What it's like to road trip through Oman, and why you should consider it
If you’ve ever wanted to go on a road trip through Oman, now is the perfect time…
Dense fog, lush greenery, vast waterfalls, wild waves, seemingly endless desert, rolling dunes, winding wadis, Mars-like mountainscape, abandoned towns, bustling cities, countless camels, baby goats and a few donkeys – these are just a handful of things you will see in Oman when you experience it on four wheels. Exploring Oman’s natural wonders by car allows you to witness many of the country’s most underrated assets. So, armed with a full tank of fuel, our favourite snacks and essential road trip tunes, we hit the road from Dubai.
The journey begins with a six-hour drive to Alila Jabal Akhdar, where we check into a mountain view room, although realistically, as we’re 2,000 metres above sea level, we imagine every room has a mountain view. To reach the hotel you’ll need a 4×4, and our transport of choice is a Mini Cooper Countryman. The small but mighty vehicle is the perfect size, with plenty of space for luggage (and snacks) and has more than enough power and agility to get us across the diverse types of terrain we come across throughout the road trip.
The resort is totally remote, and the stark silence is a welcome change from city life as we sip coffee on our balcony in the morning. With a breathtaking infinity pool that stretches into the mountainous view, the hotel’s location and facilities sell themselves. However, the superb dining options and faultless service are an additional bonus. Juniper Restaurant and Rose Lounge both look out into the endless view, serving a wide range of dishes, and guests are welcome to order from either restaurant’s menus.
The room is spacious yet cosy, with large glass doors overlooking the natural wonders outside, and a wooden terrace complete with comfortable sofa from which to soak up the ambience surrounding you. The bathroom features a huge free-standing bath that also faces out to the view.
When it’s time for the next leg of our trip, a 7am departure is required. We’re headed to Alila’s second Oman-based resort, found close to Salalah in Hinu Bay. The ‘quick route’ cuts right through the middle of the country and takes us across almost 1,000km of completely untouched land. Empty desert fades into harsh dusty conditions, before slowly turning greener as we approach the coast.
@whatsondubai This is your sign to plan the ultimate road trip through Oman during Khareef Season with @mini #miniagmc #whatsondubai #roadtrip #travel #middleeast #oman #khareef2022 #khareef #wheretogo ♬ original sound – Sickickmusic
Oman’s annual monsoon season, called Khareef, runs until September, meaning for three months, thick cloud envelops the huge mountain that blocks the desert from the beach. As we approach it, we find our thermostat dropping from 45° Celsius to 25° Celsius in less than half an hour, and soon we’re passing through dense fog and mist with minimal visibility. The surroundings we can see, however, offer lush greenery and thick forest, clearly benefitting from the intense moisture. When we reach the coast, conditions are still overcast, and the ocean waves are thrashing aggressively against the beach rocks.
After eight-and-a-half hours, we make it to Alila Hinu Bay and are welcomed with a refreshing hibiscus tea. The boutique property features both rooms and villas, and ours has a private pool, beach view and outdoor seating area. The interiors are gorgeous, featuring a modern, beachy design with chic furnishings and a part-alfresco bathroom. Guests are treated to two dining outlets, SeaSalt, which offers pan-Asian cuisine and The Orchard which serves traditional dishes from around the Middle East. Spa Alila is a haven of serenity for guests, particularly those who have been confined to a car for many hours. The signature treatment uses local frankincense to destress the mind and relax the muscles.
The hotel offers excursions, but we’re here for a solo adventure so we hop back in our trusty Countryman and head to Jabal Samhan. During Khareef season the clouds lay low, meaning when you’re on top of the mountain, the fluffy white pillows sit below you. You can get a decent view throughout the morning (weather dependent), but the best time to arrive is at sunrise.
Wadi Durbat is a popular spot to visit, with cascading waterfalls and boat rides around the lake, but unless you enjoy sharing your experience with hundreds of other tourists, we’d give this one a miss. Instead, drive to Dolphins Beach, given its name due to the high probability of watching wild dolphins happily bounce along the horizon. Even if you don’t manage to see them, you’ll enjoy a secluded patch of sand and calm waves, set beneath a picturesque mountain – many of Salalah’s beaches are rocky and overgrown, so this one is worth the trip. The drive along the coast road alone is truly magical, with natural beauty around each winding bend.
On our final day, we make our way up the eastern coastline towards Muscat. While it’s not the most efficient route home, it’s certainly the most beautiful. The varying landscapes we come across are somewhat mindblowing, and unlike the busy one-lane drive down to Salalah, on the way back we rarely encounter other cars, giving us free reign to enjoy the mountains, desert and beachside roads to ourselves. We pass through many small towns throughout the journey, which show the reality of how many people in Oman live, built with all the necessities needed for a simple life. Villages next to the sea are stacked up with fishing boats, while many of the towns further into the desert have been abandoned, likely due to extreme weather conditions and lack of infrastructure.
Seeing an alternative side to Oman, away from luxe resorts and tourist attractions, gives us a new perspective of the country and a deeper understanding of its culture. While the view of mountains and beaches can be enjoyed from a hotel room, it’s venturing into the unknown and soaking up the surroundings that will imprint the experience in your memory forever.
Top tips on the road
- Give yourself plenty of time at the border and make sure you have all your documents ready (including Oman car insurance).
- Police check points may also be along your route so keep everything to hand
- Keep your eyes peeled for speed cameras. Oman has a 10kph buffer (unlike 20kph in most of the UAE)
- Watch out for speed bumps, especially in small towns where they tend to blend into the road and are not always sign-posted
Images: What’s On/Provided