Things to do around Muscat

If you’re looking for a quick reference guide for things to do in and around Muscat, this page can help you! It’s broken down into five sections: forts and other neat things to see, hikes, primarily indoor things, wadis, and beaches/water sports.

Go hiking at Jebel Akhdar, scuba diving at the Aquarium at the Daymaniyat Islands, hike the Sa’al Stairs, or go snorkeling!

Some things to note:

  • Almost all the locations are in Waze and Google Maps but double-check the route first; you can also use maps.me (good if you don’t have cell service)
  • Driving times are from MQ and most are 2 hours or less from Muscat
  • For almost all of these, bring sunscreen, a hat, your camera, snacks, a first-aid kit, and plenty of water
  • You can find a list of our favorite things to do here
  • Wondering what to wear? Look here!
  • If you’re curious about camping in Oman, read this and this

Forts*, neat things to see, etc. 

Activity

Description

Nakhal Fort and Al Thowarah Hot Springs 45 min drive. Nakhal Fort is my favorite fort here so far. It’s built on a mound of rock, so its shape is irregular and you see chunks of mountain/rock sticking out everywhere. Go to the fort first, bring a picnic lunch or buy sandwiches at one of the shops across from the fort and eat by the hot springs, then take a dip and let the fish nibble your feet. Sometimes you can buy very inexpensive raw dates from sellers on the side of the road. Make sure to get in the far right lane earlier than you think you have to, following the signs for Barka, and later those for Kazaen (whatever that is). If you’re looking for more to do out by Nakhal, drive another 45 minutes and do the quick and beautiful Wukan path hike!
Nizwa, Nizwa Fort and Jabrin Castle 90 min drive. Souk is open until 11ish, castle closes at 4. Explore the souk in Nizwa, eat some free halwa, check out the old city, get lunch and see the fort. Then drive to Jabrin to see the castle. Another option is the Bahla Fort, but the Jabrin Castle is cooler, funky and older. Nizwa Fort is apparently 5 OMR now, which is ridiculous when all other forts are 500 biasa and it’s not spectacular. If it’s too expensive, just skip it. Jabrin Castle is better.
Nizwa Goat Market 90 min drive. Only on Friday mornings from 6:30-9ish. Come see lots of hustle and bustle, sheep, goats and cows. It gets packed quickly so arrive early. First they sell goats and sheep, then they sell cows and cattle. Don’t worry; no one is killing any animals in front of you. Try to find parking in the main parking lot on the left as you approach the souk; the goat market is at the far end of the market on the left and you can see if from the road (it’s where the large crowd of people is gathered). The rest of the souk is also open on Friday morning, and there is a restroom in a large handicraft store on the left side in the outdoor area selling all the pottery, trinkets, Turkish wares, etc. Buy some tasty grilled goat from one of the trucks grilling fresh meat in the main parking lot. Follow this up with a drive to Jebel Akhdar or Wadi Damm.
Bahla Fort 2 hour drive. Bahla is a huge fort that is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it was renovated and reopened recently. You could spend several hours wandering around looking at all the out buildings before you even enter the main keep. There’s a parking lot along the southeastern side, or you can just park on a side street.
Muttrah fort 15 min drive. Small, newly renovated fort along the corniche with amazing views of Muttrah. Lots of cannons and interesting informational signs in English. You can easily visit this fort after the Muttrah Geotrek, or after visiting the souk. There is a parking lot, but if you walk over they might let you in for free.
SalmahPlateau 2 hour drive. 4 WD required. Turn right at the Fins turnoff of the Al Amerat-Sur road and go up, up, up! Stop at the Majlis al Jinn cave and go see the beehive tombs further up on the plateau. There is no cell service anywhere on the plateau. Note that, if you’re camping, it gets chilly at night.
Ain Sahban 3 hour drive. A beautiful blue cool Sulphur spring in the middle of nowhere. Plug “Ain Sahban” into Google maps and you’ll eventually find yourself on a dirt road. If you follow the road until the end, you can park, and climb down through the terraced farmland into a wadi. Turn left (away from the ruined watchtower to the right) and follow the wadi up. You’ll eventually reach the springs. Apparently there are also beautiful deep pools by the watchtower. Conversely, while driving on the dirt road that ends by the wadi, you’ll see a sign telling you to turn right. You can follow that sign (and a few clearly-marked others) and you’ll find yourself on a road right next to the springs. If you’re not up for adventure, this is the easiest route. The other route is definitely more fun and interesting. Beware of rockslides that might close the road.

* on Fridays, forts and castles are usually only open until 11 am

Hiking

Activity

Description

Muttrah Geotrek 15 min drive; 2 hour hike; Park at the Riyam Park parking lot, then walk back in the opposite direction of the park towards the houses. Look at the mountainside and you’ll see stairs and a path up the mountain (the beginning is the steepest incline of the hike). It looks like you’re going into someone’s back yard to start the hike, but just follow your nose to the beginning of the stairs, and then follow the trail markers. The part in the mountains lasts about an hour, and it finishes in a cemetery. You walk through a little neighborhood back to the main road, where you can buy lunch or a snack. Then you walk along the corniche to Riyam park where you started.
Jebel al Akhdar 90 min drive to checkpoint; 4WD required. There’s a police checkpoint you have to pass through in order to go up into the mountains where they make sure you have 4WD. Public restrooms are on the right, just after the checkpoint (there are hardly any toilets on the mountain, so this may be your only chance). Beautiful views, neat abandoned villages to explore and hike through, and cooler temperatures than Muscat. And pomegranate plantations! There are lots of hikes on Jebel Akhdar. Some of our favorites are listed below.
Wadi Bani Habib: To explore abandoned villages, drive to the town of Wadi Bani Habib and drive to the end of the road. There is a public bathroom (it’s sometimes locked and in very rough/stinky shape) and go down the stairs. There’s an abandoned village immediately in front of you as you go down the stair, but if you turn left and walk through the wadi a little ways, you’ll find a better one to explore. Turn right when you’re across from the well-maintained pomegranate farm, by a stone structure. The trail is a little tricky to see, but it climbs up the mountain with some stairs, and you’ll reach the village.
Village Walk or W18b: The W18b takes you through farmland and villages and has terrific views; drive to GPS23.0722, 57.6666 to start the hike. When you reach a point where you’re hiking through a rocky little gorge and the trail markers seem to end, turn right by the mosque and go up the sidewalk to the road.
Discovery Trail: This one starts up towards the Alila and it is completely downhill, until you turn around and it’s all uphill. I’ve ranked this one as harder than the others because there are some pretty steep drop-offs with nothing below. Take one wrong step and you fall off a cliff. But the hike itself is not too steep.
Mirage in the Mountains: This hike starts right across the street from the Alila entrance gate. There’s not a lot of steep climbing or drop-offs, and it ends at an abandoned village. This hike is more undulating than most. You’ll reach a point in the wadi bed where you can turn left or go straight. Turn left and you’ll go up a mountain, from which you’ll follow the ridge line to the village. Go straight and follow the wadi to the village (we didn’t take this route, but I imagine it’s less physically strenuous, although the views wouldn’t be as nice).
W24: This hike starts at GPS coordinates 23.092656, 57.730965, and you basically just follow the white swatches on the rocks. It’s a 3 kilometer hike to another trail that will take you to Wukan or Hadash. This is definitely more a trek than a walk. You need to be very careful where you step so you don’t break an ankle. The first half is unrelenting and up a mountain (which is where we turned around), and from here it follows the side of a mountain to the other trail. If you hiked to the other trail and back, it would take about three hours.
Misfat al Abriyeenand petroglyphs 2 hr 30 min drive; Need high clearance vehicle for petroglyphs; GPS: 23.074553, 57.282935. You (both men and women) need to keep shoulders and knees covered in Misfat, and this is enforced. To access the main hiking trails in Misfat keep going straight after you’ve reached the town and the road will curve to the right and there will be a parking lot. Waze might tell you to turn right by the playground; don’t do that. You can take the W9 hike out of the town, or just explore the allies, falajs and gardens on your own.
Jebel Shams 4 hour drive; 4WD required. If you’re doing this in one day, leave by 7 am (or go on a Friday, leave at 5 and pop into the Nizwa goat market enroute). 4WD not required, although probably good to have. Drive to GPS 23.1937, 57.2012 to start the Balcony Walk hike (total 3 hours). If you have a crippling fear of heights, this is not the hike for you. If you’re just mildly freaked out by heights, you can make it although parts will be uncomfortable. There appears to be a public toilet in the town of Ghul, on the right as you’re driving up to Jebel Shams. We have yet to find public toilet facilities on the mountain. Note: if there is rain in the forecast, do not go up Jebel Shams! Good camping spots abound on the left side of the road after you’ve passed the Jebel Shams Resort, particularly on the left as you’re driving to Al Khitaym.
Nakhur Gorge (Wadi Nakhur) 3 hour drive; 4WD required. This is a stunning drive along the bottom of the “Grand Canyon of Arabia.” Pair this with the Balcony Walk to have a full day on top of and below Jebel Shams. When we went the road only went about halfway to An Nakhur before it was washed out. We parked and then walked in a ways. You can walk all the way to An Nakhur, which would probably take an hour one way.
Wukan 2 hour drive; 4WD required. You can hike from Wukan to Hadash (which we haven’t figured out how to do quite yet) or you can hike up through the farmland on a nice paved trail. Follow the trail (and steps) up to a lovely look-out area with beautiful views. The hike is partially shaded, and the trees blossom in February/March. It takes about 30 min-1 hour to reach the top, depending on how much you stop for photos. The trail is suitable for little kids, and there are nice public bathrooms at the trail head. Get there early because parking gets crowded. The trail continues up into the mountains after the nice paved path ends; just follow the yellow, red and white trail markers (this part might not be suitable for little kids).
Sa’al Stairs 45 min drive; Challenging hike that is particularly nice during late afternoon/sunset. As the name suggests, it is a steep dirt path that leads up to 600+ stairs that will take you to the top of Sa’al Mountain. Pack a headlamp if you’re starting the hike less than 90 minutes before sunset

Just a few of the sites you’ll see if you go to Jebel Shams

 

Primarily Indoor Things

Activity

Description

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque 20 min drive; Open Saturday-Thursday from 8 or 9 to 11; Don’t go on Sunday because the souk is closed so all tourists go here (or arrive very early); cover your tattoos (men and women), ankles (men and women), wrists (women) and head (women); takes a few hours total
Muttrah Fish Market, Souk and lunch at Bait al Luban 15 min drive; Souk is closed Friday mornings and all day Sunday. Go to the fish market first; the souk closes around 1. Once you’re done at the souk, go for lunch. The shuwa is really good. From here you can also easily drive to Old Muscat, where there are some museums, the Sultan’s palace and forts to look at (you can’t go in). If you go to the fish market early enough in the morning (around 7 am) you can see the fishermen unloading the boats. There is free parking directly in front of the fish market in the dirt lot.
Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum 15 min drive; A guide might be provided (included in the cost; we didn’t get one when we went, but we know others that did) and this is a very interesting museum. The guide will ask whether you want a 1 hour or 3 hour tour, and then there’s a bunch of neat stuff (vehicles, planes, helicopters, boats, etc) outside too. Go in the winter or in the afternoon so you can comfortably enjoy the outside attractions. Big hit with kids!
Bait al Zubair Museum 20 min drive; Open from 9:30-5:30. Wonderful museum that explains traditional Omani life; no photos allowed inside the main museum building. Museum café is supposedly good and inexpensive. Good for kids, and good gift shop with lots of books about Oman. Very close to the gate museum. (all in Old Muscat)
Old Muscat Gate Museum 20 min drive; Open from 8-2:30. Walk up towards the gate, where you can explore the walls and take in the nice views. The museum is inside the main part above the gate; follow the footprints inside the museum to learn everything you ever needed to know and more about the Muscat area

Wadis and So-Forth

  • Wear shoes you can wear both in and out of the water (Chacos, Keens, Tevas, etc)
  • Bring a drybag for your valuables
  • Bring emergency gear, including headlamps and a first aid kit
  • Bring life jackets for anyone who can’t swim well

Wadi

Description

Bimmah Sinkholeand Wadi Shab 2 hour drive; Exit in Dabab and drive along the coastal road to Bimmah. Avoid coming here Thursday-Saturday when the tourists are numerous. Leave by 9 am to ensure you have plenty of time. Don’t miss the rope at the other end of the sinkhole to climb the wall and jump off the side (last time we went this was gone, so it might not be there anymore). There is a public spigot by the restrooms at Bimmah. Plan on spending maybe 1 hour at Bimmah and then 3-4 hours at Wadi Shab. Wadi Shab is the easiest wadi to “hike” in Oman. There’s no bouldering and a relatively well-marked path. Make sure you swim to the cave in the end at Wadi Shab! There are public toilets at both locations (bring toilet paper).
Wadi al Arbaeen 2 hour drive; 4WD required. Hike is not possible with little kids or kids in a hiking backpack. Exit at Dabab and take the dirt road under the freeway up into the wadi. You’ll drive for maybe 20-30 minutes, cross over some very deep puddles, and the road will eventually end in a town called As Suwayh. On the drive in there are some nice spots where you can stop. You can explore the waterfall to your left (facing the town) or follow the falaj into the wadi. The entire wadi hike is 4-5 hours one way and very strenuous (primarily bouldering, swimming and scampering over rocks) but rewarding.
Wadi Damm, Al Ayn tombs, village ruins 3 hour drive; You need a high clearance vehicle to reach the main parking lot for the both the tombs and the wadi. You’ll see the tombs on a ridgeline as you drive towards the wadi. To drive to the tombs, exit left on a dirt road that appears to lead into a village before you pass the tombs. Follow the dirt road through an opening in a fence (it looks like you’re going into someone’s back yard), turn right and drive through the wadi bed, and then turn left to access the parking lot. From there it’s a short climb up to the tombs, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are 5,000 years old, constructed during the Bronze Age, and incredibly scenic. For the wadi, you’ll hike past a small dam, and you’ll reach a pretty waterfall with huge rocks on either side, and it’ll look like you can’t go any farther. To the left of the waterfall is a rope up a slippery rock. Use the rope to climb the rock (it’s not hard, find footholds and use mostly leg strength) and squeeze out the tiny opening. Follow the right side of the wadi up to beautiful pools with ferns and water falling off moss. The ruins are on the right side of the road, past the beehive tombs as you’re driving to Wadi Damm. They are behind the village, clearly visible from the road.
Miqul Pools and Cave 3 hour drive; Drive towards Nizwa and then exit around Fanja to head south. The main highway might be closed, but there’s another road that is parallel to that that you can take. Waze might try to send you on a crazy route; don’t take that route! Miqul Pools is a very touristy area and is better explored during the week. You can bring a picnic and sit at the picnic benches, or eat at the restaurant. Walk back into the wadi to explore the a little bit more. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the cave, and the rocks are a bit slippery. Even if you don’t go to the cave, there are lots of beautiful swimming spots.
Dayqah Dam and Wadi Dayqah 90 mindrive; You only need 4WD if you plan on exploring Wadi Dayqah in your vehicle. The dam has some beautiful views and nice picnic spots, and it’s easily accessible in a sedan. If you drive out of town there are some nice rivers and pools for swimming. Turn at GPS 23.1335, 58.8953 and then turn right at the T to explore further into the wadi. There are some beautiful pools and falaj ruins. Note: do not drive from Hayl al Ghaf towards Wadi Dayqah. The scenery is not impressive and the gravel is very deep.
Wadi Tiwi 2.5 hour drive; Hike is not possible with little kids or kids in a hiking backpack. It’s a 2 hour drive to the wadi mouth, another 30 min to reach the parking area. There are free public restrooms as you go under the bridge on the right at the wadi mouth. 4 WD required if you plan on driving all the way to the parking spot (GPS: 22.7764288, 59.2247468). Note that the road is incredibly narrow and steep in parts. If you don’t have 4WD, stop when you turn off the main road and then hike down the very steep road. If you drive all the way to the trail head, the trail starts off on the left at the staircase. You can follow the gravel path next to the stream for a little ways, then you’ll go up towards the right, and then once you head back down the going gets a little trickier. Look for the cairn marking the spot where you have to go between some very large rocks. About 90 min in you’ll reach a perfect picnic spot with large flat rocks, a beautiful deep pool and jumping off rocks. From there it’s another 15-20 minutes to a waterfall with a rope for climbing up. You can hike back to the parking area from here, or you can go back from whence you came. Leave Muscat by 8 am and you can be back by 5:30 pm.
Little Snake Canyon 2 hour drive; There’s more bouldering required for this than you’d find in a usual hike, although you don’t have to get wet, so this could be considered either a wadi hike or a normal hike. There’s a small parking area by the entrance to a narrow canyon on the right (coming from Muscat). It’s relatively flat, then you have to find your way over and around some boulders, then it’s relatively flat, and then you reach an area where you have to swim through a very narrow canyon to go any further. It’s about 30-45 min to the swimming spot. Keep a look-out for snakes and frogs! The amount of swimming and wading required varies a lot based on the rainfall; when we went there was hardly any water and we didn’t attempt swimming.
Snake Canyon (right fork) 2 hour drive; Guide and 4WD required. Do not attempt this without a guide; twenty3extreme (twenty3extreme.com) does an awesome, top-of-the-line job. Whatever tour company you use should provide abseiling harnesses, life jackets and helmets. Hike takes 4-6 hours, depending on size of group, with several abseils (6 meters, 30 meters, 8 meters), jumps into pools, sliding, bouldering, swimming and hiking. Bring a dry bag and cover as much of your legs as possible to protect from scrapes, etc. This is physically challenging, but not exhausting, and a really awesome way to spend the day. Bring more than one vehicle because you have to drive to the starting point, and you finish someplace else, so you have to drive back to pick up the other car. Expect the whole trip to take 10-12 hours. Pricey, but worth it!

Beaches and Water Sports

Activity

Description

Sifat Ash Sheikh 45 min drive; Nice empty beach, good snorkeling, can hire a boat for 3-4 RO per person to take you out for a ride or snorkeling; scenic drive past Yiti and through Bandar al Khiran (aka Goat Town); looks like you’re going to a fishing village, but drive by the buildings/huts along the beach to the left where the snorkeling is the best.
Suwadi al Batha 45 min drive; Park in the parking lot and you will be mobbed by guys asking you if you want a boat. Hire whoever is cheapest to take you to the island with the fort on it (shouldn’t be more than 10 RO) and make sure you get his phone number. You can also walk to the island during low tide, but make sure you check the tide times because if you get stuck, you’re stuck until the next low tide. Hike up to the fort, have a picnic and enjoy the beach, then call your boat driver to come pick you up.
Bandar al Khiran 35 min drive; Plug “Bandar al Khairan viewpoint” into Waze. It will take you to the top of a large hill with sprawling views of the sea, coves and inlets. The beach almost directly below you is accessible by walking down the side of the hill to your left (if you look closely you’ll see the path down from the parking area slightly down the road to the left). The hike takes less than 5 minutes and is slightly unpleasant but not too bad. You’ll probably have the cove to yourself, the water is warm and sandy, and it’s beautiful. If your main goal is snorkeling, though, go to Sifat ash Sheikh.
Qurayat 75 min drive; Town with a little fort in a harbor; very picturesque. It looks like you have to drive through a checkpoint to get to the harbor, but I’ve never actually seen anyone in the building so don’t worry about it. The beach by the fort is nice, and there are additional beaches to the right (take the little dirt road across the swampy area) and I think there are more beaches to the left of the town closer to the mountains.
Capital Area Yacht Club 20 min drive; Private beach in Muscat near Al Bustan. You can wear a bikini! Good snorkeling towards the left. There’s a restaurant where you can buy food on the weekends, sun shades, and beach chairs. It gets crowded on the weekend but if you want a beach in Muscat during the week with some amenities, this is about as good as it gets. You can carry in your own food and drinks.
Fins beach 90 min-2 hour drive; There are lots of nice beaches north of Fins, about 90 min from Muscat. GPS for beaches north of Fins: 22.978093, 59.160354 and 22.951815, 59.200233. If you drive along that coastal road you’ll see plenty of other nice spots too. Drive south through Fins and the coast becomes more rocky and cliff-like. Plug “white sand beach Fins” into Waze and it’ll take you to a beautiful beach about 3 miles south of Fins. Keep your eyes out for gazelles and flamingos!
Snorkeling at Daymanyat Islands 30 min drive to Al Mouj, 28 OMR/person; Email Daymaniat.shells@gmail.comas soon as possible to make an appointment (the boat fills up quickly). Boats leave from the Al Mouj marina at 8:00 SHARP and it’s a 30 min boat ride to the islands. You’ll go snorkeling in two locations and if the islands are open to visitors they’ll usually let you off the boat and you can relax on the beach and snorkel at your leisure. They provide water, gear, snacks and towels. You’ll be back at the marina around 1 or 2.
Scuba diving 20 min drive to Bandar Al Rowdha marina, at least 35 OMR + equipment per person; Email oman@euro-divers.com to schedule at least one day in advance. During the week they almost always have openings and are very responsive to email. The dive guides (particularly Karin, Stan and Gary) are great, the equipment is top-notch, and they do a wonderful job of making sure things are up-to-snuff and everyone stays safe. You’ll probably dive at Bandar al Khiran or Fahal Island. They will provide water and snacks. Usually meet at the marina at 7:30 or 8 and then back by noon or so. You can also arrange snorkeling trips through Eurodivers.
Other beaches to try out Yiti (beautiful, but popular by Oman standards), As Sifah (can have lots of garbage), beach by British embassy in Muscat (you can park and access the beach without going through the police checkpoint)
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3 thoughts on “Things to do around Muscat

  1. Pingback: New trip-planning page is live! | According to Athena

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