Have limited time in Oman? You’ll be surprised by just how much of the country you can see on a day trip from Muscat.

Whether it’s hidden mountain villages, cooling off in a wadi or the solitude of the Empty Quarter you seek, this curated list of Muscat day trips and tours has something for every traveller and every budget.

Muscat is one of my favourite places in the Middle East. I could happily spend a week wandering the atmospheric Muttrah Souq, people watching on the corniche and eating kebabs on the beach as the sun melts over the Gulf. But it would be a shame to come all the way to Oman and not sample the country’s magnificent natural landscapes as well.

From sinkholes and wadis to Oman’s ‘Empty Quarter’, the Sharqiya Sands desert, all the way to the rocky peaks and deep canyons of the Hajar mountains and the pristine waters of the Gulf of Oman, this country is endowed with so much natural beauty, it’s almost overwhelming.

Hiring a car and driving around Oman is the ultimate way to experience the country. If you don’t have enough time for an extensive road trip or just just prefer to base yourself in Muscat and return to the capital each evening, this list of day trips and organised tours will help you see the best of the country in a time and cost-effective way.

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How to get around Oman

With limited public transport between cities, the best way to travel around Oman is by car.

10 best day trips from Muscat

1. Day trip to Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole for scenery & swimming

  • Distance from Muscat: 150 km (1.5 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Scenery, swimming, beaches, picnics
12 of the very best Oman tours (Muscat day tours), including Muscat cruise tours, nature tours, wadi tours and desert tours.
Bimmah Sinkhole, an unmissable day trip from Muscat.

Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole, two of Oman’s most majestic natural wonders, are both located down the coast from Muscat. When combined, they make for a perfect day trip, especially on a warm day.

Bimmah Sinkhole (open daily from 8am) should be your first stop. Arrive early and you might have the deep limestone pool – which legend says was formed by a meteorite – all to yourself. Entry is free.

As you continue down the coast, stop off at Hidden Beach or one of the other secluded strips of sand for a swim. White Sand Beach and Finns Beach are also popular.

After 20 minutes of driving you’ll reach the entry point to Wadi Shab. Leave your car in the marked car park and board a small boat (1 OMR per person) to take you to the mouth of the canyon. From there, it’s a 45-minute uphill hike under the palm trees to reach the first swimming pools.

Swim between boulders and squeeze yourself through narrow openings in the canyon to reach secluded caves and Wadi Shab Waterfall, a cascade inside one of the caves. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy by the wadi before you head back to Muscat.

Guided day trips to Wadi Shab & Bimmah Sinkhole

2. Day trip to the Sharqiya Sands for dunes & desert oases

  • Distance from Muscat: 200 km (2 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Scenery, adventure, culture, swimming
12 of the very best Oman tours (Muscat day tours), including Muscat cruise tours, nature tours, wadi tours and desert tours.
Don’t miss a day trip from Muscat to the Empty Quarter.

Oman’s Sharqiya Sands (Wahiba Sands) is an endless sea of rippled sand, all rolling red dunes punctuated with the occasional palm-fringed oases. A trip to the edge of the Empty Quarter to experience one of the Middle East’s most incredible landscapes and learn about Bedouin culture is an absolute must when travelling in Oman.

The desert is vast with many access points. From Muscat, one of the most convenient is just after the town of Bidiyah, the same place where guests are picked up for the Desert Nights Camp. (If you have time, a night in the desert at a Bedouin-style luxury camp is a wonderful experience and so much more rewarding than a day trip!)

As well as exploring the dunes on foot and by car, you can visit old merchant villages and traditional markets in this area.

An hour east of Bidiyah towards the coast, Wadi Bani Khalid is a classic desert oasis with emerald pools and swaying palms. It’s much easier to get to compared with Wadi Shab – you can park your car right at the entrance and walk only 5-10 minutes to reach the pools, which makes it a better choice for families with young children or anyone with accessibility needs. No 4WD is required for the wadi.

Remember that ‘dune bashing’ can be harmful to the environment, so do your research before you set off (and make sure you have the right kind of vehicle and enough experience under your belt to tackle the conditions). If you plan to join a tour, be sure to choose an ethical company that is wary of environmental issues and doesn’t commercialise Bedouin culture.

Guided day trips to the Sharqiya Sands & Wadi Bani Khalid

3. Day trip to the Daymaniyat Islands for snorkelling & dolphin watching

  • Distance from Muscat: 15 km to the Al Mouj Marina (15 minutes by car) + 35+ minutes by boat to the islands
  • Great for: Wildlife, nature, beaches, swimming
Blue skies over Oman's Al Daymaniyat islands, a pristine nature reserve near Muscat.
The Daymaniyat islands offer beautiful beaches near Muscat. Photo: Wusel007/Wikimedia Commons CC (changes made).

The Al Daymaniyat Islands (AKA Ad Dimaniyat Islands) are an archipelago of nine pristine islands just off the coast north of Muscat. A protected nature reserve, the area is known for its vibrant marine life (including leopard sharks and sea turtles), corals and pods of dolphins.

There are at least 12 designated sites in the islands for snorkelling and scuba diving, while an endless number of white sand beaches are perfect for swimming.

This is one place in Oman where I recommend going with a guide. Day trip organisers will take care of your permits to enter the island and provide snorkel/diving gear if you need it.

If you’re not so keen on swimming, there are itineraries available that focus on dolphin-spotting from the boat. Some tours include transfers from Muscat while others meet at the Al Mouj Marina, a 15-minute drive from downtown.

Be aware that during Summer (May to September) only snorkelling is allowed and you won’t be able to access the beaches.

Guided day trips to the Al Daymaniyat Islands

4. Day trip to Nizwa for culture & history

  • Distance from Muscat: 150 km (1.75 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: History, culture, shopping, mountain scenery
View of Niza mosque and town from the top of the fort. Photo credit: Emily Lush.
Nizwa, a must see in Oman.

Oman’s second-largest city and former capital, Nizwa, is more than worthy of a few days on your itinerary. But if you’re in a rush, a day trip to Nizwa will suffice. It’s an easy drive from Muscat via the highway, taking around 1.5-2 hours by car.

Nestled beneath the mountains in the interior of the country, Nizwa has a totally different feel to coastal Muscat. Must-visits include the 17th century Nizwa Fort and the adjoining souq, my favourite market in Oman. It’s the perfect place to buy clay pottery (a local specialty), woven carpets and other souvenirs. Visit on a Friday morning to see the weekly Goat Market.

The museum inside the fort is terrific as well, so don’t miss it. If you have more time, there are dozens of mesmerising castles in this area, including the UNESCO-listed Bahla Fort, Jabrin Fort and Samail Fort. Alternatively, you can combine a visit to Nizwa with a drive or walk through the nearby Hajar mountains.

Guided day trips to Nizwa

5. Day trip to Jebel Shams & Wadi Guhl for canyon hiking

  • Distance from Muscat: 200 km (2.5 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Hiking, scenery, adventure
Village between the mountains.
Driving through Oman’s magnificent Hajar mountains.

Active travellers shouldn’t miss an opportunity to travel deeper into Oman’s Hajar mountains. Along with the country’s highest peak, Jebel Shams, this part of the country is known for its deep ravines, wadis, and traditional mud villages.

For any serious hiking, it’s recommended to stay the night nearby in order to make an early start. Coming from Muscat, you can do one of the shorter treks in the area, the most popular being the W6 Balcony Walk (approximately 8 km return) along the edge of Wadi Guhl, Oman’s ‘Grand Canyon’.

Various marked viewpoints dot the scenic road that leads to the trailhead. Take one of the lesser-known trails in the area to discover abandoned villages with old grain stones and hidden lakes.

Guided day trips to Jebel Shams

6. Day trips From Muscat to Jebel Akhdar for nature & fresh air

  • Distance from Muscat: 150 km (2.5 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Nature, scenery, hiking, traditional markets
A small village in Oman's Jebel Akhar mountains.
Jebel Akhdar.

Jebel Akhdar (the ‘Green Mountain’) is also located in the Hajar range. What makes this area special is that unlike Jebel Shams, it has a different look and feel thanks to the moisture in the air. The mountain and especially the Saiq Plateau is verdant with forests and fruit orchards.

A highlight of Jebel Akhdar is driving through the Sumail Gap, a rocky pass that divides the Eastern and Western parts of the Hajars. Visit small villages with bright produce markets and follow marked trails through the mountains for spectacular views of the fertile valleys.

Guided day trips to Jebel Akhdar

7. Day trip to Bald Sayt, Oman’s most beautiful village

  • Distance from Muscat: 150 km (2.5+ hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Hiking, adventure, scenery
Bald Sayt, a beautiful secluded village surrounded by terraces and palm trees in Oman's mountains.
Bald Sayt village.

Secluded in the foothills near Jebel Akhdar, Bald Sayt is Oman’s most picturesque village. You’ll need a 4WD (and some serious driving skills) to access the area independently – or else you can join a day tour from Muscat, which is a much easier way to go.

Admire the stone and mud buildings and explore the labyrinth of narrow alleyways before circling the village on the marked path to see the terraced fields and date palm groves. It’s a great opportunity to take photos and witness local life in Oman, as farmers and villagers go about their daily life.

There are no guesthouses or restaurants in town so if you’re visiting independently, make sure you come prepared with enough water and supplies. Familiarise yourself with the walking route before you set off to avoid getting lost in the canyon.

8. Day trip to Misfat mud village and the Al Hajar mountains for hiking & scenery

  • Distance from Muscat: 200 km (2.5 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Culture, nature, walking
Traditional mud brick architecture in Misfat Al Abriyeen.
Traditional architecture in Misfat Al Abriyeen.

Misfat al Abryeen (Misfah al Abriyyin) is a more-accessible alternative to Bald Sayt. This ancient mud village is less secluded (and more commercialised as a result), but it’s still very charming. The streets are far too narrow for cars, meaning you have no choice but to explore by foot. The village is compact and there are several marked walking paths you can follow.

The thing that makes Misfat so special is its vernacular architecture: Mud houses are built atop towering boulders, giving the impression that the village blends seamlessly into the mountain landscape. Follow the man-made water channels to their source and get lost in overgrown palm groves before taking a break for lunch at one of the cute guesthouses or restaurants in the village.

Misfat is a long drive from Muscat but the scenery makes it worth it – especially the final stretch of road from Al Hamra that takes you high into the mountains.

Guided day trips to Misfat

9. Day trip to Sur for dhow boats & sea turtles

  • Distance from Muscat: 200 km (2.5 hours by car one-way)
  • Great for: Beaches, scenery history, seafood, wadis & sinkholes
A dhow boat off the coast of Sur, Oman. Photo credit: Emily Lush.
Gorgeous Sur.

Located just shy of the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the sweet seaside city of Sur deserves more attention than it gets. One of my favourite places in Oman, it’s an easy drive from Muscat down the coastal highway, passing Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Shab along the way.

Climb the Al Ayjah Watch Tower for a view of the white-washed houses, then walk the shoreline and visit the open-air workshop where people make wooden dhow boats the traditional way without nails or glue. This being the spiritual home of Sinbad the Sailor, Sur is loaded with history and legend. Discover more secrets at the Bilad Sur Castle, or spend an hour wandering the local neighbourhoods of Makha and Ar Rashah.

There are some great restaurants in Sur to try local seafood and Zanzibari cuisine.

Ras Al Jinz, the famous turtle nesting ground, is a short drive from Sur further down the coast. However, turtle viewings are limited to dawn and dusk, so it’s not really feasible to include this in a day trip itinerary. I suggest staying the night in Sur if you want to see the turtles (a must-do in my opinion).

10. Day trip on the Al Rustaq Loop for castles & markets

  • Distance from Muscat: 300 km loop (4 hours by car return)
  • Great for: History, culture, scenery
Rustaq Fort, a beautiful castle you can visit as a day trip from Muscat, Oman.
Rustaq Fort.

The Rustaq Loop is a ready-made day trip from Muscat that takes you to three of Oman’s most important castles: Nakhal, Rustaq and Al Hazm.

Start by driving west to the city of Barka then head inland on the highway, visiting Nakhal first. Dating back to the 9th century, it boasts amazing views from its hilltop perch and features an armoury museum inside.

Rustaq Fort, a further 40-minute drive, is a huge complex of towers and water channels that needs a good hour or more to cover. If you have time, take a dip in the nearby Al Kasfah Hot Spring before continuing to Al Hazm Fort, another sand-coloured monolith with beautiful scalloped walls and carved wooden doors. Take the audio guide for a more enriching experience.

As you drive, follow your nose and take detours to some of the small villages and viewpoints in the area. The loop culminates at Muladdah, then it’s a 60-minute drive back to Muscat.

Things to look out for when planning a guided day trip from Muscat

If you decided to go down the guided tour route, here are some things to keep an eye out for when booking.

  • Religious holidays and festivals. Tour schedules often change if there’s a festival on and during the Holy Month of Ramadam. Keep this in mind when you’re planning your trip.
  • Day of the week. Some markets (for example the goat market in Nizwa) only take place once a week. If you have your heart set on visiting a particular market, make sure you plan your trip accordingly.
  • Does the price of the tour include entrance fees? Most outdoor attractions in Oman are free, but if the tour visits a museum, you should double-check to see whether the cost of your ticket is included.
  • Group size. If it’s not a private tour, is there a cap on group size?
  • Does it come with lunch? If it’s a full-day tour, check to see if lunch is included or if you’ll have to buy your own food. Often on tours you’ll be taken to a particular restaurant. If it’s out of your budget range or it doesn’t cater to your dietary requirements, there’s often not much you can do.
  • Are drinks included? Some of these Oman tours include drinks.
  • Is there hotel pick up, or do we rendezvous at a set location? If pick up and drop off isn’t included, you’ll have to make your own way to the meeting point. Muscat is very spread out, so this will probably mean having to take a taxi or drive your own car.
  • Can I get a refund if I change my mind? Plans change, things come up. I get it. When I was in Muscat, I had to cancel one of my tours at the last minute because I had a migraine (probably from dehydration). I always prefer to book through a third-party agent such as Get Your Guide or Klook instead of going direct to the tour company. Both these sites can offer a full refund provided you give notice.

What to bring on your Oman tour

  • Your swim kit. If you’re going out on the water or your tour involves stopping at a wadi, you should bring your swimming gear and a towel. Note that there are rules in Oman about what kind of swimming costumes women can wear in public. See the next section for more advice.
  • An waterproof dry bag. Essential for keeping your valuables safe when visiting wadis and sinkholes. This one is perfect for water activities and comes in a range of sizes.
  • A scarf for visiting mosques (women). A lightweight cotton scarf is my number one travel item. In Oman, it will come in extra handy for covering your hair when entering a mosque or for draping over your shoulders when visiting a market or a rural area. This neutral travel scarf goes with anything, and it even has a hidden pocket.
  • Good walking shoes. Comfy walking shoes are absolutely essential for Oman. I love these ones, while my partner lives in these waterproof shoes.
  • A reusable water bottle. Absolutely essential in Oman for staying hydrated. I love my S’Well water bottle – it’s vacuum insulated to keep water icy cold for the whole day, and it doesn’t sweat.
  • Rehydration tablets or sachets. If you’re out on the water, dune bashing or hiking, your body will be crying out for electrolytes by the end of your tour (believe me!). I prefer Hydralyte tablets because they come in a handy tube.
  • A sturdy day pack. Pop it all in a day pack and you’re ready for your Oman tour! I always go for a minimalist backpack when I’m travelling.

Dress code in Oman

If you’re travelling outside the city to rural villages and markets – or even if you’re staying in Muscat and visiting the mosque – you should dress conservatively. Women are not required to cover their hair in Oman. But it is advisable to wear long, loose-fitted clothing that covers your shoulders and knees at a minimum. Avoid tops with low necklines and fitted pants.

Women aren’t allowed to wear bathing suits or bikinis at some swimming areas in Oman. I usually wore bike shorts and a long-sleeved shirt in the water. Rules vary from place to place; if in doubt, contact your tour guide ahead of time to double check.

Should you tip your tour guide?

Tipping is not mandatory in Oman, but it is appreciated. If you’re happy with the service your tour guided provides, 5-10 Omani Rial (about 13-25 USD) would be considered a generous tip. It also depends on your group size. I would tip more for a private guide and maybe a little less if it’s a large group.

If you have a driver or a boat skipper, it’s a nice gesture to also offer them a small tip.

12 of the very best Oman tours (Muscat day tours), including Muscat cruise tours, nature tours, wadi tours and desert tours.

Where to stay in Muscat

When we visited Muscat, we stayed at Mutrah Hotel, which we chose because of its proximity to the city’s biggest marketplace, Muttrah Souk. It’s basic but comfortable, with free parking on-site. Best of all, it’s walking distance to the market and corniche.

If you’re going to Oman to celebrate a special occasion or you just prefer a more luxurious kind of travel, Muscat has some amazing beach side resorts. Located right on the Gulf coast, The Chedi Muscat is a cut above the rest. W Muscat is slightly more economical but no less opulent.

If mid-range is more your style, try Levatio Hotel. And if you’re visiting Oman for a limited amount of time on a layover, I highly recommend Sundus Rotana near the airport.

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