Weekend getaways from Muscat
There is more to Oman than just Muscat. There are many places to see around Muscat. Let’s go on a road trip and explore beaches, valleys, mountains, castles, wadis, and souks. Here is a list of some of the places to see in Oman and places to see around Muscat.
The sky is tinged with a golden hue as a new day dawns over the shores of Muscat, the capital of Oman. Straddling both the rocky mountains and the deep blue oceans, Muscat with its palaces, mosques, and museums is oblivious to its own beauty. The golden light gently touches the white facades of the houses scattered around the old walled city. The city is a melange of rich cultural heritage, endowed with natural beauty and there are stories in every street and lane.
However, I am awed by the variety of destinations in Oman and the places to see around Muscat. Every day is an adventure as we explore Oman beyond Muscat. This is where history meets mythology as there are forts built by ghosts. We go on road trips to discover Wadis and Aflaj. There are green and black mountains, azure oceans, and sandy deserts. From ancient castles to bustling souks, from picnics at wadis to dune bashing, every weekend getaway from Muscat unfolds a different dimension to Oman as we see its historic, romantic, and adventurous side. Here are some places to see in Oman.
1. Take the Coastal Route to Sur and Ras Al Jinz
The sea is the nucleus of Sur, a port located on the Gulf of Oman barely 150 km from Muscat. On a windy day, we find ourselves driving through the Coastal Route from Muscat. Sur is one of the popular Oman tourist destinations and places to see around Muscat. The landscape keeps changing as virgin beaches give way to emerald-tinged wadis. The journey they say is the destination. The Bimmah Sinkhole intrigues us as we gaze into the deep blue waters. The locals believe that it was created by a meteorite. The turquoise waters of Finn’s Beach beckon us. If you have the time, you can even camp here for a few hours and lose yourself in the ocean. Our next halt is at the Wadi Shab, which is a picture postcard that just comes to life. The coastal route is Oman’s version of the Great Ocean Road. Time seems to stand still in Sur, which is known for its shipbuilding industry. Even today a few wooden ships lie anchored in the harbour as we wander aimlessly for a while. Sur should definitely be on your itinerary if you are looking at places to see in Oman beyond Muscat.
Sur can be coupled with an overnight stay at Ras Al Jinz where you can stay at the Turtle Reserve. The naturalists will take you in groups to show you the turtles at night where you can get a glimpse at the mother turtle laying eggs besides hatchlings on the sands. It is an experience that is not to be missed and one of the best places to see in Oman.
2. Where ghosts build forts in Al Dakhiliya Region
A day trip from Muscat takes you into the heart of Al Dakhiliya where forts and castles take you down the ages. In a couple of hours, we are at Nizwa, a town steeped in antiquity. One of the oldest capitals of Oman, Nizwa seems like an oasis itself, surrounded by plantations of date palms. My guide says that there are over 200 varieties of date palms cultivated in Oman alone. The Nizwa Fort, one of Oman tourist attractions stands formidable in the heart of the town, towering over the other monuments. Although the foundation of the fort was in the 12th century, it was built much later in the 17th century.
But Nizwa Fort is not one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Oman. It is Bahla Fort, located in Bahla or Madinat al Sahr, also called the City of Magic that has been given the prestigious title. According to a legend, the fort is believed to have been built by ghosts and even today there are “jinns” or spirits that roam around here. If you are driving around the region, then you must stop at the Jabreen Castle and at the Al Hoota caves as well. Buy some dates from Nizwa Souk , one of the best souks and places to see in Oman and some pottery from Bahla while you are exploring this region.
3. The Wadis of Oman – Wadi Bani Khalid
The Wadis of Oman are not just natural landscapes but virtually symbols of the country. The emerald-tinged pools of water, surrounded by mountains and fringed by plantations and orchards are a treat to the tired eyes. Although there are several lush valleys in Oman, our first stop is at Wadi Bani Khalid which is over 200 km from Muscat and one of the must-see places to see around Muscat.
We follow a perennial stream as it flows through a lush landscape and empties into a large reservoir. The sun forms interesting patterns here. Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the favourite picnic spots. While a few boys are swimming around, a couple of us get a natural foot spa treatment as the tiny fish scrub our feet clean. Wadi Bani Khalid can be coupled with a trip to Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Shab on the way to Sur and you can explore some of the villages along the Wadis. If you are feeling a bit adventurous then you can even trek in this region.
4. Desert dreams – Just go dune bashing
You are spoilt for choices when you are in Oman. There are mountains and oceans beckoning you but you cannot miss the wide expanse of desert with the undulating sand dunes. While Wahiba Sands is the favourite you can also experience dune bashing at Barka, located barely 70 kms away from the Omani capital. If you want to experience an adventurous outing in the desert, then stay overnight at Dunes by Al Nahda and wake up to the sunrise over the sand dunes and get your adrenaline flowing.
5. The Green Mountain of Oman – Jebel Akhdar
It is the mountains that give Oman its dramatic landscape with its valleys and gorges. As we meander through sharp hairpin bends, the scenery changes while the contours and colours keep altering as well. The Al Hajar Mountain range slowly turns from black to green. While Jebel Sham or the Mountain of the Sun is the highest peak in Oman, we are heading to Jebel Akhdar, or the Green Mountain. The mountains are some of the popular Oman tourist attractions and great getaways and places to see around Muscat. Orchards of grapes and pomegranates fill the landscape lending a green touch. It is also famous for roses during winter. The cool breeze brings the temperature down. Jebel Akhdar is an eternal favorite among weekend getaways from Muscat as the cool climes and the lush landscape beckon many a traveller. The mountains are today home to several luxury properties such as Anantara which is a luxurious escapade in itself A visit to the Green Mountain can be clubbed with a visit to Nizwa and Bahla as well which ate some of the tourist places to see in Oman .
6. Look for dolphins at Musandam
One of my favourite destinations, Musandam with its jagged coastlines, beaches, and fjords ranks highly on every traveller’s itinerary. An ideal weekend getaway from Muscat, head to Khasab the capital town of the region, and get a dose of adventure and culture. You can go on a cruise on a large wooden dhow boat and sail through the fjords or islets and look for dolphins. If you cruise during sunset, you can even see the rocks changing colours as the rays of the sun caress it. The mountains are calling and you can either trek or just lose yourself in the wadis. A trip to Oman is not complete without a visit to Musandam.
What are your recommendations for places to see in Oman ? Which Oman tourist attractions would you suggest for a weekend getaway or places to see around Muscat ? Would love to hear from you .