Being one of the safest countries in the Middle East, and so easy to self-drive, Oman is the perfect location for those seeking a road trip. From majestic fjords to bustling souks, many of this country’s most-prized attractions are best explored by road.
When to Visit
There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding when to visit Oman…
To begin with, Oman is a Muslim country. If you visit during the dates of Ramadan, many restaurants will be closed during the day.
In terms of weather, you can basically choose between summer or winter. Don’t be fooled into thinking that winters (October to April) are cold here; this is when temperatures are at a balmy 20°C, making winter the peak tourist season. February and March tend to be busiest, but since you’ll be road tripping off the tourist trail, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for you.
In the summer months (May to September), temperatures often rise uncomfortably above 40°C. Although this means fantastic bargains from hotels and restaurants, properly exploring the country is near-impossible in these temperatures.
One other thing to keep in mind…
While many western countries have Sunday as their “day of rest”, meaning that many shops and facilities are closed, Oman has this on Fridays, which could influence how much you’re able to do on that day.
It goes without saying that you’ll need a car to self-drive around Oman, but these are easy for tourists to rent.
Does it Need to Be a 4WD?
Ideally, yes. While you will be able to manage without one, this will mean that you miss out on some of the more mountainous routes, as well as the sandier roads.
A car with a GPS would also be useful, but keep in mind that many roads may not be on the map. When driving around Muscat in particular, you will also need to make sure that you aren’t distracted by your GPS – the traffic can be quite hectic, so you will need all eyes on the road at all times!
For many, the thrill of an Omani road trip comes from the thought of a few exhilarating off-road drives. However, things can get a little tricky if you want to do this in a rental car…
Many of the insurance providers don’t cover off-road driving in their policies. This means that you either take a risk when going off road, or you spend some extra time looking for an insurance provider that can offer exactly what you need.
If you plan on doing a lot of driving in a foreign country, it always pays to educate yourself before your visit on any new driving rules. Here are a few for Oman:
- You’ll need to drive on the right-hand side of the road
- Speed limits are enforced
- There is zero-tolerance for drink driving
- Prepare for unexpected animal crossings, such as goats or camels
Planning Your Route
Your route will likely be based on how much time you have. Don’t be tempted to cram too much into each day – the beauty of Oman is in its spontaneity, and you don’t want to end up feeling rushed and stressed.
Each region in Oman offers something a little different, so you could base your itinerary off their unique features. For example, the best beaches will be found along the East Coastal Area, while Nizwa is a must for those seeking heritage sites.
Here are some areas you won’t want to miss…
The capital of Oman, which many would say is the Gulf’s most beautiful capital, is usually where a road trip would begin. This is where most visitors enter the country, making it easy to find a suitable car for hire here.
Things to Do in Muscat:
- Visit the historic Al Alam Palace
- Explore the National Museum to learn about the country’s past
- Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, not only famous for its exemplary architecture, but also home to the second largest Persian carpet in the world, and one of the largest chandeliers in the world
- Watch a show at the exquisite Royal Opera House
- Indulge in some retail therapy at the grand Bareeq Al Shatti Mall, where you’ll also be able to treat your skin to a VIP facial at the OROGOLD boutique here
- Go off road to check out some of the capital’s unspoilt beaches, such as Khalouf Beach and Ras Al Hamra Beach
How long should you spend in Muscat?
This all depends on your interests – if you’re a fan of cultural attractions and museums, you’ll need at least three days. If you are more keen to get out there and see what else the country has to offer, two days should be plenty.
The East Coast
In terms of natural beauty and landscape, the East Coast is incredibly diverse. It’s also easy to reach from the south of Muscat, taking just a couple of hours by car on the iconic Muscat-Sur Coastal Road.
On your way, you will be rewarded with stunning panoramas of the Arabian landscape on one side, with the Eastern Hajar Mountains on the other side providing a jaw-dropping backdrop. The small fishing village of Quriyat is also worth stopping at, as is the unique Bimmah Sinkhole.
Things to Do on the East Coast:
- Visit the Wadi Shab, a dry riverbed that contains water after heavy rainfalls – it’s a great place to swim
- Take a stroll along Fins Beach
- Enjoy a walk along the Corniche of Sur, which takes you by the waterfront
- Check out the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, with the high season here being July to October
- Explore Wadi Bani Khalid, a desert oasis with a beautiful swimming hole
Try to time your visit to the East Coast for midweek – this is a popular weekend spot for locals and it can get pretty busy!
How long should you spend on the East Coast?
This is quite a vast area, packed with natural beauty. Three days here is a minimum, although you could easily stretch this to five or six.
Muscat, the East Coast, and Nizwa pretty much make a triangular shape on a map, so you could add Nizwa in either before or after your East Coast stop. It takes about an hour and a half to drive to Nizwa from Muscat, or even less if you’re heading there from the East Coast.
Things to Do in Nizwa:
Nizwa is a historic city with plenty to do, such as:
- Shop at the Nizwa Souk, a labyrinth-like market that is known for being one of the busiest spots in the city
- Sample the city’s famous Omani dates
- Tour the well-preserved Nizwa Fort – the top of the tower will give you amazing views of the city and the nearby mountains
- Visit the Falaj System, an ancient irrigation system that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Explore the Bahla Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Climb to the Jebel Akhdar, a mountain peak that is surprisingly full of lush greenery
How long should you spend in Nizwa?
That depends – if you’re only wanting to explore Nizwa itself, two or three days should be enough. However, if you want to spend more time checking out the surrounding areas, you will need about five or six days.
Also known as the Ruus Al Jibal, the Musandam Peninsula forms the northeastern point of the Arabian Peninsula. Its a very remote area that isn’t often frequented by tourists, but its ancient and mystical ambience never fails to charm a new visitor.
Things to Do in the Musandam Peninsula:
- Take a ride on a traditional dhow boat to sail through the area’s sparkling blue fjords, which usually also includes a snorkelling session
- Go cliff jumping, canyoning or swimming in the area’s wadis
- Take a dolphin or whale watching boat trip
- Visit the 17th century Khasab Fort
- Take a drive along the 17 mile winding coastal road from Khasab to Bukha
- Paraglide over Zighy Bay
How long should you spend in the Musandam Peninsula?
There is so much natural beauty here – it usually takes the average visitor about two to three days to check out everything on offer. However, leave yourself some extra time if you want to spend a couple of days relaxing in the area’s stunning beaches.
The North Coast
The northern area of Oman is famous for having some of the country’s most fertile land, meaning that this is where you will a large number of farms. This stretch of coast sits between the sea and the Al Hajar mountains, giving you the best of both worlds when it comes to things to do.
Things to Do on the North Coast:
- Explore Seeb, a town filled with colorful traditional shops and a bustling atmosphere
- Tour the Bait Na’aman, a fortified house that dates all the way back to the 1690s
- Check out the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, which is located 10 miles off the coast and is where thousands of migratory birds nest during April and September. Snorkelling and diving are also popular activities here
- Visit Sohar, a town that is famous for its whitewashed fort and the Sultan Qaboos Mosque
- Drive along the Wadi Bani Kharus, which has only been recently accessible by car due to the new road that has been build. This wadi is home to seven mudbrick villages and sediment that spans the past 500 million years
How long should you spend on the North Coast?
You will need at least a couple of days to explore all that the North Coast has to offer.
Extra Tips for Your Omani Road Trip Adventure
Putting together a realistic itinerary is often the most difficult part of planning a road trip in Oman. After all, some areas will appeal to you so much more than others, making it difficult to know in advance how much time you want to spend in each.
Fortunately, good accommodation is easy to find in Oman, giving you plenty of flexibility if you want to wing it and see where your journey takes you. Camping is another option, with wild camping allowed throughout the country. However, keep in mind that, especially in the more mountainous regions, it can get pretty cold at night!
Since Oman receives about 10 to 13 hours of daylight, you can cover a large amount of space each day. Most roads are also in great condition, making them a joy to drive.
Can You Start Your Omani Road Trip from Dubai?
Dubai still receives so many more visitors than Oman. Once there, the unique glimpse into Middle Eastern life that Dubai provides is enough to tempt visitors to see more of the region, leading to many looking into an Omani road trip.
Can this be done from Dubai?
Technically, yes, but there are a few things you need to be aware of…
It takes about four and a half hours to drive from Dubai to Oman, and this doesn’t include any stops. With all of the queuing involved, the border crossing can sometimes take quite a while. You will also need to make sure that the car you have rented in Dubai is allowed to cross over into Oman.
You also have the option of flying from Dubai to Oman, and then starting your road trip from Muscat. Flights take about an hour, and this is usually the easiest option.
Oman is an incredible place to visit, especially if you are able to take the time to road trip around the country. This is a part of the world that is packed with history, culture, and natural beauty, meaning that just about everyone will find something about Oman that truly appeals to them.