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The best way to visit Oman is a road trip! With limited public transport and sites scattered around the country, renting a car is your best option to make the most of your time. The roads are well-maintained, all major sites are easily connected, and traffic jams are rare, making driving in Oman a pleasure. Moreover, since Oman is an oil rich country, fuel is extremely cheap. We are talking less than EUR 0.50 per litter!
In this guide we describe the best route for a 7 days road trip around the northeast of Oman, starting and ending in the capital, Muscat. The trip can be done in 5-10 days depending on how fast you like to travel, and how many activities you want to fit in, but 7 days would be the minimum for a relaxed road trip. We share the best route, where to stay, and how long to stay. Additionally, we provide per day what to pack and what to wear advice. Dress code is an important factor to consider in Oman due to the conservative culture. You can read more about it in our Dress Code in Oman article.
The route includes the following stops
Muscat – Bimmah Sink Hall – Wadi Shab – Sur – Wadi Bhani Kalid – Sharaqiya Sands – Nizwa – Bahra Fort – Jibreen Castle – Misfat Al Abreen – Jebel Shams – Muscat
The route can also be done as follows:
Muscat – Jebel Shams – Misfat Al Abreen – Jibreen Castle – Bahra Fort – Nizwa – Shaeaqiya Sands – Wadi Bhani Kalid – Sur – Wadi Shab – Bimmah Sink Hall – Muscat
Should I hire a regular car or 4×4 jeep in Oman?
The large majority of roads described in this guide are paved roads that are perfectly fine for a regular car to drive on. There are some exceptions where a 4×4 jeep might be useful, but these occasions are rare and are not worth the price. When visiting the desert dunes or the Jabel Shams mountain peak, you can take a 4×4 jeep taxi for 15 OMR in each location. These are the only points you would be better off with a 4×4 jeep. However the cost of the 4×4 jeeps is more than double that of a regular car, so unless you want to attempt dune bashing in the desert, it is more economical to hire a normal car and take jeep taxis where needed.
Car pick up in Muscat
Pick up your car at Muscat airport on day 1 in order to have the most comfortable visit to Muscat. Most car rental companies are operating from Muscat airport, with a few having offices outside the airport. The prices between picking up at the airport or at other locations are rather similar, so you won’t score a bargain picking up the car outside the airport. Also, sites in Muscat are scattered around and require to drive for distances of up to 40km. Doing site seeing with a taxi will for sure outweigh the cost of having the car in Muscat.
We have booked our rental car prior to arriving in Oman through RentalCars.com
|Total kilometers driven||1645 Km|
|Total time on the road||18 hours|
|Longest drive||2.5 hours|
|Fuel expenditure (gasoline)||22.9 OMR (53 Euros)|
Day 1-2 – Muscat
What to wear: For visiting Muslim sites a certain dress code is required.
Men should wear long trousers covering the knees and a shirt covering shoulders.
Women should wear long trousers / dress covering the knees, a shirt covering the shoulders, a scarf to cover the hair.
What to pack:a bottle of water, sunscreen, and sunglasses
Where to stay: Muscat – Riyam Hotel
Muscat is a large city with a number of travel highlights scattered around it. Driving up and down road 1 will take you to most major site and is in itself an attraction in our eyes. We recommend visiting the following sites (in no particular order):
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
A beautifully built mosque that is definitely worth the visit! It is known as the “Jewel of Islamic architecture”, and does not disappoint. It houses the second largest carpet in the world that was woven by 600 women in 4 years. Additionally, the largest chandelier in the world is stunningly hanging in the main men prayer hall. We spent about 2 hours walking around the Mosque admiring the architecture and interior design. Make sure to stop by the visitors’ information center for some tea or coffee and delicious Omani dates while getting all you burning questions answered.
Grand Mosque visiting hours:8.00 – 11.00 AM
Grand Mosque entrance fee:Free
Muttrah Corniche and Muttrah Fort
Visit the Muttrah Corniche and take a walk along the Corniche Boulevard to the Muscat Gate. Visit the Muscat Souq (market) to stock up on some Oman souvenirs. Visit the Muttrah fish market for an authentic experience of the Muscat lifestyle. You can also go up the hill to visit the Muttrah Fort, Muscat’s 400 years old heritage with spectacular views of the port and Corniche.
Shatti Al Qurum Beach
Muscat’s main beach area, which is also the more upscale part of town where all 5* hotels conquered their peace of land facing the ocean. There is a long bridge road where you can park your car and walk along the boulevard or the sandy beach. It is not a beach for tanning or swimming as facilities are lacking and sightings of swimmers are rare. The beach is ideal for sunset, which is also when most locals arrive. There are plenty of restaurants around for a nice dinner after the sunset. The locals love to have picnics by the grass area near the beach. Fitness fanatics also populate the beach during the cooler hour before sunset.
Top tip: Be a local and have a picnic! You can either do shopping for food in the Lulu Hypermarket (main supermarket chain) before. Lulu has a variety of warm and cold pre-made food for take away that you can eat at the beach. OR, you can get some of the grilled delicates from the barbecue stands by the roundabout next the grass area. Here are the exact coordinates for the barbecue stands at Al Qurum Beach in Muscat.
Yiti beach is a lovely un-commercialized beach located about a half an hour drive from Muscat Muttrah area. It is worth it to come for sunset and bring some food for a sunset picnic. A mountain area surrounds the beach and the sun sets behind the grand brown desert mountains. The drive to Yiti is also certainly an attraction itself, as you drive through the memorizing desert mountains.
Muscat Grand Mall and Oman Avenues Mall
Cool off from the heat in Muscat’s mall complex. Consisting of 2 large malls: the Grand Mall and Oman Avenues Mall. The Avenues Mall is different than other malls we have seen. It is worth visiting not only for the shopaholic as it has live entertainment in the evening, a kids roller coaster at the top floor, and of course a huge variety of stores. It gives a good idea of how Muscat’s wealthy like to spend their free time.
Other places to visit in Muscat are:
- Royal Oprah House Muscat
- Al Alam Palace – house of the Majesty Sultan Qaboos
- National Museum Muscat
- Illusion Museum Muscat
Day 3 – Bimmah Sink Hall, Wadi Shab, and Sur
What to wear:A swimming suit, water shoes / sandals or comfortable shoes for a 30 mins hike.
What to pack:sun screen, sun glasses, towels, and a change of cloths.
Where to stay: Sur – Sea Apartment Hotel
Total kilometers driven:180km
Leave early from Muscat to visit the Bimmah Sink Hall and Wadi Shab before the strong heat of the day. Bimmah Sink Hall is 130km away from Muscat and takes 1.5-2 hours driving.
Bimmah Sink Hole
The Bimmah Sink Hall is a true wonder of nature. In simple terms, the name speaks for itself. It is a huge hall in the ground with salt water in it. It is a marvelous sight when you first see the hall from above, all natural blue water and cave-like carved stone. This will be one of the most beautiful pools you have ever swam in! Around the sink hall there are some facilities built including shaded benches, toilets, and a kids’ playground.
Depending on how lengthy of a photoshoot you plan and how many laps you want to swim around the pool, you might spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours at the sink hole.
Opening Hours:8.00 – 18.00
Entrance fee: Free
Wadi Shab is a natural oasis, where you can swim and cool off from the desert heat. You can park your car at the parking lot under the bridge. You will have to take a short boat ride at a ridiculously slow speed from the parking lot to the start of the trail that leads to the pools. The boat ride spectacle will cost you 1 OMR per person. After that starts the real fun! A 30-minute hike in the heat to get you ready to swim in the cooling oasis pools. This is where you would be happy about taking some comfortable shoes / hiking sandals along.
The pools stretch for a long distance, forming a sort of river that you can swim through. The bottom of the pulls is rocky and grassy, so your feet will thank you for having brought water shoes or sandals. There is no place to store valuable by the pools, so if you want to swim through the entire river, leave them in the car or take the risk of leaving them hidden between the rocks, which is what we didJ
Opening hours: 8.00 -18.00
Entrance fee:1 OMR (For the boat ride)
Sur is a port city on the coast of Oman, and is the logical pit stop while making the road trip through Oman. It is not a huge touristic attraction but offers some nice accommodations and a couple of nice attractions. You can take a drive to the port area, which is a nice scene before sunset.
Drive to Al Ayjah Bridge and park the car at the parking lot nearby. From that point you can see and visit all the main attractions of Sur. Snap some photos of the view from the bridge, check out Al Ayjah Watch Tower, have a look at the Al Ayjah Lighthouse, and watch the sunset from the beach pavilion with all the locals.
Day 4 – Wadi Bhani Kalid and Sharqiya Sand Dunes (aka Wahiba Sands)
What to wear:A swimming suit, water shoes / sandals
What to pack:sun screen, sun glasses, towels, and a change of cloths.
Where to stay:Sharqiya Sand Dunes
Total kilometers driven:250km
Wadi Bhani Kalid
From Sur to Wadi Bhani Kalid , it is about a 1 to 1.5 hours driving.
It is not possible to bathe in bikini for women at the start of the wadi near the restaurant. You can bathe there, but you must have a shirt and pants on. For men it is ok to go shirtless. In order to get to the place where you can bathe with bikini and not worry about offending the locals, you need to take a short 5 minutes hike to the cave area at the back. When you will arrive you will be mesmerized by the beauty of the place! Swim through the canal all the way to the end for the ultimate experience.
Wadi Bhani Kalid definitely wins the beauty contest when it comes to beautiful Wadi’s of Oman. The white cave mangroves surrounding the crystal clear blue water creates such an amazing scene. It is more commercialized than Wadi Shab, with a restaurant serving buffet lunch and a nice garden with wooden bridges surrounding the wadi.
Sharqiya Sand Dunes (aka Wahiba Sands)
After spending the morning cooling off in Wadi Bhani Kalid, grab some lunch on the way and head over to the Sharqiya Sand dunes, or as they are known by the Bedouins Wahiba Sands.
There are plenty of options for an overnight stay in the dessert surrounded by dunes. It is pricier than other budget accommodations in Oman, but it is totally worth it. You cannot drive to the dunes without a 4X4, but all accommodations have a pickup service.
We stayed at Wahibs Budien Rustic Camp, which was a great choice! The stay include a big tent accommodation (glamping!), dinner and breakfast, unlimited water / tea / coffee/ and dates, traditional Bedouin dress up and dancing, a campfire with explanation about Bedouins of Oman and Q&A, and last but not least: unlimited sand!
If you are not into camping, no need to worry! The tent is actually like a big room with proper beds inside, but still provides the authentic Bedouin style of living.
The best part of this experience was the campfire. We learned so much about Bedouins, and even learned how to always be able to spot the North Star!
If you prefer not to stay in the desert but still see the dunes, here is a Google Maps coordinates to a spot you can park your car and walk from to see some dunes.
Day 5 – Nizwa
What to wear:Shorts / t-shirt / dress
What to pack: Sun screen, sun glasses
Where to stay:Nizwa
Total kilometers driven:185km
On day 5 you can enjoy a sunrise over the dunes of the desert, before setting off to Nizwa. From the Sharqiya Sand Dunes, it is about 2.5 hours drive to Nizwa.
Nizwa is an ancient city in northern Oman, and definitely does not miss on the charm of a historic middle eastern city. The center is small and cozy surrounding the Nizwa Souq and Nizwa Fort. Walking through the streets of Nizwa, you can truly imagine what it was like living in Oman back in days.
There are a few places to visit in Nizwa, but everything can be covered in 3-4 hours. The top places to visit in Nizwa are:
The Nizwa Souq is larger than the Muscat Souq and more authentic. You can wander through the Souq and get some delicious local Omani snacks.
Nizwa Souq Opening hours:Sat-Thur from 8.00 – 18.00 and Fri from 8.00 – 11.30 and 13.30 – 18.00.
Nizwa Souq entrance fee: Free
The Nizwa Fort and Nizwa Castle are ancient constructions from the 11thcentury at the center of the city, with a big round tower overlooking the whole city. There are some guided tours organized throughout the day, you can check at the reception what times the tours start when you are there.
Nizwa Fort Opening hours:Sat-Thur from 8.00 – 18.00 and Fri from 8.00 – 11.30 and 13.30 – 18.00.
Nizwa Fort Entrance fee:3 OMR per person.
Al Qala’a Mosque
The central mosque of Nizwa, situated at the center of the city, is difficult to miss. The building looks great from the outside and can be seen in all its beauty from the view points in the Nizwa Fort. It is also possible to enter the mosque, however do not expect the same magnificent site as the Grand Mosque in Muscat.
Al Qala’a Mosque visiting hours:8.00 – 11.00 AM
Al Qala’a Mosque entrance fee:Free
Day 6 – Bahla Fort, Jibreen Castle, Misfat al Abriyyin, and Jebel Shams Mountains
What to wear:Shorts / t-shirt / dress
What to pack: sun screen, sun glasses, warmer set of cloths for the higher area. It can become 20 degrees celsius in summer and 0 degrees celsius in the winter.
Where to stay: Jebel Shams Mountain – Jebel Shams Villa
Total kilometers driven:185km
The sites visited on day 6 are not too far of a drive from Nizwa, and could be done in one day trip, returning to Nizwa in the evening. However, we did leave Nizwa to stay in the mountains for one night. It is best to visit the fort and castle in the early morning to avoid the heat of the day. The stops we recommend are the following:
Bahla Fort is a World Heritage site situated in Wilayt Bahla. It is a quite large fort, with facades extending to 112 meters by 114 meters. It is a nice fort to visit with plenty of towers to climb. Yet, there are no guided tours and little information about the use of the chambers in the fort, so you just walk through without knowing exactly what you are looking at. The views from the high points overlook the Bahla Oasis and town, which is a pretty spectacular view.
Bahla Fort Opening hours:Sat-Thu from 8.00 – 16.00 and Fri from 8.00 – 11.00
Bahla Fort entrance fee:0.5 OMR per person.
Jibreen Castle was built in 1670 , and has everything that you might expect from an ancient castle. Here there is an option to take an audio tour that may tell you more about the history and the different rooms in the castle.
Jibreen Castle Opening hours:Sat-Thu from 8.00 – 16.00 and Fri from 8.00 – 11.00
Jibreen Castle entrance fee:0.5 OMR for adult, 0.2 OMR for kids (6-12 years old).
Jibreen Castle audio tour:1 OMR per person
Misfat al Abriyyin
Misfat al Abriyyin is a little town in the mountainous region of Jebel Shams. The special thing about Misfat al Abriyyin is that the whole village is carved in to the mountains, with trails going up and down. There are not many options to stay in Misfat al Abriyyin, so we decided to just visit it in the afternoon. There is a designated parking lot just before the town starts where you can leave your car and start the trip by foot. There are several marked trails that take you through what looks like a botanical garden in the middle of the desert mountains. We found this to be a truly unique experience.
Misfat al Abriyyin Opening hours: always
Misfat al Abriyyin entrance fee: Free
Jebel Shams Mountains
The Jebel Shams Mountain region stretches throughout the north eastern part of Oman, with the highest mountain being, Jebel Shams. The name translates to “Mountain of the Sun”, which may be due to the amazing sunrises and sunsets that you can see from there. With a height of 3,019 meters, you can feel on top of the world when reaching the top of the mountain.
You can drive quite high on a paved road, however at some point the road turn to a dirt road where it is recommended to take a 4X4. If you didn’t hire a 4X4 jeep for your trip, it is easy to find a jeep taxi that will drive you up and down in the nearby town of Al Hamra. Note that there aren’t any café’s or restaurants after you leave Al Hamra, so make sure to eat or buy food and drinks at Al Hamra before making your way to the top.
Other places to visit around Jebel Shams Mountain region:
- Al Hoota Cave
- Jebel Akhdar – the brother mountain of Jebel Shams
- Al Hamra abandoned village
Day 7 – Drive back to Muscat
On day 7, you will have a long drive back to Muscat. It is about 200km-240km depending on where you stay on the mountain. Once you arrive in Muscat, you can enjoy the last day visiting any of the sites you missed on the first day.