Oman holidays

Experience Oman

Best Places to Visit

Muscat, surrounded by walls on the south and the west, is a metropolitan city that has much to offer visitors. Built in 1625, it is situated in the Gulf of Oman, with stunning views of the mountains to the north and the east. Old Muscat is a great place to visit for a real taste of Oman, running from Port Sultan Quaboos to Al Bustan Beach.

Oman's landscape is extremely diverse, from the miles of uninhabited coastline to the rugged mountains and out to the Wahabi Sands Desert where huge sand dunes roll across the landscape. There are seven pools that are suitable for swimming, all with emerald green waters.

Oman's beaches are both great places to relax and for wildlife spotting. Many of the beaches are breeding sites for several species of sea turtle, with Masirah Island being the main turtle breeding ground.

Mutrah Souk is a lively market in Muscat that is the perfect blend of modern life and ancient history. It is possible to buy pretty much anything here, from frankincense, antiques and silverware to toys and spices. Haggling is expected, so visitors are sure to come away with a few bargains.

The second largest town in Oman is Salalah. With a temperate climate, it is a popular place for those seeking an escape from the sweltering heat found elsewhere in the country from June to September. The climate has made this place into a green, lush area that is ideal for walking. Frankincense trees grow across this area and are used in many traditional medicines.

The Wadi Bani Awf, found in Al Rostaq Wilayat, is an ancient wadi (gorge) that offers mountain streams and calm pools that are perfect for an afternoon dip.

Directly north of Muscat is the coastal region of Al Batinah. This area is famed for its quiet, golden beaches, lined with palm trees and the quiet towns that can be found scattered across it. Al Batinah is also home to Sohar; an expansive city that also happens to be one of the country's oldest. Visitors who want to get to grips with this part of Oman can spend an entire day driving a circular route, known as the Rustaq Loop. The Loop takes in a number of fascinating sites, including the imposing forts found at Al Hazm, Rustaq and Nakhal. In addition, the Loop winds its way through some of the area's most beautiful wadis, such as Wadi Bani Auf and Wadi Abyad.

Top Landmarks

The Grand Mosque in Muscat is an amazing example of modern Islamic architecture. The imposing prayer hall is breathtaking, with a carpet that took four years for 600 workers to complete.

Nizwa Fort, built in 1668, has been astoundingly well preserved. The large circular tower was built to protect Nizwa and gives stunning views across the valley.

Nakal Fort is another amazing historical site.

Abrin Castle in the mountains of Jabal Akdhar, commonly known as the Green Mountains, is a must-see. Built in 1675 as a sultan's summer residence, it is known for its stunning rose gardens and the production of some of the purest rose water around. The architecture is breathtaking, with painted ceilings and inscriptions of Koran verses carefully carved into the walls.

The Beehive Tombs can be found at Al Ayn. A set of 21 tombs that were built in the Bronze Age have been excavated, and archaeological digs continue on this fascinating site. Together with Bat and Al-khutm, they form the most complete collection of settlements from the Bronze Age in the world and have been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Al-Jalali Fort was originally built during the Portuguese occupation of the 1580s.

But as access to the fort is up a steep flight of steps, it was eventually made into a prison. Now it serves as a museum of Omani heritage. Although the interior is strictly for visiting dignitaries' eyes, during military events visitors can expect to see bagpipers and fireworks, which when reflected in the water make for some stunning photos.

Entertainment

Although there is plenty of nightlife in Oman, it is a Muslim country and as a result, alcohol is only available in certain restaurants and westernised hotels. It tends to be quite expensive, with drinking alcohol in public strictly prohibited. However, there are still plenty of pubs and clubs to be enjoyed. Muscat has the best selection, with a number of English pubs tucked away inside the big hotels.

The Hyatt Regency Hotel is one of the best places to visit on a night out. Here, visitors will find an English pub, a number of Arabic bars and a nightclub, all under one roof. Copacabana nightclub is also renowned for its western music and all-night dancing. Another great spot at night is the Marina Hotel, near to the Corniche in Muscat. The food here also comes highly recommended.

For those visitors seeking some culture of an evening, the Royal Opera House Muscat is the number one venue in Oman for musical arts. The Royal Opera House puts on a number of different operatic shows throughout the year and is comprised of a concert theatre, an auditorium, a cultural market and even a restaurant. With a musical art centre and many events on throughout the year, it's certainly a place to visit for an evening of entertainment.

There are cinemas in all of the big cities and most show new Hollywood blockbusters. Although some films are dubbed, most are shown in English with subtitles.

Dining Out

Most of the local food in Oman is typically Arabic, with spices often used. There's a real fusion of Arabic, Turkish and Indian in many restaurants, and standard portions tend to be substantial.

Seafood is very popular and shark is commonly found on the menu along with whole seasoned fish that can be shared between groups.

Omani khubz, traditional Omani bread, is a must-try. It can be hard to find, but some restaurants serve it. It's nothing like the standard white loaf; paper-thin and very crispy, it is cooked over a fire and eaten with most Omani meals.

Pakistani cuisine is very common, especially porotta. Similar to poppadom but twice the size, porotta are slightly thinner and a good snack or side dish.

Curry is a popular dish, and for those willing to take the challenge, there are some exceptionally spicy curries on offer.

For desserts, the most popular Omani sweet is halwa. Often served with kahwa, Omani coffee mixed with cardamom powder and dates, halwa is a hot dish that looks similar to a bowl full of honey. It may not sound appetising, but the taste is similar to Turkish delight and it is well worth a try.

Beach

With a massive expanse of coastline, Oman has many amazing beaches. A handful of the best beaches have been claimed by private resorts, but most are open to the general public. Aviation Beach in Al Azaiba is not the easiest to access, but it is a quiet spot and a great place to get away from it all. Qurum Beach is far more popular with the crowds and has many amenities along with a number of water sports such as jet-skiing.

Romance

A romantic break is all about getting away from the crowds, and there is nowhere better to do this than in the desert. There are a number of resorts in Wahabi Sands desert where couples can really escape into seclusion. Here, visitors can sip a cool drink and then lie back to watch the heavens put on a spectacular show as light pollution is not an issue.

Family

Many of the beaches in Oman are child-friendly. Bandar Jissah, near Qantab, has tide pools to be explored and calm waters which are perfect for paddling in. There are many amenities and even a children’s playground right on the beach. Muscat is also an ideal sport, as there are many child-friendly tours to enjoy and hotels with daily children’s activities. There’s also a wide range of western cuisine for young ones who are not ready to try the local dishes.

Adventure

Visiting Snake Gorge, found in Wadi Bani Awf, is a must for thrill-seekers. The sheer sided canyon has a number of natural flumes that slide down into plunge pools. Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman, is the perfect place for hiking or mountain biking. It can be a tough ride, but the views make it worthwhile.

Our best deals in Oman

Need to know

Language

Arabic is the national language of Oman, but there are a number of regional dialects that can sound worlds apart. Balochi is one of the most common and has become a language in its own right, although this tends to be only spoken in north-west Iran. Another derivative, Jibbali, is spoken in southern Dhofar. Urdu is also spoken in some areas. Most Omani citizens speak some English, and many speak it fluently. Swahili and Malayalam are commonly spoken too, depending on the area of Oman. In the tourist industry, English is widely spoken so unless tourists stray off the beaten track, they won't encounter any language problems. However, it might be worth investing in an Arabic phrasebook, which can be particularly useful in shops and restaurants

Currency

The official currency is the Omani Rial (OMR) and there is 1,000 Baisa to OMR 1. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any airport, but the money exchange offices found throughout the country tend to have the best exchange rates. There are ATMs in all cities and towns, although not all of them accept foreign cards. Credit cards are accepted for large purchases, but not all restaurants and shops have credit card facilities so it is best to carry cash as well.

Visas

For visitors from the EU and the UK a single-entry visa can be obtained at any airport or land or sea terminal on entry. This allows for a one-month stay and the fee is OMR 20. The fee can be paid in Rial, pounds sterling, euro or US dollars. It is also possible to obtain a 10-day visa, which costs OMR 5. A valid passport with at least six months until expiry is required. UK Emergency Travel Documents are valid for entry to and exit from Oman. However, these must have at least six months' remaining validity, to be accepted. On leaving Oman, both residents and visitors must have their passports stamped; failure to do so can cause delays and even prevent passengers from boarding booked flights. Passports must be legal and valid.

Climate

Hot, dry and subtropical, the climate of Oman experiences little rainfall and plenty of sun. Temperatures are high, easily reaching a maximum of around 40°C during the summer months. While cooler, this only makes spring and autumn more pleasant for many travellers, as the temperatures are that bit more bearable at around 30°C.

Watch out for sandstorms during spring and summer, created by the hot, dust-laden wind: the Shamal.

Main Airports

The main airport in Oman is Seeb International Airport (MCT) in the capital of Muscat. This is where virtually all international flights arrive, although a small number land in Salalah Airport (SLL). Seeb International Airport is much more accessible. Obtaining a visa tends to be significantly quicker here, too.

Flight Options

A lot of carriers serve Oman. Oman Air and Emirates both fly to Muscat's airport from London-Heathrow, while British Airways and Qatar Airways fly from Manchester. Most of the flights to Oman have a layover in Dubai and for those flights with connections. Flight time from London to Muscat, with no stop over, is 7 hours, 30 minutes.

Travel Advice

Direct flights can be more expensive whereas having a changeover in Dubai can make the fare significantly cheaper. Prices tend to rise during the peak season, from November to March, but travelling outside of this time isn't advisable as it can be uncomfortably hot. Booking early can help to reduce fares, as can flying from London as opposed to other UK cities.

Other Transport Options

Although there is a port in Muscat, cruise ships primarily use it and there is no regular passenger service as yet. However, it is possible to enter Oman by land from the United Arab Emirates. There are a number of crossings, such as Wadi Hatta or Ras Al Khaimah to Bukhara. Border crossings are easy, but anyone wanting to bring a car into Oman will have to provide proof of ownership and insurance.

Getting Around

Domestic flights run daily and there is also a bus service across the country. However, the bus service only extends to the main cities. By far the most popular way to get around is by car, with rentals being cheap and easy to arrange. The road network is extensive although some rural routes are not as well maintained as those in the city centres.

Bus

The Oman National Transport Company runs the bus service across Oman. There are daily services connecting the biggest cities of Muscat, Salalah, Sohal, Sur and Nizwa. However, buses tend to stick to the main routes so it's difficult to reach off-the-beaten-track places this way. Buses all have air-conditioning and toilets on-board, and some even have Wi-Fi.

Air

Although flights aren't the most common way to get around, Oman Air is the main carrier and has daily flights between the country's two airports, Seeb International Airport and Salalah Airport.

Car

There are a number of international car hire chains in Oman, including Avis, Budget and Europcar, but there are also many local agencies which often have the best deals. Rental is cheap and although insurance is included, always double check. It is best to hire a four-wheel drive as although many of the main roads are in a good condition, some rural roads are nothing more than dirt tracks. Most roads signs are written in English and petrol is cheap, with fuel stations available even on small roads. Driving is on the right.

MAP

OMAN`S WEATHER TODAY

Mostly cloudy °C

AVERAGE TEMPERATURE (°C)

  • 25

    J

  • 26

    F

  • 29

    M

  • 34

    A

  • 38

    M

  • 39

    J

  • 38

    J

  • 37

    A

  • 36

    S

  • 34

    O

  • 30

    N

  • 26

    D

MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

  • 17

    J

  • 16

    F

  • 14

    M

  • 5

    A

  • 0

    M

  • 3

    J

  • 4

    J

  • 2

    A

  • 0

    S

  • 0

    O

  • 1

    N

  • 13

    D

MONTHS

FACTS

  1. Oman is one of the longest-inhabited places on Earth, with people having lived there for around 106,000 years
  2. For those unaccustomed to the blistering summers, winter is the best time to visit Oman when the climate is more akin to temperatures found in the Mediterranean
  3. Tipping waiters and taxi drivers is not a common practice in Oman
  4. Some of the world's finest horses are bred in Oman
  5. The oldest monument in Oman is the Muscat Clock Tower
  6. One of the most important crops in Oman is the date. The fruits are often served with coffee

FACTS

  1. Oman is one of the longest-inhabited places on Earth, with people having lived there for around 106,000 years
  2. For those unaccustomed to the blistering summers, winter is the best time to visit Oman when the climate is more akin to temperatures found in the Mediterranean
  3. Tipping waiters and taxi drivers is not a common practice in Oman
  4. Some of the world's finest horses are bred in Oman
  5. The oldest monument in Oman is the Muscat Clock Tower
  6. One of the most important crops in Oman is the date. The fruits are often served with coffee

Holiday Types

Similar destinations

+
7 nights from £1328/pp
+
7 nights from £913/pp
+
7 nights from £2900/pp
+
7 nights from £2656/pp
+
7 nights from £1179/pp