Oman offers you a city escape, a vast desert area, cool mountains, and beaches, all in one neat package. There are oases known as wadis all over the country and little fishing villages along the coastline. This is a country worth visiting both as a couple or with your family. Our (then) 8-year-old daughter loved the road trip in Oman.
There is a lot of sightseeing for a cultural immersion enthusiast in Muscat. But step outside the capital city, and the country is perfect for a road trip thanks to its wide, good-quality roads.
Table of Contents
Top Things to do in Oman
Take a road trip across Oman
Exploring Oman via a road trip would be the top thing to do here. You can opt for a self-drive option or even choose to rent a car with a local driver. We found it easy to rent a car at the Muscat international airport itself.
You can drive north of Muscat to visit the town of Nizwa and further to Al Hajjar mountains. Wahiba Sands is the vast desert area in the central part of Oman. There is the coast to be explored on the east side. We did a 6-day road trip across Oman and had many memorable experiences.
Stay in a desert camp
Wahiba Sands is the largest desert area in Oman. Spending a night in this vast desert is one of the top things to do in Oman. An overnight stay is a far more enriching experience than a quick dune-bashing stop at Wahiba Sands could ever be. So I suggest you book an Oman desert camp for a night or two.
No desert experience is complete without going over the vast sand dunes in a rugged 4WD. You need an experienced local driver for this. And then spend the night at the desert camp enjoying local cuisine, learning a bit about the nomadic Bedouin way of life, and gazing at the star-studded sky.
Explore Jebel Akhdar
Jebal Akhdar is a large area within Al Hajjar mountains. Jabal Shams, often called the ‘Grand Canyon of Arabia’ is further ahead and a paradise for adventure seekers and hikers. But if you are visiting Oman with your kids, I would recommend a stay at a nice mountain resort in Jebel Akhdar. There are plenty of hiking, rock climbing, and other adventure activities available. Plus you get lovely sunset views of the canyon.
There are luxury resort options like Anantara and Alila at Jebel Akhdar, plus budget hotels as well.
Try the Ferrata experience in the mountains
For me, one of the cool things to do in Oman was the ‘via Ferrata’ experience at Anantara Al Jebel Al Akhdar resort. This ended in 2 short zip lines. The views of the mountains and the canyon were epic! It is a fun activity if you are not afraid of heights.
Visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat
Muscat has a serene vibe, unlike the glitzy city of Dubai. There are many cultural attractions that you can visit while in Muscat. But the topmost attraction is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. The prayer hall is vast, a square with 74.4 meters in length and width, and has a central dome rising from it. The dome is truly grand and is embellished from the inside in a spectacular fashion.
You have to visit this mosque in the morning before 11 a.m. Tourists are allowed only until then. Make sure everyone is modestly dressed. You can rent an abaya to cover yourself at the mosque as well.
Spend an evening at Muttrah corniche and souq in Muscat
The sunset makes for a great view at the corniche. You can walk on the main promenade and note all the ships in the harbor area. And then it is time to explore the Muttrah souq (market) nearby. A souq is a traditional Arab market. The Muttrah Souq has shops selling everything from Omani artifacts to clothes to spices to jewelry. It is a good place to pick up a souvenir in Oman, but do note that haggling is required to bring down the price.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the Corniche area for dinnertime.
Take your kids to the Museum of Illusions, Muscat
This is a fun thing to do in Oman with kids. Housed in the Muscat Grand Mall, the Museum of Illusions proved to a short but exciting, visual, and educational experience. It is a good way to spend an afternoon when the sun may be strong outside, or when the kids are done with cultural sites in Muscat and want something different.
Stop at Nizwa Fort
Nizwa Fort was built in the 17th century and most tourists come to Nizwa to see this attraction. You can visit Nizwa on your way to Jebel Akhdar or Jebel Shams. Nizwa town lies at the base of these mountains.
Nizwa Fort has a round tower from which you can get good views of the surrounding areas. There is a large museum housed within the fort premises that has numerous Omani artifacts. Kids may not enjoy the museum as much but they would love to run around the fort area and see the panoramic views.
Visit a Wadi
Wadis are an oasis found all over Oman. There are many popular wadis in the country to be explored. We stopped at Wadi Bani Khalid on our way to the Wahiba Sands desert. Think emerald green and deep blue pools glistening amidst limestone rocks and date palm trees swaying in the wind.
You can swim in the pools, but be careful while walking on the slippery rocks. And do wear modest swimwear in public wadis, and not skimpy bikinis.
If you don’t have time for a wadi, a popular natural pool that many people stop at is the Bimmah Sinkhole. This lies about an hour-and-a-half drive south of Muscat on the way to Sur village.
Explore a Quaint Fishing Village
Oman has a long coastline facing the Arabian Sea. There are charming fishing villages all along the coast. And while eating in Muscat restaurants is given to sample local cuisine, I do urge you to stop at a fishing village, find a local restaurant near the seaside, and order fresh seafood.
We did exactly this at the fishing village of Sur. And visited the local boatyard where we were shown how local boats are built.
Snorkel or Dive at Dimaniyat Islands
I was pleasantly surprised to find excellent diving spots, just an hour’s boat ride from Muscat. These sites were at Dimaniyat Islands and none too deep. There were plenty of corals and fish for even people snorkeling to explore. I was told that in season from July to October, there is plenty of plankton for whale sharks to come and feed here, though we didn’t get a chance to see any.
Try the local food
You will find Omani coffee, also known as kahwa, and dates everywhere. Many resorts and hotels welcome you with a cup of kahwa and dates.
While on an Oman trip, you must try the local cuisine. The influence of Indian and Lebanese cuisine is quite distinct. You have to eat using your right hand. Rice and grilled meat are commonly found. Fresh seafood is plenty in coastal areas. I recommend Kargeen restaurant in Muscat for local Omani cuisine.
Travel Tips to Visit Oman
You needn’t be concerned about safety while planning a trip to Oman. The country has a very low crime rate, so safety shouldn’t be your concern at all.
October to March would be the best time to explore Oman. The weather is pleasant during the day and the nights are cool. It does get cold at night in the desert and in the mountains from December to February.
Omani riyal is quite strong so don’t expect Oman to be a cheap destination. The country does have options across all budgets for accommodation, eating out, and activities.
Oman is a fairly conservative society. So do dress modestly in public, especially while visiting mosques and cultural sites. You can pack your swimsuit for a 5-star resort, but while swimming at a wadi, it is best to avoid skimpy swimwear.
English is widely spoken so you will have no communication challenges in the country unless you visit deep rural areas.
Guest Author: Shweta has always been passionate about travel and immersing in new experiences. Having been to over 45 countries, she blogs at Zest In A Tote to bring family-friendly itineraries and tips, destinations, and luxury stays to her readers.