Things to do in Oman: Attractions and places to visit

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The Sultanate of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula has a coastline of over 2000 kilometres. Its almost endless dream beaches at the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf are ideal for bathing, surfing and diving. The countryside also has a lot to offer.

The desert landscapes of Oman, the Bedouin camps, the date and palm groves of the oases, its majestic palaces and fortifications from pre-Islamic times are part of the magic and the enormous cultural wealth that is preserved from the ancient maritime trading nation until today.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Oman.

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1. Great Sultan Qabus Mosque of Muscat

Maskat, translated place of falling, lies in the middle of steep rock walls in a bay at the Gulf of Oman and has about 800,000 inhabitants. Here, in the capital of Oman, the great Sultan Qabus Mosque was opened in 2001, one of the largest mosques in the world. The construction costs of the building, which was constructed from 300,000 tons of Indian sandstone, were estimated at around 100 million US dollars. The prayer rooms of the mosque hold over 6000 believers.

The entire mosque complex covers an area of 4 hectares and can accommodate up to 20,000 visitors. Five minarets symbolize the five duties of Muslims, the pillars of Islam. The imposing complex is decorated with precious wood carvings, calligraphy, crystal chandeliers and gilded marble works. The Sultan Qabus Mosque can also be visited by non-Muslims.

2. Nizwa fortress and souq

Surrounded by palm groves, at the foot of the Hajjar Mountains, Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman, with its oasis town. From the 6th to the 7th century Nizwa was the capital of the country. Today the city has about 72,000 inhabitants. The massive fortress of the city of Nizwa was built in 1668 by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’rubi. The work took twelve years until the fortress with its 30 metre high tower of 45 metres in diameter and the cannon platform with space for 24 cannons were completed.

The Fort of Nizwa is one of Oman’s outstanding landmarks and the country’s most visited national monument. At the Nizwa market, traders sell meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and spices as well as leather and pottery. The city’s blacksmiths, who make the traditional Khanjar dagger from silver, make gold jewellery or utensils from copper, are particularly well known.

3. Palace of Jabrin

The castle of Jabrin is the palace of the Sultan bin Saif al-Ya’arubi, built in 1670. It is decorated with magnificent frescoes, calligraphy, woodcarvings and stuccoes. Designed as a triangular building, it accommodates 55 rooms on five levels, including the impressive “Sun and Moon Room” where the Sultan received his guests.

The Sultan’s private bodyguards’ secret passageways and shelters can also be visited, as can the study rooms in which the scholars gathered at court could exchange views on astronomy, medicine and Islamic law. From the terrace of the palace there is a spectacular view over the date groves surrounding the city for 8 kilometres.

4. Jabal Shams

With a height of 2980 meters the Dschabal Schams is the highest mountain range of Oman. About 250 kilometres away from the capital Maskat lies the northern peak of Jabal Sham in a military exclusion zone, which shields a radar station and is therefore not accessible. Southwest of it there is a touristically developed area at about 2000 meters altitude.

From here you can hike to the southern summit of the Dschabal Schams via a trekking route. Whether on foot or by car – once you have climbed Wadi Nakhar, the Sonnenberg rewards its visitors with moderate high temperatures of around 20 °C and a spectacular view over the bizarre canyon landscape and Wadi Ghul. The gorge has cut itself about a thousand meters deep into the Dschabal al-Achdar mountains.

5. Royal City Bahla

The old royal city of Bahla and its fortress Hisn Tamah were built in the 3rd century BC. A 13 km long city wall made of clay bricks surrounds the oasis, its palm avenues, the mosque, the traditional souqs and the fort. Since Fort Hisn Tamah was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987, the fortress has undergone restoration using strictly traditional building methods. Since 2014 the fort can be visited again. Today it is one of the most visited sights in Oman.

Various legends and myths entwine around the origin of Hisn Tamah. Some say that the walls of the fort were erected in just one night by magic hand of a woman. Others say that the work on the fortress came to a halt several times because magical forces collapsed at night what was built during the day. There is a plausible explanation for these legends: It seems simply unimaginable that people could have built such an impressive building without supernatural help!

6. Fortress of Nakhl

Built in pre-Islamic times, the fortress at Wilayt Nakhl is one of the most famous sights and important buildings of historical importance within the Sultanate. Surrounded by palm and date groves, Husn al-Him, as Nakhl’s fortress is also called, lies on a rocky hill, whose irregular shape it masterfully adapts through its architecture.

The fort of Nakhl is situated directly at the Wadi Raqim and overlooks the desert and mountain landscape of the surroundings from a height of more than sixty metres. The hot springs of Ain A’Thawwarah are located in Wadi Hammam, a few kilometres away. Once a week a goat market takes place within the walls of the fortress.

7. Salalah and tomb of the prophet Job

Surrounded by tropical plantation landscapes, the city of Salala (mostly Salalah in German) at the foot of the Dhofar Mountains was the capital of Oman until 1970. It is still the third largest city in the country. The fertile Dhofar region benefits from the numerous freshwater springs in the surrounding area. The surroundings of Salalah and the ancient incense port Al-Baleedauch is also called incense country as home of the incense tree. The region is particularly rich in flora and fauna.

Khor Salala, in the west of the city, is a bird sanctuary that is home to many species. Near the town of Jebel Samhan there is a leopard sanctuary. The townscape is characterised by oriental vaults and traditional limestone houses. About 30 kilometres northwest of Salala is the tomb of Job, which is also mentioned in the Koran as Nabi Ayup. Today there are several hotel resorts in Salalah, the region is known as the “Caribbean of the Orient”.

8. Wahiba Sands

The 12.5 hectare desert area of Wahiba Sands in the east of Oman is also known as Rimal al Wahiba. In authentic Bedouin camps you can experience life in the desert up close: Wandering sand dunes, grazing camels and the hardy Ghaf trees, which live from the morning dew and dig their roots up to 30 meters into the salty soils to survive.

This natural spectacle makes the area a popular sight in Oman. Also one of the oldest fortresses of Oman is located at the edge of the Wahiba Sands. The fortress of the Al Mintarib oasis was built in the 13th century and restored in 1991 and is open to visitors.

9. Khaf Muqhal in Wadi Bani Khalid

The Wadi Bani Khalid lies in the middle of the dry landscape and at the edge of the Wahiba desert. It is surrounded by high mountains, sometimes green in colour due to their high copper oxide content, sometimes reddish in colour when the iron ore content in the rock is predominant. Its riverbed is up to four kilometres wide, which usually dries out almost completely until the rainy season when the river from the Hadschar Mountains makes its way down to the valley again.

The water from the springs of Dawwah, Hamouda and Sarooj collects in natural pools up to two metres deep, shimmers turquoise and offers a clear view of the native freshwater fish that live there. Small, rushing waterfalls stretch along the way up to Khaf Muqhal. The dark cave leads deep into the mountain and hides underground storage chambers for the Sultan’s treasures.

10. Misfat Al Abriyeen

Sultan Qabus ibn Said called Sultan Misfat Al Abriyeen his favourite village. It is an exemplary example of an Omani village where time seems to have stood still since the first mud and stone houses were built about 200 years ago. A historic town wall surrounds the mountain village, on whose slopes the inhabitants have laid out field terraces.

Misfat Al Abriyeen is supplied with water by Falaj channels. The Falaj irrigation system was developed in Oman over 1,500 years ago. The ground gradient is cleverly used to channel water from a remote source or wadi into villages and towns through underground and above-ground canals.

More things to do and activities for your Oman holiday

Best time to visit Oman

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Oman:

January, February, March, April, May, September, October, November, and December

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Oman.

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