Your guide to road trips in Oman
Think coast-to-coast road trips are only for the States? Guess again.
With its pristine beaches, dramatic mountain landscapes and luxury hotels, a road trip through Oman should be on anyone’s Middle East travel bucket list. Team What’s On packed up the 4×4 and took to the road with three main destinations in mind: Musandam, the Hajar Mountains and Muscat.
We recommend allowing at least a week to squeeze it all in, depending on how much time you plan to spend in each area.
Dubai to Musandam: Two hours
If you’re travelling from Dubai, take the E11 towards Ras Al Khaimah, then take Exit 119 onto the E87 and follow it all the way to the Dibba-Oman border. Keep in mind that, due to recent border changes, only GCC nationals are allowed to travel through without a border pass. The best way to get a border pass is by booking a tour with a tour company or a hotel in Musandam. You’ll need your passport for the border crossing, and if you’re driving, make sure your car insurance covers you in Oman.
Things to do in Musandam
If you’ve yet to experience a Musandam dhow cruise, you’re missing out on one of the best days out in the region. Khasab, the capital of the Musandam region, has been dubbed the ‘Norway Of Arabia’ because of its dramatic landscape and spectacular fjords. A number of companies offer full-day and half-day dhow cruises, which usually include stops to snorkel and dive, or even dolphin watch. You could also sign up for a cruise that lets you camp on a beach or sleep on the dhow under the stars overnight. We recommend Sheesa Beach Dhow Tours, who offer sharing, private and overnight cruises.
Explore Zighy Bay
If you’ve got cash to splash, book a night in Zighy Bay, an exclusive property in the Musandam Peninsula. While rooms don’t come cheap (starting at Dhs4,100 per night), the intimate hideaway is perfect for a special occasion. They have lots of activities on offer including snorkelling, fishing, speedboat tours and some advanced hiking in the rugged terrain. They also organise a transfer from the hotel entrance to save you the steep mountain drive.
Zighy Bay Resort, Musandam Peninsula, Oman, Dhs4,100. Tel: (+968) 26735555. sixsenses.com
From Musandam to Hajar Mountains: Seven hours
From Dubai to Hajar Mountains: Six hours
Make sure you have the border pass that you used to enter the border crossing as you’ll need it to exit through the border crossing too. Take the Dibba-Masafi road (E88) from Dibba, followed by the E55 towards Umm Al Quwain, before merging onto the E66 Dubai-Al Ain Road, and follow the directions below.
Take the E66 to Al Ain and follow the signs towards Ibri. Once you’re through Al Ain, take Route 21 and then Route 15 towards Nizwa. Follow the signs to Al Jabal Al Akhdar and you’ll reach the police checkpoint, where the police will make sure you’re driving the right car to make the onward journey.
Things To Do in the Hajar Mountains
Bookmark this page for the summer, because the altitude of Jabal Akhdar (Arabic for the ‘green mountain’) of 2,000 metres above sea levels translates to it being around 15 degrees cooler than the UAE. There are plenty of places to camp in Oman, but you’ll need a 4×4 to get to any great height. In fact, there’s a police checkpoint at the base of Jabal Akhdar to prevent any non-4x4s attempting to tame the series of steep, hairpin climbs. We recommend travelling during the day to find a camping spot so you’re not driving in the dark, or booking a stay at the Alila Jabal Akhdar or Anantara Jabal Akhdar. Both hotels organise a pick-up service at the checkpoint to save you the drive.
Oman’s terrain lends itself to long, rambling hikes. Some hotels offer guided walks, but many of the wadis are simple enough to do self-guided (just pack enough food and water). Wadi Sarab, near the Alila, is a beautiful hike, where you can spot the juniper bushes and damask roses that the area is famous for. The Alila hotel guides have marked a trail (look for the Omani flag painted on rocks and trees) that leads you to a dam at the end. You can also explore the abandoned village of Sarab, traditional mud and stone huts overlooking the wadi.
Brave the via ferrata
If hiking feels too basic for you, try a via ferrata for a real adrenaline rush. A via ferrata is a protected climbing route – essentially a steel cable running along a mountain side that climbers secure themselves to as they make their way along. The Alila is home to the highest via ferrata in the Middle East, and there are routes to suit all levels, from a beginner-friendly hike to a more advanced trek to a local cave.
Where to stay
Alila Jabal Akhdar
The Alila is a certified eco-friendly boutique hotel that uses solar power, produce from local farms and art from Omani artists in its rooms. The rooms are beautiful and the luxury touches include big bathtubs, an indoor Jacuzzi pool and an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the mountains.
Plot 4, Al Roose Jabal Al Akhdar, Nizwa, Oman, Dhs2,800. Tel: (+968) 25344200. alilahotels.com
Anantara Jabal Akhdar
The newest hotel in the Hajar Mountains, the Anantara is a huge resort that’s perfect for a family or group getaway. Along with the spacious villas and the brilliant Italian restaurant Bella Vista, the highlight is Diana’s Point, a viewing platform above the canyon named for Princess Diana, who visited the site in the 1980s.
Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman, Dhs1,300. Tel: (+968) 25218000. jabal-akhdar.anantara.com
Dubai to Muscat: Five hours
Jabal Akhdar to Muscat: Three hours
From the Hajar Mountains to Muscat
You won’t need to pass through any borders. Simply take Route 15 all the way to Muscat.
Take the Dubai-Hatta road (E66) followed by Emirates Road (E611), then the Sharjah- Kalba road (E102), all the way to the Hatta border. From there you get onto Route 1 and follow the coastal road to Muscat. You’ll need your passport and Oman car insurance, plus Dhs50 per person for the visa fee. Make sure you stop at every checkpoint; you’ll need to get an exit stamp from the UAE as well as an entrance stamp into Oman.
Things to do in Muscat
Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The largest mosque in Oman is a stunning example of local architecture. Built in 2001, it’s the only mosque in Oman open to non-Muslims. Entry to the mosque is free but be sure to dress respectfully: shoulders and knees should be covered (that goes for men and women) and women’s heads must be covered.
Sultan Qaboos Street, Muscat, Oman, Sun to Thur 8.30am to 11am. Tel: (+968 24505170). Taxi: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. sultanqaboosgrandmosque.com
Shop at Mutrah Souk
The city’s oldest souk is a frankincense-scented labyrinth selling everything from silver jewellery to textiles, and the Omani khanjar, a dagger symbolic of the country.
Al Bahri Road, Muscat, Oman, daily 7am to 11am and 5pm to 11pm. Tel: (+968) 98277478. Taxi: Mutrah Souk. omantourism.gov
Where to stay
The Chedi Muscat
A beautiful hideaway with a private beach and, at 103 metres, the longest pool in the Middle East (shh, don’t tell Dubai). Sleek and monochrome chic, it was designed by the legendary architect Jean-Michel Gathy.
Street 46, Muscat, Oman, Dhs2,400. Tel: (+968) 24524400. Taxi: The Chedi. ghmhotels.com
Sitting proudly on the coast, overlooking the serene waters of the Gulf Of Oman, the no-frills Crowne Plaza is a great weekend option. Hop in one of their regular buses to explore the capital or simply take in the views from a sunny spot poolside.
Ruwi 112, Muscat 112, Oman, Dhs680. Tel: (+968) 24660660. ihg.com