5 days for Oman

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
70 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Middle East
Length of time
Around a week
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
$ 650
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
123rd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 40% SUMMARY RATING: Superb


Oman is a cracking country for a 5 day trip.  It has that wonderful Middle East vibe without the extreme restrictions of the likes of Saudi or Iran, the extreme opulence of the UAE and Qatar, and without the crowds of Egypt and Jordan.  To add to the mix, it has a surprisingly diverse offering – world class mountains, vast red deserts, gorge and canyon exploring, and all with the capital Muscat acting as a hub to launch yourself on these adventures


Its only real downsides are that it tends to be expensive; doesn’t have the well trodden traveller path (so you need to do a lot on your own); and, outside of the Hajar Mountains which are sensational, doesn’t have so many of the world class attractions you’ll find in other parts of the Middle East.  That being said, the below itinerary was cracking fun


Top tips:

  • #1 Prioritise the following 3 things (in order) – 4WD in the Hajar Mountains (including the forts of Nizwa and Bahla as they are en route); Hiking and swimming Wadi Shab; Staying in the red desert of Sharqiya Sands.  Muscat only needs a day max and you’ll naturally find this time as you’ll fly in and out of there


  • #2 Five days is enough, but with little chill out time – the 3 highlights above are all within 2 hours drive of Muscat and typically only need 0.5 days (Wadi Shab), 1 day (Sharqiya Sands) and 1.5 days (the mountains).  Two ways of looking at it:
    • If full of energy and trying to get the most out of the 5 days – the itinerary below is very doable and, if slightly impatient, you’ll find that you’ll be done with the places quite quickly (eg you really don’t need more than the morning in Wadi Shab and overnight in the desert).  You could even choose between Jebel Shams and the 4WD mountain road to make this a 4 day trip
    • If want more of a chill out – either make it a week, or chose between either Jebel Shams (famous) or the 4WD mountain road (spectacular, adventure


  • #3 Oman is expensive – it’s quite a shock when you see that the exchange rate is 3US$ to the Omani Rial . . . as in, the other way around!!  Everything is more expensive than you’ll likely be used to, so it pays to scan for in particular cheap accommodation and a decent deal on the 4WD


  • #4 Driving – you need a car if not on a tour, as public transport is pretty poor.  Broadly the deals started at around US$35 / day for a basic rental car, and around 2/2.5 times that for a 4WD – so it may actually make sense to take the 2WD for certain parts and change for 4WD when needed, which is what I did.  As always, have a scan on RentalCar to see what the rates look like.
    • What about a 4WD?  The 4WD makes a lot of the trip easier as you can easily drive up to Jebel Shams, drive to your desert camp in Sharqiya Sands) and is an absolute must for the drive across the mountains via Hatt.  That being said, the drive up to Jebel Shams is very doable in a 2WD (no restrictions); you can easily get the Desert Camp to pick you up from the town of Al Wasil or any pre-arranged meeting spot on the main road; and the drive across the mountain road via Hatt can be optional if you’re not up for the nerve jangling.  Be sure as well to check that it is a genuine 4WD, rather than a 2WD SUV (which the second rental company were not clear on)


  • #5 How to behave / what to wear – Oman felt very much on the chilled out end of the Middle East spectrum, and used to western tourists.  Whilst its always better to dress a bit more like a local (they find it odd, for example, that we wear shorts at all), for the itinerary below, there were no places where you would feel uncomfortable wearing clothes showing knees / shoulders



#1 The 4DW adventure across the Hajar Mountains on the mountain road via Hatt. Sensational views, hidden villages and long stretches all to yourself

#2 Wading and swimming your way through to a cave waterfall in amongst the sharp arid sides of Wadi Shab

#3 Finding the beautiful hidden gem of Bald Sayt, tucked away right in the centre of the Hajar Mountains (the photo doesn't do it justice)

#4 Spending a night driving over the dunes, seeing the stars and enjoying the Bedouin hospitality in one of the Sharqiya Sands desert camps

#5 Hiking the 2-3 hour Balcony Walk alongside Jebel Shams' Wadi Ghul aka "Arabia's Grand Canyon"

#6 Chilling out in Muscat and walking along its famous Corniche, with Souqs, Fish Markets, and nearby palaces and museums

#7 The regular other-wordly views out across the mountains

#8 Exploring the various forts spread out all across Oman. In this case, the surprisingly deep Nizwa Fort

#9 Generally driving through the desert and watching out for all sorts of things expected to block the road

Rough itinerary

You’ll naturally start in Muscat, so assume a day either at the start of the end of your trip

Day 1 – A day to settle in from the flight in Muscat.  Check out the Corniche with its fish market and Mutrah Souk; the National Museum and Sutan’s Place in “Old Muscat”; and for late afternoon walk along the beach (for more details, see the travel entry – A day in Muscat)

Day 2 – Jebel Shams.  Dive up to the high plateau of Jebel Shams (3 hours) for sensational views of the other-worldly Hajar Mountains and to walk the Wadi Ghul Balcony Walk through the “Grand Canyon of Arabia”.  Stay overnight at one of the resorts on the plateau (Walking Jebel Sham’s Wadi Ghul canyon)

Day 3 – 4WD across the Hajar Mountains on the mountain road via Hatt.  Drive back down the to the valley floor to around the Al Hoota Cave (1 hour) for the start of an adventure through even more spectacular scenery, hidden villages and nerve-jangling roads (3.5 / 4 hours including stops) – see more details in this individual travel entry for 4WDing across the Hajar Mountains via Hatt.  Take the rest of the afternoon to have lunch and make your way to Wadi Shab (3 hours), and stay the night at the Wadi Shab Guesthouse

Day 4 – Wadi Shab and overnight in Sharqiya Sands.  Enjoy the morning having fun walking, wading and swimming through the picturesque and beautifully sharp sided Wadi (see Hiking and swimming Wadi Shab for more details).  Drive down to one of the desert camps in Sharqiya Sands for desert views of the stars, sunset camel rides and bedouin hospitality

Day 5 – drive back to Muscat.  Depending on the timing of your flight, you can either continue to enjoy the desert or make a quick getaway to start the 2 hour drive back to Muscat

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