On the final leg of our Oman road trip, we headed out of Wahiba Sands to Muscat, coming full circle from where we started a few days earlier. You can go to Wahiba Sands as a day trip from Muscat, but as there is so much to do and see on that route, I highly recommend you spend a night in the desert so you can have more time to explore.
Fresh from our morning camel riding experience after a lovely night spent at Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp, we bounced out of the desert again with Mohammed, our trusty driver. He was driving slightly more cautiously than the day before and managed to get back to the road with four functioning tyres intact (read more on that debacle here)!
If we headed straight back from Wahiba Sands to Muscat, the distance is 240km, which would take you just under three hours. We were making plenty of stops though, so were planning to take the day.
The Coastal Town of Sur
After making Mohammed stop almost every time we had seen a camel on the way to Wahiba Sands, I had managed to calm my excitement somewhat, so we didn’t need to stop virtually every time I laid eyes on one. We therefore made good time to our first stop Sur, in around an hour and a half.
A sleepy seaside town on the north-eastern tip of Oman, Sur was once a key trading port and is still known for their shipyards building dhows, traditional wooden boats.
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Things to Do in Sur Oman
To get your bearings and have a great view over the town, head to Sur Lighthouse. It’s a beautiful building, although you cannot go inside. Nearby is the corniche or waterfront which is lovely for a stroll along as well.
Related Post: A One Day Itinerary for Muscat, Oman
The Old Dhow Factory
On the west side of the town, over the bridge, is an old dhow factory, the only one left still building in Oman. Apparently the owner of the dhow yard appealed to the Sultan asking for support in continuing the business some years ago in order to preserve Omani heritage.
It clearly worked; the yard is very busy with the creations of many dhows, including several that had been commissioned for display at the Qatar World Cup. Virtually all of the dhows now made are for display and are apparently a popular gift given by the Sultan to his favourite people!
You can climb onto some of the dhows to have a look at the intricacies of the designs and look at views across the lagoon and harbour. There is also an on site shop which has a range of beautifully carved wooden goods, as well as miniature versions of the dhows themselves.
Related Post: An Oman Road Trip: Muscat to the Jabal Akhdar Mountains
Open Air Dhow Museum
We continued following this road west and came upon a yard overlooking the lagoon of restored dhows, the centrepiece being Fatah Al Khair. This museum of sorts gives you an interesting insight into Sur’s history of ship building in the Middle East via display boards alongside each dhow. Here you are overlooking the lagoon, keep your eyes peeled as we saw a few turtles popping they heads up out of the water.
Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
This is a big turtle breeding area and your can visit nearby Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve for early morning and evening strolls to hopefully do a bit of turtle spotting between July and October (high season). Unfortunately, it didn’t fit in with our route plan, so we didn’t get to go. If you go, please do let me know how it is.
Top Tip: We used the excellent Zahara Tours for all of our Oman excursions. They specialise in private and customisable tours, as well as having a variety of “off-the-shelf” options as well. I can’t recommend them highly enough, they were truly exceptional.
We continued our drive West back to Muscat by joining the coastal road. When you think of the best beaches in the world, unless you live there, I highly doubt Oman is on that list; it should be. A world away from the decidedly average beach at The Chedi in Muscat, these beaches had fine white sand, clear waters and were all but deserted.
You won’t struggle to find beautiful beaches on this stretch of road, but it is Fins Beach that is rumoured to be one of the best beaches near Muscat.
We were in for a surprise as Mohammed pulled off the road towards the beach; the lovely Sam (our travel consultant who both chose Oman as our honeymoon destination and booked our trip) had organised a private lunch for us on the sand!
We were met by three (!) chefs who led us to a Bedouin style gazebo (is that a thing?!) where we were served traditional Middle Eastern food that was utterly delicious. They had even laid out mats on the sand with parasols for us to chill out afterwards, as well as a changing tent so I could swim. Danny is not a fan of the sea, he’s got a thing about something eating him I think, and after the incident at the Wadi, he is not keen to get back in the water!
Anyway, the beach is gorgeous, the softest white sand and apart from two snorkelers scarily far out a bit further down the beach, there is no one else here. Our fantastic chefs have, along with Mohammed, wandered back to the car so the beach is all ours.
Related Post: Luxury Hotel Review: Alila Jabal Akhdar
Swimming at Fins Beach
I impatient as ever, want to go for a swim, Danny insists I wait until “my food goes down”, I negotiate hard and reduce the waiting time by five minutes. When I’m finally allowed in the water, it is warm, the bottom is smooth rock, virtually no sand, and even when I am out of my depth, the water is so clear, I can see the bottom.
I did, however, have a bit of a bizarre experience as I started swimming, lots of small silver fish started circling me and jumping out of the water.
As I carried on swimming they swam with me, jumping around me in circles. I love fish so so wasn’t bothered, then several minutes late I suddenly wondered why they were doing that… maybe Danny was right and there was a shark… they all disappeared quickly after this thought and I decided I was way to happy in the water and continued to risk it. Luckily, I did manage to leave the sea with all limbs intact.
Top Tip: Oman is a very conservative nation and the expectation is that you should be swimming in shorts and t-shirt everywhere outside of a hotel. To read more on this and the answers to other questions about visiting Oman, head to my bumper Guide to Visiting Oman.
A ten minute drive or so from Fins Beach was the next stop on our journey back to Muscat, Bimmah Sinkhole, one of the most popular places to visit in Oman and a frequent stop on any Muscat day trip.
Mohammed informed us that some people think it was created by a meteor, but actually it is the result of the surface collapsing as the limestone below was eroded. A recreational park has been built around it and there are stairs leading down to the sinkhole, it’s another swimming opportunity!
Related Post: 5 Things to Do in Muscat, Oman
The water in the shallower areas is really sparkly turquoise but the ground drops around really quickly, it’s around twenty metres deep in some areas. There are ropes around the side if you want to climb up onto the ledges and jump in; I would but I have zero upper body strength, so I content myself with swimming into the little coves and looking at the fish. Danny has joined me (he sticks to the sparkly turquoise areas) but he stays still for too long and the nibbly fish surround him; a sharp exit is made.
The sinkhole has a couple of dozen people here but is not crowded and there is a mix of tourists and locals. Bizarrely, the covering up rule does not seem to apply here; even though locals are present, I am the only one swimming in shorts and a top. There are decent enough bathrooms at the entrance to the park to get changed if you need.
Our final stop for the day at Wadi Arbayeen. The road to get here was very narrow and it was a bit of a palaver trying to pass other vehicles, so I’m very glad Mohammed is driving! We walk down the final bit and then climb across the rocks to see the water below. This Wadi is completely deserted, there is a local village nearby but the only noise is of the water falling.
This is the best thing about having a guide and driver, you get a great mix of some of the more popular spots such as Wadi Bani Khalid and Bimmah Sinkhole mixed with some off the radar ones. You also get to do things at your own pace and there is someone to answer your (or my!) endless questions.
The sun is beginning to set now so we head back to Muscat and Mohammed takes us off the coastal road to go through the mountains; the roads are bumpy, the scenery beautiful and we don’t pass another car.
Final Thoughts: Wahiba Sands to Muscat
You can do a day tour from Muscat to Wahiba Sands and back to Muscat again, but it will be a very busy day! I much prefer to take things at a bit of a slower pace and I wouldn’t have given up our surprise beach picnic for anything.
We are heading to the Shangri-La Al Husn for our final three nights in Oman, a huge resort with three hotels clustered in a cove just outside of Muscat. It is the opposite type of hotel to The Chedi which is a smaller boutique hotel, the latter usually being my preference.
I have, however, stayed at some amazing big hotels as well so I am looking forward to our stay for some relaxation after our adventuring. I have had a sneaky google at the views from this hotel, like virtually every view on this trip, it wasn’t going to let us down!
What’s your preference, boutique hotel or big resort-style hotels?
– Check flight route 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.
– View and book hotels in Muscat at Booking.com, Agoda or Hotels.com.
– Click here to buy your Lonely Planet Guide to Oman.
– Apply for your Oman visa here.
– You can also find out more information on my tried, tested and recommend travel resources here.