A round trip to Oman is a real life dream for most visitors to the Sultanate and in many cases a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not everyone is lucky enough to experience such a dream trip more often and to be able to portion out the diversity of this unique spot of the world into several Oman road trips. In plain language, this means that this wonderful opportunity should be used extensively to fully savor the diverse, distinctive nuances of the fabulous sultanate.
With an Oman road trip, starting from the culturally impressive oasis city of Nizwa to the Caribbean-like Salalah and back along the east coast to the vibrant capital Muscat, you can embark on an epic Oman round trip over a period of two and a half weeks. If your longing for Arabian pearls is still not satisfied after your return, you have the perfect pole position from Muscat to cross the border and indulge in the glow and flow of the fabulous emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Welcome to the Oman road trip of your dreams!
1st stage Central Oman – from the legendary Nizwa to the incense wonderland Salalah
Before you get into your road trip vehicle, check with the rental car company in advance if driving on this route is allowed. If in doubt, you should opt for a four-wheel drive model, which will take you through the most abstruse road conditions in a manner similar to a bactrian camel.
After an adventurous exploration of legendary Nizwa, your Oman road trip will take you on a monotonous, bumpy route through the blazing hot Central Oman.
Adam at the end of the Jabal Salakh mountains
On the paved route south, your most important stop before reaching the wasteland is the town of Adam – a town of 13,000 people at the end of the Jabel Salakh Mountains, affectionately known as the “Gateway to the Desert” and a former hub of southern caravans. They are surrounded by a secret, the knowledge of which rarely reaches the average tourist. For the city was separated by decree by the Sultan into an official and a forbidden part. The typical mud-brick buildings and the supply network in the old town of Adam were so insufficient that danger to life and limb was imminent. Therefore, at the Sultan’s behest, the people living inside the city walls had to leave the neighborhood and start a new life outside.
You are not even allowed to enter the old town today. It is all the more magical to get close to the secrets of Adam outside the city walls and literally feel the spirit of a deserted city in the shimmering atmosphere. Visit the old watchtowers and wander through the soothing green palm gardens. A magical place that presents you authentic Omani history in its purest form.
Important for your onward journey:
In Adam, the Badr Al-Salam Motel is a worthwhile place to stay (more recommendable than the one in Al Ghabah below), as well as a possibly urgently needed gas station. Be sure to check your fuel gauge before you head out again, because the next fill-up at Al Ghabah is a whole 200 km away!
Stopover Al Ghabah
Industrial Arabian charm as far as the eye can see: The oil production towers to your left and right car door are a clear indication that you have arrived in Al Ghabah. Enjoy the silence of this seemingly eremite spot on the globe and breathe in the pure spirit of an Omani’s hardscrabble working life. Afterwards, you can treat yourself to the luxury of replenishing your drink supplies and, if necessary, your fuel (where better than in a petroleum desert?) and move on.
Experience the desert
As soon as you leave Al Ghabah, the vastness of a desert-like scenery, once home to the Bedouins, opens up to you. The nomadic desert dwellers were employed in oil fields, as the region around the local province of Al Wusta is rich in deposits of black gold. As you drive through the dusty terrain, you get the feeling that hardly a soul gets lost in this godforsaken place? Don’t worry! In the midst of the wilderness between gravel and grit south of the small town of Haima, life is returning. This is because a rare species of antelope has been resettled on the edge of the Jiddat al-Harasis rocky desert.
The oryx antelope, with their black facial markings and long-bladed horns, fell victim to extinction in the wild, and on your journey are a small miracle of life in an otherwise lifeless desolation, enchanting your senses with an expression of beauty all their own. If you want to visit the reserve, please contact the “Office for Conservation of the Environment” in order to get an access permit. An all-wheel drive SUV is also a must here.
Pay a visit to the rare black dromedaries at their FARMosen home in Al Hashman and prepare for the sedimentary structure to take on dizzyingly tiny dimensions as your Oman tour continues. Because soon you are about to enter the largest sand desert in the world.
Rub Al-Khali sand desert
Nothing but off behind the wheel and on to the penultimate ride of this stage in the desert atlantis Ubar. The excavation site near the Shisr oasis gives you a small foretaste of the powdery expanses of the Rub Al-Khali sand desert, whose impressive dune ridges soon stretch out their long-limbed fangs at you. But before that, you will first reach the “Empty Quarter” and Ramlat Fasat, a low gravel plain between gigantic dune ranges. Have your camera at the ready, capture the desert wind and enjoy grandiose moments of wonder on the desert adventure of a lifetime.
So that you don’t get to feel in the flesh what it means to be blown away by the wind, we strongly advise you not to plunge into the sand mountains with your own vehicle! This is a real danger to life if you get stuck with your car and sink into the sand faster than you can count to three.
Nevertheless, if you want to ride the dunes, you should definitely organize an experienced guide. However, expect that this one won’t cover huge dimensions in the area either, as such a daring adventure should never be undertaken with just one vehicle. All those who are interested in desert tours can find more information in my desert tours guide Oman.
The stage destination: Salalah
In the further course of your Oman round trip, you will pass through Thumrait, the second largest urbanization in the province of Dhofar, and follow the scent of the legendary Frankincense Road before arriving in Salalah, the place of longing. You can find a detailed city portrait of Salalah here.
2nd stage east coast Oman – jewels whispered by the sea wind between Fazayah and Muscat
Salalah and surroundings
Before you leave the sun mecca Salalah behind you, you should not miss a detour in the opposite direction. For at the wild Mughsail Beach, impetuous blow holes and the graphically charming Zig Zag Road await you, whose curve crests resemble a real eye of a needle. Just behind Mughsail you can enjoy another real beach pearl with Fazayah Beach. Even if this turn towards the Yemeni border means that you lose about an hour of driving time, this route is worth it a thousand percent.
Off to Mirbat
Continue your journey north of Salalah and dedicate yourself to the golden treasures by the sea, as bathing dreams become reality at Taqa Beach and Mirbat Beach. Be sure to take in the magical scenery at Wadi Darbat as well as the curious Anti Gravity Point before diving into Mirbat. Coral stone houses wrap the picture of the fishing village in an enchanting glow and during a trip with a traditional dhow you are already swinging in your mind towards the destination of your Oman round trip. The sight of the impressive Jebel Samhan massif will accompany you on your Oman road trip along the coast.
At Wadi Shuwaymiyah, a small waterfall brings you a breath of fresh air and in Marmul you can once again reminisce about the oil fields of the first stage. From here, the veins of a pipeline network extend to Muscat, where the oil is loaded at the port. In Marmul, get a picture of the “nodding donkeys” – pumps used to pump crude oil.
In a short time you will meet a real sensation. For those who don’t have their rose-colored glasses on yet will do so in Al Kahil at the latest. There, the Pink Lagoon awaits you – an almost unreal domicile of humility before the forces that nature has to offer. Thanks to the higher-than-average salt and iron content, you’ll dip your toes in lollipop-pink water here and probably encounter flamingos that are almost indistinguishable from the lagoon’s coloring. Continue the color spectacle of the Omani gods at Ras Madrakah, as a mix of anthracite volcanic rock, ivory sand and the turquoise color of the ocean beckon you.
Traverse the region around the bizarre coral fields of Duqm, the fishing village of Al Khaluf and surrender to the off-road feeling when you jet along the sugary white dunes at Ras ar-Ruways on the Bar Al Hikman peninsula. If you feel like breaking away from your planned route, hop on the nearest car ferry and take a 90-minute ride to Masirah Island. A last time Omani desert feeling during your fabulous Oman round trip you experience in the desert Wahiba Sands, whose aeolianites follow the brush stroke of the wind.
The last kilometers of your Oman round trip will take you through the fishing village of Al Ashkara and then to the port city of Sur. Experience traditional Omani craftsmanship in the dhow yards and let your lungs float in the flow of lush wilderness at the natural pools at Wadi Bani Khalid before heading back to the big city civilization. Visit the ancient watchtowers in Al Mudhayrib, stroll through the old town lined with stone houses in Ibra, and plunge headlong into the hustle and bustle of the souk. Across the Sumail Pass in the mighty Hajar Mountains, the arms of Muscat lovingly welcome you at the end of your Oman tour.
3rd stage Emirates – detour to unshakably traditional Abu Dhabi and avant-garde dazzling Dubai
How do you feel after your monumental Oman road trip on your own? Have you tasted blood and want more of the conventional life of Arabia, a contrast program with a touch of madness or do you prefer the gray version instead of the black and white? Whatever your heart may be, set it on fire with a stopover in Dubai and/or Abu Dhabi.
Tickle the sky by the sole as you zoom in on the play of fountains at dizzying heights from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and be seduced by the alabaster-like face of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Do you ever want to go home again?