9 things to do in Oman for an incredible and memorable vacation

Thinking of Oman as a potential holiday destination? Here is what this beautiful country has to offer...

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat
(Image credit: Buena Vista Images / Getty Images)

If you are considering travelling to the Middle East and you're looking to immerse yourself in a rich culture, partake in once-in-a-lifetime experiences, dine on beautiful food, and gawp at the rugged landscape and beautiful architecture, look no further than Oman.

I visited this beautiful Middle Eastern country back in September 2022 and I was blown away by how much there is to see and do in this country which still so often sits in the shadow of its neighbours, regularly overlooked by tourists in favour of Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Find out why this country is well worth a visit, plus ten unmissable things to do when you're there - all of which I can personally vouch for.

Picturesque shot of Muscat bordering the sea in Oman

(Image credit: James Chadud / EyeEm / Getty Images)

The top 10 things to do in Oman

1. Rock climbing

The beautiful, rocky, and mountainous landscapes in certain parts of Oman are perfect places for tourists and locals to go rock climbing (the more extreme, real-life version of indoor climbing). There are canyons across Oman, such as the Wadi Ghul, also known as the Grand Canyon of Oman, where the rocky terrain and (sometimes terrifyingly) towering cliff faces are perfect for adventurous thrill seekers.

For those who want to experience these thrilling heights, there are a number of hotels that feature 'Via Ferratas' the Italian phrase meaning 'iron path.'  The costs will vary, but we went on a tour of the rocky caves organized by the iconic Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel, which cost around 65 OMH /£135.


Via Ferrata in Alila Jabal Akhdar

(Image credit: Alila Jabal Akhdar)

2. Star gazing

The lack of light pollution in the mountains and the geographical positioning of Oman means that it's a prime location to go star gazing. A popular spot to take in the stars is the altitudinous Green Mountain, known as the Jebel Al Akhdar. Once again, we incorporated this excursion as part of our stay at the Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel, but there are other companies that offer comparable packages. For around 70 OMH/ £145 for two people, you can gaze at the incredible night sky, accompanied by an expert astronomer who explains the planets and stars that you're looking at.

Star gazing image at the Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel in Oman

(Image credit: Alila Jabal Akhdar)

As someone who has lived in cities for their entire life and not given much thought to the stars, I was blown away by the visibility of the bright stars and the constellations that were visible with my naked eye. Using the telescope, I was also gobsmacked to see Saturn and its rings through the lens and learn more about how the stars and planets were positioned in this part of the world. The precision of the telescope and the level of detail in which you could see the celestial elements was truly outstanding.

From May to August, the Milky Way is also visible to see with the naked eye. Visiting in September meant that I missed out on this experience, but considering my city brain was bamboozled by seeing Saturn, I'm pretty sure it would have most certainly been blown by seeing the magnitude of the galaxy with my naked eyes.

Of course, this doesn't need to be an expensive experience, and so long as you travel to an area without a lot of light pollution, a stargazing app should be able to explain exactly what you are looking at. Coastal towns can also be a great alternative to the mountains and areas such as Qantab Beach and Shatti Al Qurum (Al Qurum Beach) in Muscat are known to be impressive locations to stargaze.

3. Hiking

Rocky ground around the mountain areas in Oman

(Image credit: Petr Kahanek / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Hiking in the mountains is another fantastic activity that's popular with locals and tourists alike. There are abandoned villages that were built into the mountains centuries ago but are now uninhabited as residents flocked to the city. These curious villages nestled in the cliff face are mindboggling and are dotted across the Omani mountains. We really recommend checking them out if you're interested in the history and culture of Oman. 

Many locals also enjoy camping in these areas over the weekends as a trip up to the cooler mountains is a welcome escape from the hot cities.

I went on a short one-hour hike with the hotel Alila and explored a rocky canyon nearby. I was surprised to be met with mountain goats which I was told were owned by local farmers who had a pretty relaxed approach to the phrase 'free-range' and let their animals wander for miles without fencing. That wasn't the only local species I came across on my hike: I was also surprised to meet a number of loud toads that found a sanctuary in the mossy, moist pits of the canyon that became like little secluded ponds after rainfall earlier in the year.

A selection of images from a mountain walk in Oman's mountains

(Image credit: Future)

The Alila hotel offers a range of different hikes, including ones around the Jebel Shams, also known as the Mountain of the Sun. This hike is eight hours long and works out at around 350 OMH/ £720 for two guests, but this rate is based on the specifics of your planned hike. The hotel also offered other hikes to remote villages which are far cheaper and shorter in length - like the Splendor of Saiq tour which starts at 33 OMH/ £68 per person. A mixture of hiking, driving, and visiting abandoned towns, this trip gives attendees the chance to see farmland, lush pomegranate and fertile olive trees, as well as areas that have been taken over with wildlife.

There are of course other hotels in the mountains that will offer their own range of hiking experiences. My recommendation is to go through a hotel or established organization so that you are accompanied by a guide. The mountains are beautiful but remote and the likelihood of finding a signal and help if you are lost or something goes wrong is pretty high.

The mountains are a lot cooler than the city so provided you are wearing the right clothing and set off in the morning or afternoon after the peak of the midday sun, you shouldn't overheat. But packing sunscreen is always sensible. 

Old abandoned buildings built into the cliffside in Oman

(Image credit: Future)

4. Ocean Watersports

Like many beach-fronted hotels, there are a number of places in Oman that provide water sports activities for their guests. Barcelo, Mussanah Resort is one of the hotels that provides guests with the opportunity to paddleboard, kayak, sail, jet ski, and go on snorkelling trips. 

A woman sunbathing on a paddle board in a the sea

(Image credit: Getty Images)

At sea level, the temperature in Oman can become really warm and sometimes pretty muggy. Jumping into the sea and taking a paddleboard out is a great chance to incorporate gentle exercise and a new hobby into your trip. 

And when I say gentle, I do mean gentle. On a holiday that you can fill with activities and adventures, lying down and bobbing along in the ocean is a perfect way to unwind and cool off. The hotel I stayed at had a harbour nearby, which meant I could pretty much fall asleep on the board without worrying about drifting off to sea. While every beach and hotel will have different watersports to try out, I can't recommend paddleboarding enough - plus it makes for a great holiday snap!

5. Whale Shark Watching

A whale shark swimming in the sea nearby a snorkeller

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whale shark season is from July to October in Oman and tourists can have the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

These gentle giants are, in fact, sharks and not whales, but as the largest known species of fish alive today - the whale part of their name is pretty accurate! The largest whale shark recorded measured 18.8m, and their mouths alone can stretch to four feet wide.

Despite their huge size, the large fish feed mostly on plankton and other tiny creatures that live in the ocean. They like the warmer waters such as the Omani Ocean and can be found in many dive spots between Oman and the Daymaniyat Islands. 

The best places to book whale shark watching are through hotels and excursion groups near the coast near Muscat of Seeb. Zahara Tours is an established tour group in Oman that can organize a number of different activities, including whale shark watching in the summer months.

6. Souk Shopping

A busy souk in Nizwa in Oman

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While in the Middle East, make sure to visit one of the many vibrant and busy souks. There is a huge range of silver, spices, clothes, dates, pottery, and coffee for tourists to purchase and great deals to be found on quality jewellery and clothing. 

I'd recommend Nizwa Souq or Mutrah Souq in the harbour town. Nizwa is one of the oldest souks in the country and features an incredible range of markets selling fresh food, drinks, and handcrafted pieces. Mutrah is a busy covered souk that is chaotic, and many people come to the area just to visit this busy and bustling marketplace. The souks aren't just tourist hotspots, and many locals will come to these spots to buy specialist goods. 

A pottery stall in Nizwa souk in Oman

(Image credit: Future)

The key thing to remember in these souks is to go at the right time! At midday, most things will just shut down and only reopen again after the heat of the midday sun has died down. I would recommend visiting the souks in the morning and buying some traditional coffee from a stand while you look around. Date stands are everywhere and they are a delicious treat and the perfect gift to bring back to your friends or family. 

I would also recommend investing in jewellery. I purchased a silver bracelet for around £20 that I absolutely adore - it's delicate but well-made and sturdy and certainly not the sort of item that snaps if you manhandle it a bit too much. 

The clay pottery is also handmade and impressive, but probably not the easiest thing to slap in your suitcase and bring back home - so it's best to invest in the smaller trinkets!

7. Nizwa Fort

A shot showing Nizwa fort in Oman

(Image credit: Future)

Nizwa Fort is an Ancient Omani fortification that has existed since the seventeenth century. This piece of living history is the perfect place for tourists to learn a little bit more about the history of Oman from the friendly tour guides who are all too happy to explain the cultural significance of this hotspot.

The Fort also shows some of the gory histories of the fort and isn't necessarily for the weak-stomached. Those living inside the fort protected themselves from intruders in clever but rather grisly ways, which only adds to the fascinating backstory of this ancient building. So prepare yourself to learn what a murder hole is and why boiling hot date syrup is perhaps the last thing you would want someone to pour all over you - even if it is rather tasty!

The fort is free to visit and open from 8am until 8pm. Visitors shouldn't need to pre-book, even in the summer season. If you are planning an excursion to Nizwa and plan to see the fort, the souks, and everything else the area has to offer, you can book a day trip with Viator who will provide you with a guide and show you the area. Prices will range depending on what you want to do and how large your group is.

8. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

(Image credit: Dale Johnson / Getty Images)

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat is a stunning piece of architecture that was built for tourists in the capital city. The mosque was completed in 2001 following a declaration in 1992 from Qaboos bin Said al Said, the then Sultan of Oman, who directed that his country should have a Grand Mosque.

The mosque is a place for tourists to learn about Islam and the Qur'an and how religion plays a fundamental part in life for those living in Oman. Out of respect, women are asked to wear a headscarf, and guests are asked not to wear shoes as they enter the incredible prayer rooms.

The rooms of worship are ornate and one primary room is decorated with an enormous handmade rug that weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce. The ornate ceilings are decorated in detailed artwork, and huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling, scattering light across the entire room.

Admission to this impressive religious place of worship is free, but for those who are looking to incorporate this visit into a larger tour of western Muscat, there are groups that can organize this, such as Viator, at a range of prices. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is open every day from 8am until 11am, and from 5am to 9pm on Fridays. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque every day, except from 8:30 until 11:00 am on a Friday. 

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

(Image credit: Future)

9. Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve

An image from the side of a boat showing the Daymaniyat islands

(Image credit: Future)

Damaniyat Islands are an hour's boat ride from Mussanah and provide tourists with a chance to see natural coral reefs, a huge number of fish species, and peaceful sandy island beaches.

The islands in the turquoise waters have been part of the Nature Reserve and protected by the Omani government since 1996 in an effort to conserve and protect the marine life that inhabits the waters. In the summer, moray eels, sting rays, Zebra sharks, and turtles can be seen in the dive spots around the islands, making it a popular spot for scuba enthusiasts.

The waters are clear and beautiful and the visibility of these creatures is amazing. I saw a number of brightly coloured fish, which felt like living out a real-life Finding Nemo fever dream when I was swimming alongside a lone electric blue Blue Tang fish (also known as Dory in the film). 

A shot from a boat near a Damaniyat island

(Image credit: Future)

This was a beautiful experience but please please please don't make the mistake I did! While snorkelling and wearing a life jacket, your bottom will most certainly be poking out of the water and you will regret not slathering every inch of yourself (and I mean every inch) in suncream.

This trip was organized by the Barcelo Mussanah Resort I stayed at and costs around £60 for a half-day snorkelling trip. Zahara Tours and other groups also offer snorkelling and diving excursions to the islands, as well as glass bottom tours for those who are happy to see the fish, but not keen on getting that up close and friendly!

Where to stay in Oman

(Image credit: Alila Jabal Akhdar)

The Alila Jabal Akhdar is a beautiful mountain hotel that is set away from the hot hustle and bustle of the city and provides explorers with stunning views and a gorgeous spa hotel experience.

My room was jaw-dropping and hosted a gorgeous view of the mountains. The fresh white cotton sheets and the huge limestone bath immediately won me over. I loved how the room combined luxury with tradition and decorated the room with traditionally woven baskets and rugs, as well as my high-end appliances. I also loved sitting on the sofa on my wooden balcony in the evenings and enjoying the soft light from the hotel clash with the intense darkness of the mountains just over the cliff edge.

A shot from a balcony at the Alila Jabal Akhdar

(Image credit: Alila Jabal Akhdar)

The food at this hotel was mouth-watering - with homegrown ingredients and fresh food delivered daily to the restaurant, there is a varied and delicious selection of dishes served at the Alila. I would personally recommend their herb-infused focaccia honey bread with salted butter which tastes like a sweet heavenly cloud and will most certainly not ruin your appetite when you're preparing to eat a sublime three-course meal which is filled with locally sourced meat, and fruit and vegetables that are grown on-site.

There is also a fully stocked bar that can make any classic cocktail and incorporates local produce. I'd recommend the za'atar martini, the perfect strong, herb-infused cocktail for those who like their drink to pack a punch.

For those looking for a romantic dining experience, the hotel also provides incredible views in their al fresco dining spaces at the Cliff Edge, so that guests can look down at the views while enjoying a spectacular dining menu. 

One of the outside dining areas at the Alila Jabal Akhdar

(Image credit: Future)

For the whole spa experience, there is an outdoor infinity pool looking over the mountain valley, an indoor pool, and massage rooms that are both indoors and outside so that guests can choose to experience the warm breeze as they relax with a full body massage.

Of the many hotels I visited during my stay, this was the one that was truly unlike any other. To experience this unique hotel and stay in one of the private 78 suites, prices for a double room for one person at peak season start at around £290 (via Hyatt) or Booking) but vary depending on the season, amenities required (ie: private pool), number of guests, and the view from the room (ridge, mountain, or horizon). 

Book direct at Hyatt

Book with Booking

Which time of year to go to Oman

To ensure that you can participate in all of the activities listed, the best time of year to visit Oman is during the summer. Of course, the country is much cooler between October and April, but this will mean that many of the excursions that involve the local wildlife will not be available. 

However, if you are looking to spend more time in the city and less time in the cooler mountains, the autumn and winter months might be a better option. The mosque, the forts, souks, and many other culture-rich activities are available all year round, and hotels will be cheaper out of season. Ultimately, the best time of year to travel entirely depends on what you are hoping to get out of this holiday, and which experiences you want to try out while visiting this fascinating country with so much to offer.

Laura Harman

Laura is the Entertainment Editor for woman&home who primarily covers television, film, and celebrity news. Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.