One Week Road Tripping around Glorious OMAN

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In December of 2018, I spent a week driving around the jewel of the Middle East – Oman. I have done some absolutely phenomenal road trips in my life, and in one short week, Oman became one of the best places I had ever road tripped. Sinkholes, wadi’s, endless desert and incredible forts are just a handful of the reasons why Oman is amazing.

So, if you are intrigued, if you are planning a road trip or if Oman is on your travel wishlist, then keep on reading!

We flew directly to Muscat from Dubai, which was easy and uncomplicated. Australia is one of the many nationalities that do not require a visa to enter Oman. We got 14 days visa free, were stamped in and off to sleep! We got in quite late at night, so after picking up our rental car we made a beeline for our hotel.

The next morning, we checked out of the Centara Muscat and began our road trip!

Our first stop was the Bimmah Sinkhole. This water filled depression is about 20m deep and was formed due to collapsed limestone. It is a popular spot for a swim, but I will be honest, I didn’t go in further than my shins, purely because I wasn’t quite sure what acceptable swimming garb was in Oman at this point and I didn’t want to offend anyone!

As it turns out, that was a good move, the only bathers I had on underneath my clothes were a high-waisted bikini set, which absolutely would have been unacceptable. For those who plan to visit – make sure to don a one piece swimsuit, covered at least by a long t-shirt, but even better if you wear some shorts over the top too.

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bimmah-sinkhole-oman-travel-blog-bucket-list-travelling-the-world-solo

Our next stop was Wadi Shab. To get to the starting point of this hike involves a mandatory boat ride. Operating from 8am to 5pm, local Omani men operate boats from the parking area to the hike starting point for the price of one rial (1 OMR = $3.60 AUD). The ride only lasts a few minutes and look, in a pinch, one could easily swim across this section – but the water doesn’t exactly look inviting – you are definitely better off spending the moolah on the boat!

I must admit, I was woefully underprepared for this hike. I had read online that it was an easy 45 minute walk to the first swimming hole – but I gotta be honest, ‘easy’ is not the word I would use!

It wasn’t that I wasn’t fit enough to manage the hike, it was more that it requires a fair bit of scrambling across rocks and in many sections, these rocks are as slippery as eels. To make matters worse, I was wearing my old birkenstocks – which are super comfy, but anyone familiar with birkis will know that the grip on the soles of the shoes is quite quick to wear down.

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Furthermore, we packed inadequate water, we didn’t carry sunscreen, we didn’t carry a waterproof bag for electronics and we visited so late in the day that we had to hustle back to make it for the last boat! As a result, we didn’t end up swimming in the pools at the end of the hike, which is one of my few travel regrets. When I return to Oman, this is something that I will absolutely be rectifying.

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Muscat-Oman-Road-Trip-Travel-Blog-Wadi-Shab

However, despite being underprepared and not going for a swim, the hike itself was still absolutely beautiful and I am so glad that I risked a few twisted ankles to complete it.

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From Wadi Shab we drove to the coastal city of Sur where we checked into Zaki Hotel Apartments. The room was basic, but the sunset views were beautiful and the restaurant within this hotel is absolutely fantastic – try the mushroom masala, it’s incredible!

After a good nights sleep, it was time to finally explore Sur. Our first stop was the teeniest fort you’ve ever seen! It wasn’t all that exciting, but it did end up being a beautiful spot to admire the coastline.

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Muscat-Oman-Road-Trip-Travel-Blog-Sur-Fort-Lighthouse

Next was Sunaysilah Fort. I had it marked on my offline maps as a spot to visit, but really had no idea what to expect. At first, we weren’t really sure if we were allowed to enter as there weren’t any official signs or markings, but eventually we worked up the courage to just wander on in.

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Muscat-Oman-Road-Trip-Travel-Blog-Sur-Fort-Lighthouse

As soon as we made our we in, we were promptly greeted by the keeper of this fort, who just seemed excited to show us around! I have found online that the cost of entry is 500 baisa (1/2 a rial) which is around $1.80 AUD, but we were never asked to pay a cent.

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Dating back to the 17th century, this fort was an important part of the defensive systems Sur had in place to protect itself, its overseas trades and the treasures within in.

In the modern day, just a few artefacts remain, but it is the fort itself that I found the most interesting. It was incredible to see all of the subtle yet effective defences built into this structure, and to gain a greater understanding of just how well fortified this castle was.

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As an added bonus, the views from the fort were absolutely phenomenal!

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Also dominating the Sur coastline is this gorgeous lighthouse.

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It costs nothing to enter and is incredibly beautiful up close and from afar, it was a lovely surprise in the city.

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What traffic in Oman looks like

After another fantastic meal at Zaki Hotel (seriously, I cannot recommend them enough) it was time for us to leave the gorgeous Sur coastline and head inland to the desert of Wahiba Sands.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the greatest time during this leg. The ex and I were in the midst of quite a row, the owner of the camp we stayed at only seemed interested in how much extra money he could gouge from us and I just wasn’t feeling myself.

Honestly, if it weren’t for this place providing one of the most gorgeous sunsets that I’ve ever seen, I don’t know if I could find much to redeem it. However, I have heard of people having much better experiences at different camps (and with better travel buddies) so I think that when I return to Oman this will be something that I need to give a second go.

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The next morning, we left Wahiba Sands and headed north towards Nizwa, which is where I seemed to get back into the groove of things.

Nizwa is a stunningly ancient city, known for its souk and fort. The souk wasn’t open when we were there (major bummer, but hot tip, it doesn’t open until 4pm most days) but the fort was, and boy was it beautiful!

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Dating back to the mid 17th century, Nizwa is an impressive defensive fort and the most visited monument in all of Oman.

Built above an underground steam and extending 30m below ground, the fort is a prime example of the incredible defenses used by Omani people in days long gone. Cannons guarding the entrance, cannons inside the 30m tall tower, false bottoms and murder holes (yep, that’s the real name for them – they are shafts above each door which can be used to pour boiling water or burning oil onto intruders – ouch) are just a few of the defenses that once guarded this fort and castle.

As an added bonus, the fort is also all kinds of pretty – the shapes, angles and shadows feel like an ever-changing canvas!

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Entrance to the fort is 5 OMR (~$18 AUD) making it easily the most expensive place we visited in Oman – but it was definitely worth it!

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I highly recommend visiting early in the morning – we did so and had the entire fort pretty much to ourselves! Also, the morning light provides a lot of shadows and shade through the fort, which was very much a blessing for me; at this point on the trip we were four months in and I had run out of sunscreen long long ago!

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Later that afternoon we took a little walk up a hill on the main marina. It was a bit of a sketchy ascent (I definitely would’ve picked the wrong “trail” if it weren’t for some lovely locals who sent us in the right direction) but the views over the Muscat port were absolutely beautiful, and made the climb in the heat well worth the effort.

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Muscat-Oman-Road-Trip-Travel-Blog-Independent

The following day would be our last in Oman and it is safe to say that we went out on an extremely high note.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in all of Oman. Constructed from over 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone and occupying an area of 430,000 sq ft – this mosque can hold in incredible 20,000 worshippers!

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However, it isn’t just the sheer size that makes this mosque worth visiting – it is the stunning details and phenomenal architectural design.

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Muscat-Oman-Road-Trip-Travel-Blog-Independent

Muscat-Oman-Road-Trip-Travel-Blog-Independent

I have visited many mosques over the years, but this one is easily one of my favourites. It is utterly unique and completely different from the mosques that I have marvelled at in places such as Iran and Turkey.

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Entrance to the mosque is free, although it should be noted that women will need to be careful with what they wear. I donned a headscarf, long sleeve shirt and long pants, however upon entry my pants were deemed to be too tightly fitting and I was made to hire a chador. I can’t remember the cost but I do remember just regretting not wearing a long flowy skirt instead!

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We spent several hours exploring this mosque. Firstly, it just keeps going and going, and then when you think you’ve seen everything – there’s actually more! – and secondly, we visited early in the morning and the light beaming down on the mosque was truly glorious. I took around 2000 photographs during our visit (not an exaggeration) because there were just so many angles and details to capture!

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We departed Oman that evening. We had had an incredible week and I cannot wait to return one day; when I do, I will make sure to book a better camp in Wadi Shab, to bring more appropriate swimwear and to hire a 4×4 – I want to see Jebel Shams!

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Where we travelled

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THE  LOWDOWN

Centara Muscat Hotel: This lovely hotel has abundant parking and is incredibly comfortable. It is also really good value, you can get a room for around $75 AUD per night, which isn’t bad for a 4* offering! Click here to learn more or to book
Zaki Hotel Apartment: Zaki ended up being a fantastic option in Sur. Our apartment wasn’t pretty but it was spacious and comfortable! The restaurant is wonderful and the close proximity to its deliciousness was a huge bonus. You can get a one bedroom apartment for around $90 AUD per night. Click here to learn more or to book
Nizwa Residence Hotel ApartmentThis hotel has lovely staff and super comfy beds, you can get a double room for around $90 AUD. Click here to learn more or to book
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Bring Oman appropriate swimwear and be respectful of local customs

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

92 thoughts on “One Week Road Tripping around Glorious OMAN

  1. So many beautiful photos, Ellen! You took 2000 photos, wow! Did you bring 30 SD cards? 😂 The architecture is very different and beautiful, I would like to see that swimming hole up close too. Be safe. 🙏🏻🇦🇺

    1. Lol, more like one very large hard drive and spending a lot of time backing up to that! It is such a gorgeous country, I definitely need to get back and explore the swimming holes more thoroughly. You be safe too John!

  2. Lovely read and images, really swept me away! From one Aussie gal to another, you might like to check out my travel blog too, though its a lot more local these days. Nice to see your international travels!

    1. Thank you ladies! I love your blog – it’s crazy to think that your NSW posts now seem a world away from me here in SA. I know what you mean, I definitely have a few more local trips on the cards this year, although I am determined to use my passport in 2022. I have planned a few trips for the year and hopefully covid won’t stop me!

    1. It is honestly such a glorious country, easily one of my favourites in the Middle East. I hope you get there one day 🙂

  3. First visited Muscat in 1963/64 and a few times later in the 1960’s. Returned about three years ago what a change!
    Did you notice any ship’s names painted on the cliffs overlooking the harbour – the weather might have washed them away over the years. Thanks for an interesting post

    1. Wow, what was it like in the 60s?! I must say, I didn’t notice any names on the cliffs, you might be right after the weather washing them off! Thanks for reading <3

  4. I am so desperate to visit Oman – it just looks spectacular. The Wahiba Sands look remarkable, although I’m sorry your experience didn’t match the beauty of the place. It just seems like there’s so much to see and do in Oman.

    1. I think that was just unfortunate circumstances, I am fairly sure that when I return one day I will enjoy Wahiba sands much more. I hope you get there one day soon!

  5. Traveling to Oman is like taking a journey through the country’s greatest hits. From sand dunes, ancient buildings and clear water of amazing swimming holes you will be sure find something that captures your interest!

    1. So true! There is truly something for everyone in Oman – I am honestly still so surprised that it isn’t a more popular travel destination!

  6. Another beautiful post. Your photos are really beautiful. That mosque was an architectural wonder. I would be lost in there taking photos until they kicked me out. Thanks again, Ellen! Wonderful as always. Stay safe 😊

    1. Ha! I very much doubt they’d kick you out – the few people working within the mosque just seemed interested in educating me all about it, it was fascinating! Thanks for reading, you stay safe too 🙂

  7. Wow! This trip sounds amazing. I am totally inspired to visit Oman. Thanks for the tips on what to wear when swimming in the sinkholes.

    1. Yes! I love to hear comments like that 🙂 and my pleasure – I only wish I’d researched it better before I went!

  8. I also did a road trip in Oman pre covid and absolutely loved it. It’s a beautiful and underrated destination. I would very much love to return. Great blog!

  9. Such a fascinating trip to Oman. Those waterholes are stunning and the architecture looks amazing. Thanks for sharing your experiences and travel tips.

    1. Oh my goodness I have so few photos with anyone else in them! The only time I even had to wait for someone to move for me to take a photo was once in the big mosque, everything else we pretty much had to ourselves!

  10. We visited Oman twice but both times were by cruise ship. We had amazing days but always wanted to go back and explore more. We really did not get out of the cities so it would be awesome to see more of the great outdoors. A great reminder of how many great sites there are to visit in Oman. I even own an outfit I bought when we visited to keep me fully covered in public sites.

  11. Ah this itinerary has reminded me why Oman is on my bucket list! The architecture looks spectacular! I love your beautiful photos! Thanks for the great guide!

  12. Oman looks absolutely beautiful, and I’m especially blown away by the architecture! Oman wasn’t originally on my bucket list, so thanks for opening my eyes to something new 😊. Maybe I’ll visit one of these days! Xx Sara

    1. It’s absolutely my pleasure Sara! I love travelling to off the beaten track destinations for many reasons, but opening people up to places they hadn’t considered before is definitely one of them. Thanks for reading <3

  13. Oman is beautiful and so are your photos! I think I would really like to visit the Bimmah Sinkhole, the water is so blue! Also, the architecture is so unique. Thanks for sharing your itinerary!

  14. Oman is a place I don’t see very often on travel blogs, but it is absolutely stunning. You provided a great tip about going to the fort in the early morning. That play of dark and light and shadow in your photos are beautiful.

    1. Thanks so much Cecilia! It definitely is not the most oft-visited tourist destination, but therein lies some of the appeal 🙂

  15. What a beautiful place. It reminds me of the Arabian Nights movie I watched as a little girl. My only concern is whether it is safe to travel there! It looks like it was.

    1. Oman isn’t really a place I’ve given much thought to visiting, but I’ll be honest, looking at your pictures I’m impressed by it. Looks so nice and I wouldn’t have considered hikes like that to be there either. What a beautiful swimming place at the sinkhole

      1. It’s definitely an underrated destination, but I reckon it will continue to grow in tourist numbers over the years – it is definitely worth the visit!

    2. Oh yes Oman is incredibly safe! I can’t imagine visiting a country that was more safe to be honest!

  16. Your photos and these places are stunning. I’d love to visit Oman one day; it’s very different to the places I’m used to.

    1. You should do it! It would be a fantastic introduction to the Middle Eastern region – safe, easy and gorgeous!

  17. I’ve always wanted to visit Oman, but have been a little unsure because I am a solo female traveller. This post is encouraging me to get over my hesitation. The Sultan Qaboos mosque looks so beautiful with all that intricate work!

    1. Please don’t let being solo hold you back! Oman is an exceptionally safe country – like, I would have felt safe wild camping anywhere in the country! <3

  18. I have to say I love your pictures, you are a great photographer. My sister went for a work visit to Oman and she was all praises about the cities and culture. This is a comprehensive guide and I would love to plan a trip to Oman some day.

    1. I am so glad your sister loved her time there! Maybe you could travel there together one day? 🙂

  19. Absolutely gorgeous country! The landscape and architecture are inspiring and reminds me of a crossroads btwn north African and Central Asia

    1. Oh yep I totally see that! I saw a lot of similarities when I was in Zanzibar, which makes sense as there was a big trade route between Oman and East Africa.

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