By Sharifa Al Badi
Known for its history as an empire, its frankiencense and its delicious halwa, the Sultanate of Oman is also popular for its natural beauty. As they say “beauty has an address”, and below are our top natural havens you must see the next time you are in the Sultanate.
“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh
There is something so exhilarating about being 2000 m above sea level; the fresh air, feeling like you are on top of the world and the sight of the stars. This mountain, as the name denotes in Arabic, in Oman is one of the Sultanate’s protected treasures. To this day, parts of it cannot be accessed by car and only on foot.
Al Jabal Al Akhdar is known for its untouched landscapes, its fragrant rose bushes and star gazing. Home to two luxurious resorts, including the Alila Resort, which was on the US Conde Nast Gold Travel List in 2016, at Al Jabal Al Akhdar you can be sure to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, do some stargazing using the telescopes at most of the hotels there, and hiking. The weather is pleasant year-round, and the night sky always looks like its straight out of a fairy tale. All year around, you can also visit the rose water distillery there to check out the traditional method of extraction. Plus, did you know that the late Princess Diana camped out in the open fields there once upon a time during the 80s?
But you are my oasis
Wadi Bani Khalid, a ravine located in the Eastern region of Oman, is around 200 kilometres away from the capital Muscat. It is a popular tourist destination, as the wadi (unlike many other wadis) maintains a constant stream of water throughout the year. The beautiful oasis also has caves you can check out and natural crystal-clear ponds scattered around the area. With a tour guide, you can take a boat down the stream, swim and even camp in the area.
A 2-million-year-old underground treasure
Al Hoota Cave is a must visit if you are in Oman. Located at the foot of Jabal Shams, the cave is estimated to be 2 million years old! Plus, it is the only show cave in the Arabian Peninsula that includes four lakes that have a maximum depth of around 15 meters. In the cave dwell the famous and rare blind fish: the Garra Barreimae or, in other words, “The Cave Nibblers”, which you can see when you take the tour. In addition, there are other species to spot such as bats, mollusks, snails, water beetles and more. The cave is a rich ecosystem of different species that have lived there for years and years, all protected and preserved. Furthermore, some of the shapes and forms you will see in the year took a million years to shape and form. How majestic is that?
Soak your feet in a hole made by a star
Legend has it that a shooting star fell onto earth and created this famed sinkhole in Oman, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Bimmah Sinkhole is 600 m away from the sea and is located between the coastal towns of Dibab and Bimmah, which are to the east of Muscat. Think of it as an open underground cave where a staircase takes you down to a pool of turquoise waters that you can swim and wonder about the marvels of the world in.
A traditional Omani night
Get cozy in the town of Misfat Al Abriyeen and experience life in a traditional Omani mountain village. The village is made up of stone and mud houses, estimated to have been built over 300 years ago. To this day, hardly any development has spoilt the natural site. All buildings were made up of natural materials, resulting in the earthy palette of the houses and cobble stone paths of the village.
You can spend the night in the famous Misfah Old House, a family home that has been converted to a snug hotel. A small number of rooms but worth the experience, there is a shared terrace that gives you a full view of the village. Plus, you can have dinner with the owner, who will tell you about the property, which has been in his family for three generations. A room stay includes a local breakfast and dinner made using ingredients from the village.
Take a hike through Wakan Village
A small mountain village located in Al Batinah region, Wakan Village is a must see if you are visiting Oman. It is one of the most scenic and beautiful villages in the country. It is approximately 2000 meters above sea level and has terraced gardens overlooking the mountains and Wadi Mistal. Get in a good workout as there are a number of steps you need to walk up to get there, and take in the greenery, the majestic mountain range and the intricate falaj system. The people of the village rely on agriculture, and if you go around mid-March you get to see lines and lines of different crops like pomegranates, grapes and even apricots.
The land of frankincense
I could write 1000 words and it still would not do this place any justice. Some people describe the region of Dhofar as “Heaven on earth” due to its monsoon climate and green mountains, making it a one of a special place in the region. Salalah is the largest city in and is the capital of the southern Omani governate of Dhofar. It is also the second largest city in the country.
It is also known for its frankincense, a precious commodity around the world. In fact, there is a frankincense museum in Salalah on a UNESCO heritage site, Al Baleed. Salalah is also known for its vigorous beaches and waterfalls. The best time to visit it is during monsoon season ( from July to September), when you can enjoy the lovely weather, fresh coconuts, bananas and other yummy fruits, and even visit some famous ancient tombs.
Did you say pink lagoons?
For some scientific reason some waters in Oman have turned flamingo pink and people can’t help but be in awe. Some of them (check out photos of them here) are located in Jalan Bani Bu Ali in Southern Sharqiyah (around a 300 km drive from the capital), and another in a small town called Al Jazir. The pink beach is nothing short of magnificent and sure is Instaworthy, no filter needed.
Sharifa Al Badi is a published writer and author from the magical lands of Oman. She has written for Esquire ME, Khaleejesque and The Culture Trip. She is also the author of “Themis Aella & The Magical Forest” and “50 Things To Know As An Adult.”