Some of the most dramatic yet accessible mountain scenery in Oman is along the route from Dibba to Wadi Bih, known as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East. This route passes through a twisting gorge called Wadi Khab Al Shamis, a green area that is refreshingly different to the stony sparseness of Wadi Bih. There’s a steady climb up to the summit, with some of the most beautiful views in the country, before you head down on a graded track that drops 700m in just over seven kilometres – a real blast on a mountain bike. From the UAE you can also drive up to Khasab via Ras Al Khaimah, right to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, passing mangroves, sabkha (salt flats) and desert to the famous fjords of Arabia.
The majestic Western Hajars are easily accessible from several different starting points in Oman. Driving from Muscat, head through the scenic Samail Gap; alternatively you can visit Wadi Damm, home to the ancient Beehive Tombs of Al Ayn and Bat. There’s a back-breaking 70km road bike ride from Al Sheif up to Sayq Plateau, which lets you explore more than 30 villages. Travel north to the region’s highest peak Jebel Shams, where there’s an incredible choice of hikes. While here, head for Al Hoota Cave for an underground expedition and leave time for the hugely rewarding Abandoned Village Walk. Further north, the spectacular Wadi Bani Awf is a perennial favourite, from which you can head to Snake Canyon.
Dunes & dolphins
From the UAE, head to Nizwa first; on the way you can stop at Ibri, where daily auctions see residents haggle over dates, vegetables, honey and livestock; and then head to Bahla, an ancient walled city believed to be one of the oldest inhabited regions in Oman. A stop-over in Nizwa allows you to check out the souk, fort and Al Hoota Cave. Accommodation choice is a little limited in Nizwa itself, but try the Golden Tulip for a hospitable stay.
Next, head to Muscat for some luxury and culture – with attractions including Mutrah Souk on the Corniche, dolphin-watching trips from the coast and historical buildings. There are a number of five-star hotels to choose from in Muscat; a good option is the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah, which has great facilities for kids.
Just outside Muscat you’ll find Bib Maryam’s tomb and a dhow-building yard, Yiti and As Sifah beaches, as well as picturesque pools, waterfalls and date plantations.
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