By Pamela Q. Fernandes, Epicure & Culture Contributor
Oman is different from its neighbors because of its characteristic red soil and folding rocks.
Instead of the undulating desert, you’re surrounded by red rocky mountains; quite a sight to behold.
Yet, in this harsh rocky desert, you can still find spots of lush greenery in the valleys — or wadis — as they’re known to the locals.
In this post, we’ll share six of the best wadis in Oman to visit, while also providing information on how to plan your perfect Oman wadi trip!
What Is A Wadi?
Wadis — like lagoons — have pools of cool water surrounded by palm, trees, banana farms and mango orchards.
Some of these picturesque valleys have streams of fresh flowing water, springs and waterfalls.
Visiting a wadi is one of the top things to do in Oman. Moreover, because every wadi is different it’s worthwhile to visit a few in one trip.
You could have a picnic at one and a barbecue at another.
Sometimes the main highlight is a dip in the cool waters, while another wadi might be known for its caves.
No matter which type of wadi you choose, visiting one is a popular weekend activity in Oman.
The Best Wadis In Oman: Planning Your Visit
Now realize, there is some preparation involved when visiting wadis in Oman.
While you can visit any of them, even the ones simply found by the highways, the more popular wadis tend to be far off and remote.
For these, your packing list and vehicle choice —hint: you’ll need a 4×4 to navigation rough terrain— are important considerations.
Many wadis also have pre-arranged Jeep tours, which can be a smart alternative to driving on unfamiliar roads.
A few other planning notes:
Pack plenty of food.
Yes, wadis are places for family picnics and stargazing; however, there’s virtually nothing around them.
No shops, no grocery store, no ice-cream man when it’s hot.
If you do plan an all-day trip, carry meals and snacks, plenty of water in a cooler and a portable stove if you plan to cook or barbecue.
Wear light clothes; but, carry layers for the night.
Oman, like most deserts, heats up during the day and cools rapidly during the night.
If you’re keen on stargazing or are hoping to camp overnight, carry layers and a blanket. For the day, cotton clothes and hiking shoes should do fine.
It does rain occasionally, so it doesn’t hurt to carry a rain jacket.
Pack a tent, as this can be a source of retreat once the sun beats down.
Most people take a dip in water or refresh themselves with a shower under the tumbling waterfalls and springs; but if you’re looking for shade, there’s not much shelter.
And finally, bring a camera — specifically a waterproof one if possible.
You can also use a waterproof case for your smartphone, like this universal option from MPOW.
The wadis are some of the most beautiful places in Oman, so don’t forget to pack this.
Now, most tourists stay in the capital of Muscat, from which there are plenty of options for visiting wadis in Oman.
Muscat is known for its dazzling souks and desert landscape overlooking emerald seas, and is also an easy place from which to rent a car.
Best Oman Wadi Tours
Don’t want to drive?
There are a number of unique locally-led tours that explore Oman’s wadis, including:
- Coastal Tour and Wadi Hike from Muscat. A great mix of trekking, swimming and scenic viewpoints while exploring multiple wadis.
- The Grand Canyon of Oman and Jebel Shams Day Trip [Private Tour]. Highlights include exploring the Old Capital of Oman; a scenic drive along Wadi Nakhr; taking in the view from Oman’s highest peak, Jebel Shams (3000 metres high); and exploring the lovely village of Misfat Al Abrein, which has a unique location strapped to the mountainside.
- Private 4×4 Desert and Wadi Safari – Wahiba and Wadi Bani Khalid. In an offroad vehicle, you’ll explore the gorgeous Hajar Mountains before visiting Wadi Bani Khalid, renowned for its deep canyons and tranquil waters. You’ll also drive through dune-laced Wahiba desert for an (optional) camel ride, and to the village of Mudairib to view its famous watchtowers.
- 2 Days Muscat Watching Turtles and Wadi Shab Package. Mix wildlife with Oman wadi exploration on this fun tour, that includes an experience-packed itinerary of exploring Muscat City, visiting Bimmah Sinkhole, swimming the crystal waters of Wadi Shab, an overnight stay at Ras Al Had where you can watch turtles hatching sea, and a drive through the Wahiba Desert towards wadi Bani Khaled.
The 6 Best Wadis In Oman
Wondering which wadis are truly worth your time?
Below, find six of the best wadis in Oman for an exciting local day trip.
1. Visit Wadi Al Arbiyeen
Situated 1.8 miles away from Wilayat Qurayat in the Muscat Governorate, this is one of the most beautiful valleys of Oman.
The wadi furrows the Al-Sharqiyah and Al-Hajar Mountains, and has deep pools.
Moreover, its banks are home to four villages within walking distance. These villages are richly cultivated with palm trees, bananas, lemon and fruit trees, mostly on private land.
And while you may feel you’re encroaching on these tiny hamlets, the locals welcome tourists here to support the textile industry run by Oman women.
Wadi Al Arbiyeen is a major spot for mountaineering, with teams of mountaineers descending on the spot in moderate weather to enjoy sweeping views of the terrain below. For all climbers this is an excellent wadi.
2. Visit Wadi Al Shab
Located in Tiwi, this wadi is in Al Sharqiyah South Governorate.
It is 87 miles from Muscat on the Qurayat – Sur Coastal Road. This spectecular stretch offers views of the Arabian Gulf on one side, and rugged red mountains on the other.
Again, this is why you’ll want to have that camera with you and ready to fire at all times.
At Wadi Al Shab, mountain peaks have fresh water cascading down their slopes to meet the sea.
This is a wadi where you can go on adventurous hikes or enjoy some boating for a small fee.
A 40-minute hike will lead you to a water cave. Once there, a guide can lead you through a crevice in the rock, and then you can take a dip in the water.
Word of caution:
Getting into the water can be a bit tedious, and may not be advisable for small children.
There are larger pools at this wadi, too, where the Cliff Diving World Championships were held.
If you’re in the area you may decide to spend time at Bimmah sinkhole, known for its azure waters.
A steep descent leads you to a pristine pool where you can take a swim or enjoy the park nearby, which features a playground for kids and place to sit down for a picnic.
The sinkhole is identified as a meteor crash site.
3. Visit Wadi Ad Dayqah
One of the most accessible wadis to Muscat is Wadi Ad Dayqah, a popular tourist attraction and often crowded on the weekends.
Why is it so popular?
Because its water flows year-round, unlike other wadis which tend to dry up in the summer.
With the perennial water, the Sultanate has built its largest dam, 246 feet high upon this wadi. The dam lake stretches five miles across, holding about 100 million cubic meters of rainwater.
4. Wadi Al Ta’iyeen
This wadi is in the Al Sharqiyah South Governorate, and extends over 49 miles across the Al Hajar Mountains in Bidbid.
An idyllic valley dotted with acacia trees and small hills.
But that’s not the only reason this Oman wadi is special, as you’ll also get to see ancient ruins at the foot of the mountain as you drive through Al Subul Village.
Crumbling mud houses still holding a bit of Omani mystique tell stories of ancient civilizations that are no longer with us. Actually, the area’s ancient alleys, goats grazing on the hillside and the sturdy canal system provide a glimpse into what life was before the country struck oil.
If you’re interested in history, you can speak to a local guide. Some of these ruins are still home to a few Omani families, who would happily show you around without a fee.
5. Visit Wadi Bani Khalid
This wadi is 126 miles from Muscat.
To reach it, you’ll drive along Bidbid-Sur Road, overlooking lush valley.
After you cross the valley, you reach Muqal town, known for its caves. If you decide to visit any of these caverns — possible without a guide — you can hear the rush of the underground water through the rocks.
Wadi Bani Khalid’s first pool is barely five minutes from the main road; though, you can walk further to find multiple pools formed by the many waterfalls flowing down the mountain.
Since it’s very popular with locals and vacationers, the government has constructed public toilets, shelters and several grocery shops nearby, not common when visiting a wadi.
6. Wadi Al Hawqayn
This list would not be complete without mentioning Wadi Al Hawqayn, home to Oman’s most stunning year-round flowing waterfall.
It may not be the highest waterfall you’ve ever seen, but the continuous cascade of water against a backdrop of red, desert rock land makes it truly picturesque.
Not surprisingly, it’s popular with picknickers.
A two-hour drive from Muscat also makes it very accessible, especially as its near to Rustaq Fort. The recently renovated fort lies at the heart of the wadi. Here, staff provide you with an audio tour if you want to learn about ancient Arabian history. Additionally, the fort has hot springs where you can take a quick bath for free.
This list is by no means complete. Oman has beautiful wadis all over the country, so you won’t be hard-pressed to find one.
The country is known for its outdoor adventures, with plenty to do in terms of hiking, swimming, stargazing, and camping. Wadi exploring will truly satisfy even the most adventurous, outdoor tourists.
Oman Hotels: Best Places To Stay
Of course, you’ll want to peruse a few Oman Hotels and book a hotel that will enhance your stay in the country.
You can use the widget below to do your hotel search. In Muscat you’ll find all your favorite hotel brands —Holiday Inn, Ibis, Crowne Plaza, the Ritz-Carlton; though, if you want something truly Middle Eastern, the Mysk Al Mouj Hotel is a great option.
It sits right on the marina, and features a rooftop with a pool, lounge chairs, cafe and a bird’s-eye city view.
The property is very modern, though has a more local feel than a big brand hotel, and is exceptionally welcoming. Don’t miss a workout in the gym followed by a sauna experience, or head back to your room to enjoy the rainshower. There are also two restaurants onsite — Italian and Middle Eastern — or staff can direct you to some of the best Omani eateries and experiences nearby.
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