When it comes to nearby travel destinations, Oman’s capital Muscat is a popular one. Here’s a little primer to help with your trip planning.
While the UAE is home to grand attractions and a host of luxury hotels, sometimes it’s good to get away and experience something new. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel far to see natural wonders, experience a different culture or embark on exciting new adventures.
Whether you’re looking to trek through the mountains, feast on indigenous food or settle into a relaxing seaside retreat, the Omani capital is a great place to explore.
Driving to Oman is an affordable, relatively quick means of getting there, making it the perfect destination for a family road trip. It’s about a five-hour drive from Dubai to Muscat and aside from a full tank of petrol, you’ll need proof of ownership of the vehicle – or proof that you have permission to drive the vehicle in case it’s a rental – and insurance that covers the vehicle in both the UAE and Oman. If your UAE insurance does not extend to Oman, you can purchase a policy at the border.
If you prefer to fly, airlines do offer direct flights from to Muscat, including Oman Air, Fly Dubai and Emirates. You can even catch the bus – the journey should take six hours.
Stay and play
Finding the right accommodation is the key to any great trip and self-contained properties like Millennium Resort Mussanah are ideal for families. Like most resorts, this property features award-winning restaurants, a swanky health and fitness club and Zayna Spa, all about 45 minutes’ drive from Muscat International Airport.
However, what makes it one of our favs is its big entertainment factor. There are tennis courts, an 18-hole mini-golf course, a dedicated family pool, zipline and Aqua Fun, a floating water park. Grown-ups can unwind with watersports, sailing or snorkelling along the resort’s private 54-berth marina. You can drop the youngest members of the family off at Kids’ Club too.
Room options including two-bedroom duplexes with fully stocked kitchens, so everyone can retreat to their own space to rejuvenate. Visit: www.millenniumhotels.com
Whether you’re doing a quick pop over or staying a little longer, you’ve got to get out and experience Muscat. Oman is known for being a welcoming and family-friendly place and its capital is no different. Walkabout, interact with the Omani people and learn more about the country’s rich history by visiting cultural landmarks.
Al Alam Palace in Old Muscat is the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos of Oman. As the official residence of the Sultan, this is where distinguished guests who are visiting the country are received. If the Omani flag at the main entrance of the palace is raised, Sultan Qaboos is home.
The palace is the centrepiece of a long pedestrian boulevard lined with manicured gardens and surrounding government buildings made from polished white marble. The front of the building is accented by four eye-catching gold and blue columns, adorned with ornate arches, tiling and carvings.
Although visitors are only allowed to view the palace from outside the gates, it’s well worth a visit to admire this beacon of modern Islamic architecture.
Opposite the Mutrah Corniche, Mutrah Souq has the old world charm of the traditional Arab market with breathtaking views of the ocean. The souq is well shaded beneath timber roofing and is set up along cobblestone pathways that splinter and give way to nooks and crannies filled with traditional Omani and Indian artefacts.
You can buy anything, from textiles to jewellery and fragrances, but be prepared to bargain. Cards are accepted in most shops, but cash gives you better leverage. Saturday-Thursday, 8am-1.30pm and 4pm-10pm, Friday 24 hours. (times may vary during Ramadan). Visit: omantourism.gov.om
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a beautiful landmark with a stunning interior, exterior and surrounding gardens. It’s a great excursion for older children who may be eager to learn more about local religion and culture. Free. Sultan Qaboos Street. Saturday-Thursday 8.30am-11am (times may vary during Ramadan).
Want to explore the great outdoors? Muscat has some beautiful beaches, particularly Al Qurum Beach, where you can take a picnic, walk along the coast and let the kids play in the sand. You can also take a boat tour to go dolphin watching, snorkelling or swimming. Visit: viator.com
Bait Al Zubair offers a glimpse into traditional Omani life. The museum recreates houses with displays of clothing, frankincense and more, while a shop sells modern local trinkets. 2RO for adults, 1RO for children aged 10-15. Al Bahri Road. Saturday-Thursday, 9.30am-6pm (opening hours may differ during Ramadan). Visit: baitalzubair.com
Lodging can make or break your trip, so we’ve pulled together this list of places waiting to host you.
Find the Kempinski Hotel Muscat in the coastline community of Al Mouj, known as ‘the new heart of Muscat’. This five-star hotel features ten restaurants and bars, a kids’ club, tennis court, private bowling and entertainment centre, gym, spa and two pools, with one just for children. Plus, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor and watersport activities. Visit: www.kempinski.com
Downtown, near the central business district and prime shopping, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Muscat has a city vibe. This four-star hotel’s four restaurants and two bars offer a variety of cuisine, including Italian fine dining and an Irish pub. While here, you can sweat it out in the health club or take a dip in the outdoor, temperature-controlled pool. Visit: radissonblu.com/hotel-muscat
Positioned between the ocean and the Al Hajar Mountains, the opulent Al Bustan Palace offers an alluring blend of old and new. Set within a former palace, the resort features newly renovated guest rooms and suites with sea or garden views, five dining venues, a spa, private beach and four pools, including one dedicated to children. Visit: www.ritzcarlton.com
Before you go
Oman has recently made changes to its visa process and here’s what you need to know to get across the border hassle-free.
• Two 4x6cm photographs
• A copy of your passport, which must be valid at least six months
• A copy of your visa and/or a letter from your sponsoring organisation (or spouse) granting permission for travel
Once the visit visa is granted, it will be valid for six months from the date it was issued. The visa is valid for staying in the Sultanate for three months from the date of entry.
*Please note timings and offerings may change during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Check directly with the venues listed for more information.