Oman is a country that is easily accessible from Dubai in two directions; to the north is Musandam and to the south east Muscat. Musandam is a brilliant weekend get away from Dubai in spring or autumn (it gets super hot in summer) and you can read all about it here. However, our Oman road trip this time was heading south east towards Muscat, Nizwa and the surrounding areas.
Places to Stop
Our first overnight stop on our Oman road trip was the town of Nizwa in the foot hills of Jebel Shams and the Hajar Mountain range. From miles before the town the landscape became shaped by rocky mountains made up of many different layers making it look like we were entering Mars or similar. The town of Nizwa sits on a dried up river basin with plenty of date palms lining the outskirts. It has a very ‘old Arabia’ feel to the town with gorgeous architecture and friendly locals. The main attraction in the town is the fort which is stunning from both outside and in. Be sure to visit early as it gets very hot during the summer months. The town is also home to a traditional souq; selling all kinds of food stuffs and handicrafts.
We stayed at the Golden Tulip hotel which was around a 10 minute drive out of the main town, which almost felt like the middle of nowhere. There were mountains on all sides as far as the eye could see and the hotel was a grand affair. Our stay here was brilliant, from delicious food to a huge modern room with terrace all for under 500AED. We chose to stay here due to its swimming pool, one thing I’ve learnt about travelling in the summer in the middle east is you’ll always need somewhere to cool off! There were slightly cheaper deals to be had if you didn’t want a pool however.
This spot is around 30 minutes from Nizwa towards the mountains, with most of that time being spent driving through Al hamra and ascending the hill to get to Misfat. From afar you’ll spot a small village with colorful houses and several locals going about their daily lives but take the path beyond here and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. As you drive to the heritage site you’ll be greeted with a glistening green oasis of palm trees and those colourful house shaping the view.
Park up when you spot the signs for the village and spend a minute just to take in the view. From here you can follow the trail down towards the palm plantation. There is a guest house here which it’s possible to stay at and some rather dubious public toilets. There are a few ways to enter the palm plantation, we chose the path to the right of the public toilets as recommended by Lonely Planet and didn’t have to walk far before we were in the middle of the trees.
Misfat is highly worth the little detour in my opinion, it’s one of the only mountain spots you can visit without needing a 4wd. This village gives you a glimpse into local Omani life and how it’s still a world away from the glitzy middle eastern cities.
This was the main stop on our Oman road trip as we spent two nights in Muscat but we used it as a base for exploring some of the surrounding areas as the accommodation choice was better (and cheaper) in the city. There are a few key sights in Muscat to spend time exploring. The first is Old Muscat or Mutrah as it is known, it is to the east of the city and close to the port. Here you’ll find a gorgeous souq which is worth allowing some time to explore. The shops are full of the most gorgeous handicrafts including amazing gemstone jewelry. I could have spent hours wandering the souq but after one rather pricey purchase I decided I better make an exit. From the souq you can easily cross over the road for a stroll along the corniche.
The other place worth stopping is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Located to the west of the city this gorgeous building is very different to the Abu Dhabi mosque but still worth visiting. Non-muslims can visit between 8-11am but must ensure they are covered, for women that means head, arms and down to the ankles while for men it’s just the ankles. You will need to make sure you bring these clothes with you as I didn’t see anywhere to rent items. The architecture design of this mosque is amazing with all of the archways but the most breathtaking spot is the mosaic feature inside the main prayer hall.
We stayed at the Sheraton Oman hotel while we were in Muscat as we got a brilliant deal with breakfast included for two nights. The hotel was gorgeous, the facilities top notch and most importantly it had a shaded pool for cooling off in after a long day in the sun. There are plenty of other accommodation options in Muscat from cheaper hotels, apartments and even Airbnbs.
Bimmah Sink Hole
Oman is known for its swimming spots and this one is probably one of the most easily accessible spots with plenty of facilities. Located not far from the main highway connecting Muscat and Sur this sink hole is a cool spot to check out or even swim in. During our visit it was Eid al Fitr so the sink hole was extremely busy by midday, however, I imagine during a normal weekday it would be less busy. It is free of charge to visit.
What’s better than an easily accessible sinkhole? Well a harder to access Wadi of course. This spot really is pretty cool. Located around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Muscat, it’s easily do able from the city although I would recommend leaving as early as possible especially during the hotter months. Once you reach the carpark at the start of the wadi you’ve got a bit of a trek ahead of you until you’ll reach the glorious pools. First you’ll need to take a boat across from the car park to the start of the trail as this is located on the other side of the water.
Once you get to the trail it’s around a 40 minute walk from here, for the most part the trail is obvious but if you ever lose it just follow the irrigation system and you’ll find it again soon enough. The path itself isn’t the most stable; some parts you’ll be climbing over rocks and other parts you’ll be right along the side of a steep drop. I’d recommend wearing proper shoes and taking plenty of supplies especially in the hot weather. That being said we hiked there and back with relative ease. There are plenty of pools along side the track but the ones you’re after are where the path stops. I’ll write up a full guide to the wadi with all the details.
Crossing the Border UAE/Oman
There are several spots to cross the border from Dubai but make sure you do your research as some are not open to expats and tourists. We chose to cross in two different spots during and trip. Leaving the UAE we drove through Al Ain and took the Mezyad crossing. The process was very slow taking around two hours in total (it was Eid al Fitr though). You can also cross at Khatm Al Shiklah in Al Ain. On our return we chose to cross at Hatta and although the check points are located quite far apart the whole thing was quick and easy. Be careful not to mix the Hatta border with the other two that are not open to expats.
At the border you will need to present the car registration card, the ‘orange card’ insurance document and of course passports. We purchased our visa online before hand so had these printed but it was possible to buy the visa at the border in Mezyad.
Hopefully this post has given you some inspiration to take your own Oman road trip. If there’s anything you’re still not sure about just ask in the comments below.