Travel highlights Oman
Jebel Shams, ‘mountain of the sun' is the highest peak in Oman and more than 3000m above sea level. It is a very popular mountain pass because of the spectacular views across gorges, ravines and canyons. It's a popular area for trekking and off-road driving. Even in this remote area one comes across tiny villages clinging to the hillside. Although there is tarmac or graded road a lot of the way, the last 30 km up to the Jebel Shams campsite requires a 4WD.
Musandam is the northeastern tip of the Arabia, facing the Strait of Hormuz, and it is a beautiful region belonging to Oman. The mountains of Musandam plunge straight down to the sea, and many of the villages are only accessible by boat. Fishing and limited cultivation sustain the few inhabitants. Before the 1980s, there were no roads, just mountain paths. The fissures between the mountains resemble Norwegian fjords.
Muscat, Oman's capital, is a relaxed coastal city with a dramatic mountain backdrop and an attractive blend of modernity and tradition. Though, not as old as the some other cities in Middle East, it has a character of its own and houses some fantastic attraction within its sphere. For holidaymakers, Muscat's favourite feature is its beach - miles of soft sand lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf of Oman. A stay in one of Muscat's luxury beachfront hotels seems to form a part of every Oman holiday.
Nizwa is located about 1.5 hours drive from Muscat, and is today of the most popular tourist attractions in Oman, with its historical buildings and imposing fort built in the mid 17th century by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'ribi. Nizwa's palm oasis stretches for 5 miles (8 kilometers) along the course of two wadis.
Ras Al Jinz
Green turtles come to nest on this and other beaches at night. The best time of year to see them is between June and October, but the turtles come pretty much all year round.
You will know you have arrived when the heady aroma greets you from roadside burners in the old town of Salalah, also home to an annual monsoon that leaves the landscape fertile and lush in the summer months. The town was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the unique historical legacy of its frankincense. Head to the Frankincense Land Archaeological Park (Al Balid) to learn more about the fragrant local hero.
In the old town, Haffa, you will find collectibles and souvenirs, most notably frankincense, myrrh and locally produced fragrant perfumes. The beaches of Salalah are ideal for watersports, or simply strolling. The coastal marshes are home to migratory birds, and it's easy to find a picnic spot where you can listen to their melodious calls. In Khawr Rhori, visit the palace ruins believed to be that of the Queen of Sheba. Nearby in Mirbat, visit Bin Ali's tomb or the fort at Taqah.
Sur is a quiet coastal town which was once an important base for trade with Africa, especially through Zanzibar, formerly under the same sultanate as Oman. Sur has been an important dhow-building centre for many centuries, and you can visit what remains of the boatyards today and see dhows being built in the traditional way. In the 19th century, Sur had an ocean-going fleet of more than a hundred dhows.
Wadi Bani Awf
The route across Wadi Bani Awf is Oman's most spectacular mountain drive. It can be done in either direction, and will take about four hours. A 4WD is essential. It is a track rather than a graded road; part is along the floor of the gorge, part takes you high up into the mountains. There you find the mountain oasis of Bilad Said, which must be Oman's most picturesque village. The long descent to Nizwa is being graded and tarred at present.
The Wahiba Sands region provides an opportunity to put 4x4 driving skills to the ultimate test, taking on dunes, some with slopes at an angle of over 45 degrees. Exploration of some of the beautiful wadis is the absolute highlight of any trip, as there's almost certain to be no-one else there, and it is possible to swim in crystal clear pools to wash off the dust of a trek through the dense vegetation that fills these deep watercourses through the desert.