Best Things to do in Muscat written by a local, who lives in Oman for the last five years. Muscat is the pulsating heart of Oman. Blessed with pristine nature and the cultural values it is holding close. Unlike other GCC countries the city doesn’t have the charm of a high tech metropolis but with an unending possibility to enjoy a vacation in a much-relaxed way.
Muscat can satisfy all types of travelers as it has everything to offer from Luxury, Beaches, Adventures, Food, history, and culture.
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Most of the major attractions in Muscat are within the city limit. Some of the best things to do in Muscat are:
1) Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
No one will be able to miss this architectural marvel as it is right in the center of the city. The largest Swarovski crystal chandelier is installed in the main prayer hall of the mosque and the second-largest hand-woven carpet in the world. It’s one of the most Instagrammed spots in Muscat.
2) Royal Opera House
The royal opera house is the center of excellence in global cultural engagement in Muscat built with a vision of promoting cultural tourism in the country. Opera Galleria, a shopping mall with premium luxury products is attached to the main building so it can be considered also as a lifestyle destination for fine quality branded product shopping.
3) Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of the Sultan of Oman. It is located in the old Muscat area. The palace has a history of more than 200 years. A recommended Photo Stop while in the city.
4) Mutrah Souq & Corniche
Mutrah in the old Muscat was once the trade center of Oman because of its proximity to the Old port of Muscat. Stretched alongside the Mutrah cornice is the famous Mutrah souq, which still retains the vibe of a traditional Arab market. Numerous shops are lined on both sides of the walkway selling Arabic and Indian artifacts. Few antiques and traditional textile shops are of the interest of most of the tourists visiting here.
Forts and castles
Visiting forts and castles is definitely one of the best things to do in Muscat. Constructional methods and unique materials used make the forts in Muscat unique. The best way to have a close encounter with the ancient Arab culture and foreign invasions in the country is to visit the forts and castles. There are a handful of them within the City and also in its close proximity. Some of the best forts to visit while in Muscat are:
5) Mutrah Fort
Built by the Portuguese in 1580, this fort used to guard the eastern side of the harbor. One of the best views of the entire corniche and the port can be witnessed from the top of the fort.
6) Nizwa Fort
One and a half-hour drive from the city of Muscat is the cultural city of Nizwa which was once the Capital of Oman. Because of the cultural significance and the deep-rooted history, Nizwa Fort is considered as the best fort in the whole of Oman and one of the most visited tourist spots too. The fort is surrounded by the Old market of Nizwa “the Nizwa Souq” and it is famous for the Friday market which is still happening in the old fashion. Rather than just a Fort, it is built like a castle. Surrounded by the Al Hajir mountain ranges, the views from the fort are breathtaking. It’s an amazing example of Omani culture and history.
7) Jabreen Castle
A castle that is considered to be the most beautiful castle in all of Oman. This can be easily visited during a day trip from Muscat to Nizwa. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the Nizwa town. Jabreen castle used to be the center for learning astrology, medicine, and Islamic laws during ancient times. Surrounded by palm tree farms Jabreen castle is an impressive sight.
8) Bahla Fort
It is one of the historic fortresses situated at the foot of Al Hajir mountain ranges and also the only UNESCO world heritage listed fort in the country. Bahla also can be accommodated within the day trip to Nizwa. Bahla is a very close city to Nizwa and is around a 2-hour drive from Muscat. Banu Nabhan tribe who dominated the central Omani region from the 12th to 15th century made Bahla their capital and established relationships with other tribal groups of the interior regions.
Bahla fort is constructed as a brick-walled oasis in the middle of the desert. There is a myth among the locals that Bahla Fort and the surroundings are haunted and are still the center of some occult practices and magic. Many stories of Jins and ghosts are circulating in the neighborhood which attracts some thrill-seekers also to this place.
9) Nakhal Fort
Nakhal Fort is situated in the Al Batinah region of Oman, a little more than a 1-hour drive from Muscat. Overlooking the Nakhal Town. Surrounded by the orchard of palm trees the battlements provide a beautiful view of the Batinah region and also the old Nakhal village below it. The fort houses a museum exhibiting historic guns. The Fort also hosts the weekly goat market to date. The natural warm springs of Ain A'Thawwarah is very close to the fort.
Beaches and Wadis
Muscat is very famous for its beautiful clean beaches with turquoise water. The city of Muscat is constructed along the coastline of the country therefore the city has beach access every few kilometers. Beaches in muscat are very swimming friendly as the waves are weak or mostly there are no waves. Some of the best beaches to visit while in muscat are:
10) Qurm beach
Located in the very heart of the city fringe with many upscale hotels and restaurants Qurm beach is one of the most popular beaches among locals and tourists. This long stretch of sand can be accessed from multiple points. There is a well-maintained park with manicured grass and plants making it a good family picnic spot.
11) Qantab beach
Just outside the chaos of the city, a 20-minute drive from the city center, Quantab beach is popular for the boat rides, which will take you along the coastline of Muscat. You will go through the famous rock arch formation on the sea and can choose to do camping in some remote beaches which can only be accessed by a boat.
12) Seeb Beach
Near to the Muscat international airport, Seeb beach is very popular among kitesurfers. Weekends will be very active with locals. There are also activities available like jet ski rides and quad bike rides.
Apart from beaches, Muscat is very famous for its wadis, water streams and pools originating from the rocky mountains. A unique experience of wilderness in the desert which no other countries in the middle east can offer.
Camping, swimming in wadis and natural pools, hiking and climbing adventures are some of the popular activities. It's also the first choice of adventure seekers who are coming to Oman. There are many wadis that are in the close proximity of the city which makes it easy for anyone to access.
13) Wadi Shab
Located in the Al Sharaqiya region in Oman, Wadi Shab is one of the most popular wadis near Muscat which is just a 1.5 hours drive from the city area. The long hiking trail in the deep canyon can be accessed by crossing the first water body on a boat which is the first step into the wilderness. There are a number of big pools on the way and the most exciting one will be the last one which can only be accessed by swimming through a narrow passage in between the rocks. A minimum of 3 hours hiking is recommended to enjoy the most of Wadi Shab.
14) Wadi Tiwi
Within the close proximity of Wadi Shab is Wadi Tiwi. Rather than the exciting pools and easy hiking trails in Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi is for more adventurous souls. Wadi Tiwi hiking demands some physical strength as the very depth of the trail can be reached by climbing and abseiling only.
15) Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid is the most popular weekend and holiday destination among the locals. The easy access to the location made it suitable for all types of people. A fair amount of water will be present in the pools here throughout the year. The mountain surrounded terrain itself is a beautiful sight worth visiting. It’s a 3-hour drive away from Muscat city.
16) Wadi Al Arbeieen
Wadi Al Arbeieen is located in the interior area of the town of Quriyat which is not very far from Muscat but requires an off-road vehicle to access the roads. The wadi is surrounded by a small Omani village. Therefore, visiting there is not only about the close call with nature but to witness the Omani village life and also to enjoy a scenic off-road drive.
17) Bimmah sinkhole
Bimmah sinkhole is not a Wadi but a large crater believed to be formed by an asteroid strike. Surprisingly it formed a large water pool which is 30 meters below the surface which can be accessed through some steep steps. Cliff jumping into the pool is popular among the thrill-seekers even though no jumping warnings are displayed there. The turquoise water in the pool is ideal for swimming too. It is located in a not so populated area near the sea and the beaches near to it are ideal spots for night camping.
Being a coastal city, many of the popular things to do in Muscat are also related to the sea.
18) Snorkeling and Dolphin watching
Snorkeling in the pristine clear waters of the Arabian sea can be an unforgettable experience. For those who are not comfortable getting into the water, they can enjoy the sight of jumping dolphins above the surface from the boat itself. If lucky enough then there are chances to see sea turtles too. But it is recommended to do snorkeling to enjoy the vibrant marine life on the coast of Muscat.
Boats can be easily hired from any marina in Muscat. A popular location for Dolphine watching in Muscat is Bandar al Khairan. But the best-recommended location for snorkeling is Ad Damniyat island which is a two-hour cruising from the Muscat mainland and it is a protected natural marine reserve. The coral reefs here are considered to be one among the most beautiful in the world.
19) Scuba diving
Oman is considered to be one of the most beautiful places to do Scuba diving. The variety of corals and marine life and numerous wreck diving sites attract divers from different parts of the world. The calm sea here is ideal for the first-timers and those who have even little experience with water can try scuba diving with the aid of some experienced instructors. Discover scuba is for beginners and is offered by almost all the diving centers in Muscat. Bandar al Khairan, Fahal Island and Ad Damniyat island are some of the popular dive sites in Muscat among which diving with the whale sharks at Damniyat island can be an unforgettable experience.
20) Semi-submarine ride
Semi submarine ride is for the ones who don’t want to get wet but still want to experience the beauty of marine life in the cost of Muscat. Glass bottom semi-submerged boats are available for those who want to enjoy the views within the comfort of a closed safe cabin.
21) Dhow Dinner cruise
Enjoy the dinner in a traditional Dhow, which is a kind of boat used for sailing in seas. Enjoy some traditional Arabic and Indian cuisines on the deck of the traditional sailing vessel while enjoying the view of the beautiful coastline of Muscat.
22) Dune bashing
Dune bashing in Muscat can be done even within the city limit. Bousher dunes are surprisingly in the very heart of the city. The sand dunes of Bousher is the best place to enjoy a dune drive without the hassle of traveling far away from the city. It is just 10 minutes away from the city center. Quad bikes are available on an hourly basis and also you can enjoy a drive by yourself with a 4x4 vehicle.
But if you want to have the real desert experience, then a 3-hour drive will take you to one of the highest sand dunes in the middle east, the Wahiba sands. The red fine sand of Wahiba stretched across an area of 12,500 square kilometers. The recommended option is to do a night camping with a bonfire and enjoy the dune bashing with some expert locals. One can choose a camp from many which fits the level of comfort and luxury for you.
Muscat is always considered among travelers as a place to enjoy a relaxing getaway rather than a busy and happening vacation. With lush greenery, beautiful mountains, cliffs that are kissing the sea and the number of surprises this Oasis has to offer will blow the mind of every traveler. No wonder why Muscat is called “the hidden Gem of Middle East”
Map of best things to do in Muscat
We have prepared a detailed map of all the best things to do in Muscat to help you plan your trip out. Points of interest are divided by categories. Each category has a different color for easy orientation.
The map can be exported and uploaded to the mobile map app like Maps.me or Locus map.
Best things to do in Muscat - Author's Bio:
The best things to do in Muscat were written by Sreejith Rajmohan, who is an expat photo blogger based in Muscat, Oman for the last five years. His passion is to travel and capture the beauty of the places he visits through his lens. Sreejith documents all his travel adventure and photographs on his travel photo blog ‘The Picture Perfect Tales’. You can find him also on Instagram or E-mail.
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Best things to do in Muscat - FAQ:
What are the major attractions in Muscat?
The major attractions are Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House, Al Alam Palace, or Mutrah Corniche. Read more about major attractions here.
What are the best Forts and Castles to visit in Muscat?
The most popular forts and castles are Mutrah Fort, Nizwa Fort, Jabreen Castle, or Bahla Fort. Read more about the best forts and castles here.
What are the best beaches and wadis in Muscat?
The most popular beaches and wadis are Qurm Beach, Qantab Beach, Seeb Beach, Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi, Wadi Bani Khalid, Wadi Al Arbeieen, or Bimmah Sinkhole. Read more about the best beaches and wadis here.
What are the other popular activities in Muscat?
Other popular activities are snorkeling, scuba diving, semi-submarine ride, dhow dinner cruise, or dune bashing. Read more about other popular activities here.
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