Oman has a growing reputation for being one of the friendliest & welcoming countries on the planet. Locals will go out of their way to show you their outstanding hospitality & will openly guide you to the adventures that await you in this dream destination. The variety here is what makes Oman one of the best places to visit in the Middle East, with an abundance of gorges, caves, desert dunes, oases, beaches & clear seas teeming with life.
1. Wadi Shab
In a country of outdoor enthusiasts, where you can pitch up your tent up almost anywhere, finding an oasis, like Wadi Shab definitely helps Oman live up to its reputation as an adventure capital. Located only a few kilometres from the settlement of Tiwi on the Arabian Sea, Wadi Shab is flanked by huge rocky canyons & incredible rock formations. Hike through this fantastic place, up and over boulders, crossing streams, ducking under overhangs to your well-deserved reward.. water pools with the clearest visibility & perfect temperature.
2. Bimmah Sinkhole
This deep turquoise sinkhole along the coastal road from Muscat is like an amphitheatre reflecting the beautiful limestone rock surrounding it. A staircase takes you down into the 20-metre deep hole that some locals in the area believe was created by a meteorite, which is why it’s called ‘Hawiyat Najm’ in Arabic. Stay after dark, when the crowds are gone to see the stunning starry sky reflecting in the clear still water.
3. Jebel Shams
The highest peak in Oman is brilliantly named the ‘Mountain of the Sun.’ The actual height is just over 3,000m & is home to a restricted military base but don’t be disheartened, a second summit which is just shy of 3,000m can be reached by anyone fit enough to make the hike or brave enough to drive to the top! The reward that awaits you for all your labour is a magnificent gorge that stretches out far & wide, plunging deep into the abyss below. There’s no surprise that this place is known as ‘The Grand Canyon of Arabia.’
4. The Empty Quarter
Located in the south of the country, The Empty Quarter surrounds you in a sea of reddish-orange sand dunes that stretch off into every direction. This breathtaking expanse of sand is a part of the longest continuous desert on the planet & ‘Rub’ al Khali’ (in Arabic) also encompasses parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the UAE as well as Oman. It’s mentioned so many times in popular culture, from novels to movies to video games. It all goes to show that is definitely worth the tough trek to get to & experience this genuinely fascinating place.
5. Diving Musandam
The jagged mountainous peninsula separated from the rest of Oman is the best place to explore the sea. Musandam has to be on the checklist if you’re ready to explore its clear water and abundance of sea life. The area around Dibba has a variety of stunning dive sites for a novice to more experienced divers. Depending on the season, you’ll be able to see many varieties of fish as well as dolphins, stingrays, whale sharks & turtles.
6. Turtle Beach
This superb beach found on the eastern tip of Oman is home to many green turtles. ‘Ras al Jinz’ (in Arabic) is an eco-reserve set up to protect the endangered green turtle population that nest on the beach. Sustainable tourism is important here as it should be everywhere in the world, with many eco-lodges & eco-glamping sites found in the area. The best time to visit is between May & September, where you can experience the newly hatched turtles racing towards the Indian Ocean.
7. Majlis al Jinn
Legend has it that this place is the meeting place of genies (yes, genies) & is the second largest cave system in the whole world. It’s in a pretty remote location in the Selma Plateau around 100km from the capital Muscat, so getting here definitely requires a 4×4. Currently, the tourism ministry is attempting to build a path down into the cave, so access to the interior is easier than abseiling down a rope or BASE jumping in!
8. Al Hoota
Only reopened in September 2016, this 4 & a half kilometre cave network can be described as if you’re walking into a holy shrine. The incredible 2.2 million-year-old cave system was discovered by a shepherd who lost his goat & it’s clear that he stumbled across a real gem. Inside this limestone paradise, you’ll have bats, blind fish, snails, water beetles & spiders for company, as you discover the caverns and underground lakes that await you.
9. Snake Gorge
Last but not least is ‘Wadi Bimmah’ (in Arabic) aka. Snake Canyon, found close to Jebel Shams in the Hajar Mountains. The area is one of the best places in the country to go off-road in a 4×4 to experience its challenging terrain. When inside, be prepared for climbing, jumping, swimming, abseiling & much more as this place requires a whole lot of bravery & courage to experience it fully. This could be the ultimate adventure in Oman so be ready for an unforgettable time.