An itinerary for a getaway to the Sultanate of Oman
Oman dazzles at first brush. With its stunning landscapes, vibrant souqs, rich culture, and fantastic cuisine, it’s a destination that both captivates and elicits curiosity from those less familiar with this Middle Eastern gem. When we decided to spend 10 days in Oman, we had to narrow our focus down. Between mountainscapes, city scenes, beachy locales and desert enclaves, there was simply too much on offer to take in with the timeframe we had in mind. We ultimately decided to focus on Muscat, Jabal al-Akhdar and Zighy Bay on the Musandam Peninsula. Below, I’m sharing an example itinerary for two weeks in Oman for those that can carve out the time; this two-week flow captures our itinerary in Oman plus adds in the otherworldly Wahiba Sands for a desert glamping experience.
One thing I’ll add before sharing this is that Oman’s Musandam Peninsula isn’t always the easiest add-on to an Omani itinerary given its location. The Musandam is to Oman what Alaska is to the US (on a smaller scale, obviously). To get to Zighy Bay, visitors have to pass through the Emirates and pop out the other side. Dubai (DXB) is the best airport for access to the Musandam Peninsula while Muscat is the better airport for the rest of ‘mainland’ Oman. If your time is limited, logistically it makes the most sense to make Zighy Bay part of a trip to the Emirates vs. Oman but it’s such a fantastic destination that I couldn’t not include it here!
DAY 1 – 3 // Muscat 〰 Historic Immersion
We started our time in the Omani capital of Muscat, a city that I entered with virtually no expectations. My experience with Middle Eastern capitals like Cairo, Marrakech, Amman, and others brought to mind busy, chaotic hubs, some more managed than others. Muscat was a total surprise for me; a peaceful enclave that felt organized and managed, with a beautiful airport, great infrastructure (super easy to drive if you opt to rent), a gorgeous beachfront stretch, and a small collection of upscale hotels.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL, R&R and BEACH TIME IN MUSCAT // If you’re staying beachfront at a locale like Al Bustan Palace or Chedi Muscat, a bit of R&R is a perfect way to settle into your time in Muscat. Al Bustan Palace occupies are particularly beautiful stretch of beach, which surprised us and wowed us. After the sun sets, mosey on up to the hookah bar where you can settle in for the evening.
DAY 2: EXPLORE THE SOUQS AND SITES OF MUSCAT // We took our second day – our first full day – to explore the city’s highlights. Much of what draws visitors to Muscat is the essence to Old Arabia that can be felt in the old town, known as Mutrah. Take the time to head to Mutrah to explore its narrow alleyways and historic buildings. Visit the Mutrah Souq for Omani goods – you’ll find a treasure trove of jewelry, frankincense, scarves, and vintage Omani pieces. Beyond the old town, visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world or make your way to the Royal Opera House if a performance is available. For those heading to the mosque, be sure to verify opening times if you want to enter and plan your dress accordingly (long-sleeved shirts and long pants are required).
DAY 3: DAY TRIP FROM MUSCAT // With three days in the Omani capital, a day trip from Muscat is entirely doable. For my nature lovers, don’t miss a hike in Wadi Shab. For my island enthusiasts, plan a day trip to the Ad Dimaniyat Islands where you can spend a half day snorkeling and sunning off the coast of Muscat. For some travelers that have limited time in Oman centered mostly around Muscat, Nizwa, Jabal al-Akhdar and Wahiba Sands are ‘day trips’. All of these destinations are doable but given their individual draws and uniqueness, these locales are deserving of their own place in an Omani itinerary, particularly if you have 10 days or two weeks in Oman.
Day 4 – 6 // Jabal al-Akhdar 〰 Escape to the ‘Green Mountain’
Jabal al-Akhdar is a draw for both international and domestic tourists with its terraced farms, fruit orchards, breathtaking views, beautiful hikes, and cooler temps. In the winter, Jabal al-Akhdar becomes something unique in the region; a wintry mountain escape. In summer, the high altitude (around 8500′) provides a slight reprieve from the ultra-high heat found at sea level. One note about Jabal al Akhdar is that a transfer will be necessary if you do not have a 4×4 vehicle. A 4×4 is absolutely required to visit the mountain and you’ll face a checkpoint when preparing to head up given the steep inclines/declines and some very rocky roads at the top. We opted for a four-wheel drive which was a premium compared with a regular vehicle but allowed us flexibility and freedom to explore.
DAY 4: RESORT LIFE IN THE MOUNTAINS // Jabal al-Akdhar is home to two luxury resorts: Anantara Jabal al-Akhdar and Alila, both spectacular properties offering different styles. I have a full post forthcoming on these two properties as they’re commonly compared and contrasted for travelers, but suffice it to say that Anantara leans more into the desert vibe while Alila really captures a luxury mountain aesthetic. Both offer great spa experiences, beautiful pools, and great guest rooms which means your trip to Jabal al-Akdhar can start with settling into a little oasis for your first night. So much of this region is soaking in the views and locale so opt for a room with a view to take in your surroundings — and the gorgeous sunsets!
DAY 5: DAY TRIP TO NIZWA // The former Omani capital of Nizwa is a major draw for most visitors to Oman and while it can be done as a day trip from Muscat, it’s arguably better done from Jabal al Akdhar given its proximity (and if you have a vehicle that allows the drive). Visit the Nizwa Souq and explore Nizwa Castle and Nizwa Fort, which are adjacent to one another within a single complex. If time permits, head to Al-Hoota Cave, a go-to for nature enthusiasts. Situated about 45 minutes from Nizwa, Al-Hoota cave system is one of Oman’s most wow-worthy natural wonders.
DAY 6: EXPLORE ON FOOT // After spending some time at the resort and exploring neighboring Nizwa and Al-Hoota, spend your final day exploring on foot with hikes and nature walks in the region. For those staying at Anantara, take a hike to neighboring villages like Al Ayn to experience the local culture and heritage. The trails are situated right near the resort, providing easy access for exploring the canyon. The temperatures heat up during the day so it’s best to go early given most hikes are multi-hour endeavours. If you’re there from March through May, don’t miss the Damask roses in bloom!
Day 7 – 9 // Wahiba Sands
We skipped Wahiba Sands due to the fact that we had limited time and had a baby with us but the famous dunes are a must-see for visitors to Oman. After working with clients heading to Oman, we typically plan a couple of nights in Wahiba Sands to settle into the desertscape and enjoy some of the activities on offer.
DAY 6: ARRIVE, DISCONNECT AND STARGAZING // One of my favorite memories in the Middle East is sleeping at a Bedouin Camp near Petra during our visit in 2014. The off-the-grid experience in nature made us more present and more appreciative of our surroundings. In Oman, Desert Nights Camp is one of the most luxurious and famous camps available for those in search of pampering. For a special evening in, request a private BBQ dinner in your tented suite (we did this at Anantara Jabal al-Akhdar and it was such a treat).
DAY 7: DUNE BASHING + CAMELS + BEDOUIN DINNER // The desert activities on offer are endless. Go on a sunset camel ride, head out on an ATV, go dune bashing, or try your hand at sandboarding. In the evening, enjoy tea and dinner under the stars. There is no better place to enjoy stargazing than away from the cities in the midst of nature with crystal clear night skies.
DAY 8: ACTIVITIES + BEDOUIN FAMILY VISITS // Part of being in a desert camp is enjoying a slowed-down pace of life. With a range of activities on offer, it’s best to enjoy a couple of activities each day with downtime in between to enjoy books and general disconnectedness so if you had a number of musts on your to-do list (camel riding, sandboarding, ATVing, etc., etc.) you can spread the love over two days. Talk with your accommodations about visiting Bedouin families as well to understand a traditional way of life that differs hugely from the lifestyle of Muscat and other Omani cities.
Day 10 – 14 // Zighy Bay 〰 The Coastal Gem
I alluded to this earlier, but visiting Zighy Bay isn’t the most seamless prospect and realistically can be incorporated into another trip altogether. For an alternative beach fix, there’s also Salalah in ‘mainland’ Oman which has a regional airport as well. That said, Zighy is something so special that I couldn’t exclude it from the itinerary. Despite the fact that it took the better part of a day of travel to get there, I wouldn’t have skipped it!
DAY 10: ARRIVE AT ZIGHY // The journey to the Musandam Peninsula can be quite long, so take the first night to settle in and enjoy the beauty of your new home. Dine at Summer House, which was my favorite of their offerings, for fresh seafood and Omani specialties. Grab a drink at the Zighy Bar to enjoy craft cocktails pre or post-dinner. Want to make an entrance? Arrive at Zighy via their paragliding experience, soaring above Zighy Bay and taking in panoramic views before landing on the beach.
DAY 11: WOMEN’S TOUR & SUSTAINABILITY // Your first full day at Zighy is all about R&R and enjoying your private villa and beach, but if you feel up to exploring and enjoying an activity, consider their Sustainability Tour (complimentary) or their Women’s Tour. It’s not just lip service when Six Senses talks about sustainability and the team at Zighy Bay are passionate leaders in this space, finding ways to reduce food waste, upcycle glass and produce enough water to take care of not only the guests on property, but also the ‘hosts’/Zighy staff that live nearby. For those wanting a bit more, ask about their Women’s Tour that highlights female artisans in the area.
DAY 11: DHOW CRUISE ALONG THE MUSANDAM COASTLINE // There’s no better way – except maybe by paragliding or microlight! – to see the coastal area than by boat! Take a traditional dhow cruise along the rugged Musandam coastline, known for its dramatic fjords and secluded coves. If a boat day isn’t in the cards, head to the beach to visit to the water sports team to try your hand at water activities like snorkeling, diving, or kayaking in the Gulf of Oman.
DAY 12: R&R AT THE PROPERTY AND SPA // Take your final day to relax and rejuvenate at the resort and don’t miss the chance to enjoy a Six Senses spa service. The Six Senses brand is super wellness focused so it comes as no surprise that their spa is world-clas. In the afternoon, enjoy your private villa and some beach time before saying goodbye to Oman. (Depart from DXB).
Oman is truly a gem in the region and while it was slightly more challenging traveling with a 4-month-old in tow, it didn’t disappoint when it came to gorgeous landscapes, fantastic cuisine (some of the best and most diverse in the Middle East), the true sense of Old Arabia, plus genuine hospitality. For anyone traveling with children, I’d transparently say that Zighy Bay was the most kid-friendly part of our trip that also allowed us to really enjoy some R&R while Jabal al-Akhdar was probably the least child-friendly of our destinations given so much of the draw here is getting to enjoy hikes and exploration on foot. That said, there’s nothing I would have skipped as every stop on our itinerary delivered in a unique way. 👌🏼
What’s on your must-see list with two weeks in Oman?