9 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Oman

Jul 22, 2021

Oman is a pearl of the Persian Gulf, situated between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and carved with deep bays and long fingers of coral- and limestone-ringed coastline. Ancient cities, quiet towns and timeless palaces sit along these shores. Cradled by the Hajar Mountains, the country is best explored on foot, in luxurious seaside hotels or in one of the balmy Andalucian villages in the south, sipping fresh pomegranate juice and discovering the secrets of Oman's long-forgotten past.

Oman is best known for the magnificent sights to be found in the south, along the country's 37-mile (60km) coast, which are the finest and most spectacular sights of any kind in Oman.

From Marjan Bay's stretch of powder-white coral, perfect for swimming and snorkeling, to the emerald of Masira Island and the red-sandstone minarets of al-Husn, the coast is best seen from the sea.

The city of Muscat is home to the Sultan's Palace, a glittering edifice built by his grandfather, and the 14th-century port town of Salalah, which offers tours of tombs and mosques in its environs.

Make time to slow down in Muscat as well, whether you visit the palace or go on a horse-drawn trip through the desert, dine at a seafront restaurant or dine in one of the city's local family homes.

See the highlights of Oman with our tour of the best places to visit in the country.

Muscat

Photo of Muscat
Muscat: en.wikipedia.org

Set in the Gulf of Oman between the Saudi Arabian border to the east and India to the west, Muscat is the country's most traditional city. From this small, cozy country city, locals like to set off on camel rides across the arid country and visit the ancient forts in the south. A highlight for many visitors to Muscat is the Muttrah Souq, a sprawling, colorful market area in which bargains can be had on a range of items including colorful spices, handmade baskets, spices, handmade carpets and jewelry. Outside the city the Omani desert is punctuated by wind-eroded rock monoliths and red-clay villages. Some of these villages are still home to Bedu people who were originally settled in Oman.

Musandam Peninsula

Photo of Musandam Governorate
Musandam Governorate: en.wikipedia.org

After crossing the Strait of Hormuz and narrowing at the northern tip of Oman, Musandam Peninsula (often called the _Southern Strait_ ), along with the larger United Arab Emirates (UAE), is a remote and unknown oasis of rolling dunes and gleaming white beaches. Though it's a little more than an hour away by bus from Muscat, this quiet and sleepy enclave retains an island-like feel, which is the reason why most travelers tend to visit it on a day trip from Muscat. While Musandam's beaches and dunes make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region, especially during the hot Omani summers, it is also a great place for bird watching, having the only breeding grounds for the endangered Persian or Persian tiger (officially named the Omani lark in the Omani language) in the Middle East. The estuary and mangroves are also a good place to spot freshwater crocodiles (although it's illegal to collect them in Oman). From Musandam, you can take the ferry to the neighboring Emirati islands of Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat. These ferries are the only way to reach some of the offshore cays and small villages on the islands, and they offer a quick escape from the mainland hubbub. Other possible places to visit are the ancient site of Rustaq on Musandam's southeastern end and Oman's only colonial town, Kalba, near its northern tip.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Photo of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque: en.wikipedia.org

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (Musamarat Al Khalili) in Muscat, Oman, is the largest mosque in the Middle East. The centerpiece of the mosque is the Shah of Persia’s tomb (after whom it is also known), while the mosque contains the tombs of the Prophet Mohammed's two wives. Each direction of prayer leads to an alcove that contains a resting place for the custodian of the Prophet Mohammed's mosque and the tomb of the Shahnama. In a religious symbol of harmony and tolerance, the cemetery of Qaboos's Indian troops has been expanded to include the graves of Jews, Christians, and Hindus. The building is now used as the Grand Mosque and is the centre of Islamic life in the city, where over 8,000 Muslims gather to pray on Fridays, Iftar. On the edges of Muscat are the Buhalat River and the National Museum. The Muscat Dhahiri Banda is a man-made island in the Buhalat River, where its length has changed according to Muscat’s harbour conditions. The islands are a favourite spot for artists.

Nizwa

Mention the word "Dubai" to a majority of people, and they'll associate you with endless shopping, golf courses, luxury hotels and flashy cars. Skipping all the clichés of modern-day shopping malls, though, head to Nizwa, the small desert village in Oman's southern region of Dhofar, to see something different and unique. Nizwa (known to the British as Nizwa'), along with Dhofar, has the highest concentration of traditional Omani houses and fortresses. While the entire village was declared a World Heritage site in 2000, the site also features information centers, picnic areas and a volunteer-run center that allows visitors to learn the history of the village and to see historic homes that now serve as museums, including two spectacular 15th century fortresses. The village itself is situated in an inescapable desert and is characterized by tall mountains on all sides, but it's its traditional architecture, which could be seen in miniature from Nizwa's hills, that brings the traveler to the area in the first place. These distinctive, low-roofed, whitewashed, cube-shaped buildings are unique to the Omani region and are what have led to Nizwa's placement on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Tourists can either drive from Muscat or take a bus to reach Nizwa from Qantab and Al Wajh.

Old Muscat

Photo of Muscat International Airport
Muscat International Airport: en.wikipedia.org

Innovative Muscat, the capital of Oman, is a thriving port, home to a traditional camel market, a vibrant souk, and the Old Muscat fort, with its lovely medina on the hill overlooking the city. The fortress, surrounded by an 18th-century stone wall, was constructed in 1759 by Sultan Said bin Sultan of Muscat, who was trying to protect his capital from pirate attacks. The mosque he built for the Holy Prophet's birthday is another historic landmark. Today Muscat offers a number of attractions, including magnificent mansions and palaces, and the fascinating Natural History Museum of the Sultanate of Oman, which showcases animal fossils, shells, and other rare materials discovered on the island.

South Region

Photo of Ash Sharqiyah Region (Oman)
Ash Sharqiyah Region (Oman): en.wikipedia.org

South Region is a large archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Covering an area of some 78,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles), it is divided into three separate regions—Musandam, South Al Hajar, and Khasab—with the principal cities of Khasab and Musandam being the entry and headquarters for visiting the region. In Musandam, Khasab, and South Al Hajar, the main tourist attraction is the Hajar Mountains, which are part of a large mountain range that stretches from northwest of Musandam across Khasab and South Al Hajar. These ranges are made up of blocks of black sandstone, and the highest, Jebel Makhaz, reaches an altitude of 3,811 meters (12,338 feet). They are a spectacular sight as their red sandstone formations reach a height of many hundreds of meters above the surrounding desert and yet their cap appears not to be the same color as the underlying rocks, only appearing when the mountain receives direct sunlight.

Salalah

Photo of Salalah
Salalah: en.wikipedia.org

Fringed by the Safa and As-Samoud mountains, Salalah is the capital of Sultanate of Oman's Musandam Governorate. It sits on the Musandam Peninsula, the largest natural harbor in the Gulf of Oman, stretching all the way up to the border of Yemen. With most of the population engaged in local trades, Salalah is very pleasant and relaxing. The market, an enormous souk with traditional fishing craft, sits directly on the beach, just like all the old Yemeni towns. Surrounding the old town are the pretty palm-filled beaches of the southern coast, where locals keep a watchful eye over their fishing boats, ready to haul in huge pots of the delicious sardine and mackerel catch of the day. Along the coast are a number of old Ottoman forts, among which are the Royal Fort, Quraysh Fort and Old Fort, which have now been turned into hotels. Muscat, the capital of Oman, is approximately four hours away by car. It's best to travel at night, when Muscat can be seen lit up like a dazzling city of an Arabian Nights story.

Al Seeb

This semiprecious stone-rich Omani island is steeped in history. Situated in the Straits of Hormuz, where one of the world's busiest shipping lanes intersects the Persian Gulf, it has been strategically important for thousands of years. Al Seeb's picturesque cove and bustling towns, including the capital of Muscat, are interesting sites in their own right. Visitors can visit the World Heritage-listed site of Dhofar, a red rock volcanic archipelago that has been settled since 2000 BC. There are two possibilities to get to Al Seeb: flying and sea.

Ruwi

Home to Muscat, a long, sandy beach in the south, Ruwi offers several attractions, including a local market and spice garden, and a beautiful, tree-lined river that runs through the middle of town. Many Bedouin people live here, and their nomadic lifestyle is reflected in the countless falcons that can be seen along the beaches. Omani women don't make a great deal of effort to cover their hair or wear makeup, making Ruwi one of the few places in the Middle East where tourists aren't constantly asked to show their passports at the airport or in the street.