One of the first day trips we took out of Muscat last year when we arrived was a visit to Nakhal Fort and the Al Thowarah Hot Springs. I won’t say it was a disaster, but the drive took forever and it was so hot we didn’t want to leave the car. Eventually the weather got cooler, and we decided it was time to revisit Nakhal (and now, six months later, I’m finally writing about it).
The fort is a lot of fun to explore, and, even after visiting Jabrin Castle, Bahla Fort and Nizwa Fort, it’s still my favorite. It’s so scenic with the date palm plantations and the Hajar Mountains, it’s practically impossible to take a bad photo. It’s also fun with little kids because there are fewer ledges, outcroppings and steep stairs than you’ll find at some of the other forts and castles around Oman. M loves running around and exploring, especially in the “children’s rooms” and on the rocky foundation on which the fort was built.
If you’re looking for lunch, there are some sandwich shops across from the fort and a biryani shop near the hot spring. You could also pack a lunch and there are some nice shaded tables and benches at the hot spring. The hot spring is a five-minute drive down a windy paved road through the date palm plantations.
There’s a nice big parking lot, but be careful: everything that is wet or damp, including parts of the parking lot, is very slippery. You can climb down the stairs into the spring, or you can take a dip in the soaking tub. I would strongly advise against wearing only a swimsuit; no one else does and you’d get stared at relentlessly. Instead wear clothes that you can get wet, similar to what you’d wear if you went to a wadi. I usually just roll up my pants and sit on a rock so that I don’t get wet past my legs. Also make sure you wear water shoes. If you tried to walk on those rocks barefoot you’d fall in no time.
There are little fish in the hot spring that will nibble on anything that is submerged. It feels weird, like little razors are skimming your feet, and tickles like mad but you get used to it after a while. If you’re lucky you’ll also see my favorite bird: the Indian Roller. They like the trees and the water, and they are stunningly beautiful in-flight.
Between the warm water and the animals (goats, cats, birds, fish, etc), kids and toddlers love it here. M eventually sits down in the neck-deep water and shrieks at the fish, tosses small rocks and has a great time. It’s a particularly pretty place in the late afternoon sun.
Whenever we have guests that want to do some adventuring on their own during the week while we’re at work, this is my first recommendation. It’s a beautiful little slice of Oman and it’s only as intense as you want it to be. If you’re jetlagged you can leave around noon, the drive is super-easy, you can get lunch there once you arrive, the fort is open until 4, you’re at the hot spring at the prettiest time of day, and then you’re back at home or wherever you’re staying right around dinner time. Plus the fort only costs 500 baisa (about $1.25) per person and the hot spring is free!