Oman, as a destination, wasn’t really on my radar until this opportunity arose and I began doing some research. I, initially, assumed I wouldn’t need more than a week, but I eventually ended up spending 2 weeks there, and that too just wasn’t enough.
Ideally, I recommend spending at least 8-10 days to truly explore and experience the beauty and adventure this untouched and underrated country has to offer.
After my trip, I’m convinced the only way to explore Oman is to hire a 4 x 4, which I rented from Budget car rental and self-drove all around the country. Oman has great infrastructure and the road networks are super smooth to navigate through, and although a little bit of driving experience in the mountains is not mandatory, but will definitely help.
The following is my suggested 10-days itinerary for Oman:
DAY BY DAY OMAN ITINERARY
DAY 1: Muscat
DAY 2: Bimmah Sinkhole -Wadi Shab -Sur
DAY 3: Turtle Beach – Wadi Bani Khalid- Wahiba Sands Desert
DAY 4: Option 1: Nizwa- Birkat Al Mouz Ruines-Misfat Al Abryeen
DAY 5: Jebel Sham – The View (Jebel Akhdar)
DAY 6: Wadi Tanuf- Al Rustaq- Ain Sahban Sulphur Springs
DAY 7: Al Sawadi- Daymaniyat Islands
DAY 8: Daymaniyat Islands
DAY 9: Muscat
DAY 10: Muscat
Pick up your rental car from the airport, and then either check into one of the many luxury hotels along the Muscat coastline and spend the day relaxing, or go out and explore the capital city of Oman. I checked into The Chedi Muscat and indulged myself in all they had to offer.
Wake up early and get on the highway to drive south-east for about 120 km to the Bimmah Sinkhole. It’s a two-hour drive and getting there early has two advantages: 1) avoiding the crowds 2) avoiding the mid-day heat. Bimmah is a massive sinkhole that is believed to be created by a huge meteor that fell there. Take a peek here, get your photos, and save the swimming for Wadi Shab.
Next, drive to Wadi Shab which is 31 km from there. This is where you’ll thank me for suggesting to leave early from Muscat. Wadi Shab will take about 4-5 hours to explore fully, assuming you will go to the waterfall at the end, which I highly recommend. From the parking lot, you need to take a 2-minute boat across the deep river, which will cost OMR 1 (USD 2.5). After that, it’s an easy trek for an hour or so and then a 15-20 min swim to the end of the Wadi to the waterfall. I suggest carrying some munchies and water as you will get hungry after the trek and there are limited food options, especially for vegetarians.
Read: A Guide To Wadi Shab
Continue driving for another 50 km towards Sur, a coastal city where you can spend the night. We stayed at Alafeeh Corniche Hotel Apartments, a basic one-bedroom apartment that got the job done and was great value for money. We paid OMR 10 (USD 26) for the night. While you are in Sur, I highly recommend a local restaurant by the name of Zahrat Bilad Al-Sham Restaurant. Don’t judge the place by its looks, the food is very good, even for vegetarians.
Wake up super early at around 4 am and head to the Ras-Al-Jinz beach to see the endangered green turtles that come to lay their eggs there. You can spend a good two hours here and then grab some breakfast in Sur again.
At around 8 am you should begin your journey to Wadi Bani Khalid, which is about 180 km and will take about 3 hours. You can spend a couple of hours here and even get lunch.
Post lunch, begin your journey to the Wahiba Sands to go glamping in the desert. It is about 80 km and takes roughly 2 hours through the desert highway. I thoroughly enjoyed the prospect of driving over the dunes. If you are self-driving in the desert you cannot compromise and go without a 4 x 4. Make sure to top up the fuel tank, carry adequate drinking water, and half-deflate all 4 car tires. Do not forget to carry a paper map or download offline google maps as you will definitely lose network!
I chose to go glamping at Thousand Nights Camp and cannot recommend them enough to you too. However, if you are feeling much more adventurous, and/or are on a budget, you can go wild-camping in the desert as well. In that case, I’d recommend to plan in advance and carry enough supplies for dinner and breakfast for the next morning. You will not get anything in the desert. Plan your day in a way to reach the desert by 3-4 pm so that you are in time to set up and admire the stunning sunset session on the dunes.
Check out at around 10 am and drive down 190 km to Nizwa which will take about 2.5 hours. Explore the oldest castle and souq in Oman. On the way, you could make a quick pit stop at Birkat Al Mouz ruins which shouldn’t take up more than half an hour to 40 minutes of your time.
Nizwa was once the capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th century. The Nizwa fort is a popular stop and has an entry fee of OMR 5 (USD 13) per person, which I found a bit pricy. After that, grab some lunch and then make your way to Misfat Al Abryeen, a traditional Omani mud village to spend the night in an Omani homestay by the name of Misfah Old House. Try to get there before sunset too.
After an early breakfast, hop back in the car and drive to the highest mountain in Oman, Jebel Sham (3009 mt). These mountains are known for the best views of the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul, which are locally referred to as the Grand Canyon of Arabia. The drive through this region is absolutely breathtaking and make sure you have a 4×4 to drive around in. The roads are well-marked like the rest of Oman but the slopes are quite steep. Therefore, having some driving experience here will come in handy. You can do the ‘Balcony walk’ that takes about 2 hours and ends at an abandoned village and a lake. Check with the locals before you go since the lake is seasonal.
After you’re done, drive to The View, an eco-luxury resort to relax and spend the rest of the day in an infinity pool overlooking the rugged mountains. It is about 53 km and will take one and a half hour by car.
Wake up early and drive to Wadi Tanuf to go rappeling down the arch as seen in my photo. It is about 50 km away from ‘The View’ and takes about an hour. For this activity, the only person you need to contact is Ahmed who is based in Nizwa. Make sure you reach out to him with your dates well in advance as this is not his full-time profession and therefore needs some advance notice. It takes about an hour or so to hike up to the arch and then rappelling down 35 meters takes just a couple of minutes. I cannot recommend this adventure enough. It was really unique, exhilarating and adrenalin pumping. You will need at least 2-3 hours for this adventure, plan accordingly.
Once you’re done, continue your journey to Ain Sahban Sulphur Springs via Rustaq. It’s a total of 300 km and will easily take you 6-7 hours with a lunch stop in the middle. There is a shorter route to go directly to the sulphur springs but the off-road drive from Wadi Tanuf to Rustaq was simply mindblowing. Although it takes a lot longer if you’re a road trip lover like myself, I’m sure you too would appreciate it because as they say, “it’s not always about the destination, but the journey as well.” Don’t miss out on it!
I chose to camp at the sulphur springs that night and totally recommend it to you too. The closest hotel is about 60 km away and since I was there on a weekend I wanted to escape the tourist rush. We were up at dawn and had the entire place to ourselves for 3 whole hours until more cars came around 9 am. There are no timings at the sulphur springs and hence you can go as early as you like. And yes, it felt super safe camping there.
Once you are done with your early morning spa session in the lap of mamma nature, begin your journey to Al Sawadi which is about 200 km but won’t take more than 2.5 hours as it is mostly an all highway drive. I chose to stay and scuba dive with Al Sawadi Beach Resort & Spa, which is the only dive resort in the area closest to the Daymaniyat Island, the ultimate paradise for water babies like me. Depending on what time you reach, you can schedule your dives or indulge in some watersports or simply relax in their pool.
It’s Scuba Diving Day! The Daymaniyat Islands are about an hours boat ride across from the shores of Al Sawadi. The boat leaves from the private beach of this resort itself. I suggest doing at least 4 dives there. The reefs looked so healthy and colorful. We were lucky to see stingrays, turtles, and moray eels but got slightly unlucky with the visibility on that day.
Drive down to Muscat after breakfast or once you’re back from the morning dives and spend the day exploring the capital city.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat is open for non-Muslim visitors from 8 am- 11 am on all days except Friday and no trip to Oman can be complete without a visit here. Remember both men and women need to be fully covered, long sleeves up to the wrist and long pants up to your ankle, women must cover their head with a scarf.
Next, I highly recommend you head to Kargeen Cafe for one meal at least. It was my best dining experience in all of Oman. The restaurant is open from 8 am to 1 am and hence you can literally go at any hour. I loved it so much I went back for dinner. Make sure you make a reservation in advance (especially for dinner) and ask for a table on the outside.
You can also visit the Mutrah Souq, although, tbh, I wasn’t impressed much.
Spend the day recuperating in a cozy luxurious property along the coastline before you continue your onward journey.
BUDGET FOR THE ROAD TRIP
The biggest cost of this trip is car rental. Depending on the season, a 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser or equivalent for 10 days can approximately cost USD 1000, and this does not include petrol/gas. Your accommodations are where you have the complete liberty to save or splurge. You can camp for free each night or splurge on fancy five stars. I mixed it up and indulged myself in the best of both worlds. Meals cost anywhere between a minimum of USD 10 and upwards of USD 60 depending on where you choose to go. Activities costs will vary depending on the package you take and the timing of your trip. On the whole, Oman isn’t necessarily a budget-friendly destination and definitely should not be done solo. For a 10-day road trip around Oman, I suggest budgeting for a minimum of USD 1800 for 2 people.
Hope this blog helps you plan your trip. Although compared to southeast Asia, it is a bit pricy, but Oman makes up for it and not only offers great value for money but also ensures a truly memorable experience that will make you keep coming back for more.
Have you been on to Oman before? What was your experience?