Magical Muscat and beyond

By Harriet Cooper for High Life magazine

Bandar Khayran, a coastal town in northeastern Oman

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Updated December 2018

With laid-back locals, a rich heritage and captivating landscapes, Oman might be less glitzy than its Middle Eastern neighbours Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it is awash with exotic delights and sights waiting to be discovered.

Whether you’re exploring wind-blown deserts or soaking up the atmosphere of an ancient souk, you’ll be struck by the ease and willingness with which Omanis welcome you into their country.

The sparkling emerald waters of the Bimmah sinkhole in Hawiyat Najm Park provide welcome relief on a hot day

  • Muttrah Beach, Oman © Saleh AlRashaid / Getty

    Tip top

    Tipping is very uncommon in Oman and not part of the culture. Restaurants and taxi drivers will often find it strange if you tip, but will appreciate a heartfelt thank you.

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  • Mutrah Souk, Muscat © photo muguette / Getty

    Bargain hunt

    Souks and markets stalls are part of Muscat life. If you order coffee from a local café, don’t be surprised if it comes with a side of sweet date palms, it’s tradition.

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  • Wahiba Sands, Oman © Matteo Colombo / Getty

    Starry nights

    Try to visit the Wahiba Sands during sun down and watch the burned sands disappear into darkness while the stars create a twinkling carpet overhead. Book return flights from London to Muscat from:

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But Oman is known for its low-key, laid-back charm. Even its new buildings are whitewashed like their predecessors and can’t be more than seven stories high. The result is a city that blends seamlessly into its volcanic and limestone surroundings, as well as its centuries-old history. No wonder that it was recently voted the number one ‘big, soul-satisfying place to visit’ by travel website Skift.

Hop-on Hop-off Muscat sightseeing

Do as the locals do and take life at a leisurely pace. Who needs retail therapy in shopping malls when you’ve got the beautiful Mutrah Corniche road to stroll along? (Bicycles are available to borrow for free.) Or you can while away the hours wandering the frankincense-scented alleyways of the Mutrah Souk – just remember to look up at the traditional roof of woven palm leaves and wood.

Discover our cheapest flights to Oman

If you crave wide-open spaces, rent a four-wheel drive to explore Wahiba Sands, a 7,767-mile expanse in Oman’s interior, home to sand dunes, salt flats and Bedouin desert dwellers, who greet you warmly along the way. Or explore one of the largest canyons in the world, Wadi Ghul, known locally as the ‘Grand Canyon of Arabia’.

Go dolphin watching

With the mercury rising to 27°C from December to February, the sparkling emerald waters of the Bimmah sinkhole – in Hawiyat Najm Park, between Muscat and Sur – provide welcome relief on a hot day. So too do the beaches along the country’s pristine 1,000-mile coastline. Snorkel in clear-blue waters, in the Arabian Sea and look out for turtles, porpoises and dolphins in their natural habitat – magical Oman at its best.

Take a Sunset dhow cruise

  • Jabal Shams, Wadi Ghul © Oman Tourist Board

    Grand canyon

    Head to the Oman’s highest peak, Jabal Shams, to look down into the awe-inspiring Wadi Ghul ravine. Book return flights from London to Muscat, plus a 7-night hotel stay from:

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Where to stay

The Chedi

Set amongst picturesque water gardens, this luxurious five-star hotel is the epitome of serenity. Home to the city’s largest spa and longest swimming pool in the Middle East – soak up every ounce of serenity. Overlooking the Gulf of Oman, you’ll find it hard to pull yourself away from the captivating beach cabana views.

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Shangri-La Al Bandar

Take a lavish beachfront break in a five-star oasis – an idyllic choice for both families and couples. When you’re not making a splash in one of three pools, or savouring a romantic meal for two beneath the stars. The hotel has its own Turtle Care Project, which helps to protect endangered turtles, native to Oman’s beaches.

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Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar

Hideaway at one of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Unwind in a landscape of mountains, canyons and cliffs, where any dream feels possible. Bask in the glistening pool with mesmerising views, taste tantalising cuisine with a private hilltop dining experience and try a hammam in the Anantara Spa. Come nightfall, sip your favourite cocktail in the lantern-filled bar.

Book a stay at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar