This post was updated in April 2019.
Oman isn’t a very well known country. In fact, when I announced Frank and I would be making an Oman road trip many people asked: why are you going there, is it not one big desert? Having explored Oman for 2 weeks by car I can safely say it most definitely is not… Oman is beautiful and has a huge variety of landscapes!
We drove on adventurous dirt roads through steep mountains, swam in crystal clear Wadi pools and camped at deserted beaches.
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For anyone thinking Oman must be dangerous because it’s in the Middle East: Oman is perfectly safe! We wild camped for 11 nights and I never felt unsafe.
We were invited for karak (traditional Omani tea) and dates at Bimmah Sinkhole, guided to the most beautiful secluded pool in Wadi Tiwi by a friendly 18 year old boy and always greeted by the local people when we were exploring one of the tiny mountain villages on foot.
Twice we were given a ride to our hotel when we didn’t have our car (in Muscat and Sohar). When we did have our car and stopped at the side of the road to check the map, a friendly Omani always pulled over next to us and asked where we wanted to go and if we needed help.
So yes, Oman is very safe and the people are really nice, welcoming and always happy to help!
Oman road trip itinerary
With this post I want to share with you the beauty of Oman and show you the complete itinerary of our 2-week road trip around the northern part of Oman.
For each day I list the itinerary, our campsite/hotel and the highlights of the day, you can find these in the map below as well.
Summary of our Oman road trip itinerary
- Day 1: Muscat to Wadi Al Khoud
- Day 2: Nakhal Fort, Wadi Al Abyad, Wadi Sahtan and Madruj
- Day 3: Little Snake Canyon and Wadi Bani Awf
- Day 4: Jebel Shams and the Balcony Walk
- Day 5: Bahla Fort
- Day 6: Misfah, Wadi Damm, the Beehive Tombs in Al Ayn and Nizwa Souq
- Day 7: Jebel Akhdar and the Village Walk
- Day 8: Wadi Bani Khalid, Sur and Al Ayjeh
- Day 9: Ras Al Jinz and Ras Al Hadd
- Day 10: the Eastern Hajar Mountains part I
- Day 11: Ibra and the Sharqiya Sands
- Day 12: the Eastern Hajar Mountains part II (the Jaylah Beehive tombs and Jaylah)
- Day 13: Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi and Bimmah Sinkhole
- Day 14: Wadi Al Arbiyyin, As Suwayh Waterfall, Wadi Dayqah Dam and As Sifah
Oman road trip: important facts and figures
- I traveled Oman with my husband.
- We drove around Oman with a 4×4 Nissan Xterra from Mark Tours.
- Our road trip was 2 weeks in total (14 days), we started and ended the road trip in Muscat. We also spent a couple of days in the cities Muscat and Sohar, but we didn’t have a car for those days.
- During our 2 week road trip we drove approximately 2750 kilometers, so ~200 km per day.
- We spent approximately 1 week in the Western Hajar Mountains and 1 week in the Eastern Hajar Mountains.
- During our road trip we camped 11 nights and stayed at hotels for 3 nights (in Bahla, Sur and Sharqiya Sands). In Muscat and Sohar we also stayed at hotels. You can read more about the campsites and the hotels we stayed at here!
- In total we spent almost 3 weeks in Oman: a 2 week road trip, 2 days in Muscat and 3 days in Sohar.
- Read about the costs of our Oman road trip in this post.
Road trip day 1: Getting ready for our 2 week itinerary around Oman
Itinerary: Muscat (Mark Tours) – Lulu hypermarket – Sultan Center Al Qurum – Campsite Wadi Al Khoud
Practical information before we hit the road
We got a complimentary car from Mark Tours, an award winning and well-known tour operator in Oman (check the Lonely Planet of Oman). The car was a white Nissan Xterra, a kick-ass 4WD jeep that took us everywhere! I had not driven a 4×4 before, but because it was an automatic transmission car, driving couldn’t have been easier.
We bought a tent and 2 sleeping bags at Lulu hypermarket. The tent was 12.9OR and the sleeping bags were 8.9OR a piece. We also bought a couple of plastic cups and 2 spoons.
At The Sultan Center they also sell a lot of camping gear, a little more upmarket and a bit more expensive. We bought a very compact stove, gas and a small pan. We used this to boil hot water and make tea, coffee, porridge and noodle soup, very convenient!
We got this awesome Oman Off-Road Guidebook that helped us so much! In the book you find 37 off-road routes throughout Oman. Each route comes with satellite photos, recommended campsites, information about the highlights and important advice about the road (steep/narrow road, risk of flash floods, etc).
I highly recommend getting this book (or a similar one) for your Oman road trip. It not only made our trip a lot easier but also brought us to places we would not have found on our own!
Note: unfortunately the newest edition of this off road guidebook is currently unavailable, however, the 2006 edition is still sold online.
In the itinerary below I refer to the numbers of the routes from the book. However, you can also find all the places we visited on the map I created.
Road trip day 2: into the mountains…
Itinerary: Campsite Wadi Al Khoud – Nakhal Fort – Wadi Al Abyad (route 20) – Wadi Sahtan and Madruj (route 16) – Campsite Wadi Sahtan
An impressive and large fort built in the 17th century and beautifully renovated.
Wadi Al Abyad:
Our first off-road route! It’s not a difficult route and it was perfect to get acquainted with the car and build some confidence driving a 4WD and driving off-road.
Wadi Sahtan and Madruj (route 16)
A beautiful route through the mountains! Madruj is a tiny village at the end of the road, we found a nice campsite just before the village with an amazing view of the Hajar mountains and over the valley.
Road trip day 3: the most beautiful off-road trip in Oman…
Itinerary: Campsite Wadi Sahtan – Little Snake Canyon – Wadi Bani Awf (route 17) – Campsite near Al Hamra
Little Snake Canyon
We hiked up Little Snake Canyon, surrounded by steep cliffs on both sides towering high above us. Standing in the gorge and craning my neck to see the sky made me feel tiny…
Road through Wadi Bani Awf
This road was absolutely spectacular! We drove up a steep pass and the higher we got, the more incredible the views. There were many amazing off-road routes we drove in Oman but this one was my favorite! The route takes a couple of hours, make sure you have enough water and petrol.
Road trip day 4: to Jebel Shams!
Itinerary: Campsite near Al Hamra – Jebel Shams (route 5) – Balcony Walk (route 7) –Bahla Hotel Apartments
Jebel Shams (route 5):
Standing 3000 meters tall Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman. Besides that, the Jebel Shams area is hauntingly beautiful and also referred to as the Grand Canyon of Oman. Very impressive indeed…
The Balcony Walk (route 7)
A 3,5km trail leading along the edges of steep cliffs that drop down for hundreds of meters. Pay attention to where you are going, even though that’s difficult with views like this!
Road trip day 5: from Bahla to Wadi Damm
Itinerary: Bahla Hotel Apartments – Bahla Fort – Campsite Wadi Damm
A beautiful fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage Site!) built in the 13th century. It’s not just a castle, there is an entire town situated within the walls of the fort.
Road trip day 6: hidden paradise in Wadi Damm
Itinerary: Campsite Wadi Damm (route 4) – Hike to Misfah – Wadi Damm – Beehive Tombs Al Ayn – Nizwa Souq – Campsite Jebel Akhdar (route 14)
Hike to Misfah
We only did half or this hike because we wanted to hike in Wadi Damm as well and we wanted to drive all the way to Jebel Akhdar and were not sure how long that would take.
The hike started right behind our campsite but it can be a bit difficult to find the start of the trail. Just climb up the rocks next to the camp site and look for a small goats trail. This is not a well trodden path so a sense of direction is needed. In general, as long as you keep walking east you’ll be heading in the right direction (and west if you want to return to your car.
On the plus side, we didn’t see a single soul during the entire hike. In fact, we didn’t see anyone since driving up to our campsite the night before!
This place took my breath away! A hidden paradise in the middle of the mountains! We hiked up Wadi Damm for about 40 minutes and climbed down to this perfect secluded crystal clear pool with a waterfall and mossy curtain. It was very hard to leave…
Beehive Tombs Al Ayn
These tombs are ancient, stemming from the 3rd millennium B.C. An UNESCO Heritage site as well.
One of the oldest souks in Oman and a perfect place to stroll around for an hour or so and to do some shopping. A Lulu supermarket can be found a couple kilometers south of Nizwa, we replenished our supplies here before heading into the Jebel Akhdar mountain range.
Road trip day 7: the Jebel Akhdar mountains
Itinerary: Campsite Jebel Akhdar (route 14) – Village Walk (route 15) – Campsite in the desert near Al Mintirib
Village Walk (route 15)
A very nice 8 km walk (4km to Saiq and 4km back) leading along a network of falaj (a very ingenious Omani irrigation system) and through the little village of Ash Shuraiqa.
While I liked Jebel Akhdar plateau it didn’t impress me as as much as the Jebel Shams area. Driving in Jebel Akhdar is a lot more restricted: you pass a police checkpoint at the start where you have to show your car insurance, drivers license and prove you have a 4WD. On the plateau all the roads are paved and there are traffic signs and street lights everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, Jebel Akhdar is still worth to visit (we are talking beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful here?) but it is less adventurous than Jebel Shams, Wadi Bani Awf and the Eastern Hajar mountains. If you don’t want to do (steep) off-road routes but do want to drive up to 2300 meter and have amazing views Jebel Akhdar is perfect for you!
Road trip day 8: Wadi Bani Khalid and Sur
Itinerary: Campsite in the desert near Al Mintirib – Wadi Bani Khalid (route 32) – Sur/Al Ayjeh – Al Ayjeh Plaza Hotel
Wadi Bani Khalid
Perhaps the most famous wadi of Oman and a very beautiful one indeed! This is how I drew an oasis when I was a child: green palm trees around a perfect pool…
Sur and Al Ayjeh
A lovely coastal village! I particularly liked Al Ayjeh with its charming lighthouse, whitewashed houses and traditional dhows (boats) in the harbour. Fun fact: between Sur and Al Ayjeh you find the only suspension bridge in Oman.
Road trip day 9: coastal drive and Ras Al Jinz
Itinerary: Al Ayjeh Plaza Hotel – Ras Al Jinz and Ras Al Hadd (route 31) – Campsite near Qalhat
Ras Al Jinz and Ras Al Hadd (route 31)
Ras Al Jinz beach is famous for the turtle reserve, 4 types of marine turtles lay their eggs here! We didn’t go on a turtle watching tour, I prefer to see them in the water while diving. But it was a nice drive along the East coast of Oman and watch the local fisherman tend their nets.
Road trip day 10: the Eastern Hajar Mountains part I
Itinerary: Campsite near Qalhat – Off-roading through the Eastern Hajar Mountains (route 30) – Campsite near Tool
Off-roading through the Eastern Hajar Mountains
A truly spectacular road! Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar are much more famous than the Eastern Hajar mountains but this part of Oman is spectacular and a must visit!
The trip took us the entire day and we came across 2 other cars while driving this awesome dirt road. We took a vertigo inducing side-trip to Wadi Tiwi, the most difficult road we did during our time in Oman. Very steep, very narrow and very cool!
We felt pretty bad-ass driving this road, until a freaking jet fighter came flying through the canyon! The same canyon we were navigating at a snails pace in our car was being navigated by a fearless pilot flying faster than the speed of sound. Talk about perspective.
Road trip day 11: the Eastern Hajar Mountains part I
Itinerary: Campsite near Tool – Ibra – Sharqiya Sands – Desert Night Camp
We hiked up to one of the old watchtowers overlooking the town of Ibra. A birds eye view is always worth a climb in my opinion.
One of the desert areas of Oman with tall red sand dunes and mesmerizing views…
Road trip day 12: the Eastern Hajar Mountains part II
Itinerary: Desert Night Camp – Off-roading through the Eastern Hajar Mountains (route 30 and 28) – Jaylah Beehive tombs – Jaylah – Noora Camp Plateau
Off-roading through the Eastern Hajar Mountains (route 30 and route 28)
As I mentioned above, this part of Oman is underrated in my opinion. We happily spent a second day exploring the plateau, the ancient beehive tombs and the small mountain village Jaylah.
When descending down to the cost on the east side of the mountains we pulled over every 5 minutes to admire the stunning coastal views.
Road trip day 13: Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi and Bimmah Sinkhole
Itinerary: Noora Camp Plateau – Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi (route 29) – Bimmah Sinkhole – Campsite near sinkhole
Wadi Shad and Wadi Tiwi (route 29)
Two more beautiful Wadi’s in Oman. In Wadi Tiwi we drove up to the village Sayma and parked our car (this is only possible in 4WD, but there is a car park at the start of Wadi Tiwi for 2WD cars).
We were welcomed by Mohammed, a friendly 18 year old boy living in the village. He asked us if we wanted to go swimming and showed us the most amazing turquoise pool. A slice of paradise!
A sinkhole of unknown depth, very mysterious indeed… I am always amazed and impressed when visiting natural phenomena like this.
Also read this detailed post about visiting the Bimmah Sinkhole.
Road trip day 14: Wadi Al Arbiyyin, As Suwayh Waterfall, Wadi Dayqah Dam and As Sifah
Itinerary: Campsite near sinkhole – Wadi Al Arbiyyin – As Suwayh Waterfall – Wadi Dayqah Dam – Bandar Al Khairan Viewpoint – Campsite As Sifah
Wadi Al Arbiyyin (route 26)
A bit more off-road driving before we had to hand in our beloved 4WD!
As Suwayh Waterfall (route 26)
Amazing natural waterslide in the middle of nowhere.
Wadi Dayqah dam (route 25)
The largest dam in Oman!
Bandar Al Khairan Viewpoint (route 24)
I lost count how many times the views in Oman took my breath away but this was one of those times…
As Sifah (route 24)
We spent our last night camping on the beach, what a wonderful life!
Oman travel tips
Important things to keep in mind when camping and driving in Oman
- The paved roads in Oman are in excellent condition and very quiet once you get out of Muscat. Nevertheless, we always kept the speed limits (even though none of the Omani do).
- The dirt roads are also well-maintained and we didn’t experience any difficulty navigating these roads. Even in the middle of nowhere villages are usually signposted, though I do recommend to use a map (I use this app) and the off-road guide I mentioned above.
- Wild camping is perfectly legal in Oman but please please please clean up your trash. Make sure you leave the your campsite as you found it (or better) so wild camping will remain legal. In New Zealand wild camping used to be allowed too, but then too many tourists didn’t give a shit about cleaning up after themselves and now heavy fines are in place for wild camping in NZ. Sorry for this little rant but I find it important to keep the environment clean and it would be a shame to see wild camping in Oman banned as well.
- Don’t camp in a wadi, there is always the danger of a flash flood.
- Make sure you have a full tank of petrol, plenty of water and some food when heading into the mountains. In the middle of nowhere there are no coffee shops selling breakfast, lunch or dinner so you have to be somewhat self-sufficient.
- For off road driving you need a 4WD. The dirt roads are good but believe me, they are not meant for 2WD cars. In the table below you can find all the places we visited and read if you need a 2WD car, a 4×4 or no car at all. For me the amazing off-road routes made our Oman trip an unforgettable experience, so I highly recommend getting a 4WD.
When is the best time to visit Oman
The best time to visit (the north of) Oman is between November and April. We visited in March and temperatures were perfect (around 25 degrees Celsius), not too hot and not too cold.
While summer is scorching hot in the north of Oman, July-September is a great time to visit Dhofar, in the south of Oman, as it’s monsoon season (called Khareef). I know that sounds a bit odd, but it doesn’t rain continuously and the water turns the barren mountain slopes lush and green.
Do I need a visa for Oman
Yes, you probably do. There is a visa for 10 days (which costs 5 OMR) and one for 30 day (which costs 20 OMR). More information can be found on the official Oman website. Since the start of 2019 you can apply for a visa online.
What should I wear in Oman?
I mostly wore long loose-fitted pants and a t-shirt, though on some hikes where we didn’t came across (m)any people I wore shorts. I always carried a shawl with me to cover up when needed. Oman is a Muslim country and it’s important to dress respectfully.
What language do they speak in Oman?
People in Oman speak Arabic, but many people (especially those working in tourism) also speak English. We never had any trouble making ourselves clear. And as I mentioned above, the Omani people are incredibly friendly and always happy to help!
Our Oman road trip: in conclusion
We had 2 amazing weeks in Oman and I would have loved to explore more. I’m hoping to return one day and visit Salalah and the Musandam peninsula!
You can download the table with all the Oman highlights below. Enjoy your road trip in Oman!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Mark Tours Oman. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.