Oman – Arabian Desert Explorer

Sitting peacefully among its more turbulent neighbours, Oman is a calm and composed nation, renowned for its awe-inspiring natural scenery. From its stark and desolate interior, to its verdant and fertile coastline, our two-week tour will take us through these contrasting landscapes. We’ll meet local Bedouins along the way and camp beneath starry skies.

We start in the bustling town of Muscat, delving into Omani history and heritage. Then we’ll venture out into the Arabian Sea to spot the local dolphins, often seen in their hundreds. The next couple of days see us travelling away from the city and into Oman’s stunning countryside. We’ll pass through traditional villages, the Hajjar mountains and ‘The Grand Canyon of Oman’, or Jebel Shams.

We continue on to Nizwa, the cultural capital of the country. Here we’ll explore its souqs and impressive, ancient fort, before moving on to the enormous dunes of Wahiba Sands. This is home to a surprising amount of wildlife, and populated by Bedouin who eke out an existence around the few desert oases here.

The next leg of our journey takes us through Oman’s least-populated regions, where the wildest and most remote deserts are found. These are home to Bedouin nomads, unusual rock structures and great white dunes, as well as the legendary ‘lost city’ of Ubar.

Having crossed Arabia’s southern deserts via the Empty Quarter and Qara mountains, the tour will finish up in Salalah. Here we can wander through the aromatic alleyways of the Al Husn souq, alive with the colour of cotton headdresses and glittering Omani lanterns. This will be also be a chance to shower off the dust and reflect on our incredible expedition.

This small group tour takes us via Oman’s well-known highlights, to the regions that aren’t so well-known and in fact, are barely visited.

Oman Arabian Desert Explorer main itinerary image


  • Spot dolphins in the Arabian Sea
  • Hike through the 'Grand Canyon of Oman', Jebel Shams
  • Explore the magnificent Wahiba Sands and its gigantic dunes
  • Camp on the shores of the Indian Ocean
  • Explore the historic town of Nizwa and its 17th century fort
  • Go off roading in the 'Empty Quarter' - a vast region of Arabia's southern deserts

Day 1 - Muscat

Arrive in Muscat and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Overnight Best Western Hotel or similar.


Strategically situated at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Muscat has been an important trading town on the crossroads between east and west for at least two millennia. During the 16th and 17th centuries it changed hands between Portuguese and Turkish invaders several times before returning to local control.

The discovery of oil in the 1960s saw Muscat grow from a small harbour town into a large and modern city, fuelling a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society as workers from countries such as India arrive in search of work. Muscat originally consisted only of the area known as Old Muscat, a walled town on a natural harbour which houses excellent examples of traditional Omani architecture and a couple of Portuguese built forts dating back to the 16th century.

Day 2 - Muscat

This morning we head out onto the Gulf of Oman to see the local dolphins – in this area they are usually very active and can sometimes be seen in groups of up to five hundred. After lunch on a small island we return to the mainland and explore Muscat, visiting its key sites such as the historic quarter and the Bait Zubair Museum with its exhibits on Omani history and heritage. Overnight Best Western Hotel or similar. (BL)

Day 3 - Wadi Bani Awf – Jebel Shams

Visit the Grand Mosque in Muscat, before heading into some of Oman’s most stunning countryside as we drive into Wadi Bani Awf. The wadi leads into ‘snake canyon’ with its waterfalls and rocky pools, and then we cross the Hajjar Mountains, stopping in small traditional villages along the way. At the end of the day we enter the Jebel Shams range, where we spend the night. Overnight Jebel Shams Resort or similar. (B)

Day 4 - Jebel Shams

Spend the day exploring Jebel Shams, the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’. We take an easy hike from the village of Al Khitaym through the rim of Al Nakhur Canyon, with great views of the villages at the bottom, and end up at the abandoned village of Al Sab before returning to the hotel. On the way we take lunch in a local family home, for an insight into Omani traditions. Overnight Jebel Shams Resort or similar. (BL)

Day 5 - Nizwa

Drive to the village of Al Hamra, with traditional mud brick houses dating back 400 years. Take lunch in a local home, before continuing to the historic town of Nizwa, Oman’s cultural capital with one of the country’s most impressive forts. Explore its souqs and the fort before heading to Jabrin Castle, dating to the 17th century. Overnight Falaj Daris Hotel or similar. (BL)


The town of Nizwa has historically been a very important oasis offering respite from the often harsh landscape surrounding it, and is a key centre for growing dates. However it is far better known for its splendid fort built in the 17th century and painstakingly restored in 1990. The fort is vast and contains many different sections, including a Koranic school, a mosque, a prison and living quarters.

Once the capital of Oman, Nizwa became an important centre for trade and education, profiting from its strategic position between Muscat and Dhofar. The town has been extensively modernised under Sultan Qaboos bin Said, but retains its flavour, especially in the back streets of the old souq.

Day 6 - Sinaw – Al Munisifeh – Wahiba Sands

Vsiit the lively souk at Sinaw, and then continue to the abandoned village of Munisifieh, with its ruined mud brick mansions. From here drive to the Wahiba Sands, a mass of undulating dunes, with fantastic opportunities for off road driving. We stay tonight in a wild camp in the middle of the dunes. (BLD)

Wahiba Sands

The Wahiba Sands are characterised by enormous rolling dunes, some as high as 150 metres, stretching as far as the eye can see – a quintessential desert landscape that is as beautiful as it is austere. Named after the Wahiba tribe, the region is home to Bedouin who manage to eke out an existence around the few oases, and is also home to a surprising amount of wildlife. Immortalised by the travels of Wilfred Thesiger, a journey into the sands offers a superb opportunity to experience desert wilderness.

Day 7 - Desert Crossing

Accompanied by a Bedouin guide, we cross the desert to the coast, and end up at the beautiful beach of Al Qahid. We camp tonight on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Days 8 - Duqm

Drive along a stunning coastline to Duqm, visiting the ‘rock garden’, an area of unusual and very photogenic rock structures and the white sand dunes of Khaluf. Overnight Crowne Plaza Hotel or similar. (B)

Days 9-10 - The Empty Quarter

We spend two days travelling through the renowned ‘empty quarter’, a vast and sparsely populated region of Arabia’s southern deserts. We head first towards the Qara Mountains with their views of the Salalah plains, then cross the gravel desert of El Nejd before reaching the ‘lost city’ of Ubar. Though what’s left is quite small, it is thought that this was the southern end of the ‘Frankincense Trail’ which led northwards through the region. Continue on through the desert, exploring on foot and by vehicle, en route to Salalah. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Day 11 - Salalah

Drive to Salalah, visiting Wadi Dawka on the way – home to the largest collection of frankincense trees in the region. After a welcome shower and chance to freshen up, in the evening head out to the local souk to explore. Overnight Bilad Bont Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 12 - Salalah

Spend the day exploring Salalah and the surrounding area. We visit the old fishing village of Taqah, as well as its fort, then continue to the ruins of the city of Sumahram, once an important centre of the frankincense trade. On the way back we visit the lush Wadi Darbat as well as the Al Balid archaeological site, housing the remains of the ancient city of Zufar. Overnight Bilad Bont Hotel or similar. (BL)

Day 13 - Salalah

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)

Optional Pre or Post Tour Bahrain Extension

Day 1 - Bahrain

Arrive in Bahrain and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Overnight Golden Tulip Hotel or similar.

Day 2 - Bahrain

Spend today exploring the island of Bahrain. We head south to see the vast site of A’Ali, home to numerous burial mounds dating back 4000 years, then take a closer look at the burial chambers of Saar. We also stop at the fort at Riffa and the remains of the temple of Barbar, before returning to the capital Manama and exploring its lively souq, and the impressive Bahrain Fort, overlooking the ocean. Overnight Golden Tulip Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 3 - Bahrain

This morning visit the National Museum to give a bit more of an insight into the history and traditions of the island. We then drive to the island of Muharraq, home to a beautifully restored historic quarter which gives an idea of what much of the country would have looked like before the discovery of oil. After a visit to a nearby shipyard which builds traditional dhows, the afternoon is free to relax or explore. Overnight Golden Tulip Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 4 - Bahrain

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Please note: this extension can be modified to fit your flights – for example if you are flying into Bahrain early in the morning of Day 1, excursions can start on that day rather than waiting until Day 2. Similarly, you could fly out in the afternoon / evening of Day 3 rather than have a third night in Bahrain.

Optional Pre or Post Tour Qatar Extension

Day 1 - Doha

Arrive in Doha and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Best Western Hotel or similar. (B)

With its rich history and capital Doha emerging as one of the Gulf’s most progressive cities, Qatar is establishing itself among its more well-known neighbours.

An amalgamation of ancient tradition and cosmopolitan modernity, Qatar lends itself perfectly to those visitors wanting to experience the best of both of these worlds in the Middle East. From priceless treasures at the Museum of Islamic Art, camel racing in the desert, the traditional souq to a flourishing art scene, Doha appeals to visitors with a broad range of interests.  Further afield, the magnificent but little-known Al Jassasiya rock carvings are thought to span from the third century and give a little insight into Qatar’s ancient past.

Due to its abundance in oil and gas, Qatar now attracts significant international investment and as such, tourism. This, coupled with its rich historic sites and fascinating heritage puts it firmly on the world stage. This was recently cemented with its debut as a host for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar is unquestionably one of the Gulf’s most dynamic and vibrant states and a bucket list destination for those travellers interested in the history and modern development of the Middle East.

Day 2 - Doha

After breakfast we explore the city. The contrast between history and modernity, old and new is very apparent in this fast growing metropolis.  We visit the National Museum of Qatar, as well as Doha’s historical quarter at the Souq Waqif Heritage Market with its extensive wares including an array of spices and herbs, textiles and art. We then head to Doha’s modern landmarks, from the Corniche at the waterfront to the West Bay District with its towering skyscrapers including Doha Tower and the government buildings, as well as the cultural village of Katara with its mosques, amphitheatre and sculptures. Overnight Best Western Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 3 - Desert Safari

After breakfast we head south, venturing into the desert to drive through the dunes to the inland sea of Khor al Adaid, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. Return to Doha and the afternoon is free. Overnight Best Western Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 4 - Doha

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Optional Pre or Post Tour Musandam Extension

Day 1 - Khasab - Wadi Tawi

Arrive in Khasab and transfer to the hotel. In the afternoon we head out to explore the capital and get an introduction to the Musandam Peninsula. We visit Khasab Fort, built in the 17th century by the Portuguese and housing the best ethnographic museum in Oman. From here we drive to Wadi Tadi with its prehistoric rock paintings.  Overnight Atana Hotel or Similar. (D)

Day 2 - Jebel Harim

After breakfast we drive via 4wd vehicle along winding and mountainous roads. The drive can be breath-taking at times, offering some of Oman’s most stunning scenery as we pass terraced mountain villages, lush Acacia forests and wadis. Along the way we stop at Saya, one of the most picturesque villages on the Peninsula.  We continue to Jebel Harim (translated as the Mountain of Women) where we can enjoy panoramic views from the mountain’s summit.  From here we drive to Rowdah village, a mountain settlement with a pre-Islamic graveyard. Our drive back takes us a different route and we can enjoy ocean views at Khawr Najid and Al Khalidya Nature Reserve before heading back to Khasab. Overnight Atana Hotel or Similar. (BD)

Day 3 - Dhow Cruise

Today we enjoy a full day aboard a traditional Omani dhow. We head to Musandam’s most spectacular fjords – often dubbed the Norway of Arabia with its calm turquoise waters and limestone cliffs.  We pass through small fishing villages and may encounter dolphins. There are two anchored stops during the day for lunch and to swim. Overnight Atana Hotel or similar. (BD)

Please note: dhows are very basic although they do have shaded areas.

Day 4 - Dubai

After breakfast transfer to Dubai airport. (B)

Please note that flights to Khasab are not included in the cost, but can be arranged if you need us to.

Oman itinerary - historic fort
Mountain scenery - Jebel Akhdar, Oman
Traditional palace - Oman itinerary

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    Please note that while we prefer to use centrally located hotels where possible, this is not always practical and in some locations they may not be the best option in terms of standards or reliability.

  • Guides

    In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • Airport taxes

    If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.


Most nationalities will require a visa in advance for visiting Oman which can be obtained as an e-visa. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit 


It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company. 


The local currency here is the rial, and US dollars, Euros and UK pounds are all accepted for exchange purposes. Your guide will be able to help you change money.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

This is particularly relevant to this trip – Saudi Arabia has a very different culture to our own, most visibly concerning the status of women in society. Please respect the advice of your guide at all times in order to avoid problems during the tour.

Many sites close between noon and 3pm, and you’ll also find that long lunches are fairly customary here, which uses this time reasonably effectively – adapting to this slower pace is necessary when you’re here.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Oman.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Updated July 2023

Oman itinerary - historic fort
Mountain scenery - Jebel Akhdar, Oman
Traditional palace - Oman itinerary
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21 January 2024
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