8. From Muscat: 4-Day Oman Highlights Tour
Get picked up from anywhere in Muscat and drive to visit the beautiful Nakhl Fortress. Lying amongst mountain foothills in a small village with extensive date palm plantations, this magnificent 350-year-old fortress rises out of the mountain rock, towering high above the ancient village, as if still warning would-be attackers of its ominous strength.
Tour the inside of the restored fortress and visit all the rooms which have been decorated in their original style. Learn about the network of hidden escape routes and secret passages that riddle the structure. Admire an outstanding view from the top of the fortress over the mountains and green date plantations.
From there, drive into the Wadi Bani Awf, a picturesque dry valley. Pass by the impressive Wadi Canyons and several small villages on a scenic 1.5-hour drive before continuing up the road leading into the Jebel Shams Mountains. Enjoy the adventurous, off-road drive up the mountain and take in fantastic views of the valley below. Then head to Nizwa where you'll stay for the night.
Get an early start to visit the famous Nizwa Souq, a traditional market that is among the largest of its kind in Oman. A wide variety of vendors offer their goods in the streets of the souk from 5:00 am to about 10:00 am each morning. Peruse stalls selling fish, meat, vegetables, pottery, jewelry, handicrafts, and souvenirs clustered in authentic old market halls. Especially interesting is the Friday cattle market when the locals from nearby villages come to sell their donkeys, goats, cattle, sheep, and chickens in a circus-style open market place.
Next to the Souq is Nizwa Fortress. The fort is a museum today and offers splendid views of the ancient town and surrounding mountains. Wander around the impressive fortress and visit its many rooms, passages, and towers. Learn how the fort stands as an architectural testimony to the economic and military achievements of the early Yaruba dynasty from the mid-17th century. Imagine how perilous it was to walk the corridors during the times when numerous traps were laid to deter any intruders that might have penetrated the outer defenses.
In the afternoon, head out to the Wahiba Sands desert for a relaxing night of desert camping. Go on an adventurous 4x4 sand dune drive and watch the stunning desert sunset from the top of one of the biggest dunes. Finish the day with dinner at the camp and a relaxing evening around a romantic campfire before heading to your tent for the night.
After a relaxing, slow breakfast in the desert camp, get underway to Wadi Bani Khalid, one of the biggest and most beautiful desert valleys in Oman. Spend time swimming, sunbathing, and having a picnic in the scenic wadi canyons.
Drive on to Sur for a short city tour before continuing to Ras al Hadd to check in to your accommodation for the night. In the evening, visit the turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz. Go on a beautiful walking tour of the beach under the stars and spot the great sea turtles that stumble on to the beaches of Oman to build nests and lay their eggs. If you are lucky, you might even see baby turtles hatching from some nests.
On the last day, head to Wadi Shab, an enormous canyon gorge lined with palm trees and impressive indications of the power of the water that periodically rushes down from the mountains. Go on a 45-minute hike through the canyon to reach the first of several crystal clear water pools. Take a leisurely swim through the warm water from pool to pool until you reach the last one where an opening in the enormous rocks allows you to swim into a narrow cave with a small waterfall. Marvel at the speckles of sunlight that filter in, turning the water a beautiful turquoise blue color, and the water showering down one side of the cave from the Wadi beyond.
In the late afternoon, drive back to Muscat.