Wondering what to do in Muscat, Oman? Any traveler to Oman will without a doubt pass through Muscat. Even if you don’t like capital cities, Oman’s capital is well worth a few days of exploration.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Muscat for every visitor. Whether that’s relaxing on the coast, indulging in delicious Omani cuisine, or enjoying the beauty of the Grand Mosque there’s a lot to keep visitors entertained.
We spent four days in Muscat and loved our time! Here are our favorite things to do in Muscat.
Best Things to do in Muscat, Oman
1. Snorkle with the Sea Turtles
One of the best things to do in Muscat is go snorkeling! It’s not well known that the Omani Coast is a prime turtle nesting spots in the world. Every year between April and August, 20,000 turtles travel to Oman’s beaches and lay between 50,000 to 70,000 eggs!
There are seven different types of sea turtles in the world, and FIVE of them frequent the Gulf of Oman. If you are visiting between April and August you may get a chance to see Green Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, or the Hawksbill Turtle nesting.
However if you are visiting outside those periods you still might get the chance to see a turtle (we did in October!). That is by snorkeling or scuba diving around the Omani Coast.
Oman is not well known in the snorkle and dive seen yet, but dive shops are popping up all over and Oman is doing a very good job and preserving their coast. Check with your hotel and book a snorkle or dive trip or check them out here.
2. Mutrah Souk
No visit to Muscat is complete without a visit to the Mutrah Souk. It’s the main draw of the town of Mutrah, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Oman.
rah Souk. It’s the main draw of the town of Mutrah, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Oman.
It’s here where you can come and experience a traditional Arabian souk. By definition, a souk is an “Arabian market or bazaar.” But experiencing one for yourself is so much more than that. Step into the entrance of the Mutrah Souk and you’ll find a labyrinth of narrow alleyways. Small shops filled with perfume, jewelry, and traditional Omani clothing await you.
It’s also where you can find frankincense, myrrh, and gold. Yes, the three items the three wise men brought to Jesus. The frankincense incense is produced from the sap of trees found in Oman and is closely tied to Omani culture. You can find frankincense in markets around the country, but we chose to pick ours up in the historical souq.
3. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
One of the top things to do in Muscat is visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This mosque is without a doubt beautiful and opulent. This is the main mosque in the Sultanate of Oman and right in the center of Oman.
It’s one of the largest mosques in the world and is a treasure to see, even if you are not Muslim. This piece of modern Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign in 2001. Since then millions of worshippers have come here daily.
The mosque is open to non-muslim visitors every day between 8-11 AM. Women must cover their hair and body, so bring a scarf and wear pants and a long sleeve.
I showed up in a floor-length skirt and 3/4 tunic top and was still told I must completely cover-up. Unlike other mosques I have been to around the world where abayas and scarfs are free to rent, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque had none for free and none to rent out. I resorted to renting a very large abaya from a taxi cab driver for 2 Omani Rial.
Men should dress modestly as well. Cameras are allowed inside the mosque.
4. Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House Muscat is a premier venue for the arts and musical performances. It’s one of those places in Muscat that everyone should visit! You can check the schedule here if you are interested in seeing a show. Even if you are not interested or don’t have the time to see a show the Opera House is still well worth a stop.
It’s a stunning piece of architecture that will take your breath away day or night. Around the opera house are a few (very) high end shops and great restaurants to have a meal at.
5. Al Bustan Palace
The Al Bustan Palace is a Ritz Carlton property. It’s not quite a real Omani palace (close!), but instead a beautiful resort that has hosted some very notable people.
The Al Bustan Palace is a six-star property and resembles an Oman palace in size, scale, and architecture. It’s a great place to stay and relax at in Muscat. Even if you already have another hotel booked it’s worth it to swing by and check out the grounds – just the lobby will take your breath away!
6. Old Muscat
If you’re still wondering what to do in Muscat then head to the Old part of the city. Old Muscat is a historic part of the city that is separated from the modern parts of Oman. It’s here where you can truly step back in time and walk around great Omani buildings. Old Muscat was built in 1625 and is protected by round towers.
Notable sites include Bait Al Zubair, Fort Al Jalali, Fort Al-Mirani, the Muscat Gate Museum, and Al Alam Palace.
7. Al Alam Palace
The Al Alam Palace is one of six royal residences of the ruling monarch, Sultan Qaboos. It’s in the heart of Old Muscat and is a sight to see. While it’s not open to the public the grounds around the palace are and tourists can freely walk around and take in the views. The palace is another brilliant piece of architecture built in the 70s. It almost doesn’t even look like it belongs in Oman!
8. Cruise Around the Coast
You know what’s better than exploring Muscat by foot? Seeing Muscat from the water! Every day sunset cruises depart from Muscat on a traditional dhow. Enjoy a sea breeze while passing by Mutrah’s Corniche, Al Alam Palace, and Al Bustan Palace.
It’s a great way to get out on the water and see things from a different point of view. Dolphin viewing ships also depart Muscat daily!
9. Day Trip to Wadi Shab
Just 1.5 hours drive from Muscat is Wadi Shab, and this should definitely be on your list of things to do in Oman. In case you’re wondering what a “wadi” is, it is a valley or ravine in Arabic.
Wadi Shab is easily the most well-known wadi in Oman and that’s because you’ll find a beautiful gorge, warm bright blue pools, and even a hidden waterfall.
One can easily spend an entire day here at Wadi Shab, but if you’re short on time you can knock this experience off in under four hours. To get to the pools of Wadi Shab you will need to pay 1 Omani Rial for the small boat to get you from the parking area to the beginning of the hike.
You’ll have to hike over boulders and rocks for around 45 minutes (no elevation gain but flip flops are not recommended) to reach the pools. You’ll likely be dripping sweat by this point and just waiting to jump into the pools.
There are three different pools at Wadi Shab, but keep going to the end one. You’ll know when you reach the end as there is a large sign letting you know. It’s here that you can take a swim in the water. If you want to get to the hidden waterfall you’ll have to keep swimming. Once you get to the end where you can swim no further you’ll have the option of stopping, or venturing on to see the hidden waterfall. To see the waterfall you’ll either have to climb over the rocks via a slippery rope or squeeze your head through a narrow space in the water – it’s not for the claustrophobic.
Keep in mind that the last boat from the hiking area to the parking lot leaves around 5 pm so you’ll want to time your visit right.
10. Day Trip to the Mountains
Oman is notoriously well known for hot temperatures. During the summers, the country can be boiling at around 50 degrees. If you’re looking to escape these crazy temperatures one of the best things to do is head to the mountains. A day trip from Muscat to the Jabal Akhdar Mountains are the perfect way to cool off. The Jabal Akhdar Mountain is the grand canyon on Oman.
The Al Hajar Mountains are a famous mountain range in Oman that sit over 2000m high and can provide a welcome relief from the oppressive heat and humidity found along the coastline. It’s a rugged landscape of ocher mountains filled with orchards, villages, caves, and expansive wadis. Those orchards supply local specialties like pomegranates and rose water.
Wadis or canyons may be the most impressive sights of the region and can offer some very promising hikes, either along their rim, through the floor, or on the sides. One of the most unique ways to explore the wadis here is through Via Ferrata.
Via Ferrata or “Iron Way” is a climbing route that is lead by fixed bolts, ladders, and lines. It’s a non-technical way to experience rock climbing and anyone can do it safely, as you are harnessed at all times. There are two places in Oman where you can do Via Ferrata. It doesn’t matter how you chose to explore these mountains, but they are a must-visit while in Oman.
We were able to take part of this Via Ferrata experience while staying at the beautiful Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel. Located in the Al Hajar Mountains, Alila Jabal is situated right in the heart of the rugged mountains.
Should You Rent a Car in Oman?
Oman is a beautiful country and its coastline has a lot to explore. However, public transport is almost non-existent and most touristic destinations are best visited as a day trip or one overnight. To maximize your time in Oman we’d recommend picking up a rental car.
With that being said there are several things to keep in mind. Pick up an IDP (International Driver’s License) that has your details translated to Arabic. You will need to be a defensive driver in Oman. They drive very fast and aggressive in Oman, and as a result, they have the second-highest per capita of driving-related deaths in the world.
That being said this is well known and they have enacted speed cameras across the highways so do not speed. Interestingly enough rental cars have a warning system when you exceed 120kph, the maximum speed limit in the country.
Quick Oman Travel Tips
- Language – Arabic. However, with good education and a strong tourist industry English is widely spoken.
- Currency: Omani Rial
- Visa: E-Visa System,
- What to Pack: Pack for desert temperatures. Light, loose, and conservative clothing works best here!
Where to Stay in Muscat?
Shangri La Al Husn
The Shangri La Al Husn is one of the most luxurious properties in Muscat. It’s about a twenty-minute drive away from downtown Muscat and lies in the perfect position on the coast. It’s an ideal location for a quick city break for Omanis and a great vacation spot for international travelers who want to experience the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Oman. You can read our full review here.
Plan and Pack for Oman
Just throwing this into your bag is going to make packing for Oman a breeze. A Shemagh is the perfect travel accessory for both the men and the women travelers out there. This can be worn for just about anything. It will keep you warm, cover your face, protect valuables in your backpack, and even double as an eye mask the shemagh has tons of different uses.
It’s perfect for anyone heading into the Sahara wanting to keep the sand out of their face. I would personally recommend buying this before you land because once you travel to the desert there will plenty of touts willing to sell you a cheap one at an exorbitant price.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Oman. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but for those times when they may not I like to have a backup travel towel. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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