For adventure lovers and hiking enthusiasts, the desert terrain and rocky cliffs of Oman provide a unique landscape to enjoy the great outdoors. It's a wonderful location for both long hiking holidays and short day hikes because of beautiful mountain ranges like Al Hajar that provide much-needed breeze and coolness in the hot weather of the country.
Trekking seasons begin in September and typically ends in May when the summer sets in. However, the best time to go hiking in Oman is between October and April when the winter chill enhances the thrilling experience of reaching the mountaintop. There are new hiking trails that are marked each season to meet the rising demands of hikers, both domestic and foreign, in the country. The country has numerous hiking clubs that explore Oman's hiking trails. Some popular clubs are the Wadi Walkers, the Oman Mountain Club, and Canyon Adventures. Although it is possible to go on self-guided treks, these clubs have seasoned guides who are experts on the terrain and will help you have a great (and safe!) time in the country.
Here are 7 best places for Hiking in Oman:
1. Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams in the Al Hajar mountain range is the highest mountain in the country. The North Summit is a restricted area normally used as a military base, and it is the South Summit that has been opened to the public. Hikers rave about the expansive rocky terrain that makes it a competent trek, especially because of the lack of shade throughout. The view, however, is impressive as it overlooks Wadi Ghul, also known as the Grand Canyon of Oman.
Time required: Depending on the choice of route, the hike can take anywhere between 2-7 hours.
2. Wadi Ghul
This majestic canyon has rock walls with multiple small fissures that provide various hiking routes into the mountain. The stunning scenery goes as far as the eye can see with sparse shrubbery and complex topography. It leads down to te abandoned city of Sap Bani Khamis that still contains ruins of stone houses. Being here, you'll enjoy a taste of ancient village life in Oman.
Time required: Approximately 4 hours
3. Jebel Akhdar
Aside from boasting of the highest mountain in the country, the Jebel Akhdar mountain range features challenging Persian steps that are believed to have acted as a barrier from ancient armies. Its lush greenery includes fruit trees such as apricots, pomegranates, peaches and grapes. EIt still houses ancient tribes such as the Bani Riyam. Because of its beautiful flora, it was made a nature reserve in 2011 by the Sultan.
Time required: Exploring this mountan range would take you approximately 5 hours.
4. Majlis Al Jinn
Roughly translating to 'a place for genies', Majlis Al Jinn offers a truly magical trek into the second largest cave on Earth. It is a short distance from Wadi Arbaeen and is located on the Selma Plateau. Following a steep, winding road, Majlis Al Jinn can be accessed through holes on the top of the cave created by rainwater dissolving the limestone roof. Reaching the cave requires special rope and equipment, and in recent years, has become a popular BASE jumping site. There are training sessions of almost 6 hours before you can embark on this adventure.
Time required: The actual descent into the cave takes almost 15 minutes with enough training.
5. Wadi Shab
For those who like to enjoy a cool swim after a rewarding trek, Wadi Shab is the way to go. This hike leads you through palm-lined sceneries and narrow cliffs ending with a hidden cave containing a waterfall inside. Reaching the cave requires a short swim through boulders, although short boat rides are available occasionally. The waters are a beautiful turquoise colour and wonderfully refreshing. However, it is best to avoid this trail in the monsoon when flash foods are rampant in Oman.
Time required: On a good day, it will take you around an hour from the car park to reach the pools of water.
6. Wadi Kamah
This trail features a winding trail, the beginning of which includes short drops and bouldering. After a pleasant descent, this trek includes navigating around many rock formations and pristine pools of clear water. In the monsoons, these pools rise to large heights. The trail includes the abandoned village of Taht al Sinn. It's a well-made path that offers a fun experience for new hikers. Families and those with physical disabilities, too, can explore Oman's outdoors on this easier trail.
7. Jebel Samhan
This sealed road leads to the Jebel Samhan Nature Reserve in the Dhofar region of Oman. The reserve houses prey species like rock hydrax, cape hare, and the desert hedgehog. Using this road requires a permit, but for hiking enthusiasts who would like to explore the mountains, it's a rewarding day trip. The trip begins with Tawi Attair which is a deep sinkhole, after which you can travel upwards towards Taiq Cave, a limestone complex. Along the way, you can find unique flora like the desert rose. Unlike the other hiking destinations, Jebel Samhan provides a panoramic view of Oman's beautiful coast.
Remember to travel with plenty of food and water on your treks. Oman is a fairly hot country, and it is easy to get dehydrated when trekking. Most trails are well-marked with flags, but some can be fairly slippery with loose rocks, so it is important to wear good shoes. Because of the fauna in these mountain ranges, it's advised to wear long trousers to avoid getting snapped by thorns. In some situations, snakes have been known to bite hikers as well.
Oman takes great care in being an eco-friendly country. Some of the trekking paths like Jebel Samhan are in nature reserves. While going on treks, do carry a spare bag for trash to avoid littering these trails. Don't damage any of the plants along the way or pollute any of the water bodies. As long as you keep these tips in mind, it should be a worry-free hiking vacation!