Oman is famous for its colorful bazaars, fresh sea air, and sprawling desert, but this fascinating country of western Asia has plenty of other delights. You’re sure to want to try the country’s tasty Omani bread, which is hard to find outside of Oman. You’ll also want to sample halva, the famous Omani sweets. But it's Oman’s terrain and historic sites that provide the best attractions. Explore peaceful mountains, lie on hot white-sand beaches, or visit the sprawling expanse of the country’s hot desert. Check out Oman’s many mosques, forts, castles, and museums to witness the nation’s mind-blowing architecture. There are also plenty of hip hangouts where you can enjoy live music and unique cocktails.
You may not be allowed to go inside the Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat, but it’s still worth a visit. The elegant but humble building is the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos. It was built over 200 years ago by the sultan’s ancestor Imam Sultan bin Ahmed. In 1972, the palace was rebuilt to include its striking gold and blue façade and other elements. Today, Al Alam Palace holds official functions, such as receiving distinguished international guests.
Opposite the Al Alam Palace, you will find Oman’s impressive National Museum. The museum showcases the land’s heritage, which stretches back to two million years ago when the earliest human settlements formed in the Oman Peninsula. The museum’s high-tech devices and giant screens help to bring its many historical artifacts to life. The National Museum also has an excellent and innovative multimedia section on Oman’s maritime history.
Many people visit the corniche in Muttrah for one reason only: to visit its souq, which is the Arabic word for “bazaar.” The traditional market consists of many small stores that sell products such as traditional clothes, colorful fabrics, jewelry, antiques, and souvenirs. The smells and vibrant colors of the market are a must-see destination for any visitor in Oman. Navigating the bazaar can be tricky for first-time visitors, but if you get lost, head downhill, and you should eventually find your way back to the entrance.
The Musandam Governorate is in the far north of the country, separated from the rest of Oman by a piece of land. Surrounded by the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, this idyllic area is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities. There are many gorgeous white-sand beaches in this area where you can soak up the sun. The most spectacular is Khassab beach.
There are many mosques around Oman, but the Grand Mosque in Muscat is the most famous, and with good reason. Its large golden dome, minarets, arches, and engraved walls are sights to behold. Inside you'll find a highly decorated interior, which includes unique lamps, a spectacular centerpiece crystal chandelier, and a colorful Persian carpet that measures 70 meters (230 feet) by 60 meters (197 feet), making it the world’s second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque was built in 2001 to mark the sultan’s 30th year of reign.
Scattered across the Selma Plateau are nearly 100 meticulously-crafted ancient stone towers. These tombs date back to the Umm An Nar culture of 2000 to 2700 BCE. Local legends surround these 10 feet tall conical towers, as many believe a spirit called Kebir Keb built them. The site of the Jaylah Tombs is also worth visiting for its breathtaking scenery of curvaceous cliffs and its mountain villages. The region is seldom visited, so if you’re looking for a one-off experience in Oman, make sure you visit the Selma Plateau.
If you’re in Oman around the end of January, make sure you attend the fantastic Muscat Festival, which lasts for a whole month. With nightly fireworks, exhibitions from regional countries, craft displays, traditional dancing, and even laser shows, you are sure to have a memorable experience. One highlight you will want to check out is the candy-making displays. You won’t just want to watch, though. You will also surely want to taste the traditional sweets called halva, which consists of rose water, date juice, and cardamom.
Built on the foundations of a pre-Islamic structure, Nakhal Fort was constructed in 1834. There are many features of the fort to look for when visiting this fascinating site. You’ll find round towers that deflected cannonballs, spiked doors that repelled battering and gaps where boiling cauldrons of honey once hinged over doorways. The fort is built around a rock to make it even more formidable. Although the fort has a violent past, you can soak up the tranquility of the site and its superb views of the Batinah Plain.
To explore incredible Majilis Al-Jinn caves, you will have to travel around 1,400 meters above sea level. You can only access the caves through several holes at the top. If you enjoy the adventure of climbing and hiking, you will love exploring Majlis Al Jinn, which has the second-largest cave chamber in the world. With beautiful rocky-formations all around, this site is worth visiting for the views alone.
The ruins of Al Baleed are all that’s left from the 12th-century trading port, Zafar. The port was once used to shop frankincense to India in exchange for various spices. You can find out more about Al Baleed’s history at the archaeological park’s on-site museum, which charts the region’s past events from the area’s first settlement in 2000 BCE. The park has many miles of paths to explore, as well as beautiful reed beds that are ideal for birdwatching.
You will feel like you are in an exotic Arabian Nights adventure if you decide to visit the mighty Sands of Rub’ Al Khali. This site is the largest continuous sand desert in the whole world. The sprawling desert is in western Oman, and it also covers parts of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. As well as displaying unique biodiversity, this 250,000-square-mile desert is the most oil-rich area on the planet.