Oman Desert Tours: 10 Things to See & Do

Oman Desert Tours: 10 Things to See & Do

The vast deserts in Oman are home to a host of unique experiences.

Dating back to pre-historic human habitation over 100,000 years ago, the country is awash with extraordinary sites such as ancient towns, villages and cities – as well as naturally formed attractions. Not only can you explore the glorious, barren expanses of the sandy dunes, but you can also scale rugged mountains, walk, scramble and wade through wadis and see the most impressive forts.

From trekking through the hypnotic landscapes of the Wahiba Sands to hiking around the lush Wadi Shab environments, here are ten desert experiences for an incredible adventure holiday in Oman.

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1. Explore the desert in Wahiba Sands

Stretching over 110 miles north to south, the Wahiba Sands (also known as Sharqiyah Sands) features an ochre-coloured terrain that you can explore throughout the year. The daytime temperatures normally sit at 24°. At night, be prepared for cooler nights by making sure to pack something warm, like a fleece, and gaze up at the beautiful stars.

Sleeping out under the stars

A night sleeping under a blanket of a million stars is always one to remember. But in this Omani desert, the experience is extra special. With a lack of light pollution, you can spot an ocean of bright stars, planets and even the Milky Way.

Following a busy day of exploration, nothing else is better than relaxing and gazing up towards the sky at night. Bathe yourself in the sweet, soothing sound of silence and take a moment to identify the breathtaking constellations which have been guiding the Bedouin people for centuries. Along with this, there are endless photographic opportunities for you to discover, capturing the beauty of the Arabian atmosphere.

Quad biking in the sand dunes

The golden sand dunes of the Wahiba desert can be traversed in many different ways. One of the more exhilarating options, though, is by quad bike. Zooming across the land will not only get your heart racing, but also introduce you to the sheer size of the area; it's a real-life sandbox, one that's open for exploration.

Alternatively, you can ride shotgun with an experienced 4x4 driver and take in the rolling dunes from bottom to top via the passenger seat. Just make sure to hold on tight while dashing through the sands!

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2. Ride camels across ochre-coloured landscapes in Wahiba Sands

Wahiba Sands is also a great place for a camel ride. The huge 12,500 square kilometres are home to soaring sand dunes, which you can tour and snap colourful photos of along the way. The name of the desert comes from the Arabic word ‘bedu’, roughly translating to ‘desert dweller’, who are the Bedouin people – who have lived there for centuries.

Go camel riding in the desert

Exploring the desert is best done on camelback. From atop these majestic beasts, you can admire breathtaking views of the epic sandscapes that engulf your entire being, nothing but an ocean of orange.

Throughout time, the Bedouin people utilised camels as a way of transporting goods and services. Following in their footsteps, you'll only understand just how extraordinary their feats were after getting a taste of the journey for yourself. Disconnect, be at one with nature and gain first-hand insight of the deep cultural essence of the desert and its people. Overall, it's a memorable experience and a must in Oman.

Sandboard down the dunes

At the dunes' peak, marvel at Wahiba Sands’ beautiful views before barrelling down them at high speeds. Adding some exhilarating fun to your visit is a sure-fire way to get the heart racing! Swerve and glide from top to bottom, grazing the grainy surface with your hand as you seek to surf in the beaming sunshine.

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3. Hike through rugged landscapes in the Hajar Mountains

From northwest to southeast, the Hajar Mountain Range includes the Eastern Hajar, Western Hajar, Jabal Hafeet, Musandam Peninsula, Jabal Nakhl, Jabal Akhdar and Jabal Shams. Staggering landscapes and fascinating geology awaits your discovery, from the lesser explored trails to the well-trodden paths.

Jabal Akhdar

Rising 9,780ft above sea level, Jabal Akhdar is a centrally-located mountain overlooking dozens of quaint and isolated Omani villages. It's ideal for moderate hiking and features an array of hidden wadis throughout its rocky outcroppings and jagged peaks. Although it may translate to 'Green Mountain', you'll in fact come across the opposite – brown shrubbery, ancient juniper trees, reddish-purple saffron, and vibrant roses.

Situated at the foot of the mountain is Bahla Fort, a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site built between the 12th and 15th Century by the Banu Nebhan tribe. The sheer sight of the extensive walls and imposing watchtowers harken back to a time when Omani Imamates had a great influence across Arabia and Africa.

Jabal Shams

From the highest peak in the region (9,872ft), Jabal Shams is the first place that sees the sunrise in Oman. Its mountain landscapes are dominated by high vertical cliffs, limestone formations and bone-dry terrain. Even though access is restricted at the very top by a military base, you can still visit the cluster of villages and absorb amazing views of Wadi Ghul.

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4. Embark on The Balcony Walk at Wadi Ghul

Oman's very own Grand Canyon, Wadi Ghul is as mind-blowing as its USA counterpart’s namesake. The steep gorges are just as incredible, and at times quite scary, but definitely rewarding if you’re brave enough to look down the steep gorge. Being able to gaze into the vertiginous drop 1000m down below is both mesmerising and terrifying!

The Balcony Walk

Boasting an ample array of viewpoints, from An Nakhur Gorge to Al Hayl Fort, the captivating hike snakes around the western side of the Grand Canyon and takes approximately three hours to complete. While journeying along the path, stop for a moment and stare 1,000 metres down to the bottom. Millenia-old rock formations expand and plunge for what seems like eternity, surrounding you from the very cliff edge you stand on.

It's an extraordinary experience, one that you must absolutely consider when going for a walk in the area.

Ghul Village

Suspended in time, Ghul Village perches on the shoulder of a cliff, abandoned and in ruins. Before heading up to Jabal Shams, stop to explore the ancient structures or arrange a picnic and recharge your batteries.

Further back in the distance, you can grab an eye-catching photograph of the village. Here, the oranges and reds of the local buildings starkly contrast a row of green fields and trees that sparkle in the sunlight. Although it's isolated and out of the way, there's a sense of peace and comfort spending time in the area.

“Exploring a wadi is an awesome adventure. You walk through a narrow gorge carved by a dry riverbed, surrounded by lush trees. Though the terrain can be rocky and at times you may have to scramble around boulders, the trail leads to fairy-tale pools and waterfalls where you can take a refreshing dip in the cool water.” - Susanne Muskita, Middle East Travel Specialist

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5. Journey to the Sugar Dunes of Al Khaluf

Desert journeys take you to all sorts of epic locations. Around 400km south of Muscat, the capital of Oman, you'll find the Sugar Dunes of Al Khaluf. These powdery white sands are where the desert meets the ocean, home to a quiet fishing village where locals venture on dhows to haul in their daily catch.

Camp out on the soft white sands

For a unique stay in Khaluf, why not gather your camping equipment and set up your desert camp? Through the night, the sky is full of stars, bathing the unspoiled dunes in a cool dark glow, almost otherworldly. Similarly, waking up to the sun rising above the sugar dunes is a marvellous feeling. As far as the eyes can see, these beautiful landscapes contour and melt into the bright blue sky over the horizon.

The best time to visit is in the winter, November through to February. Not only does the scorching heat die down, but the sands are cool to the touch – the perfect conditions for camping in the desert!

Walk along the abundant and isolated beaches

As well as being able to experience the dunes, you can also explore the various beaches in the area. The millions of micro shells mixed in-between the sands colour them a faint pink in some places. Further beyond, the crystal-clear waters offer an excellent way to cool down after your exciting adventures.

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6. Discover ancient forts and castles throughout Ad Dakhiliyah

Famous for its hundreds of 16th Century castles and 17th Century fortresses, Oman is a treasure trove full to the brim with fascinating culture and history. In the Ad Dakhiliyah region alone, you can discover and explore Bahla Fort, Samail Fort, Bayt Ar Ridaydah, Al Fiqayn Fort, Bayt al Safa, Nizwa Fort and Jabreen Castle.

Nizwa Fort

In the ancient city centre of Nizwa is Nizwa Fort. Built over the course of 12 years by Sultan Bin Saif Al Yaruba, the fortress is well-known for its distinctive 34m tower. From the top, admire the colossal Hajar Mountains from the northwest as well as the local mosque and souqs that populate the bustling streets.

For many years, the fort stood as the administrative seat of power for Omani Imamates and served as a symbol of conflict and peace. Back then, the cannons, false doors, narrow stairways and secret shafts built alongside pitfalls and turrets were used to ward off intruders. Today, it's simply a splendid attraction.

Jabreen Castle

A well-preserved structure southwest of Bahla Fort, Jabreen Castle overlooks a sea of green palms like a king with his kingdom. The palace is built using large stones and dark grey sandstone, covered with a thick layer of sand and gypsum. Inside, the ceilings are engraved with Arabic and Islamic calligraphy.

Commissioned by Imam Balarab bin Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’rubi in 1675, the castle was initially built for the imam, but eventually served as a government seat. Now, it attracts many tourists throughout the year.

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7. Visit the UNESCO sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn

Dating back to protohistoric times, the ancient archaeological complex of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn once served as necropolis tombs that were used and reused for centuries. Today, the three fascinating sites are recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage List and are available to visit on your adventures in Oman.


First of the three UNESCO World Heritage sites is Bat. The beehive-shaped tombs are the most recognisable, located at the top of a rocky slope in the area. Whereas the dry-stone cairn tombs over the river come in their hundreds. Nearby are the remains of an ancient quarry, used to mine building materials.


Next is Al-Khutm, where a monumental tower still stands. Made of limestone and featuring a circular outer wall around 20m in diameter, the structure was perhaps part of a larger building, such as a house.


Lastly, you'll discover Al-Ayn. Many small necropolis tombs are scattered here, made with dry masonry walls that have been traced back to the 3rd millennium BCE. In addition, there's another ancient quarry. When visiting, peak inside the tombs. It's thought that up to 30 people could be buried at any one time.

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8. Walk and scramble along Wadi Bani Khalid

Not to be confused with Wadi Bani Awf in Ad Dakhiliyah, Wadi Bani Khalid is another unique and spectacular oasis. Located in the Ash-Sharqiyah region just outside the port town of Sur and city of Ibra, this wadi is lush with tranquil waters and green palms. You can swim, explore the area and have a picnic lunch.

Swim in the shimmering blue waters

Having trekked through a sea of oranges and browns in the desert, your first time discovering Wadi Bani Khalid almost feels like a mirage. It truly is an oasis in every sense of the word; the waters are emerald blue and the trees a verdant green. Schools of fish populate the streams while locals visit from nearby towns. In addition to this, giant boulders litter the landscapes along with jagged rocks that form natural pools.

Dive into the deep end or follow the path up the wadi. Along the way, you can stop at the pools for a paddle or a swim. Just remember to dress modestly in order to respect the country's Muslim traditions.

Hike through the canyon

This popular wadi is perfect for hiking. Around 1.3km in length, you can easily traverse the terrain and discover the area's hidden secrets. At the end, you'll find Muqal Cave. Listen to the roar of the underground water flowing beneath your feet and take a second to breathe before heading back.

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9. Marvel at the crystal-clear waters of Wadi Shab

Wadis of Oman come in all different shapes and sizes. In the Al Sharqiyah region, this is Wadi Shab, who's cascading waterfalls and dark caves hold many secrets. Also known as the 'Gorge Between Cliffs', it provides plenty of opportunities for swimming in turquoise pools and hiking among rocky mountains.

Hike along the tranquil stream

Taking around an hour to complete, the hike at Wadi Shab is relatively easy and passes by local farms on a flat path. Once you reach the gorge, you can start swimming further beyond until you meet a small crack between the mountains. Here, you'll be treated to the extraordinary sight of a hidden waterfall in a cave. However, it can potentially be very dangerous to enter this cave, so please refrain from doing so during your visit.

Discover hidden waterfalls

Away from the cave, you can discover rushing waters elsewhere in the form of hidden waterfalls. The local guides are available to help you explore the area, providing their knowledge and services for a small fee.

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10. Snorkel with dolphins and embark on a dhow cruise in Muscat

In the capital of Muscat, you have the opportunity to snorkel, and may even have a dolphin encounter, or embark on a relaxing dhow cruise. Discover a mesmerising underwater ecosystem home to colourful coral reefs and gaze out towards the shimmering Gulf of Oman in the comfort of your boat.

Snorkel with dolphins

While submerged under the surface, you’ll see marvellous marine life as well as an abundance of fish species and may even encounter turtles or a pod of playful dolphins. The spinner and common dolphins are regular sightings while Bryde’s whales, sperm whales, common bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins can be found during particular seasons throughout the year.

Embark on a dhow cruise

Watch the sun set on the horizon as you sail past unique forts, royal palace buildings and rugged rock formations. Aboard a dhow cruise across Oman’s picturesque coastline, not only do you enjoy a pleasant journey, but you’ll also be immersed in some of the country’s most spectacular landmarks – such as Mirani Fort, Al Alam Palace and The Muttrah Corniche.

Create your perfect Oman Desert Adventure

Speak to one of our Regent Travel Specialists, who will ensure your adventure holiday to Oman is brimming with the most thrilling experiences and authentic excursions. A tailor-made trip is the best way to explore the country, whether that be camping on the sand dunes or swimming at the beautiful wadis.

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