwa to Wahiba Sands
Wahiba Sands – A Desert Dreamland
Embrace the serenity of the golden sand dunes and as the sun sets, watch the colors of the desert come alive. Spend the night having dinner under the starlit sky.
This is a good day to catch up on sleep or have a relaxing morning. Most Wahiba Sands camps have a check-in time of 2 pm. The drive from Nizwa to Wahiba Sands is about 3 hours. The journey takes around 2 hours to reach the town of Al Wasil, followed by an additional 45 min of desert driving, depending on what camp you choose.
A 4×4 is required to enter the desert and you’ll need to deflate your tires (bring cash) in town before going off-road. If you don’t have a 4×4, most camps can pick you up in town for an additional fee.
Wahiba Sands, also known as Sharqiya Sands, is a mesmerizing desert region, stretching over 124 mi (200 km) in length and 50 mi (80 km) in width. The vast expanse of golden sand dunes offers a surreal landscape, perfect for both adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.
Most of the desert camps offer an array of activities to choose from: rent an ATV, hang out with camels (please don’t ride for ethical reasons), sand boarding, desert trekking, sunrise desert drives, and private bbq dinner service. I had a wonderful stay at Desert Nights Camp and the private dinner service was nothing short of incredible. Our chef BBQ’d a delicious seafood dinner on the dunes and we enjoyed a night of multiple-courses under the desert stars.
Where to Stay in Wahiba Sands (2 nights)
Desert Nights Camp is the perfect desert glamping experience. The tented villas have AC and en suite bathrooms. There’s even a villa with its own private pool. The location is amazing and the staff is wonderful.
Thousand Nights Camp is another popular luxury camp in Wahiba Sands. I haven’t stayed here but it sounds similar to Desert Nights. Tents have AC and en-suite bathrooms. They also offer a similar range of activities.
Day 5: Wahiba Sands to Wadi Shab
Wadi Bani Khalid & Sur – Blue Waters and Stunning Views
Today you’ll drive from Wahiba Sands to Wadi Shab, where you’ll stay the night. The drive includes a couple of stops along the way: Wadi Bani Khalid and the coastal town of Sur. The total drive time will be about roughly 3 hours or so. You’ll want to get an early start as this will be a long day.
A stop at Sur is optional. You may feel that this short of a stop is more work than it’s worth but I found it was a great way to break up the drive and get out for a bit.
Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid is a stunning desert oasis nestled in the eastern region of Oman, known for its natural beauty and crystal-clear turquoise waters. The wadi is surrounded by rocky cliffs and palm groves, creating a picturesque landscape that attracts both locals and tourists seeking an escape from the desert heat. Visitors can enjoy a swim in the refreshing pools and explore the hidden caves.
Wadi Bani Khalid has a reputation for being a bit touristy but I’m so glad I made the stop. It’s gorgeous and absolutely worth the visit. Make sure to continue past the first pools as the prettier swimming areas are toward the back.
Know Before You Go:
• The first pool that you will see is the family pool. Modest swimwear is required here. Bring a T-shirt and shorts if you would like to swim in this pool or continue to the others.
• I don’t want to discourage anyone from visiting but women and solo travelers should use caution when exploring the area. This was the only time during my travels in Oman that I felt a bit unsafe. There have been reports of sexual assault in the area. Stay on the paved path and don’t be tempted to use the shade-covered dirt trails.
Do not accept assistance from the local men/guides, no matter how friendly they seem. They will want payment for their “help”. Stay in areas occupied by tourists and you’ll be fine. If you do want to explore more of the area, I suggest hiring a reputable guide prior to your arrival or planning a visit through your hotel (Desert Nights Camp offers a tour).
Sur is a historic coastal town known for its deep-rooted maritime heritage. The town is famous for its traditional dhow-building industry, where skilled craftsmen construct wooden boats using age-old techniques. Besides its maritime significance, Sur also boasts beautiful beaches. The town’s old quarter, Al Ayjah, showcases well-preserved architecture, including watchtowers and charming traditional houses.
I suggest a visit to the historic Al Ayjah Lighthouse, which offers panoramic views of the bay, followed by a seaside dinner before continuing onward. You may want to add an extra night here; however, I passed through pretty quickly.
Where to Stay near Wadi Shab (1 night)
Don’t let the word “motel” deter you, Tiwi Sunrise is not your typical American motel – it’s just a small hotel. Tiwi Sunrise Motel is near the water and is conveniently located just 7 minutes from Wadi Shab. The hotel has a swimming pool, garden, and shared terrace. It’s great for the night before your hike. However, there isn’t much else in the area. There is a restaurant on-site but keep in mind that it may not be open depending on how early you leave for Wadi Shab in the morning.
Sur Grand Hotel is a great option if you wish to spend an additional day in Sur or if you don’t mind a longer drive to Wadi Shab in the morning. Sur has a lot more options when it comes to dining. The hotel has spacious rooms, basic amenities, a rooftop pool, and large glass windows that have great views of the sea.
Day 6: Wadi Shab to Muscat
Wadi Shab – Nature’s Hidden Gem
Today you will be hiking one of Oman’s most beautiful locations, followed by a stop at Bimmah Sinkhole before continuing on to Muscat. The drive to Muscat from Bimmah is about 1 hr 30 min.
Start your day at 7:30 am to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day. The boats to the trailhead begin departing the car park at 8 am.
Wadi Shab is a breathtaking natural wonder located approximately 160 kilometers southeast of Muscat. It is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning landscapes and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
Wadi Shab is a rocky gorge surrounded by towering cliffs and palm groves, creating an oasis in the arid Omani landscape. Visitors can embark on a scenic hike through the Wadi, crossing several pools and streams, before reaching the main attraction – a hidden cave with a beautiful waterfall.
Tip: The hike is somewhat rigorous. It’s 3.5 mi (5.6 km) roundtrip and there is very little shade. Start early to avoid the heat and plan your breakfast the night before. There is not much in the area in terms of food. There is a little store near the car park with a small selection but it may not be open or serving food.
The last portion of the hike requires swimming so make sure to bring a swimsuit. If needed, lifevests are available for rent. You’ll need to bring cash for the boat and don’t forget lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, water shoes, and a PackTowel.
The Bimmah Sinkhole is a unique natural wonder located within Hawiyat Najm Park, in the coastal town of Bimmah. This sinkhole is a result of the collapse of an underground limestone cavern, creating a stunning circular pool with blue-green waters. It has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors with its refreshing swimming opportunities. It’s a must-visit destination on your Oman itinerary.
Where to Stay in Muscat (4 nights)
Royal Tulip Muscat is a new hotel with modern amenities, spacious rooms, and a range of facilities, including a restaurant, spa, fitness center, and rooftop pool with views of the city. The Royal Tulip Muscat is an excellent choice and is a great value for the money.
Shangri-La Al Husn is a luxurious five-star hotel. It is part of the larger Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah complex, which also includes two other hotels, Al Bandar and Al Waha (for families). Al Husn is the most exclusive and private of the three hotels within the resort complex, offering a tranquil and secluded atmosphere (adults only).
The hotel features elegant Arabian architecture, beautiful interiors, and breathtaking views of the Gulf of Oman. Guests staying at Shangri-La Al Husn have access to a private beach, a stunning pool, and exclusive amenities.
Days 7: Muscat
Shangri-La – A Day of Relaxation
After hiking Wadi Shab, you may need a day to relax, and spending the day at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah is the perfect way to do that. It’s an amazing property. If the hotel is out of your budget, continue reading to find out how to visit on a day pass.
Consider it a must-do on this Oman itinerary if you are visiting during turtle nesting season.
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa offers a day pass to non-guests that allows access to the resort’s facilities. It’s a fantastic option for those looking to experience the luxury and beauty of Shangri-La without staying overnight. With a day pass, visitors can enjoy the resort’s private beach, pools, lazy river, and recreational areas. There are also kayaks and jet ski rentals available on the beach.
The best part, though, is the turtles. If you are visiting during nesting season, check to see if there are any hatchings taking place during your visit. The hotel has a chalkboard displayed near the beach with the date and time of the next hatching. It was so special to see the turtles swim off into the ocean for the first time. There are some larger turtle reserves in Oman but after researching, they didn’t seem ethical. Shangri-La still had a crowd but it was somewhat small and the immediate area around the turtles was roped off.
Passes are purchased from the spa and there are two types: day pass and pool pass. A day pass will cost more but does include a buffet lunch. The pool pass is more budget-friendly. However, please note that specific details, availability, and prices for passes may vary, so it’s best to contact the resort directly for up-to-date information.
Days 8: Muscat
Daymaniyat Islands – A Stunning Paradise
Today you’ll tour the Daymaniyat Islands. There are a couple of ports that boats depart from depending on the tour you book. It will take about 45 min to reach the islands, where you’ll spend the day snorkeling in the most beautiful water.
The Daymaniyat Islands are a group of nine small islands located in the Arabian Sea. These islands are renowned for their pristine white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life. Daymaniyat is considered one of Oman’s top diving and snorkeling destinations due to its colorful coral reefs. There are exotic fish, turtles, and rays, and if you’re lucky you may even see whale sharks or dolphins.
The islands are a protected nature reserve, ensuring the preservation of the delicate marine ecosystem and the numerous species that inhabit the area. In order to protect nesting turtles and birds, the islands are closed from May to October each year. You can still swim/snorkel in the water surrounding the islands, you just can’t step foot on them. Outside of these months, you can camp on the islands with a guide. If you are interested in snorkeling or camping, I highly recommend going with Oman Sea Man. They are the nicest guys and really love and respect the ocean.
Days 9-10: Muscat – Experience the Capital
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House & Mutrah Souk – Capital Treasures
Spend the next two days of this Oman itinerary exploring Muscat, the capital city of Oman. Begin your morning at the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Admire the stunning architecture and marvel at the intricate details of this iconic place of worship. Spend the afternoon, taking in the beauty at Royal Opera House Muscat.
The following day, go shopping at Mutrah Souk and stroll along the corniche. Depart Oman in the evening or the following morning,
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a magnificent mosque located in Muscat. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in the country and serves as a significant place of worship for Omani Muslims. The mosque was inaugurated in 2001 and was named after Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the former Sultan of Oman who ruled the country for nearly five decades until his passing in 2020.
The mosque’s architecture is an impressive blend of traditional Islamic and contemporary Omani design, featuring white marble and one of the largest chandeliers in the world. The mosque is free to visit. It’s closed on Fridays and has varied hours, so plan accordingly.
Royal Opera House Muscat
The Royal Opera House Muscat opened in 2011 and is one of the capital’s most beautiful buildings. The opera house showcases exquisite craftsmanship within its many intricate details and architecture.
It hosts a diverse range of performances, including opera, ballet, concerts, and theatrical productions, featuring renowned international artists as well as promoting local talents, making it a hub for cultural exchange in the Middle East. It’s open Saturday through Thursday for viewing (admission is about $9 USD).
Mutrah Souq is located in the historic Mutrah district along the Corniche and is one of the oldest markets in Muscat. The bustling souq offers a glimpse into the country’s rich vibrant trade history.
Visitors can wander through its narrow alleys of colorful stalls and shop for a wide array of goods, including traditional Omani handicrafts, spices, textiles, jewelry, and souvenirs. When you’re done shopping, take a stroll along the Corniche and enjoy gorgeous views of the gulf.
Have you been to Oman? Is there something I should add to this Oman itinerary? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Interested in exploring more of the Middle East? Continue to my post, “Ultimate Guide & 6 Best Things to Do in AlUla“.