Oman - From the Desert to the Coast


Oman - From the Desert to the Coast

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 8 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

Oman’s evocative landscapes and its overwhelming hospitality make it an absolute delight to explore. Our short trip starts in the capital, Muscat, a lively city with an interesting old town and a good place to get to grips with modern Oman. From here we drive to the Indian Ocean coast, looking for turtles, and then travel into the vast sands of the Arabian Desert, camping overnight next to towering dunes and hoping to meet Bedouin nomads – a journey to satisfy any latent desert fantasies that you may hold! We visit Nizwa, with its historic fort and travel into the mountains through dramatic scenery, visiting traditional village and Jebel Shams – the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’. This is a journey to the heart of ancient Arabia, where age old traditions still hold sway amid a timeless land.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●○○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●○○○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●●○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights                                                                                          

  • See and scale the incredible vast dunes of the Wahiba Sands and spend the night in the desert
  • Explore mystical desert forts and castles
  • Beautiful coastal scenery and the opportunity to spot rare turtles nesting on the beach
  • Superb scenery of Jebel Akhdar and ancient mountain villages
  • Wander in the atmospheric souqs of Muscat and Nizwa
  • Enjoy the view at the huge expanse of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mixture of comfortable hotels and permanent tented camp accommodation (no air conditioning in Wahiba Sands)
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Muscat
End Point: Muscat
Transport: 4WD vehicles in convoy with guide driving the lead vehicle
Countries: Oman

Tour Itinerary notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour. Please note for our small group tour in Oman we recommend clients regularly swap vehicles in order to communicate with the guide who drives the lead vehicle in the convoy.

Day 1 Sunday – Arrival Muscat

Arrive in Muscat and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to explore the city. Overnight at Al Falaj Hotel or similar.

Muscat

Strategically situated at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Muscat has been an important trading town on the crossroads between east and west for at least two millennia. During the 16th and 17th centuries it changed hands between Portuguese and Turkish invaders several time before returning to local control. The discovery of oil in the 1960s saw Muscat grow from a small harbour town into a large and modern city, fuelling a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society as workers from countries such as India arrive in search of work. Muscat originally consisted only of the area known as Old Muscat, a walled town on a natural harbour which houses excellent examples of traditional Omani architecture and a couple of Portuguese built forts dating back to the 16th century.

Day 2 Monday – Muscat – Sur – Ras Al Jinz

Visit the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the Middle East. Then drive through spectacular scenery of rugged mountains to the small fishing town of Quriyat, and then continue to Wadi Shab, a gorgeous oasis with inviting pools where it may be possible to take a dip. After lunch, continue to Sur, renowned in the past for its dhow shipyards, before reaching Ras al Jinz on the coast. After an early dinner, visit the turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz, where at night green turtles, after a journey of thousands of kilometres, come ashore to lay their eggs. Overnight Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve or similar. (BLD)

Sur

The attractive coastal town of Sur has long been known for its tradition of dhow building, its shipyard continuing to produce these mighty vessels which have formed such an important part of Omani culture and trade over the years, although these days there is less demand. Today it’s a relatively quiet town where one can walk through traditional markets surrounded by Omanis in their typical national dress, and it’s a good place to get a feel for local culture. Sur played a role in the slave trade for many years, being a conduit for slaves brought from East Africa on their way to the markets of Arabia, and it took many years for this practice to be eradicated in Sur after it was officially outlawed.

Day 3 Tuesday – Ras Al Jinz – Wadi Bani Khalid – Wahiba Sands

Drive to Wadi Bani Khalid – an oasis spot in the middle of barren and dry mountains. It is one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman and its pools with clear deep blue water give you an opportunity to take a refreshing dip. After lunch, we head into the Wahiba Sands, a vast mass of undulating red and white sea of sand. The ever-changing patterns of the dunes are a photographer’s delight. After some exciting sand dune driving we reach our desert camp for the night. Overnight at 1000 Nights Camp or similar. (BLD)

Wahiba Sands

The Wahiba Sands are characterised by enormous rolling dunes, some as high as 150 metres, stretching as far as the eye can see – a quintessential desert landscape that is as beautiful as it is austere. Named after the Wahiba tribe, the region is home to Bedouin who manage to eke out an existence around the few oases, and is also home to a surprising amount of wildlife. Immortalised by the travels of Wilfred Thesiger, a journey into the sands offers a superb opportunity to experience desert wilderness.

The Bedouin

Bedouin is a collective name given to a variety of desert dwelling tribes, spread out from the Arabian peninsula to north Africa. Traditionally the Bedouin were largely nomadic, taking their large goat hair tents and moving to find pasture for their flocks throughout the arid desert wastes. Although different tribes were united, typically the Bedu would live separately in their family groups – a necessity so as not to put excess pressure on the meagre resources of the landscape. Nowadays modernity has taken its toll on traditional Bedouin life, as many have settled in towns and cities in search of a more secure existence, but many nomadic families still exist. The recent imposition of national borders on the homelands of the Bedouin has also acted to circumscribe traditional patterns of migration. The Bedouin are famed for their culture of hospitality which dictates that they treat visitors as honoured guests.

Day 4 Wednesday – Wahiba Sands

Full day at leisure. A range of activities are available from the desert camp (payable locally) or you can just relax and admire the views over the dunes. Overnight at 1000 Nights Camp or similar (BLD)

Day 5 Thursday – Wahiba Sands – Ibra – Jabrin Castle – Bahla – Nizwa

Morning drive to the historic town of Nizwa, Oman’s cultural capital. Before reaching Nizwa we visit Ibra Old Houses. Then proceed to Jabrin castle, built in the 17th century and one of the finest of its kind. Its magnificent plasterwork, the carved doors and the painted wooden beams of the ceilings make this castle very different from others in Oman. Afterwards continue to Bahla, one of the oldest small towns of Oman and in the 12th century the local tribal capital. We will stop and admire the views of the city and its magnificent fort before continuing to Nizwa for the night. Overnight at Al Diyar Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Nizwa

The town of Nizwa has historically been a very important oasis offering respite from the often harsh landscape surrounding it, and is a key centre for growing dates. However it is far better known for its splendid fort built in the 17th century and painstakingly restored in 1990. The fort is vast and contains many different sections, including a Koranic school, a mosque, a prison and living quarters. Once the capital of Oman, Nizwa became an important centre for trade and education, profiting from its strategic position between Muscat and Dhofar. The town has been extensively modernised under Sultan Qaboos bin Said, but retains its flavour, especially in the back streets of the old souq.

Day 6 Friday - Nizwa – Jebel Akhdar – Jebel Shams

This morning we visit Nizwa souq and the lively livestock market as well as the famous fort, built in the 17th century. We then drive to Jebel Akdhar. In Arabic Jebel Akhdar means green mountains and the area is famous for its gardens, farms and terrace plantations. We visit Wadi Habib to see one of the remote villages and fruit plantations. We then continue to the spectacular Jebel Shams where we will overnight in the mountains. Overnight at Jebel Shams Resort or similar. (BLD)

Jebel Akhdar

Jebel Akhdar is part of the Hajar Mountains, which stretch for about 300km from North West to South East. The higher parts of the region receive enough rainfall to allow agriculture and many traditional fruits and vegetables are grown on the slopes. This is one of the most scenic areas in Oman, and is mostly inhabited by members of the Bani Riyam tribe. Jebel Akhdar was the scene of some fierce fighting between rebels and Omani and British forces in the late 1950s.

Day 7 Saturday - Jebel Shams – Al Hamra – Wadi Bani Awf – Muscat

After breakfast, enjoy the spectacular view of Jebel Shams, the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’. We then drive to Al Hamra and Misfah, to see one of the oldest villages of this region. The traditional mud houses dating back from 400 years are still occupied. After an early lunch, we head to Wadi Bani Awf, the end point of the canyon and with what is called the ‘snake gorge’ in the middle of the steep mountain cliffs. This is a stunning part of Oman with fantastic views of the surrounding scenery. We drive to the town of Nakhl with its fully restored fort on a rocky outcrop, before arriving in Muscat for the night. Overnight at Al Falaj Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 8 Sunday – Departure Muscat

Explore Muscat on a half day city tour, visiting the old walled district of Muscat. We also visit Muttrah Souq, where you can bargain for handicrafts and silver items. In the afternoon we take a sunset cruise, before transferring to Muscat airport for your return flight. (BL)

Optional Salalah (South Oman) Extension

Day 8 Sunday – Muscat – Salalah

After the sunset cruise, transfer to Muscat airport for an evening domestic flight to Salalah. On arrival transfer to the hotel. Overnight at Al Fanar Hotel or similar

Day 9 Monday – Exploring Salalah and surrounds

This morning we head east to the Dhofar region. Our first destination is Taqa. We visit the fort and the impressive ruins at Sumhurum which give an insight into the architecture and living conditions of a time more than 2000 years ago. The adjoining port of Khawr Rhori was an important trade centre and the main port for the export of frankincense. Just before Mirbat we reach Bin Ali’s Tomb. Ali was revered as a wise and holy man and over his tomb the twin-domed mosque was built. Next to the mosque we can visit an old

cemetery. In Mirbat, the old capital of Dhofar we visit the old merchant houses, built in traditional ancient Omani architecture. On the way back to Salalah we visit Ayn Razat Gardens, a quiet place at the foot of the lush Qara Mountains. This afternoon we head west towards Mughsail and we will pass by scattered frankincense trees. We will visit the idyllic beach and its spectacular ‘Blow Holes’, the water fountains. The last destination of the day is the Tomb of Prophet Ayub (Job) in the mountains north of Salalah. Overnight Al Fanar Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 10 Tuesday – 4WD to the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali)

We leave the Hotel early by 4x4 vehicle and drive towards the 'Qara' mountain range with its spectacular view of the Salalah plains dotted with thick shrubs and woodland. After having a small break in Thumrait town, which was famous as a Bedouin settlement, we proceed west on a graded road crossing the huge gravel desert of ' Al Nejd'. After a 175 Km journey from Salalah city we reach our first attraction in the desert, arriving at the 'Lost City of Ubar' (UNESCO World heritage site). This legendary ancient kingdom, known as Ubar, was said to have existed in one of the most inhospitable places on earth - a vast and forbidding Rub Al Khali desert, appropriately known as the Empty Quarter. According to myth, the desert swallowed up Ubar. Quite literally, it sank without trace -becoming the fabled "Atlantis of the Sands." This once buried city, which was spotted by satellite, gives you a glimpse of the value of work carried out by a team of explorers in 1992, led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. After walking around the site we proceed to the Empty Quarter to experience the “biggest sand desert in the World” by rambling on fascinating sand dunes. A breathtaking overview of the vast desert awaits you on the top of the dunes. We will enjoy a typical Arabian lunch/picnic lunch in the desert. Later we drive back to Salalah. Overnight at Hotel Al Fanar or similar (BL).

Day 11 Wednesday – City tour and departure from Salalah

This morning we visit “The Museum of the Frankincense Land”. Opened in July 2007 at Al Balid Archaeological Park, a UNESCO heritage site located in Salalah, the Frankincense Land Museum is the latest addition to Oman's heritage and cultural scene. It houses two main halls, namely the History Hall, depicting the geography, history of the ancient Frankincense trail and the historical background of the Sultanate through a number of archaeological findings. The Marine Hall, features displays about the development of Oman's rich marine history. We then drive through lush green plantations of vegetables and fruits and make a brief stop to taste a fresh coconut water drink at the fruit stalls lining the streets within the periphery of the old Salalah town (Haffa).  We shall stop briefly for a photo at the impressive Sultan Qaboos Mosque. View the Official Palace of His Majesty the Sultan (Al Husn Palace) and stroll through the old Haffa Souk, famous for the sale of high quality Frankincense and numerous other Dhofari traditional items. The smell of frankincense fills the Souk. Haffa Souk is very attractive with its small shops lined up with piles of incense boxes, clay incense burners colourfully decorated with traditional patterns and bags of incense crystals. You will have ample opportunity to explore the souk before we return to the hotel. Later transfer to Salalah Airport for an afternoon or evening departure (please contact us for exact timings) (B).


Optional Musandam Peninsular Extension

Day 8 Sunday – Muscat airport overnight stay

After the sunset cruise transfer to the airport and stay overnight at a hotel next to the airport. Overnight Golden Tulip Seeb Hotel or similar (please note that due to timings of domestic flights it is not possible to fly same day up to Musandam Peninsular) (B)

Day 9 Monday – Muscat – Musandam Peninsular

This morning transfer to the terminal for your morning flight to Khasab for the Musandam Peninsular. On arrival transfer to the hotel. This afternoon enjoy a 4WD mountain safari at Jebel Harim, the highest point of Musandam where you will be treated to impressive views of the wadis and valleys. We also visit the beautiful lagoon of Khawr Najd before returning to the hotel via Khalidyah Park, a charming woodland with acacia trees and home for a variety of species of butterflies and birds. Overnight Atana Khasab Hotel or similar (B)

Day 10 Tuesday – Full day dhow cruise

Today enjoy a full day cruising on a dhow boat to Khor Sham in azure waters. We travel through a majestic fjord (Khor), surrounded by spectacular mountains and serene remote white sand beaches. At the entrance of the fjord usually we can enjoy some dolphin sightings. The dhow will anchor at Telegraph Island and Seebi Island during the cruise for swimming and snorkeling in pristine waters teeming with marine life. Soft drinks, coffee/tea, fresh fruit will be available and lunch will also be served during the cruise. Snorkeling equipment is also available. After the cruise transfer back to the hotel. Overnight Atana Khasab Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 11 Wednesday – Return to Muscat and depart  

Transfer to the airport for our flight back to Muscat. If you have an evening flight out of Muscat then the tour ends here or alternatively you can book extra accommodation in Muscat (please contact us for prices).

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Visa
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)