4WDing across the Hajar Mountains via Hatt

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
92 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Middle East
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 150
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
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How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
3rd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 1% SUMMARY RATING: The best of the best


The Hajar Mountains, with their spectacular peaks, hidden hill towns, mini luscious oases and dramatic canyons are some of the most striking mountains in the world and by far the highlight of Oman.  Most people visit the forts of Bahla, the Wadi Ghul canyon and drive up to the plateau of Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest mountain – and these really worth doing.  But for a truly world-class experience, rent a 4WD and drive the mountain road from Bahla to Rustaq via Hatt.  The number of fellow tourists drop off dramatically, the valleys and peaks become more dramatic, the hill towns and oases are significantly more remote and untouched, and above all you’ll have a great feeling of adventure.  It’s not for the faint hearted though – the road is challenging, with the majority of your time spent on dirt roads, the drops off the side can be a little terrifying, and at times you will feel a bit isolated with no other drivers around you.  But, considering the ease at which you can experience this (easily be done in a day from Muscat and 4WD rentals are easy to rent), this should be right at the top of your list for Oman


Top tips:

  1. Is the route hard  to follow – no.  I’ve seen plenty of blogs that make it seem easy to get lost.  It really isn’t.  I’ve listed below the route to demonstrate some of the things you can expect to see, but you can just plug it into google maps and you’ll have no problems.  Even without google maps, its basically a direct road except for 2 forks that are clearly signposted
  2. Do you need a 4×4 – absolutely.  Contrary to many things written about the Jebel Shams ascent, I think you can easily get up Jebel Shams without a 4WD.  But you absolutely cannot do this mountain route without a 4WD – that would be dangerous
  3. Is it dangerous – as long as you (i) have a 4WD; (ii) don’t drive in the rain or when the road is very wet; (iii) don’t be reckless; (iv) use a bit of common sense when other cars are passing, this is not dangerous.  That being said, it is challenging and at times nerve wracking just because of the steep sides
  4. How much time does it take – it took me 3 hours for the drive, including stopping just about every 10mins for photos.  I think if you wanted to stop in some of the villages, add on an extra hour on.  If you are driving from Muscat, it’s around 1.5hours to Rustaq and around 2hours to Bahla.  So, all in from Muscat you’re looking at a 6.5-7.5 hour day
  5. The obvious stuff – your chances of something going wrong are low, but it always makes sense to prep correctly – reduce the pressure in your tires by around 20% for the offroading; make sure you have enough fuel (there are no petrol stations); make sure you have a spare tire and know roughly how to replace it; bring water in case for whatever reason you do get stuck.  Whilst it is quite isolated at times, I saw around 30 other vehicles on my trip (locals and tourists) so you will have support if you run into problems (in fact it will be in their interest to help you if you are blocking the road!)


#1 Reaching the hidden gem of Bilad Sayt and taking just a moment to appreciate its beauty crammed into the mountains

#2 The driving challenge of the tight snaking roads that need your full concentration to avoid tumbling over the side

#3 The wonderfully named Snake Gorge, that carves its way through these mountains and gives a great option for hiking

#4 Hitting the start of the paved road at Tikhah and that satisfied feeling looking back at some of the mountains you've just crossed

#5 Having a bit of company from the mountain goats that seem to be on just about every corner

#6 The views across the mountains as you make your way through in the 4WD

#7 That first moment when you've passed the Sharfat Al Alamyn viewpoint and look on at the dirt road that winds you down to the next valley floor . . . with no guard rails

#8 The underrated paved road that meanders its way through the steep valleys between Tikhah and the final destination of Rustaq

#9 Some of the super random things you see along the way . . . like this football pitch just outside of Bilad Sayt

The Route

Rough itinerary

Whether you start from Bahla or Rustaq depends on your preference for driving.  The southern half of the route from Bahla up to the Sharfat Al Alamyn viewpoint is a good paved road.  The northern half from Rustaq to the viewpoint is not.  So, it depends on if you want to drive up the jaggedy dirt road or down it.  I preferred driving down it, so started in Bahla:

  • From Bahla – aim for the Al Hoota Cave (which was closed at time of writting).  On the way you will see brown signs for Bald Sayt – follow them and quickly you will exit the towns / villages and start ascending
  • Drive up to the Sharfat Al Alamyn viewpoint (Jabal Hatt Mountains View  on google maps) – this is the highest point in the road with clear views down onto both sides.  It is also the point where you lose the paved road and move to dirt
  • Drive down to Hatt – this is probably the most nerve wracking section because the drops are the steepest, but amazing views
  • Hatt to Bilad Sayt – this is the most winding section.  Be sure not to skip Bilad Sayt – it is a 2km / 1.2mile detour off the main road, but totally worth it
  • Bilad Sayt past Snake Gorge – you pass a sensational canyon and the road starts to get a little easier.  Be sure to follow the signs for Wadi Bani Awf rather than a fork in the road for Wadi Sahten (this is probably the only part of the drive you could get lost)
  • Just after Snake Gorge (no point in english on the map for reference) – you move into a river bed which still isn’t paved, but is flat and wide so very simple to drive
  • Tikhah – you move onto a paved road and it is simple driving to Rustaq

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone