The Middle East forms a bridge between West and East, where three of the biggest religions found its origin. Because of its history with a lot of religious conflicts, this region, unfortunately, is not on the priority list of many travelers. Although, the beautiful nature and the interesting culture are definitely worth visiting these countries. If you are ready to explore one of the most traditional and welcoming Arab countries, Oman is your go to!
Oman is part of the Gulf states and has the privilege of huge oil supplies in its grounds. This makes Oman a wealthy country with good infrastructures and easy to travel. Easy means, by 4WD!
For more tricks and tips read our blog post ‘Oman top travel tips and tricks ‘.
From Muscat to the wadi’s surrounded by the desert
When you start your trip, don’t skip the capital city Muscat. With its wide roads, it is easy to find your way in the city. You will find a lot of extravagant buildings from Sultan Qaboos. Unfortunately, he recently passed away and his cousin became the next sultan. The biggest eye-catcher is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. You can also visit the Royal Opera House, where famous opera concerts are given. At the coast side you will find some extreme fancy 5-star hotels and some surreal buildings. If you rather like the old Muscat, you can have a look in the Mutrah Souk. This souq is one of the oldest markets in the Arab world.
Hike and swim
Now, on to some nature. We started our trip going south stopping by Bimmah Sinkhole on our way to Wadi Shab. The sinkhole looks a bit artificial but it is worth to stop for some minutes and take a swim to cool down. Later on, you reach Wadi Shab. After parking your car, you take a small boat to cross the river. Now a hike from around 40-60 minutes starts until you reach the Wadi itself.
During this hike you will be amazed by the beautiful surrounding palm trees. As a reward, you can cool down in the turquoise water at the end. Leave your stuff on the side and swim until you reach the end of the Wadi. There you can swim underwater into a narrow cave. You have to trust me, it is worth it! In the hidden cave you will discover a waterfall combined with rays of the sun coming through the opening of the cave.
After Wadi Shab you can find a camping spot in the surrounding. Next stop, Wadi Tiwi and Mibam village. Enjoy a challenging ride on steep and narrow roads before you reach the village. We started our hike from the village and asked a local to guide us down to the wadi. On the road you can walk through farms and see some falaj channels (irrigation systems in Oman). After a steep hike you will see an amazing waterfall. The locals offered us some Omani coffee and dates at the end of the trip.
The hospitality is huge in Oman, people are extremely friendly and always willing to help you without asking anything in return.
If you prefer to do a longer hike, you can arrange a two day camping hike from Wadi Tiwi to Wadi Bani Khalid, this is called the E35 hike. You will need to carry your camping gear and arrange a pickup in the end, but it should be worth!
We drove further south along the coastline until Raz Al Jinz. Raz al Jinz is well known for its turtle nesting sites. You can take a dawn or a night tour to see the young turtles crawling back to the sea. We decided to camp on one of the most beautiful spots during our journey on the beach. But unfortunately we noticed too late that it was impossible to find the road back to the Turtle Reserve in the middle of the night. It was a rough road, so we decided not to watch the turtles in the dark. After Raz Al Jinz, we continued our journey to the Wahiba Sands.
The real 4WD desert experience
You can reach the Wahiba Sands from the village of Al Mintarib. You better stop here and lower the pressure in your tires before entering the desert. If you are not experienced in driving in the dunes, try to ride in a convoy with others or ask a tour guide to accompany you or pick you up. For the accommodation, you can choose between different desert camps from a normal camp to very luxurious overnight stays. They all offer you possible excursions like dune bashing camel riding, sand boarding, … But for me personally, watching the sunset and a sky full of stars was the best experience in the Wahiba Sands.
After the stunning views in the desert we drove to some more stunning views at Wadi Bani Khalid. This wadi is probably the most famous (and easy accessible) oasis in the deserts of Oman surrounded by date palms. You can find here some natural swimming pools, hidden cages and waterfalls. If you are not afraid of climbing, bring your walking shoes with you and ask a local to show you the beautiful spots. In the weekend, it can be crowded so don’t forget to cover your body while swimming.
Ending in the Grand Canyon of Oman
If you like to visit some cities in between, don’t forget to stop at Nizwa when you are driving further up north. The Best time to come here is on Friday morning. There is a special goat market in the old city center. Close to this market you can also find the souq and the fort of Nizwa. Both worth visiting. Up to the next, and for me most breath-taking location, the Jebel Shams, or the Grand Canyon of Oman. On this mountain you can find a camping spot or sleep in one of the two resorts. Be aware of the goats stealing your food when you camp ‘haha’.
There is so much to do on and around this mountain. You can start with the Al Hoota cave or visit the old village of Misfat al Abriyyin to see some gorgeous date palm tree plantations.
If you can’t wait, go straight to the rim of the Grand Canyon. There you can hike to the summit of Jebel Shams. You can do different kinds of hikes in this region, the most easy-going trek is the balcony walk (W6 hike). It’s a hike along the edge of the Grand Canyon with stunning views. If you want to do some more adventurous hikes, look in the OFF-Road book for more information.
If you still have some energy left, drive up to Snake Canyon (Wadi Bani Awf). Here you can experience a canyoning adventure. I was really excited about this and booked this in advance with Canyon Adventures & Tours. We gathered with a couple of Germans and started the canyoning tour with 2 guides. We did the right fork of the canyon, the longest route. You will have to jump off cliffs, abseil with ropes, swim and hike. Once you start, there is no way back. So what about the name of the Canyon, are there really snakes? Actually, the name of the canyon is formed by the way the canyon bends, resembling the shape of a snake. It doesn’t mean that there are no snakes at all, because in Oman, there are snakes, but not specifically in the canyon, don’t worry.