Fitness ●○○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●○○○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●●○○
See and scale the incredible vast dunes of the Wahiba Sands and spend the night in the desert
Explore mystical desert forts and castles
Beautiful coastal scenery and the opportunity to spot rare turtles nesting on the beach
Superb scenery of Jebel Akhdar and ancient mountain villages
Wander in the atmospheric souqs of Muscat and Nizwa
Enjoy the view at the huge expanse of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon
Accommodation: Mixture of comfortable hotels and permanent tented camp accommodation
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Muscat
End Point: Muscat
Transport: 4WD vehicles in convoy with guide driving the lead vehicle
Day 1 – Arrival Muscat
Arrive in Muscat and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to explore the city. Overnight at Al Falaj Hotel or similar.
Strategically situated at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Muscat has been an important trading town on the crossroads between east and west for at least two millennia. During the 16th and 17th centuries it changed hands between Portuguese and Turkish invaders several time before returning to local control. The discovery of oil in the 1960s saw Muscat grow from a small harbour town into a large and modern city, fuelling a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society as workers from countries such as India arrive in search of work. Muscat originally consisted only of the area known as Old Muscat, a walled town on a natural harbour which houses excellent examples of traditional Omani architecture and a couple of Portuguese built forts dating back to the 16th century.
Day 2 – Muscat – Sur – Ras Al Jinz
Visit the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the Middle East. Then drive through spectacular scenery of rugged mountains to the small fishing town of Quriyat, and then continue to Wadi Shab, a gorgeous oasis with inviting pools where it may be possible to take a dip. After lunch, continue to Sur, renowned in the past for its dhow shipyards, before reaching Ras al Jinz on the coast. After an early dinner, visit the turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz, where at night green turtles, after a journey of thousands of kilometres, come ashore to lay their eggs. Overnight Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve or similar. (BLD)
The attractive coastal town of Sur has long been known for its tradition of dhow building, its shipyard continuing to produce these mighty vessels which have formed such an important part of Omani culture and trade over the years, although these days there is less demand. Today it’s a relatively quiet town where one can walk through traditional markets surrounded by Omanis in their typical national dress, and it’s a good place to get a feel for local culture. Sur played a role in the slave trade for many years, being a conduit for slaves brought from East Africa on their way to the markets of Arabia, and it took many years for this practice to be eradicated in Sur after it was officially outlawed.
Day 3 – Ras Al Jinz – Wadi Bani Khalid – Wahiba Sands
Drive to Wadi Bani Khalid – an oasis spot in the middle of barren and dry mountains. It is one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman and its pools with clear deep blue water give you an opportunity to take a refreshing dip. After lunch, we head into the Wahiba Sands, a vast mass of undulating red and white sea of sand. The ever-changing patterns of the dunes are a photographer’s delight. After some exciting sand dune driving we reach our desert camp for the night. Overnight at 1000 Nights Camp or similar. (BLD)
The Wahiba Sands are characterised by enormous rolling dunes, some as high as 150 metres, stretching as far as the eye can see – a quintessential desert landscape that is as beautiful as it is austere. Named after the Wahiba tribe, the region is home to Bedouin who manage to eke out an existence around the few oases, and is also home to a surprising amount of wildlife. Immortalised by the travels of Wilfred Thesiger, a journey into the sands offers a superb opportunity to experience desert wilderness.
Bedouin is a collective name given to a variety of desert dwelling tribes, spread out from the Arabian peninsula to north Africa. Traditionally the Bedouin were largely nomadic, taking their large goat hair tents and moving to find pasture for their flocks throughout the arid desert wastes. Although different tribes were united, typically the Bedu would live separately in their family groups – a necessity so as not to put excess pressure on the meagre resources of the landscape. Nowadays modernity has taken its toll on traditional Bedouin life, as many have settled in towns and cities in search of a more secure existence, but many nomadic families still exist. The recent imposition of national borders on the homelands of the Bedouin has also acted to circumscribe traditional patterns of migration. The Bedouin are famed for their culture of hospitality which dictates that they treat visitors as honoured guests.
Day 4 – Wahiba Sands – Ibra – Jabrin Castle – Bahla – Nizwa
Morning drive to the historic town of Nizwa, Oman’s cultural capital. Before reaching Nizwa we visit Ibra Old Houses. Then proceed to Jabrin castle, built in the 17th century and one of the finest of its kind. Its magnificent plasterwork, the carved doors and the painted wooden beams of the ceilings make this castle very different from others in Oman. Afterwards continue to Bahla, one of the oldest small towns of Oman and in the 12th century the local tribal capital. We will stop and admire the views of the city and its magnificent fort before continuing to Nizwa for the night. Overnight at Al Diyar Hotel or similar. (BLD)
The town of Nizwa has historically been a very important oasis offering respite from the often harsh landscape surrounding it, and is a key centre for growing dates. However it is far better known for its splendid fort built in the 17th century and painstakingly restored in 1990. The fort is vast and contains many different sections, including a Koranic school, a mosque, a prison and living quarters. Once the capital of Oman, Nizwa became an important centre for trade and education, profiting from its strategic position between Muscat and Dhofar. The town has been extensively modernised under Sultan Qaboos bin Said, but retains its flavour, especially in the back streets of the old souq.
Day 5 - Nizwa – Jebel Akhdar – Jebel Shams
This morning we visit Nizwa souq as well as its famous fort, built in the 17th century. We then drive to Jebel Akdhar. In Arabic Jebel Akhdar means green mountains, and the area is famous for its gardens, farms and terrace plantations. We visit Wadi Habib to see one of the remote villages and fruit plantations. We then continue to the spectacular Jebel Shams where we will overnight in the mountains. Overnight at Jebel Shams Resort or similar. (BLD)
Jebel Akhdar is part of the Hajar Mountains, which stretch for about 300km from North West to South East. The higher parts of the region receive enough rainfall to allow agriculture and many traditional fruits and vegetables are grown on the slopes. This is one of the most scenic areas in Oman, and is mostly inhabited by members of the Bani Riyam tribe. Jebel Akhdar was the scene of some fierce fighting between rebels and Omani and British forces in the late 1950s.
Day 6 - Jebel Shams – Al Hamra – Wadi Bani Awf – Muscat
After breakfast, enjoy the spectacular view of Jebel Shams, the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’. We then drive to Al Hamra and Misfah, to see one of the oldest villages of this region. The traditional mud houses dating back from 400 years are still occupied. After an early lunch, we head to Wadi Bani Awf, the end point of the canyon and with what is called the ‘snake gorge’ in the middle of the steep mountain cliffs. This is a stunning part of Oman with fantastic views of the surrounding scenery. We drive to the town of Nakhl with its fully restored fort on a rocky outcrop, before arriving in Muscat for the night. Overnight at Al Falaj Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 7 – Departure Muscat
Explore Muscat on a half day city tour, visiting the old walled district of Muscat. We also visit Muttrah Souq, where you can bargain for handicrafts and silver items. In the afternoon we take a sunset cruise, before transferring to Muscat airport for your return flight. (BL)
Arrival and departure transfers
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Items of a personal nature
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