The Sultanate of Oman was virtually undiscovered by tourists until relatively recently. Visited only by intrepid travellers, divers and archaeologists, this tiny desert Arabian country has become increasingly popular among holidaymakers looking for a relaxing and sybaritic trip.
Oman’s history is one that’s rich and complex. In 1970 the sultan, Said bin Taimur, was overthrown by his son, the current ruler Sultan Qaboos, and ever since Qaboos has been modernising the country by opening it up to tourism. Every year more and more sea-side resorts and world-class hotels are cropping up around the country. The first stop for travellers taking flights to Oman is the capital, Muscat. Comprising three small towns along the coast, Muscat is a calm and laid-back city and the locals are especially welcoming to tourists. Most of the attractions are concentrated in the Mutrah area including Mutrah Souk, one of the oldest traditional Arab markets in the region and Mutrah Fort which was built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century.
Adventurous travellers coming off flights to Oman should plan to visit Wadi Shab – the stunning valley where water from a stone feeds the lake and date palms. In the south-east of the country is the town of Salalah, renowned for its pungent frankincense and close proximity to the Qara Mountains.
Oman has a desert climate with a hot, humid coastline and a dry interior. The temperatures vary greatly with the seasons. It’s coldest in the winter, when temperatures hover around a balmy 16 degrees. The summer can be three times as hot, reaching 49 degrees. To escape the heat, head to the southern Dhofar region, known for its cooler conditions.
October to April, taking in Christmas and New Year’s is high season. That’s when sun-starved Europeans flock to Oman for its beaches and climate.
July to September when the temperatures are sizzling hot is the low season.
Oman Air, the domestic airline of Oman Aviation Services, flies to Salalah, Sur, Khasab, Diba and Masirah. The Oman National Transport Corporation offers regular bus service to many cities including Salalah, Nizwa, Sohar and Dubai. Small vans – the baiza bus – follow fixed routes and are a cheaper alternative to taxis. The road system is good and car rental companies include the majors: Hertz, Budget and Europcar as well as local companies
(prices quoted are from London)