Recently I wrote about several attractions of Oman, which led me to the idea of taking a trip to this surprisingly beautiful and relaxing Country. (see the full post here). Many of my readers asked me about my travel itinerary as they also might be planning to take a tour to Oman in the near future. Therefore today I am providing you with my 2018 tour itineray, which I hope might be useful to you.
I beg your pardon in advance because I am pretty bad at creating maps. I used the google earth app to make it because I believe it provides you with a better idea of what the landscape looks like at the several locations I visited
My 2018 tour of Oman
In 2018 there wasn’t yet a direct connection between Italy and Oman (except charter flight to Salalah, which I skipped) thus I flew from Torino to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Muscat. I actually booked my flight with Lufthansa since I am a frequent flyer with them, but the flight was operated by Oman Air (a pretty good company, by the way). I landed in Muscat around 9.00 pm, picked my bags, went through passport control (I got my visa in advance through the e-visa portal of the Sultanate of Oman) and wen to pick up my car at the car rental booth. Since I knew I was landing late, I booked my first overnight at a hotel close to the airport.
The following morning I drove to Nizwa, the former capital city of Oman. I spent 3 nights in this beautiful man-sized city in the middle of the Hajar Mounts. Nizwa is the starting point for both those who plan cultural visits and those who travel to Oman to do some sports, such as rafting, canyoning, rock climbing and others. I do fall in the first category of travellers, thus Nizwa became my hub for excursions in the area.
The main attractions of Nizwa are the Fort and the Souq (especially the dates souq). It takes a couple of hours to visit the fort and as much as you want inside the souq, which is not very big but very different from others you might have seen in middle east Countries: clean and pleasant.
With no clouds in view, Nizwa is the place where I experienced one of the most interesting sunsets of my life. Forget about the orange/red/golden shades of the usual sunsets: the sky turns purple here for some 15 minutes, immediately after sundown. I captured it with my phone but trust me, the photo doesn’t show how purple the sky was in that moment.
I spent the next two days exploring the area. My first trip was to the mount village of Misfat Al Abriyyin which is sort a small oasis nestled in the arid landscape of the Hajar Mounts. There are no special attractions here but you can just see the way of living of the mountain people and a beautiful village where time stands still. If you are lucky enough to get there in a day with few visitors you may access the only cafeteria and its panoramic terrace which allows a look over the valley. People are every friendly here but you must respect their rules and roam around with your skin covered.
The next day I visited some forts in the area and then moved to the village of Al Hamra. This is a pretty bigger village, one section of which is very interesting as it is made up of mud-built houses in Yemenite style. Since Yemen is not a travel destinations due to the ongoing war, this is for now one of the few opportunities you have to see these kind of houses. Quite a big portion of the village looked deserted thus we had the chance of roaming around freely and even see the interiors of the houses.
On the way to Nizwa, along the road you will find a panoramic terrace where a view over the village and the big palm grove is possible, and that’s the place where my travel mate took the photo above. On the same day, before getting back to Nizwa I drove to Bahla, another bigger village in the valley at the feet of the Hajar Mounts, and that is were we visited the biggest fort.
From Nizwa I drove to the city of Ibra where I spent 1 night. The city is not a big cultural hub but in it’s thereabouts you will find several forts. Although their structure is pretty much the same, they all display some different features: some were residences and some were just fortresses, thus each deserves a visit.
The next day I drove to Bidiyah. I didn’t sleep here as the village is just the entry gate to the sand desert of the Al-Sharqiyya region, where I spent 2 nights. This is the only section of my tour that I had to book through a local agency: unless you want to get stuck in the sand of the desert, get disoriented and lost, you’d better book a local guide and accommodation. The guide will also be your driver through the desert and don’t be scared about how fast they drive on the dunes: speed keeps the car light and prevent from sinking into the sand. I wrote already about the Oman sand desert (read the artcile here) thus I am just providing you with an idea of the activities I did. On day 1 I just walked on the dunes around the camp where I got 360 degree views over the neverending expanse of sand. At around 5 pm our guide took us by car to the top of a pretty high dune to admire the sunset. Temperature fell immediately after sundown, but luckily not to freezing point.
The next day we woke up late and had a good breakfast at the camp, then we enjoyed the small market of te local bedouins. They came to the camp and displayed their products, most of which were perfumes and oils. I have to be honest here: they were great but very expensive (probably prices are higher for tourists). We relaxed undert a bedouin tent, met some other travellers from Australia and after lunch we took another walk over the dunes and waited till sunset. I didn’t take the Camel ride because I am against the use of animal for human pleasure, but many other guests did).
The next morning we woke up earlier and our guide took us back to Bidiyah were we picked our car and drove to the Turtle reservoir at Ras Al Jinz. On the way there we had a pit stop in Sur, for lunch and took a picture of the bay. We arrived at the Turtle reservoir in early afternoon. Most of the people who visit the reserve sleep in Sur or the villages around the parl. Since I booked my tour quite in advance I managed to find accommodation inside the park. They have both a hotel and a set of tents on the hills overlooking the beach. I booked a tent. After check in I decided to take a stroll to the beach: it takes approximately 20 minutes on foot because the hotel has been smartly built at a reasonbale distance form the beach to avoid causing un necessary disturb to the turtles. I walked on the beach and that is where I met a colorful crab running into the waves.
It was new year’s eve thus the hotel organized a pretty rich buffet for all the guests but it was an early dinner since at 9.00 pm our meeting with the guide was scheduled. You can’t go on your own to the beach at night. Guests are gathered into small groups and are led to the beach by local experts (the activity is included for the guests of the hotel, while there is fee for visitors sleeping elsewhere). We spent approximately 1.30 h on the beach and saw several giant turtles dropping off the eggs. It was a very dark night thus the Guides were pointing their torches over the turtles for juts few seconds to avoid disturbing them.
The next day we had a long drive to Sohar, a beach destination in the Al Batinah district, overlooking the Gulf of Oman. Although me and my travel mate are not beach persons, we choose this location because it is a good base for the exploration of the area which offers a set of forts and amazing landscapes. I spent 2 nights here and took the time explored several forts, the most amazing of which, in my opinion, is the fort of Nakhal, shielded by the rocks of the hills where it was built and also the fort of Rustaq which also is famous for the terapeutic hot spring.
Finally I went back to Muscat, where I spent 2 nights. The city is actually divided into 2 sections: the old city and the modern one. I spent the first day visiting the old city, the souq and the area around the port, then I moved to an area close by where all the government palaces are located, including the residence of the Sultan.
On my second day I explored the modern city, whose main attractions are the recently built Opera House and the Grand Mosque which also is pretty recent and one of the biggest I have ever seen.
In a nutshell, this is how I spent my 12 days in Oman. It obviously is the way I like touring, thus many of you might want to also enjoy the sports for which this Country is well known. However, if you are not a beach person and want to get to know more about the local culture, this itinerary might be good for you also.