If you have ever wanted to take a road trip through Oman, now is the perfect time…
Dense fog, lush vegetation, vast waterfalls, wild waves, a seemingly endless desert, rolling dunes, sinuous wadis, mountainous landscapes like those on Mars, abandoned villages, bustling cities, countless camels, goats and a few donkeys: these are just some of the stuff. you will see in Oman when you experience it on four wheels. Exploring Oman’s natural wonders by car allows you to witness many of the country’s most underrated assets. So, armed with a full tank of gas, our favorite snacks and essential road trip tunes, we hit the road from Dubai.
The journey begins with a six-hour drive to Alila Jabal Akhdar, where we check into a room with a mountain view, although realistically, as we are 2,000 meters above sea level, we imagine that all rooms have a mountain view. mountain. To get to the hotel you will need a 4×4, and our preferred mode of transportation is a Mini Cooper Countryman. The small but mighty vehicle is the perfect size, with plenty of room for luggage (and snacks), and has more than enough power and agility to take us through the various types of terrain we encounter along the road trip.
The resort is totally remote, and the absolute silence is a welcome change from city life as we sip coffee on our balcony in the morning. With a stunning infinity pool stretching out into the mountainous vista, the hotel’s location and facilities sell themselves. However, the excellent dining options and impeccable service are an added bonus. Juniper Restaurant and Rose Lounge overlook the endless vista and serve a wide variety of dishes, and guests can order from the menus at either restaurant.
The room is spacious yet cozy, with large glass doors overlooking the natural wonders outside and a wooden deck complete with a comfortable sofa from which to enjoy the ambiance around you. The bathroom features a huge freestanding tub that also opens to the view.
When it comes time for the next leg of our journey, a 7am departure is required. We drive to the second resort of Alila in Oman, which is located near Salalah in Hinu Bay. The ‘fast route’ runs right through the center of the country and takes us through almost 1,000km of completely untouched land. The empty desert fades into harsh dusty conditions, before slowly turning greener as we get closer to the coast.
@whatsondubai This is your cue to plan the best road trip through Oman during Khareef season with @mini #miniagmc #whatsondubai #roadtrip #travel #middleeast #oman #khareef2022 #khareef #wheretogo ♬ original sound – Sickickmusic
Oman’s annual monsoon season, called Khareef, runs until September, which means that for three months, a thick cloud envelops the massive mountain that blocks the desert from the beach. As we get closer, we find our thermostat drops from 45° Celsius to 25° Celsius in less than half an hour, and we soon pass through heavy fog with minimal visibility. The surroundings that we can see, however, offer exuberant vegetation and a thick forest, clearly benefited by the intense humidity. When we reach the coast, the conditions are still cloudy and the waves of the sea aggressively hit the rocks on the beach.
After eight and a half hours, we arrive at Alila Hinu Bay and are greeted with refreshing hibiscus tea. The boutique property has rooms and villas, and ours has a private pool, beach view, and outdoor lounging area. Interiors are beautiful, featuring a modern, beachy design with chic furnishings and a partially open-air bathroom. Guests can enjoy two restaurants, SeaSalt, which offers Pan-Asian cuisine, and The Orchard, which serves traditional dishes from around the Middle East. Spa Alila is a haven of serenity for guests, especially those who have been confined to a car for many hours. The signature treatment uses local frankincense to de-stress the mind and relax the muscles.
The hotel offers excursions, but we are here for a solo adventure, so we return to our trusted Countryman and head to Jabal Samhan. During the Khareef season, the clouds are low, which means that when you are on top of the mountain, white fluffy pillows sit below you. You can get a decent view all morning (depending on the weather), but the best time to arrive is at sunrise.
Wadi Durbat is a popular place to visit, with waterfalls and boat rides around the lake, but unless you enjoy sharing your experience with hundreds of other tourists, we wouldn’t pass it up. Instead, head to Dolphins Beach, which gets its name from the high probability of seeing wild dolphins leaping happily off the horizon. Even if you can’t see them, you’ll enjoy a secluded area of sand and calm waves, nestled under a picturesque mountain. Many of Salalah’s beaches are rocky and overgrown, making this one worth the trip. The drive along the coast road is truly magical, with natural beauty around every winding curve.
On our last day, we made our way up the east coast towards Muscat. While not the most efficient route home, it is certainly the most beautiful. The different landscapes we come across are somewhat mind-boggling and unlike the hectic single lane drive up to Salalah, on the way back we rarely meet other cars, giving us free rein to enjoy the mountains, desert and beachside roads to ourselves. We pass through many small towns along the way, which show the reality of how many people in Oman live, built with all the necessary necessities for a simple life. Towns by the sea are teeming with fishing boats, while many of the towns further into the desert have been abandoned, likely due to extreme weather conditions and a lack of infrastructure.
Seeing an alternative side of Oman, away from the luxury resorts and tourist attractions, gives us a new perspective on the country and a deeper understanding of its culture. While the view of mountains and beaches can be enjoyed from a hotel room, it is venturing into the unknown and soaking up the surroundings that will engrave the experience in your memory forever.
For more information on hotels, visit alilahotels.com. For more information on Mini, visit mini-dubai.com.
The best tips on the road
- Give yourself plenty of time at the border and make sure you have all your documents ready (including Omani car insurance).
- Police checkpoints may also be along your route, so have everything close at hand.
- Watch for speed cameras. Oman has a 10kph buffer (as opposed to 20kph in most of the United Arab Emirates)
- Beware of speed bumps, especially in small towns where they tend to merge with the road and are not always marked.
Images: What’s On/Provided