The Top Destinations

Muscat

Muscat is the heart of the Sultanate, the political and administrative hub of the nation, the centre of tourism and commercial activities. This city is a blend of the old and the new golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea Described as "Arabia's jewel”. The roads are lined with well-manicured green lawns and trees. During winter this is interspersed with a profusion of multicolored flowers. Old Muscat has a quaint charm about it with many forts, castles, mosques and towers doting the landscape. Prior to the construction of road networks, the most widely used mode of transport was by sea. The Corniche, with its promenade and souqs (markets) is one of the highlights of the city. The old souq of Muttrah is an ideal spot for tourists to buy keepsakes and treasures. It is no wonder that Muscat is increasingly becoming an attractive tourist destination among the world's travel going public.

Sur

Distance from Muscat: 335 km (interior paved road): 240 km (coastal track).
Average drive time: 4 hrs by paved road: 3.5 hrs by coastal track.
Sur, a placid sea coast town with its striking traditional dwellings is a pleasant getaway and one of the most important towns in the Eastern region. The drive from Muscat via the interior cuts through wadis and passes through the Hajar Mountains. An alternate route down the coast through the village of Quriyat is adventurous and offers fabulous views of sparkling white beaches covered with multi colored shells, deep ravines, cliffs that fall dangerously into azure seas, rocks sculpted by wind and waves and lush green wadis (river beds). The journey ends in the city famous for its dhow shipyards (and presumed home of the legendary Sinbad the Sailor). A trip through Sur's labyrinth of streets reveals many fine old houses with carved doors and arabesque windows. From the corniche, the dhows in the harbor can be seen against the scenic backdrop of the Gulf of Oman. On the way to Sur one can stop over the fishing village of Quriyat, which was a major port centuries ago. Wadi Shab is another of the must-see wadis of this region - one of several wadis with running water throughout the year. Beyond Sur about 40 kms away lie the beaches of R'as Al Hadd and R'as Al Junayz where every year about 30,000 turtles come to lay their eggs.

Nizwa

Distance from Muscat - 174 km Average drive time – 1 and 1/2 hours by paved road
Nizwa, the verdant oasis city with its blend of the modern and the ancient was the capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th century. One of the oldest cities of the Sultanate, this was once a center of education and art. Nizwa has been an important cross roads at the base of the Western Hajar Mountains connecting Muscat, Buraimi, and the lower reaches of Dhofar. The Falaj Daris of Nizwa is the largest single falaj in Oman and provides the surrounding country side with much needed water for the plantations. This city is famous for its historical monuments, handicrafts and agricultural products, has an expansive Souq showcasing a wonderful array of handicrafts - coffee pots, swords, leather goods, silverware, antiques, and household utensils. Nizwa fort, completed in the 1650's, was the seat of power during the rule of the Al Ya'ruba dynasty and is Oman's most visited National monument. A few kilometers from Nizwa lies the mysterious town of Bahla. Bahla is the home of myths and legends that have carried through the centuries. Some people today still believe that magic is afoot in Bahla and many Omanis are superstitious when it comes to talking about Bahla. This little town is famous for its pottery. The old Bahla fort with its 12 km wall is the oldest fort in Oman. The fort is believed to have been built in pre-Islamic times and is now undergoing reconstruction sponsored by UNESCO and the site is included on UNESCO's list of World Heritage monuments. A short distance beyond Bahla lies the Castle of Jabreen. This massive three-storied was also built during Al Ya'ruba dynasty of the mid 1600's. It is a fine example of Islamic architecture with beautiful wooden inscriptions and paintings on the ceilings.

Western Hajar Mountains

Distance from Muscat - 200 km (to Al Hamra) Average drive time - 2.5 hours.
Beyond Nizwa, the southern flanks of the Western Hajar Mountains can be readily seen rising over 2000 meters above the surrounding countryside Within these mountains, rugged networks of wadi channels have carved networks of dramatic canyons and caves. The most fertile of these have been cultivated by the hardy shuwawis, mountain people, who have adapted to this harsh lifestyle under the tropic sun. At Wadi Tanuf, the ever-flowing springs are tapped to produce a commercially popular brand of drinking water. In Al Hamra, 400 year-old mud houses are still standing and occupied to this day. Out along the nearby wadi at Hasat bin Sault Rock, ancient petro glyphs estimated to be over 3000 years old lie in wait. Rock climbers will want to test their mettle on the stony crags of Jebel Misht while antiquarians will want to visit the mysterious Beehive Tombs of Bat.



Sumail Gap

Distance from Muscat - 75 km Average drive time - 45 minutes
The only natural pass through the northern jebels traces the trail of the old Silk Route caravans as they carried their goods from the Far East to communities of the interior. Follow the paths taken by Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta to Fanja, the traders' crossroads, and the towns of Bid Bid, Sumail and Al Khobar, replete with castles and fortifications. On the far end of the Gap just past Izki is the verdant plantation town of Birkit Al Mawz (which translates "pool of bananas"). Indeed, from the ridge above the town the spreading forest of dates and banana trees give the impression of a deep pool. From this ridge you will see why Birkit Al Mawz is known as the "rainbow city,". The rocks frame the old quarter like a rainbow.



Sohar

Distance from Muscat - 230 km (by highway)Average drive time - 2 hours
Sohar, a seaside city, was the capital of Oman many centuries ago and legend has it that it was named after the great grandson of Noah (of the Bibical flood). Originally known as Majan (Persian-Mazoun), the city's name alludes from early ship building activity. The word "ma-gan" means ship's skeleton or chassis stemmed from its copper deposits in the mountains of Majan. Sohar belongs to the fertile Batinah coast region, and is arguably the most verdant city in Oman and the drive to Sohar from Muscat along the coastal highway passes through thick plantations of dates, mangoes, limes, bananas, vegetables and fodder crops. The Sohar Fort built around the 1st century AD is one of the major landmarks of this city. Built on a hilltop this fort has five impressive towers and is the only Omani fort that is whitewashed.



Ibra

Distance from Muscat - 150 km Average drive time- 1 and 1/2 hours
The Gateway to the Eastern region of Oman, Ibra, in the past, was famous for its fine horses and horsemen. A unique feature of Ibra is the "Wednesday Souq" run entirely by women. On the far side of Ibra lies Al Mansfah village, a community of mansions once owned by prosperous merchants of the 19th century during the reign of Said the Great. With the decline of Said's commercial empire these once stately mansions fell into ruin.



Nakhl- Rustaq Loop

Distance from Muscat - 120 km Time taken to reach – 1 and 1/4 hours
From the Batinah Coast to the west of Muscat along the base of the jebels are several key towns of special interest. Further along the coast is the Jazir Sawaidi. Closer to the mountains lie the majestic fortresses of Nakhl, Rustaq and Al Hazm restored by the government and preserved as national treasures.For those bent on trekking, there are many wadis running through the foothills and mountains, many of them with running water. Wadi Abyadh is ideal for picnicking, while Wadi Bani Awf, Wadi Hajir, Wadi Haylayn and Wadi Bani Kharus offer challenging trails for those keen on cannoning.



Salalah

Distance from Muscat - 1030 km Average drive time - 12 hours by road, (1 hour by flight) Nestled in the southern region of Oman, Salalah has the benefit of the annual Indian monsoon: locally known as the Khareef. This monsoon, which extends from early June to mid September, transforms the countryside into a veritable garden with tumbling waterfalls and meandering streams. The Khareef season is a good time to visit Salalah. In July and August the government plays host for the annual Khareef Festival, a cultural highlight of the season.

Salalah is steeped in myths and legends that date back to biblical times. In the Jebel Qara can be found the tomb of the Prophet Ayoub, better known as Job of the Old Testament. In Khawr Rhori lie the ruins of the palace reputed to be that of the Queen of Sheba. In the surrounding countryside on the flanks of the jebels grows the Boswellia sacra better known for the sap it produces: Frankincense To the north of Salalah is the region known as the Nejd. This is a barren desolate area that is actually the southern fringe of the R'ub Al Khali. Here you find sweeping sand dunes and parched wadis. Lying 175 km north of Salalah is the remote village of Shisr. Here in the early nineties, with the help of satellite imagery from the space shuttle, explorers found what they believe to be the lost city of Ubar. Called by T. E. Lawrance (of Arabia) as the "Atlantis of the sands", Ubar was once considered to be the trading centre for frankincense before it was buried in the rising duneswas a gift to the baby Jesus came from Oman as the Boswellia sacra tree grows nowhere else. For most of the year, the unspoiled beaches of Salalah are ideal for scuba diving, canoeing, sailing, jet skiing and diving. The marshy khawrs along the coast line are sanctuaries to a broad variety of migrating birds turning the region into a bird watchers paradise.

But during the summer Salalah is easily Oman's coolest destination to visit during the Khareef with its crisp unpolluted air, cool misty clime, high rolling seas and leafy ambiance. Less than half an hour's drive from Salalah is Ain Razat, a picnic spot with springs, hills, gardens and streams. Nearby is the equally resplendent Ain Sahanawt. Seventy kilo- meters east of Salalah lies Mirbat, famous for Bin Ali's tomb (Bin Ali was revered in the early days of Islam as a sage and holy man.). Taqah, 36kms from Salalah is a picturesque, quaint village. The fort at Taqah goes back several hundred years and is well stocked with authentic decorations and appointments.

Rising high above the coast is the Jebel Samhan plateau, the highest point in Dhofar at 1800 meters. Here you can find the hanging valley of Wadi Dirbat which is impressive in full flood. Further into the jebels is Tawi Attir (the hole of the birds), a natural sink hole over 100 meters wide and 250 meters deep. Nestled in a hidden valley is the Baobab Forest with huge bulbous trees, one tree over 2000 years old and 30 feet in diameter at its base.

To the west of Salalah are many stretches of beautiful beaches. One of the most popular of these is Mughsayl where you can find unusual blow holes in the rocky shelf close to the shore. These holes display dramatic bursts of water and foam sometimes reaching 50 feet in the air. Further to the west close to the Yemen border lies the town of Rakhyut and is a pleasant spot for picnic and swim in the ocean.