Desert holidays in Oman

“Travelling through and camping in the Omani desert was the most memorable part of the trip for me. I have crossed the Sahara twice as well as the Gobi Desert but the sand dunes of Oman are even more beautiful and interesting.”
– Nancy Wiesenfeld in a review of her Oman holiday
No holiday to Oman would be complete without making a journey into the vast Arabian Desert, an opportunity to discover ancient traditions at risk of dying out as Bedouin people slowly move away from the nomadic way of life. This desert covers much of the Arabian Peninsula, including some two-thirds of Oman, and lies just beyond the capital, Muscat, tantalisingly close. In this harsh, sun baked landscape, generosity, courage and honour are not just personal qualities to strive for, they are essential for survival. No wonder then that the Arabian Desert is bound up in myth and legend: wildly atmospheric, captivatingly beautiful and always carrying the promise of adventure.

What do desert holidays in Oman entail?

Oman is only gradually opening up to tourism and for the most part they’re aiming upscale, with luxury hotels prevalent. You will struggle to find ‘authentic’ accommodation, but many tours do aim for smaller, locally owned properties. And while staying in a Bedouin desert camp is a popular visitor activity, it doesn’t feel especially geared towards tourists; the welcome you receive, the style of accommodation, and the food are all thoroughly in keeping with tradition.

Desert holidays in Oman can be as part of a small group of six to 12 people, where you have the benefit of a tour leader to ensure everything runs smoothly, as well as the social aspect. They can also be tailor made holidays, in which not only the dates, but the itinerary itself can be shaped to your preferences. You’ll be accompanied by local guides and drivers too, which naturally adds depth and colour to your perceptions of Oman.

Most trips focus on the northern, hottest parts of Oman and will feature at least one night in a Bedouin desert camp such as those of the Wahiba Sands. Classic and highly sought-after activities include camel safaris, swimming in wadis and dune bashing in 4x4s, but what will really move you are the utter stillness and beauty of the desert as you lie beneath a canvas of brilliant stars.

Our top Oman Holiday

Oman small group tour

Oman small group tour

Ancient spice trails, Wahiba Sands, superb coastal scenery

From £1799 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 6 Jan, 3 Feb, 4 Apr, 27 Oct, 17 Nov
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Hello. If you'd like to chat about Oman or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

When to go to the desert in Oman

It can get crazy hot between May and September, when daytime temperatures often hit 35°C, so the best time to visit Oman is from October to March, when the temperature is relatively mild even in the interior. You’ll need adequate sun protection though – a floppy hat, UV-resistant sunglasses and a bandana for the dust are highly recommended. If heading to a Bedouin camp you’ll usually leave your luggage at a hotel and just take a small bag of essentials for the night. We recommend making a fleecy top one of those essentials, as temperatures often drop sharply after nightfall.

While you can travel to Oman during Ramadan, some discretion is advisable when it comes to eating in front of your guides, and some sites may be operating limited hours. Your tour operator will be able to advise.

Oman’s Arabian Desert highlights

Wahiba Sands

A few hours’ drive south of Muscat, the Wahiba Sands is famed for its towering sand dunes that reach as high as 100m, their colours and contours shifting ceaselessly. The desert is dotted with isolated settlements of semi-nomadic Bedouin people, immensely proud of their heritage and keen to share it with visitors. This is a very popular area for overnight camping, 4WD driving over dunes, and purchasing traditional handicrafts.

Camel safaris

True, camels are not generally known for their pleasant temperament, but there’s something enchanting about the way they gracefully lope across the sands, as well as their beautiful eyelashes. A typical camel safari lasts no more than a few hours and trust us, most of that time you’ll be pretty uncomfortable. But a camel is often the best way to reach parts of the desert that cannot, or should not, be travelled by vehicle, and also a fun way to experience a traditional Bedouin custom.

Wadi wonders

Another standard visit on any desert holiday in Oman is touring a wadi – these valleys can be dry as a bone, perfect for exploring by 4x4, or they can be filled with water. Taking a dip in an emerald green natural pool, surrounded by tumbling waterfalls, caves and terraces of date and pomegranate trees, is an experience you’ll treasure. Some, such as Wadi Bani Khalid, are so well known they actually have lifeguards.
Perhaps more luxurious than you might expect, with lamp-lit tents tall enough to stand up in, comfortable bedding and cushions and private bathrooms, traditional Bedouin encampments are a wonderful way to experience the generous hospitality of local people. You’ll dine on meals cooked on hot stones, be entertained by songs and dances that date back centuries, and enjoy magnificent desert sunsets.

“I loved the night in the desert. The Bedouin tent style accommodation was charming while still comfortable with our own bathroom (open to the skies). The dinner was excellent and the place was very well run. We watched the sun set from the top of a dune well away from anyone else and all we could see was a sea of soft, silky sand.” – Elizabeth Hansen in a review of her holiday in Oman
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Andries Oudshoorn] [Intro: albinfo] [Best time to go: Nepenthes] [Wadi wonders: Richard Bartz]
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