Oman Itinerary: Muscat, Mountains & Desert

Our Oman itinerary gave us a perfect blend of of adventure, exploring and relaxing time, the best of all worlds and ensures you come back from your holiday in Oman having learnt something about the country you visited, but also feeling refreshed and relaxed, ready to take on the daily grind again.

Personally, my natural instinct on holiday is to cram in as much as possible, whereas my husband’s is to do as little as possible. We compromise by meeting in the middle (the day on, day off approach works well) and we have each recognised that actually, this is the best thing for both of us anyway (a rare result when we compromise!).

I also have a penchant for a luxury hotel and believe there is really no point spending the extra money on beautiful accommodation if you’re not going to spend at least some time there.

We visited Oman for our honeymoon, read more on how we ended up there here.

I’ve talked more about how and why I slowed down my travel style here.

This Oman travel itinerary can be customised; to fit it all in with minimal down time, you need seven days and to take it nice and slow, get some time for relaxing and come home feeling like you’ve been on holiday, I would say ten days (or more).

I have been asked quite a lot of questions about our Oman holiday, so skip to the end for (hopefully) everything you need to know about this beautiful country. If I’ve missed anything or you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

Days 1 to 4: Muscat
Days 4 to 7: Jabal Akhdar Mountains
Days 7 to 8: Wahiba Sands
Days 8 to 10: Muscat

Sunset at the Alila Jabal Akhdar luxury hotel in Oman
The view at sunset from the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel

Oman Travel Itinerary: Day By Day

This worked really well for us to achieve the ever important balance I mentioned above, but swizzle things around to suit you and your travel preferences.

Day One: Recovery

Let’s face it, no matter whether you love or hate flying, it’s still an ordeal. Check into your hotel in Muscat and relax; we stayed at the beautiful Chedi Muscat, which you can read by full review of here.

For an extra special treat, eat at their seaside restaurant, aptly named “ The Beach” for some excellent seafood. Pre book to get one of their tables on the outside verandah, complete with the soothing sound of the ocean and atmospheric fire pits.

Day Two: Muscat

Time to explore Muscat! You can hit the top sites in a day; have a read of my Top Five Things to Do in Muscat, or if you’re looking for an off the shelf, don’t need to think about it kinda plan, try my One Day in Muscat itinerary.

Exterior of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque on our private Muscat city tour
Exterior of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque on our private Muscat city tour

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

Day Three: Relax at The Chedi

The Chedi is a gorgeous hotel with lots of facilities, including a spa, beach, three pools and at least five restaurants (some are seasonal). Spend a day enjoying it, the pool service is excellent and will keep you topped up with chilled water and your cocktail of choice, all while enjoying a splendid view.

The Chedi a Luxury Hotel in Muscat
The Chedi Pool overlooking the ocean

Day Four: Oman Road Trip to the Mountains

Check out of The Chedi (don’t worry, I’ve got a very different but equally awesome hotel recommendation coming next for you) and begin the first leg of your Oman road trip.

Visit the historic town of Nizwa and the abandoned villages of Birkat Al Mauz before ascending into the Al Hajar Mountains where the temperature drops and the views are stunning.

There are two luxury hotel options here; the Alila Jabal Akhdar and the Anantara. We checked into the former; walk from their lobby to the desk for some of the most dramatic views I have ever seen.

Read my full review of the Alila Jabal Akhdar luxury hotel here.

Driving in Oman is relatively straightforward, but I would recommend hiring a car and driver (see the Q&A section below for the pros and cons of each). If you do decide to do a road trip, make sure you pack accordingly, check this road trip packing list to make sure you have all the essentials.

Day Five: Explore the Al Hajar Mountains

There is lots to do up here from hiking and climbing to just visiting the town of Jabal Akhdar; make sure you pick up some rose water distilled from the famous local roses.

The Alila were great at organising activities, from sunrise yoga on the outdoor deck to star gazing and tons of innovative kids experiences.

View of the mountains at the Alila Jabal Akhdar luxury hotel in Oman
View into the gorge from the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel

Day Six: Relax at the Alila Jabal Akhdar Luxury Hotel

I promise you won’t be sick of this view, grab a day bed and relax by the infinity pool overlooking the huge gorge in front of the hotel. Indulge in the complimentary afternoon tea in the Rose Lounge and experience the Omani tasting menu in the Juniper Restaurant in the evening.

For a more indoors experience, head to the spa or go to the gym, where the equipment is all lined up to take in the view. You can also head to their library and borrow a book or play a game of chess; massive downside here though, you can’t see the view!

Day beds around the pool at the Alila Jabal Akhdar luxury hotel in Oman
Day beds at sunset next to the infinity pool overlooking the ravine below

Day Seven: Oman Road Trip to Wahiba Sands

Time for the second leg of your Oman road trip, this time spending a couple of hours swimming and exploring Wadi Bani Khalid on your way to the Arabian desert.

Check in at Wahiba Desert Nights Camp. I don’t do camping, but these are self contained stone accommodations with Bedouin style tented roofs, hot water in the shower and air conditioning. My kind of camping!

Ascend the dunes to watch the sun set (the hotel will ferry you up in a 4×4 if you don’t fancy the walk), a wonderfully magical and peaceful experience.

There are lots of activities to partake in here from camel riding, dune bashing and star gazing; read my full review of our Wahiba Desert Nights Camp experience here.

Sun set over the dunes at Wahiba Sand desert in Oman
Sunset over the dunes

Day Eight: Oman Road Trip to Muscat

Wind your way back to the capital from the desert via the coastal town of Sur, the Bimah Sinkhole (with the most beautifully clear waters you can swim in) and stop off at one of the many deserted white sand beaches you’ll pass on your way back to the city.

Check in at the Shangri-La Al Husn. This is the adults only and most exclusive section of the Shangri-La just outside of Muscat, there is also a family one and a business one as well.

The Private Beach at the Shangri-La Al Husn in Muscat Oman
The private beach at the Shangri-La Al Husn

Day Nine: Relax & Enjoy

The Shangri-La is a beast of a hotel and has everything you could ever possibly want and need. Spend the day soaking it in; the pool service is the best I have ever experienced, there is a complimentary cocktail hour in the courtyard, complimentary afternoon tea and some absolutely brilliant restaurants.

The beach is beautiful with water sports on offer for the more active among you, as well as being the best place to watch the sunset. You won’t be disappointed with the pool either.

Day Ten: Say Goodbye

I always find it slightly devastating driving to the airport after a holiday and this is no exception, especially with the final knockout views delivered by Oman on our way.

Beautiful country, excellent holiday and I wish for the same for you (and I’d be amazed if it wasn’t).

Alternative Activities and Longer Stays in Oman

There are three other things that you may want to consider if you would like some alternatives to anything above or are looking for a longer stay.

  1. Visit the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve
    A day trip from Muscat, every single picture I have seen of these pristine beaches have been simply stunning.
  2. Stay at Six Senses Zighy Bay
    This is a true luxury hotel and features in Condé Nast’s Gold List 2019. Everything I see and hear about it makes it looks like a true paradise with a very adventurous twist; there are lots of water sports on offer and for the ultimate dramatic arrival, you can paraglide in!
  3. Visit Salalah
    This was the tip I had from all the locals! You need to fly down there, but it is rumoured to be absolutely beautiful with UNESCO World Heritage sites and lots more of that stunning Omani scenery. My hotel of choice would be the Anantara (who also operate the other luxury hotel in Jabal Akhdar).

Oman Itinerary FAQs

And finally, I have had lots of travel questions about Oman; answers to the most common ones, plus things I think it is useful to know are below.

I very rarely travel to a country I haven’t visited before (if ever?!) without buying a Lonely Planet guide; I have tried a few different brands and really find it in the best one out there to give you an organised and detailed guide to with everything you would ever need to know about planning your next adventure! Buy your guide to Oman here.

When is the best time to visit Oman?

The best time to visit Oman is between October and April. I suggest you avoid their summer; it would be absolutely scorching and many tour operators shut down due to a combination of the heat and a lack of visitors to the country. The only places that would be bearable during this time is in the Al Hajar mountains and down in Salalah, where the high altitudes bring about cooler weather.

November to February is the peak season for tourists; we went in October and got the best of both worlds, pleasant temperatures, but still quiet,

What's the Best Way to Travel Around Oman?

In short, by car. Public transport is not widely embraced in Oman and if you want to leave Muscat, pretty much non existent. You can hire a driver as we chose to, or rent a car yourself. 

View from Juniper Restaurant at the Alila Jabal Akhdar luxury hotel in Oman
Another stunning sunset at the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel in the mountains

What’s Driving in Oman like?

Driving in Muscat is totally doable unlike many cities worldwide; their infrastructure is excellent and we encountered minimal traffic. Out of the city, the main highways are very quiet as well and very well maintained.

However, I’m going to take a wild guess and suspect you may want to visit wadis, go to the mountains or the desert. Some of these roads are little more than dirt tracks, some are very steep and only one car can pass at once and some have big drops. Some have all of these!

I therefore personally chose to have a driver as we knew we wanted to go to some places that were a bit harder to reach. I am a confident and experienced driver and have driven in lots of different countries, but some of the roads we drove along I definitely wouldn’t have liked to have been in the driver’s seat for!

I also found over the years that having a driver has other advantages; they know hidden spots that are completely deserted, you learn lots from them about their country and the ultimate pro, they know their country a lot better than you do, which can come in handy in a whole host of situations!

What to Wear in Oman

In the hotels, your usual western attire is fine (bikinis by the pool only, sundresses everywhere else etc). If you leave your hotel (and I would recommend that you do), ladies you need to be wearing trousers and skirts that are at least below the knee.

It is even more conservative outside of Muscat, so I would try and go for an ankle length skirt or trousers to be safe. You can wear sleeveless tops, but your shoulders must be covered, so no spaghetti straps.

Gents, you can wear shorts, but of the longer variety that are knee length, no short shorts please. Again, no spaghetti straps either….

If you are visiting a mosque, everyone must wear ankle length trousers or skirt. Short sleeves (not sleeveless) for men are fine, but ladies wear something that has sleeves at least covering your elbows. I wore a t-shirt but covered up with a wrap when we visited mosques. Ladies, you will also need to cover your hair with a headscarf.

None of this is optional, we used Zahara Tours, who are a major tour operator in Oman and they just won’t drive you if you aren’t dressed appropriately. Be respectful and take a wrap everywhere just in case!

Pin For Later

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Pin for A Ten Day Oman Itinerary

How Long Do I Need in Oman?

How long is a piece of string?! It really depends what you’re looking for.

If you just have two or three days and I would say just have a city break in Muscat.

You could, just about, fit most of the itinerary I suggested above in five days, but you’ll be knackered by the end of it. You would also need to be very organised and strict with your timings. We all have limited time, but honestly, I would try and do at least seven days so you can actually relax and truly enjoy the place, which I maintain is very difficult to do if you are trying to rush around and tick things off a list. I would ask yourself if you are really getting any benefit out of this before choosing a trip this hectic.

However, I would say five days would work great for doing Muscat and then either Jabal Akhdar OR Wahiba Sands, as both of these can be done as day trips from Muscat.

If you’re sitting pretty with your annual leave, do ten to fourteen days. You will get your fill of adventure and have some down time to decompress and actually relax.

That was a very wordy way of saying, do what you have and customise to suit!

Best Photo Spots in Oman

I’m probably not the best person to ask, photography is not my core skill in this blogging adventure! I take photos mainly of landscapes to serve as a memory and have little interest in having others take photos of me.

However, for those that are interested in that, Oman is not short on beautiful spots. For the ones that really stand out, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (please bear in mind that this is first and foremost a place of worship), Nizwa Fort, anywhere in the Jabal Akhdar Mountains (just utterly gorgeous and probably one of my favourite spots in the world) and Wahiba Sands to live out all of your Arabian fantasies.

Sun loungers by the sea at the Chedi Muscat Oman
Lounging by the sea at The Chedi Muscat

How Expensive is Oman?

Oman definitely gears itself towards the luxury end of the tourism market, however I believe it is possible to travel on a lower budget, but just not as easy as many other countries.

We chose a luxury trip staying in high end hotels, so our costs were on the high side.

We found the hotel room rates to be reasonable for the quality of hotel (comparable to the cost and quality of other places we have stayed din around the world) but the hotel restaurants to be nothing short of extortionate in comparison to eating locally, particularly in Muscat.

Petrol is relatively cheap and car hire reasonable, however to travel most places in the country you need a 4×4, which of course is more expensive than hiring a bog standard vehicle. Public transport is virtually non existent, particularly outside Muscat.

Is it Safe to Drink the Tap Water in Oman?

The tap water is safe to drink in Oman, although everyone seems to drink bottled water which is readily available everywhere we travelled.

What Not to Do in Oman: Cultural Expectations

While open and welcoming of foreign visitors, Oman is a very conservative nation and behaviour should reflect as such. Dressing appropriately is the most important thing to observe while in Oman, as covered above.

It is common for Omani people to extend invitations back to their house for coffee and dates, both of which should be accepted when in someone’s home (as should anything else that is offered in the form of food and drink). Take your shoes off before entering someone’s residence and try and bring a small gift (dates always go down well).

Avoid all negative political or religious discussion and most definitely do not say anything that could be construed as derogatory about Sultan Qaboos (Oman is not a democracy, albeit a very sympathetic one).

Be aware that it is actually illegal to become visibly angry in Oman, including using rude hand gestures. Basically, don’t be a dick and you’ll avoid arrest. If you have dickish like tendencies, I would suggest choosing another location, or even better, just stay at home.

Moorish architecture at the Chedi hotel in Muscat Oman
Moorish inspired architecture at The Chedi hotel in Muscat

Is Oman Safe?

Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. Violent crime is incredibly rare and you are less likely to get pick pocketed than most other places here as well. It is a country that has some very strong values and I felt completely safe everywhere.

It is also safe for female travellers, however I had a real problem getting locals to make eye contact/talk/acknowledge me, regardless of whether my husband was with me or not. All contact was reserved for him, unless he then brought me into the conversation (and sometimes not even then). It’s frustrating, but their culture at the end of the day so I didn’t fuss too much about it.

The only exceptions I found to this was some staff in hotels and our tour guides. I also found that it was easier to get reciprocal communication from women, although they would also generally defer to Danny if he was around.

A bit ironic bearing in mind it was almost always me that knew the answer to whatever question was asked (I’m the planner on our trips!).

Oman Tour & Hotel Recommendations

For all tours I whole heartedly recommend Zahara Tours, we used them for everything during our trip and they were nothing short of superb.

All of my hotels I would recommend for luxury travellers; I was less enamoured with the Shangri-La as I have a preference for smaller boutique hotels and this was one of the largest resort hotels I’ve ever stayed in. This is personal choice though, rather than there being anything wrong with their offering. Read my hotel reviews of each of our four stops in Oman below.

Oman Visa Application Requirements

You can no longer get an Oman visa on arrival, they must be applied for in advance online (unless by exception, but I really wouldn’t take a chance on this).

Most citizens of Middle Eastern countries do not require one at all, there are 71 countries that are eligible to apply for an eVisa (including the UK and USA) that is valid for thirty days. The cost is 20 OMR.

There is a loophole if you have a visa for Dubai or have obtained an entry stamp in your passport from Dubai during the last twenty one days, which makes you exempt. A lot of people enter via Dubai having transited through Dubai, but you must go through passport control and obtain your stamp for this to be valid on entry into Oman. For more on this, read here.

Do not apply for your Omani visa more than thirty days before you arrive in the country (as I did) as they require you to enter within that time frame for it to be valid.

Electric Plugs in Oman

Oman is one of the few countries in the world I get to travel to as a Brit and don’t need a converter, yayyy! Oman use British plug sockets and run on 240 volts, so dependant on where you purchased your hair straighteners, you may need a transformer as well if they run on a lower wattage.

Muscat to Jabal Akhdar Oman Itinerary: Nizwa Fort
Visiting Nizwa Fort on our way from Muscat to the Jabal Akhdar Mountains

Alcohol in Oman

Alcohol and being drunk in public is technically illegal in Oman, however most hotels and some restaurants have a license to sell alcohol (not quite sure how that works) and there it is freely available except before 2:00pm on Friday (a sacred day of worship in Islam).

Alcoholic beverages are also heavily taxed so don’t expect it to be easy on the wallet. However, the two hotels we stayed at in Muscat included generous quantities of complimentary alcohol in the mini bars.

Final Thoughts: An Oman Itinerary

This trip is always going to be extra special to me as it was our honeymoon destination. However, I truly believe it has something for everyone and Oman exceeded all my expectations.

I hope this has been of at least some help in planning your trip to Oman and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Resources

Check flight routes and prices with Skyscanner. Oman Air fly direct from Manchester and London Heathrow on a daily basis and British Airways fly from London Heathrow three times a week between October and April.

There are currently no direct flights from the USA, but there are lots of connection options; Muscat is only an hour’s flight from Dubai.

Apply for your Oman Visa here.

Book The Chedi Hotel in Muscat

Book Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel in the Al Hajar Mountains

Book Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp in the Omani desert

Book Shangri-La Al Husn hotel in Muscat

Click here to buy your Lonely Planet Guide to Oman

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28 Comments

  1. Melissa Roos
    February 12, 2020 / 2:29 pm

    I’ve been reading so much about Oman recently and it’s gotten me more and more excited to visit. It’s never been on my list and I don’t know why. It looks gorgeous. I’ll definitely save this itinerary to look back on when I do visit Oman. 🙂

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 12, 2020 / 3:04 pm

      It wasn’t on mine either, someone else picked it for me and I’m so glad they did. Much as I love my travel list, I love a bit of spontaneity to knock it sideways every now and again!

  2. Rashi jain
    February 12, 2020 / 2:56 pm

    Oh I so wish to visit OMAN someday! Beautifully written blog! Thank you for the info❤️

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 12, 2020 / 3:04 pm

      So glad you liked it, hope you get there soon!

  3. Tal
    February 12, 2020 / 6:00 pm

    Oman looks fascinating, thanks for the detailed itinerary!

  4. Erin
    February 12, 2020 / 8:43 pm

    I’ve been to other parts of the Middle East that I absolutely loved, and you’ve now fully inspired me to add Oman to my bucket list. The desert landscapes are so gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 13, 2020 / 5:24 am

      I’m in the opposite boat, never visited anywhere else in the Middle East! If they are half as good as Oman I will love them 🙂

  5. Thrifty with a Compass
    February 13, 2020 / 4:39 am

    Oh wow, Oman looks like a dream! Love this guide, it is so well detailed and packed with info. Definitely saving this post for later! THANK YOU

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 13, 2020 / 5:25 am

      So glad it is helpful for you! Oman is definitely a hidden gem.

  6. Stefanie
    February 15, 2020 / 7:35 am

    Hi Rachael,
    what a comprehensive article about this beautiful country. I’ve travelled through Oman 2016 and the country is still on my favorite list. Loved the diversity of beach, desert, wadis and mountains. Would definitely go back there!
    Best, Stefanie

  7. emily
    February 15, 2020 / 7:53 am

    Wow, it sounds incredible here. Thank you for such a detailed guide!

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 3:06 pm

      It was fantastic 🙂

  8. Katja | placesandnotes
    February 15, 2020 / 8:12 am

    This is such an informative post and Oman is stunning! We´ve travelled around for 2 weeks back in 2012 and we had an amazing time, I wish to go back. Bookmarking your wonderful post, it might come useful soon 🙂

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 3:06 pm

      Thank you so much! Agreed, one stunner of a destination.

  9. Kriszti
    February 15, 2020 / 10:41 am

    Such a comprehensive guide, absolutely loved your post! After visiting Dubai recently I got so excited about Oman as well and reading about all these amazing places make me wanna visit even more! 🙂

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 3:05 pm

      So pleased you enjoyed it, never been to Dubai but I believe it is quite different from Oman, no glitzy skyscrapers and a lot more understated!

  10. Jessica
    February 15, 2020 / 2:32 pm

    Amazing itinerary and hotel recommendations! I’ve been hearing so much about Oman lately and almost booked a trip to stay at the Six Senses Zighy Bay! Will have to be top of the list for next year!

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 3:04 pm

      If you go, do let me how it was, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Zighy Bay may be the reason I return!

  11. Marisa
    February 15, 2020 / 3:04 pm

    I am saving this post for later as Oman is a dream destination for me! Thanks for sharing and I loved all your beautiful photos!

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 2:58 pm

      I’m so pleased you found it helpful, hope your trip is as good as mine was!

  12. Shafinah Neville
    February 15, 2020 / 3:27 pm

    Your pictures are ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. 😍 And thank you for documenting Oman in detail – I’ve always been so curious about the tourism of this place. ❤

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 2:57 pm

      Thank you so much, taking photographs is not usually my strong point, but Oman’s beautiful landscapes made it easy for me!

  13. Aswani Kurra
    February 15, 2020 / 11:35 pm

    This guide is so amazing! Would love to visit Oman one day!

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 2:55 pm

      Glad you like it and hope you get there soon!

  14. Hazel
    February 16, 2020 / 8:58 am

    Excellent practical information here, Rachel. I like the fact that you include cultural tips as many bloggers overlook this in favour of the best place to get the ‘gram. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rachael
      Author
      February 16, 2020 / 2:54 pm

      I try to be helpful! I think it is very important to have some understanding on how to behave in other people’s countries, always more important than a photo opportunity.

  15. Kia Marie
    March 21, 2020 / 1:47 pm

    We lived in the UAE for 2,5 years, and sadly never made it to Oman! We know it sounds absolutely crazy…
    We had planned it all out and wanted to go, but as our work visas had expired and we still had a couple of months mote in the country we were afraid if we left, we wouldn’t be let in again. After reading your post, we definitely regret not going earlier, and it looks like we just have to go back to see all of this! The coast looks amazing!

    • Rachael
      Author
      March 22, 2020 / 6:01 pm

      It’s easily done though, especially if you’re trying to acclimatise to a new place. I’ve never been to Paris, despite it being my nearest overseas capital city! One day…

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