Oman is often underrated as a destination compared to its flashier nearby Gulf neighbours, but it’s truly one of the hidden gems of the region. From dramatic mountains to vast sandy deserts to the amazing waters of the Indian Ocean; it’s the perfect place to switch off and get back to basics. Take a step back in time to a land determined to keep its original character. Far more to Oman than just Muscat, join us on a journey around 5 of the best places to visit in Oman.
Hidden Places To Visit in Oman
The forts of Nizwa and the surrounding area
One of the oldest cities in Oman, the former capital Nizwa still holds much significance to the country today and should be your first stop after Muscat.
Much money and resources have been put into restoring the region’s historic forts. Nizwa Fort in the center of the old city is a great example, with some stunning views of the surrounding city. You can get forted-out after being in Oman for a while though – there are apparently over 500! – so maybe pick a few favourites to explore in detail.
I recommend the huge Bahla Fort with its extensive rooms and grounds (and throw in a few bats!) and the nearby Jabreen Castle, one of the most beautiful restored and ornate. Definitely one of the top places to visit in Oman.
There are nominal entry fees at each fort and you can pay extra for guided tours or audio guides.
Al Hoota Caves
Buried deep in the foothills of Jebel Shams, you will find the 2-million-year-old limestone caves of Al Hoota, one of the most unique places to visit in Oman.Visitors can take a small train into the heart of the mountain, then there is a 1.6km walking path through the first of many caverns that lie beneath. Tours are conducted hourly in Arabic and English.
Note bookings in advance are essential as numbers per day are limited. You must book through the Government’s site.
Sadly, no photography is allowed inside! Trust me, they are beautiful and worth the long drive!
Explore the Wadi’s
With so many mountains, wadis are one of the country’s most fascinating and beloved natural features and many are top places to visit in Oman. (Wadis are ravines that fill with water after heavy rain, though many of Oman’s wadis have running streams and waterholes year-round).
Some of the most popular within day trip distance from Muscat include Wadi Shab with its underwater caves, Wadi Ban Khalid with day tripping facilities and Wadi Al Hawqayn with its beautiful waterfall.
A full guide to Wadis around the country can be found on the Oman tourism website.
Always check weather conditions particularly over the winter months before attempting Wadi trips. Remember weekends are Friday/Saturday and popular spots will become very busy in the warmer months. Overnight camping is possible in many locations but bring a good ground cover!
An almost unheard of tropical paradise for divers and nature lovers! The Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve lies just off the coast of Muscat – 18km from Barka. Made up of nine small islands, the islands are home to over 350 varieties of coral, 100 species of tropical fish and a large number of sea turtles and birds.
Day trips, sunset cruises and overnight tours can be made by arrangement. You may also get lucky and see dolphins and whale sharks on your journey to the islands.
Musandam – the “Norway of Arabia”
Often left off an Oman road trip, largely due to the fact it’s actually separated from mainland Oman by the UAE, is the northern peninsular of Musandam; arguably Oman’s best hidden gem and our favourite. It is actually best reached from Dubai, but there are sea options from Muscat too.
Here you will see the stunning Hajar mountains on the Arabian tectonic plate jut into the Eurasian plate – apparently, they are sinking 5mm every year! What this has created though is a stunning series of dramatic fjords for exploring.
From the regional capital of Khasab dolphin spotting tours, snorkelling and deep-sea fishing are all popular activities. Many come here though to simply escape the big smoke and enjoy the stunning views from your own dhow as you cruise through the khors around Kumzar.
For a guide on how to get to Musandam, check out this detailed post which covers the border crossing process from the UAE or sea access from Muscat.
Facts to know visiting Oman
- Visitors from most nationalities will need to pay a tourist visa entry fee. Queues can be long at both the airport and land border, consider applying for an e-visa online. Tourists pay 20OR for a 30-day visa. GCC Residents (including expats) pay 5OR.
- The easiest way to see Oman is by road. The major attractions are well spread out around the country and there’s no reliable public transport system to get you all the way around. Hire a car (driving is on the right) or organise a tour guide. You can get by with a 2WD but if you want to experience more of the Wadi’s and deserts you’ll need a 4WD
- Check opening hours when arranging your itinerary. Many attractions only open mornings or may be closed Friday’s.
For more on how to get around the country, check out our detailed guide to Road Tripping Oman.
About the Author
Keri is a travel writer, business consultant and mum of three living as an expat in the UAE. Her focus is on family travel in the Middle East, demystifying fears and concerns about visiting the region and uncovering family fun to hidden gems.
You can read more on her blog Our Globetrotters or follow their adventure on Twitter or Instagram.