Departures in October and November 2019
Oman is a land of rugged high mountains, vast timeless deserts and lush wadis. Its numerous forts are a testament to its strategic importance at the end of the Arabian Peninsula, guarding the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Larger than the UK, it has an enviable reputation as a stable, safe and welcoming destination. It has avoided the perhaps excessive development of some of the nearby Emirates and has concentrated on promoting quality over quantity. The best time to visit is between October to March when the warm, dry and sunny winter climate is perfect for escaping the UK’s coldest months.
Oman has a rich and fascinating history, as well as close links with Britain. Originally part of the Persian empire, Oman became a Portuguese colony in the 16th century. For the Portuguese, it was a vital stopping-off point en route to their colonies in southern India and they fortified the port of Muscat with two imposing castles, which stand to this day. The Omanis threw out the Portuguese and extended their influence down the coast of east Africa all the way to Zanzibar, which, for a time, was the capital.
During the 19th century, Oman came within the British sphere of influence but remained an independent state. The close ties with the UK were reinforced in the ’60s and early ’70s, when the RAF and SAS supported the present ruler against an insurgency in the south. In the last few decades, Oman has prospered from its vast gas and oil reserves, building a modern health and education system, as well as an excellent road network – all while having no income tax.
Our tour of the country starts at its inland capital, Nizwa. Protected by its large fort with its striking round tower, Nizwa was for centuries the seat of power of the interior of Oman. Flanked by high barren mountain peaks, this seems an unforgiving place to live, yet nearby there are several hidden oases, which are lush and crowded with date palm plantations. We take a walk though one of these to see the system of water channels that keep everything well-watered and, in between, we'll spot little smallholdings with fruit trees, goats and chickens. The ancient villages that developed around these oases have old grand mansions, which are several storeys high with mud-brick walls several feet thick. Many of these are in a bad state of disrepair, but some have been maintained and we'll visit one of these to see how people lived here not too long ago.
On our last night in Nizwa, you have the option to upgrade your stay, with one night at the luxury Anantara Resort and Spa set at 2,000 metres on a plateau of the Jabal Ahkdar – meaning Green Mountain – with splendid views overlooking the canyons and surrounding peaks. Only accessible by 4x4 vehicles, the area is known for its cultivation of damask roses on ancient steep terraces. The resort's infinity pool has stunning views and there is a viewing platform named after Princess Diana, who visited the spot in the ’80s.
We continue eastwards to a huge area of dunes, known as the Wahiba Sands. As there are no roads here, we switch to 4x4 vehicles for the drive into the dunes. We stay the night here and our drivers will take us to the top of the dunes to watch a truly spectacular sunset across a sea of dunes, as far as the eye can see.
Our next stop is Sur, a small port city from where hundreds of traditional wooden dhows used to ply the waters of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Oman was once famous for its excellent boats and these extraordinary two-masted sailing ships are still used to this day. We'll visit one of the boatyards that still builds them the traditional way – by hand.
Our final three nights are spent at the excellent and newly refurbished Crowne Plaza Hotel in Muscat, set in an enviable position overlooking the Arabian Sea, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Here we'll visit the remarkable Grand Mosque, which merges modern and ancient architectural styles surrounded by beautiful gardens and cool courtyards. We'll also have time to browse around Oman's oldest souk in the port Muttrah and view the imposing Al Alam palace in old Muscat.
Our last day is at leisure. Perhaps relax around the hotel's pool or book an optional full-day 4x4 tour to explore the hidden wadis and dirt roads of the Al Hajar mountains – the perfect end to an unforgettable holiday.
You should arrive at the airport for your overnight direct flight this evening to Muscat.
After our morning arrival, we transfer to a nearby hotel for breakfast. Soon we are on our way through Oman’s stunning desert landscape to the country’s ancient capital, Nizwa. Surrounded by high rocky peaks, Nizwa is known for its bustling souk and formidable castle. Our hotel for the next three nights is the four-star Golden Tulip, with breakfast. The hotel’s low-rise buildings are centred on a large pool and pleasant gardens.
In the afternoon, we’ll visit the imposing Jabreen Castle, which is really more of a fortified palace and considered one of the most beautiful castles in the country.
An early start will give you an opportunity to see the weekly livestock market, when farmers and traders from miles around come in to auction their sheep, goats and cattle – it’s a fascinating glimpse into old Arabia! We continue to Nizwa’s extraordinary fort, which dominates the town. Crowned by its 98-foot-high round tower, the fort is a highly sophisticated defensive structure, with numerous trapdoors and ‘murder holes’ through which boiling date juice could be poured on to attackers. The castle is surrounded by the souk, particularly known for local silverwork. The rest of the day is at leisure at your hotel.
This morning we travel to the nearby oasis of Al Hamra, where thousands of date palms cover the lush valley, fed by the traditional Omani ‘falaj’ system of water channels. The 400-year-old village has numerous large mud-brick mansions, many of them up to three storeys tall, with beautifully decorated palm-wood ceilings. One of these has been meticulously restored to show you what life here was really like before the advent of the modern world. We have the chance to take a walk through the verdant oasis, shaded by date palms, before enjoying a typical Omani lunch at a nearby mansion house.
We say goodbye to Nizwa as we head further into the interior of the country towards the Wahiba Sands, with the classic desert landscape of rolling red sand dunes as far as the eye can see. We’ll transfer to 4x4 vehicles to begin our exciting journey through the dunes towards our home for the night, the simple three-star Sama al Wasil Camp, with dinner included tonight under the communal open-air tent. Our rooms are in small single-storey ‘cabins’, with private bathroom and air-conditioning. As the sunset casts a fiery red glow over the sweeping desert, we’ll enjoy drinks and snacks at the top of one of the dunes.
For the more adventurous, this morning you have the option of a powered tandem paraglider flight over the desert. Our tour continues towards the ancient port city of Sur, known as the centre of dhow boatbuilding in the country. We’ll visit the last working boatyard to see how these superbly handcrafted all-wood ships are constructed. Our hotel for tonight is the three-star superior Sur Plaza, with breakfast.
This evening we drive out to the Ras al-Jinz Turtle Reserve for the chance to witness green turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.
This morning we’ll follow the coastal road northwards towards Muscat. On the way, we’ll stop briefly at the attractive fishing port of Qurayyat and at the Bimmah sinkhole before arriving at our hotel for the next three nights, the newly refurbished four-star superior Crowne Plaza Qurum, with breakfast. The hotel is in a superb elevated position overlooking the Arabian Sea, with a large pool, small sandy cove and several restaurants. Sea-view rooms are available at a small supplement.
We start our exploration of Oman’s capital city with a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Constructed in 2001, this vast edifice boasts the second-largest Persian carpet in the world, as well as the largest chandelier in the world. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and vaulted cloisters, it is the architectural ‘jewel in the crown’ of Muscat. We continue to the old port of Muttrah and visit its atmospheric souk for some last-minute souvenirs. Our final stop is the famed Al Alam palace and the surrounding old Portuguese colonial forts.
Your last full day in Oman is yours to do as you wish. You can spend it at leisure around the open-air pool bar at the hotel, or perhaps for the more adventurous, a full-day 4x4 adventure amongst the deep wadis and peaks of the Hajar Mountains may be the ideal way to end your Oman journey.
Transfer to the airport for your direct return flight and arrive in the UK later the same day.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. 8 nights’ accommodation, including breakfast, two meals, scheduled flights to/from Muscat, guided tours in Nizwa, Sur and Muscat as described, all transfers, local taxes, hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person, and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
Oman visa not included.
Stay at the five-star Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort – from £146 per person
On day four after lunch, you’ll transfer to 4x4 vehicles for the enthralling drive through ancient mountain villages to one of the best hotels in the region. Set at an altitude of 6,550 feet, the Anantara Resort is in a spectacular position on a bluff overlooking the vast canyons and steep-sided valleys of the Hajar Mountains. The hotel features a luxurious spa, several restaurants and an incredible infinity pool at the cliff’s edge. You’ll stay for one night with breakfast in a premier canyon-view room with a private balcony and dramatic mountain views, bathroom with separate bath and shower, and all the amenities you would expect from a superb five-star resort.
Single supplements from £109 per person.
Please contact us to add this to your booking.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Muscat||Nizwa||2 hrs||Muscat||Muscat||30 mins|
British passport holders require an Oman visa.
An e-visa can be obtained prior to departure at a cost of OMR5.00; please log on https://evisa.rop.gov.om and follow the instructions for obtaining a 10-day Tourist visa.
Visas must be used within 1 month of obtaining them.
Please make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your date of entry into Oman.
Visa fees are subject to change without notice and are non-refundable.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in requirements after this time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to travel.
There is no specific health advice for this tour, though it is always advisable to contact your GP six to eight weeks prior to travel.
If you are travelling to Oman with prescription drugs, please make sure you take the relevant prescriptions with you.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.