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Oman – Family holiday guide

This is the Arabia of your children’s imagination, covered in untamed desert and soaring mountains, edged by an awe-inspiring coast and dotted with great cities, ancient ports, tiny villages and turtle-friendly beaches.

It’s newer to tourism than its UAE neighbours, and catching up fast in terms of roads and resorts, but remains in no danger of losing its sense of tradition, respect for heritage and uniquely Omani spirit in the process.

 

Why holiday in Oman?

  • Direct flights

    There are direct flights from London to Muscat year-round. Flying time is just over seven hours.

  • Easy drive from Dubai

    Dubai Airport is two hours’ drive from resorts on the Musandam Peninsula.

  • Warm climate

    Average temperatures of 27°C from November to March. Summer temperatures between 30°C and 40°C.

  • Lush monsoon

    Oman is the only Middle Eastern country with a monsoon season (mid-June to late August).

  • Authentic Arabia

    Traditional culture continues to thrive, particularly on the Musandam Peninsula and in Sharqiya.

  • Resorts & desert camps

    There’s a good choice of international hotels and resorts in the north and far south, but authentic desert camps are superb in Sharqiya and Dhofar.

  • UNESCO World Heritage hub

    Oman has four UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Five Falajs, Bahla Fort, Bat Tombs and the Frankincense Route.

Where to go

Musandam Peninsula

Nestled against Ras Al-Khaimah on the country’s northern tip, this spectacular coast is one of the loveliest places to discover Oman for the first time. Unspoiled and traditional in many ways, this is a place where life runs at a slow pace, and even the exquisite resorts look more like traditional villages than luxury hotels. Sailing, climbing, walking and exploring are the themes here, and it’s best for outdoor-loving, adventurous kids and complete escapism.

  • Closer to the UAE than Muscat, the peninsula is just over an hour’s drive from Ras Al-Khaimah and two hours from Dubai.
  • It’s famous for a dramatic coastline which resembles Norway’s fjords – only with hot, sunny weather year-round.
  • Visit lively little Khasab. It’s the biggest town on the peninsula, built by the Portuguese in the 17th century, and the coastal route is sensational.
  • Don’t miss: trekking and climbing in the mountains, dolphin-spotting, dhow cruises, snorkelling and tiny fishing villages.

Muscat

Oman’s cultured and lovely capital is far from the high-rise extravagance of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. It’s no less fascinating, it just tends to work to a slightly more graceful scale, gently cares for heritage and is better known for ancient architecture than glittering modern monuments. This is a city of souks, evening strolls along the promenade, cleaner-than-clean streets, gorgeous mosques and large, peaceful parks and gardens, though it can be lively and bustling, too. Kids will like the easygoing atmosphere and they’ll never be short of something to see or do.

  • Muscat is good for five-star city centre hotels and luxury family-friendly resorts on Qurum Beach.
  • Take the Muscat/Muttrah Geotrek guided tour through the city –it’s fascinating, and a great introduction to the capital and Oman itself.
  • Don’t miss: the silk souks, Al Mirani Fort, Qasr Al Alam Palace, the Grand Mosque, Al Riyam Park, snorkelling and swimming at Al Khayran, Wadi Mayh and Al Jabal Al Aswad.

Sharqiya

Just under two hours south of Muscat, Sharqiya is the entire landscape of Oman encapsulated in one region: beautiful coast, soaring mountains and endless desert sands. Historically, this ancient land of ship builders, slave traders and merchants was one of the country’s most prosperous areas and traces of the past are a fascinating counterpoint to the natural magnificence. Sharqiya is an unforgettable adventure for older children and could easily forge a lifelong passion for Oman.

  • The coast here is turtle-rich, with five of the world’s seven marine species recorded and opportunities for gentle observation at Ras Al Hadd, aka Turtle Beach.
  • The Wahiba Sands are Oman’s most accessible dune-strewn desert.
  • Trekking in the eastern Al Hajar Mountains is fantastic in this region.
  • Masirah Island is known for its green-turtle nesting sites and just over an hour by ferry from Shanna on the Sharqiya coast.
  • This is not the region for five-star resorts, but that is more than made up for by amazing desert and beach camps – as luxurious as hotels, but a lot more memorable for kids.

Dhofar

Almost as far south as you can go without crossing the Yemen border, Dhofar is a summer-holiday favourite with Omanis. The region is world famous for the spectacle of the ‘blooming desert’ during monsoon season, and home to the town of Salalah, one of the most historic and lovely ports in the country.

  • Monsoon season or Khareef runs from mid-June to late August, and transforms the desert into a lush green garden almost overnight.
  • Visit for Indian Ocean beaches, the Frankincense Trail, desert tours and archaeological marvels.
  • Don’t miss: Ash Shuwaymiyyah, the Queen of Sheba’s Palace, Tomb of Job, Mirbat Castle and Al Baleed.

Look for four- and five-star international hotels in Salalah and Mirbat, and desert camps and beach resorts to the north.



What to do

  • The Frankincense Route
    Exotic frankincense has contributed to the wealth of Oman since the Middle Ages. Dip into at least a little of the World Heritage Frankincense Route.
  • Turtle Watching, Ras Al Jinz
    Five of the seven marine turtle species visit Oman’s coast, including rare green turtles. Turtle-watching in autumn with a local guide is wonderful for kids.
  • Salalah Festival
    The colourful Salalah Festival is timed to coincide perfectly with the rainy season and the desert’s spectacular transformation.
  • Desert Camping Tour, Sharqiya
    Camping in the desert, sand-surfing, camel-trekking, visiting traditional Bedouin families, watching dhow boat-builders and exploring ancient forts and castles are just a few of the experiences on a three-day desert camping tour.
  • Mirbat Beaches
    The small fishing village about 60km north of Salalah is famous for spotless beaches and enchanting fleets of dhows.
  • Old Muscat
    The original walled city of Muscat was built in the early 16th century. Here, you’ll find remarkable historic buildings and a lovely waterfront setting.
  • Dolphin-Watching, Masirah Island
    Well known for green-turtle nesting sites in autumn, Masirah Island, the country’s largest, is also one of the best spots for dolphin-watching.
  • Mountain Bike Tours, Musandam Peninsula
    A day-long mountain bike tour to Khor Al Najid through Birkat al-Khalidiya is an exhilarating way to experience one of Oman’s loveliest regions.
  • Camel Safari, Wahiba Sands
    Travelling across the great Wahiba dunes on a camel safari is the only way to say you’ve really seen the Omani desert.
  • Wadi Al Arbaeen Tour, Muscat
    A guided tour of Old Muscat, the Grand Mosque, the Sultan’s Palace and an off-road expedition to Wadi Al Arabiyeen.

Educational value for kids

  • Take guided tours of the beautifully restored forts and castles – they’re fascinating.
  • Visit Sur and let kids see traditional dhow boats being constructed.
  • Muscat Festival in February introduces kids to ancient and modern Omani arts, crafts and entertainment.
  • Staying for a few days in a desert camp involves kids in local customs and Bedouin life.
  • Go shopping in local markets and visit the souks in Muscat, Salalah or the ancient Omani capital, Nizwa.
  • Children over 10 are allowed to enter the Grand Mosque in Muscat – the second-largest handwoven carpet in the world, weighing 21 tons, is just one its wonders.
  • Oman’s skies are marvellously big and clear. Download a star map and encourage budding astronomers to gaze – great fun in the desert.
 

Getting around with kids in Oman

Oman’s roads have improved dramatically over the past decade, and some of the coastal routes are jaw-droppingly spectacular. Hiring a car is easy, inexpensive and the best way to get around. Desert tours are best done with local guides. Most city centres are safe and well laid out for walking during the day, and taxis work well in the evening.



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