Explore the wild heart of Oman

A relatively small country, Oman is nevertheless home to some of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes in the Middle East. From the sand seas of Sharqiya to the stunning coastal scenery of Musandam – also known as the Norway of Arabia – wild adventure awaits in every corner of Oman.
Abandoned village Birkat Al-Mawz in Hajar Mouintains, Oman. Photo: baseart/Shutterstock
Abandoned village Birkat Al-Mawz in Hajar Mouintains, Oman. Photo: baseart/Shutterstock

Desert adventures in Oman

As one of the primary settings for Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands, it’s no surprise that Oman is home to some expansive, pristine stretches of desert. You don’t have to emulate the intrepid Thesiger and venture into the desolate Empty Quarter to experience it, however. The Sharqiya Sands – also known as the Wahiba Sands – combine the promise of desert adventure with easy access to Oman's capital, Muscat, just a two-hour drive away. In luxurious desert accommodation, such as Desert Nights Camp, you can experience the thrill of sleeping out in the desert without forgoing your creature comforts.

This is the desert of the movies: a vast ocean of golden sand dunes which is home to nomadic Bedu tribespeople who have been living in this unforgiving environment for centuries. At the luxury camps, you can get a flavour of desert life on sunset camel treks, quad bike adventures and journeys to meet local Bedu families. For a taste of the real nomadic life, though, join a desert expedition and pitch your own tent out in the dunes.

Dunes at Sharqiya Sands, Oman. Photo: MicheleB/Shutterstock

Musandam: the Norway of Arabia

The Musandam Peninsula is Oman’s most remote outpost – in fact, it’s completely cut off from the rest of the country by 100km of the UAE’s rocky desert. However, thanks to one-hour flights from Muscat to Khasab, the capital of Musandam, it’s easy to reach – and what you’ll find there is spectacular. The jaw-dropping coastline of the peninsula has led to Musandam being dubbed the Norway of Arabia, because of the vast fjord-like ravines, known as khors, where the land meets the sea. Where Norway’s fjords were sculpted by the power of advancing glaciers, though, the khors are monumental cracks in the earth’s surface created by the power of colliding tectonic plates.

 A trip down Khor ash Sham, the biggest of the khors, is top of the agenda for any trip to Musandam – and while the setting is spectacular enough, your vessel, a traditional dhow boat, only adds to the romance. While you’d be forgiven for gazing at the rugged coastline, don’t forget to keep your eye on the water for pods of dolphins, who seem to delight in racing alongside the boats, to the great joy of visitors.

Musandam khors, Oman. Photo: Dan Stables

Exploring Oman’s mountains

Musandam’s wild beauty doesn’t end at the coastline. The khors rise sharply into a mountainous interior, over which the mighty Jebel Harim presides. You don’t have to spend long here to be offered a ‘mountain safari’, but you won’t spot many animals on these 4x4 expeditions, barring a few hardy goats. Instead, it’s all about marvelling at the views and spotting ancient petroglyphs – works of rock art depicting camels and stick men with spears, carved into the mountainside thousands of years ago.

There’s no need to journey all the way to Musandam, though, to experience Oman at its most rugged and mountainous. The Hajar Mountains are Oman’s great backbone; they begin just a short way inland from Muscat, and offer some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes and exhilarating off-roading. 

The mightiest of the lot is Jebel Shams, Oman’s tallest peak at 3,009 metres. Naturally, that kind of elevation means affords breathtaking views – particularly when you’ve got Wadi Nakhr, the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’,  just next door. If you’re of an adventurous bent, consider pitching a tent on the canyon rim. Wild camping is legal throughout Oman, and this is one of the most spectacular places to do it. Most visitors will probably be more than happy to stay at the comfortable Jebel Shams Resort, heading out to hike the unforgettable Balcony Walk along the rim of the canyon to the abandoned village of As Sab.

Hajar Mountains, Oman. Photo: Dan Stables

Oman’s stunning coastline

Oman’s promise of wild adventure does not end on dry land. A technicolour world lies beneath the waves offshore, offering some of the best diving and snorkelling in the Middle East. Once again, Oman’s convenience in this regard can be surprising; it’s possible to hop on a boat in Muscat and be diving the atmospheric wrecks of Bandar Khayran in next to no time. 

Further afield, the coral gardens of the Daymaniat Islands are home to leopard sharks, barracuda, moray eels and enormous seahorses. Musandam, meanwhile, is almost as spectacular underwater as above – local inhabitants include huge manta rays, hammerhead and zebra sharks, as well as minke whales.

Leopard shark over reef near the Daymaniat Islands. Photo: SeraphP/Shutterstock

Nesting sea turtles in Oman

Oman’s coastline also harbours what is perhaps the country’s most magical nature experience. The life cycle of the green turtle is one of the most enigmatic and beautiful in the natural world, and you can experience it up close at Ras al Jinz, less than a three-hour drive south of Muscat. 

Nesting turtles haul themselves out of the sea to dig holes in the sand and lay their eggs, which eventually hatch into tiny babies. The newborns instinctively scuttle down to the sea, but only a tiny proportion of them make it without being picked off by predators. Those females that do survive will roam the oceans for thousands of miles before returning to the very same beach to lay their own eggs. Staying at Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve offers the unforgettable opportunity to see nesting turtles laying their eggs, and rescued hatchlings given another shot at their race to the sea.

Green sea turtle at Ras Al Jinz, Oman. Photo: Marcin Szymczak/Shutterstock

Ready to take a trip to Oman?

Insight Guides can help you organise and book incredible trips to Oman. Simply get in touch to let us know your travel ideas and when you'd like to visit. Our local experts will then create a personalised itinerary based on your preferences which you can amend until you're completely happy with every detail before you book. Our existing itineraries can offer inspiration, and remember, all of our planned itineraries can be tailored to meet your specific requirements.