On arrival at Muscat Airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Muscat. This short drive to your hotel would provide you the first impressions of a clean and green capital. During the drive our driver/guide would enlighten you with some basic facts about Muscat and Oman in general.This afternoon is at leisure for you to explore this charming city on your own.
2 nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel
Today you will explore Muscat. A unique blend of the ancient and the modern, Muscat is a beautiful clean city, which lies in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains, lulled by the Arabian Sea. The city has undergone dramatic development in the past two or three decades, however it has never lost its pride in its heritage and culture. (B)
You will start your tour with a visit to the Grand Mosque, which is an architectural marvel and is perhaps the new landmark of the city.
-The Grand Mosque is open Sat to Thu 0800-1100 hrs only.
-Ladies visiting the Grand Mosque are required to cover their head with scarf and do not wear shorts, beachwear or sleeveless outfits as they are to be fully covered.
– Men visiting the Grand Mosque should wear long trousers.
You will continue your drive through the ministries area where you can see a number of modern buildings with touches of Islamic architecture. You will visit the Royal Opera House which is the leading arts and culture organisation in the Sultanate of Oman. Located in Muscat, Oman, the vision of the Opera House is to serve as a centre of excellence in global cultural engagement. The “Opera Galleria”, Royal Opera House Muscat’s new flagship shopping destination, is host to wonderful shops, international brands, and an array of international cafés and dining options. It boasts 50 shops offering a wide range and carefully balanced mix of art outlets, gems, fashion and perfumes.
A special place awaits you in the fishing village of Sidab, situated in the old part of the city. You will drive to the old Muscat, the most charming part of the city. Your next visit would be the Bait Al Zubair Museum. With the variety of exhibits, modern display methods and information provided, the museum serves as a real window on Oman’s rich heritage and culture. A photo stop at the magnificent Al Aalam Palace (the official residence of Sultan Qaboos) flanked by the twin Portuguese forts of Mirani and Jalali. Then you would enter the enchanting Muttrah souq with its narrow covered alleys where the exotic smells of mounds of spices, coffees, ancient remedies and enticing perfumes fill the air.
DAY 3Ras Al Jinz
Today you would embark on a long thrilling drive from Sur to Muscat. With stunning views of the waters of the Arabian Sea on one side and the rocky cliffs on the other, this is an exciting drive along the coast road, though the road has recently been made tarmc. Stop would be at Bimah Sinkhole, a spectacular limestone crater with blue green water at the bottom. Continue your drive and stop at the white sandy Fins beach for photos. Wadi Shaab is a wadi between cliffs and normally has water. Not far away is another picturesque wadi – Wadi Tiwi. A walk through the narrow roads leads you to lush plantations and pools with clear water. (BL)
A few kilometres away are the ruins at of Qalhat, one of the oldest towns and seaports in Oman. However, only the remnants of the city walls remain here today. Visit ruins of the tomb of the holy lady, Bibi Miriam, which stands high up on the cliff top. Stop at the coastal town of Sur for a quick short visit. Sur has historical importance and dhows used to sail to India and other countries from Sur. Many of the rich people of Oman belong to Sur and you can see many big seaside mansions along the way. Driving on to Sur, we would visit the Dhow building yard (though in recent times, unfortunately, the amount of dhows built here is very few! We are therefore unable to guarantee ant activity during the visit).
Before continuing to Ras Al Had, you would also visit the village of Ayja, a small town on the other side of Sur, lulled by the sea and quite charming with quaint houses on both sides of narrow alleys, with goats and sheep’s wandering the narrow streets, this is really an interesting town for the visitors.
Ras Al Hadd is where the first sunrise in the whole of Arabian Peninsula is seen – the adjoining Ras Al Jinz houses one of the largest nesting areas for Green Turtles in the Indian Ocean. An exceptionally high amount of turtles nest here each year, with an average of 30,000 only nesting on the beaches of Ras Al Jinz. The turtle reserve opens at night (21h00) for the public to see the turtles nestling on the sands and depending in your luck, you would be able to see a few or more of these wonderful creatures.
You will stay at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, located right on the beach!
1 night at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
DAY 4Wahiba Sands
After breakfast you will drive along the virgin and rugged shores of central Oman’s east coast offering unspoiled and breathtaking sceneries of Oman’s desert hinterland and pass fishing villages and areas ideal for bird-watching. Turning inland again you will see some of the less visited towns of Oman. Jalan Bani Bu Hassan and Jalan Bani Bu Ali; towns comprising a conglomeration of watch towers, old fortified houses, forts and crumbling old walls. (BLD)
In Jalan Bani Bu Hassan you can see (from outside only) the 200-hundred-year-old mosque with 52 domes. You can also see the ruins of a huge old fort belong to a powerful Omani tribal family. The door carvings are typical of that you find in most part of Arabia.
Before you continue towards Wahiba Sands, you will take the winding road up to the picturesque Wadi Bani Khalid. The Wadi has several beautiful mountain formations and landscapes. The walk to the pools of Wadi Bani Khalid is quite interesting, along the falaj (small irrigation canals) and past mango trees and other crops. Farmers in the area, despite the rough terrains, have managed to cultivate land at the foothills of the mountains by using the water streams to irrigate the crops. This is quite a refreshing visit; and you would be able enjoy a swim in the waters here.
Running south from the Eastern Hajjar Mountains to Arabian Sea, the Wahiba Sands, described a Sand sea, stretches almost 200 kms in length and about 100 kms in width. The dunes rise above 100-150 metres in different shades of colour and shifting sands, is the perfect place for both the romantic and the adventurous. A roller-coaster ride over the dunes would a thrilling fun especially for those who are first time visitors to the desert.
Be amazed at the spectacular sunset over the dunes! You will certainly enjoy the ambience at your desert camp and of course the dinner (generally BBQ).
1 night at the 1000 Nights Camp
DAY 5Jebel Akhdhar
Getting up early in the morning provides you a fantastic opportunity to explore the dunes by foot or to just watch the shifting colours of the dunes. You now say goodbye to the desert. (BL)
On the inland side of the great mountainous backbone of the Sultanate of Oman, where sands lap at the thresholds of farmlands, a string of border towns marks the zone of transition between nomadic and settled peoples. In the oasis villages of Oman, however, desert and village economies have mingled for ages to their mutual benefit. Living within and along the Sands are approximately 3,000 pastoralist Bedouins belonging to different tribes and who owns mainly herders of goats and camels. On our way, you will stop at a Bedouine house, and people here are very hospitable and not spoilt by tourism and would be glad to offer you Omani “kahwa” and dates.
Continue driving towards Jebel Akhdhar and before you start your drive up the Hajjar Mountains visit this pretty village of Birkat al Mauz, where you enjoy a walk through the lush green date plantations. You now take the stretch of winding road up to Jebel al Akhdar (2,000m), the green jewel of the Al Hajar mountain ranges. Enjoy the cool climate up in the mountains and see Jebel al Akhdar which is famed for fruit orchards laid out in terraces along the mountain slopes and irrigated by falaj, traditional water systems.
A large variety of fruit including peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, apples plums and pears are grown here from July to September and almonds and walnuts are cultivated. Tiny villages, including picturesque Saiq, Al Ain, and abandoned Wadi Bani Habib, dot the landscape and overlook a spectacular vista of peaks, gorges and wadis. The roses of Jebel al Akhdar fill the air with fragrance from March to April, when they are in full bloom, and rose water is distilled in the homes of the villagers.
1 night at the Shahab Hotel
After enjoying the cool climate of Jebel Akhdhar, it’s time now to descend the mountain to the great town of Nizwa. (B)
Forts and castles are Oman’s most striking cultural landmarks and together with its towers and city walls, they have historically been used as defensive bastions or look-out points. It is estimated that there are over 500 forts, castles and towers in Oman. Your visit today would include a few of them, which are more remarkable and striking in their architecture and style.
Nizwa is popular for the interesting cattle auction, which takes place on every Friday. Visit of the Nizwa fort and the Nizwa souq. The 17th century round fort and the souq famous for intricate silver jewellery are the major attractions of Nizwa. Built on a solid base of rock, the huge tower was designed to withstand the vibrations of 24 cannons.
Proceed to Jabreen. On your way, stop for photo at the Bahla Fort, which is a UNESC0 World heritage Site (Note: Visit of this Fort is subject to opening of the Fort on the day of the visit as the Fort is still not officially opened on all days). Bahla is also famous for its handmade pottery. The fort and settlement, a mud-walled oasis in the Omani desert, owed its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan tribe (Nabahina), who dominated the central Omani region and made Bahla their capital from the 12th to the end of the 15th century.
Bahla was the centre of Ibadism (a branch of Islam), on which the ancient Omani Imamates were based and whose influence can be traced across Arabia, Africa and beyond.
Continue your drive to the Jabreen castle. Built as a defensive stronghold, the Jabreen is perhaps the finest of Omani castles. The castle has dungeons, passages, rooms and ceilings decorated with fine carvings and paintings. This castle is distinguished by the inscriptions and frescoes that adorn its rooms. The castle’s ceilings are decorated with paintings and Islamic-era style inscriptions, and its doors are beautifully carved. All these architectural details make Jabreen Castle an authentic expression of Omani craftsmanship.
1 night at the Falaj Daris Hotel
DAY 7Jabel Shams
Before you start your drive up the Hajjar Mountains, if this day falls on a Friday, you have an interesting sight to be filmed in the morning – the Friday cattle market. Listen to the hustle and bustle at this traditional market where people from many villages bring their livestock. (BLD)
The Jebel Shams, translated literally to ‘Sun Mountain’ is the highest peak in Oman. Today you will explore the heights of Hajjar Mountains.
Start driving up the Western Hajjar Mountains rising over 2,000 metres, which can be seen from far away as you approach them. You would stop at Al Hamra where 400 years old mud houses are still standing and occupied. Then visit Bait Al Safah, a very old Omani house which is the cradle of heritage and history. Here you would get to know about the history of ancestors who lived here.
The mountain village of Misfah with stone dwellings and the terrace farming village of Wadi Ghul also would be visited. The Wadi Nakhr gorge is a one of Oman’s greatest natural wonders.
Continue to Jebel Shams (mountain of the Sun) is the tallest peak in Oman at a height of) 3,010 metres offering spectacular views of the surroundings. Jebel Shams is home to weaver of heavy woollen rugs in distinctive black, red and brown geometric designs. You will discover small villages hidden in the mountain ranges as you climb up the steep and winding road.
If you enjoy walking, you can take a Cliff walk to the abandoned village: from the Jabel Shams Plateau (at own expense). This is an exciting easy walk along the steep canyon walls to an old village, bringing you back in time hundreds of years. The walking time is about 1 hour 15 minutes one way.
1 night at the Jebel Shams Resort Camp
A great day if you wish to walk and explore the mountains and mountain villages of the Hajjar ranges. You can choose between a short walk near Bilad Syat area, or a longer one near Sharaf Al Alamayn or simply head for a breathtaking journey across the mountains in your 4X4 vehicle. Terraced farming and beautiful mountain villages await you and of course enjoy great views. (BL)
The mountain areas are also where Omani honey is produced. Beekeeping has been practised since ancient times in Oman. Oman has a varied landscape represented in its dried-up river beds, hills, plains and deserts in which flourish the plants and trees which provide the honey bee with the nutrients it requires: palm trees, coconut palms, cereals, limes, vegetables, sugar cane, frankincense and gum trees.
Continue to drive towards your resort in Ras Al Hadd, a small town an hour’s drive north of Muscat.
1 night at the Al Nahda Resort & Spa
The fertile Batinah coast is dotted with beautiful beaches, forts, fishing villages and places famous for camel racing and bull fighting. The town of Nakhl lies in a secluded glen below the lofty mass of Jebel Nakhl. (B)
Visit of Nakhl Fort which is 350 years old and is set in a gorge, surrounded by a mountain enclave. In 1990, restoration work began, using traditional building materials and period furnishings. The carved master gate is believed to date back to the 1830’s during the reign of Sayyid Said bin Sultan.
After the visit of the fort we will continue to the hot water springs.
Ascend to the beautiful village of Wakkan. The village is very lush with plantations and is known for its terrace farming and a variety of fruits and vegetables are grown here.
Drive to Muscat and check-in at the hotel. You may opt for a cruise along the Muscat coastline onboard a traditional wooden dhow this evening (at own expense).
1 night at the Radisson Blu Hotel
DAY 10End of Explore Oman Naturally
Today you will be transferred to Muscat Airport for your onward flight. (B)