Authored by Jon Grant
Oman is a country of contrasts, from the steep mountains of Jebel Shams to the clear waters of the Arabian Peninsula, from the dunes of the Wahiba Sands Desert to the azure blue wadis.
The untouched beauty of Oman is only just starting to be recognised by world travellers, and the best way to immerse yourself in this amazing country and its culture is by wild camping on a self drive, cross country adventure.
With savagely beautiful landscapes untouched by both modern development and tourism, and laws that mean wild camping is entirely legal anywhere (with a few exceptions), you will likely have these amazing spots to yourself!
The following is everything you need to know about wild camping across Oman, complete with a full 7 day itinerary for a self guided, 4WD adventure.
See What's in This Post
- 1 Where to Camp and Not to Camp
- 2 Misconceptions About Visiting Oman
- 3 What Type of Vehicle do I Need to Explore Oman?
- 4 Areas Where Only a 4WD Can Go
- 5 Rent from MII Car Rental
- 6 Our 7 day Oman Itinerary
- 7 Day 1: Arrive Muscat
- 8 Day 2: Muscat
- 9 Day 3: Muscat to Jebel Akhdar
- 10 Day 4: Jebel Akhdar to Jebel Shams via Nizwa
- 11 Day 5: Jebel Shams to Wahiba Sands
- 12 Day 5: Wahiba Sands Desert to Sur via Wadi Bani Khalid
- 13 Day 6: Sur to Muscat via Wadi Shab
- 14 Tips For Travelling and Camping in Oman
Wild Camping Across Oman: A 7 Day 4WD Itinerary (Self Drive Roadtrip Without a Guide)
Where to Camp and Not to Camp
Camping in natural reserves is not allowed i.e. The Green Turtle Reserve in Ras Al Jinz. Also, camping in wadis is not advised due to the extreme risk of flash flooding. Out of respect, avoid camping in local villages.
Outside of these areas, there are no restrictions!
Wild camping in Oman is free and legal all over the country; we camped at a viewpoint in Jebel Akhdar, on the high plateau overlooking the Wadi Ghul canyon of Jebel Shams, next to the dunes in the desert, and at the beach.
More often than not, we were the only people camping, and had these amazing locations entirely to ourselves!
While you won’t be battling against any tourist crowds, Oman is an incredibly country, and the Omani people know it! They love their country and are outdoor enthusiasts, therefore expect to have some neighbours (near or far), during their weekend, Friday’s and Saturday’s, and national holidays. We would recommend arriving to your campsite by 4.30 pm to secure your private location, but also to set up camp in the natural light.
To find the perfect campsite, you can easily just follow the road until you spot somewhere with the best views and flat surfaces, or we used a combination of apps such as Maps.Me, Google Maps and iOverlander that have listed several good campsites.
Be a responsible wild camper and remember to follow the leave no trace principles. This means taking your rubbish with you, taking proper care of human waste (including the toilet paper), reducing the footprint of your campfires, and respecting any wildlife you may encounter.
We travelled Oman for 7 days exploring the iconic hotspots the country has to offer; with a 4WD Toyota Fortuner from MII Car Rental, we were able to access the best of Oman in just a short amount of time.
Misconceptions About Visiting Oman
Since Oman is still new to travellers, its important to clear up misconceptions about visiting this great country:
Oman is not safe – this is definitely wrong! Oman is incredibly safe. We consider the local Omani people as some of the most genuine and helpful people. From hearing ‘welcome to our Oman’ from passing strangers, to being shown local hidden campsites or provided directions, the Omani people were always cheerful and eager to help.
Oman is too expensive to travel for the budget conscious traveller – this is somewhat true, Oman is expensive, but this post is going to help you explore the country’s beauty in the most affordable way – by camping!
Oman is just like every other Arab country I have visited – this is definitely wrong!
Oman has an incredible history and culture that is very unique to the rest of the region. Being a big country, Oman also has a huge variety of things to see and do, from trekking in the mountains, to 4WDing in the desert, or relaxing at one of the many crystal-clear wadis, you will certainly come across something new every day.
What Type of Vehicle do I Need to Explore Oman?
Although Oman’s roads between cities and towns are considered some of the best in the world, the country’s iconic sights are, for the most part, accessed by heading off road, and therefore a 4WD is the best and safest way to travel.
Another benefit of having a 4WD vehicle is the additional space needed to carry your essential camping equipment. Having a smaller vehicle would limit what you can carry and overall make the trip a lot less comfortable – you’re on holidays after all!
If you’re still considering only renting a 2WD vehicle, it’s extremely important you know the limitations on where you cannot go. In several places there are police checks to ensure that only 4WD vehicles can access the area.
Additionally, if you were to breakdown or get stuck in a 2WD (in the desert for instance), reaching help can often be difficult.
Areas Where Only a 4WD Can Go
Rent from MII Car Rental
We rented a Toyota Fortuner 4 Litre V6 4WD from MII Car Rental and found this the perfect sized 4WD for travelling Oman.
With enough space in the rear to fit all our camping equipment, and roof racks to hold a roof-top tent, the Toyota Fortuner gave us the comfort while driving more than 1,100km around the country and also the power when we needed it, particularly going up steep ridges and through the desert sands.
MII Car Rental can also provide all the essential camping equipment through their partner Nomad Tours. We rented a “Type 1 roof-top tent package” (suitable for 2 people) for our travels which included:
- Roof top tent and thick mattress fitted to the roof of our 4WD
- Sleeping bags, pillows and sheets,
- Cooking equipment including gas stove and gas bottle, frying pan, saucepan, kettle, cutlery, plates, bowls and mugs, chopping board, and wash bowl,
- Portable shower, water jerry cans, tables and chairs, shovel, and rechargeable light.
For more information or bookings:
Our 7 day Oman Itinerary
We started and finished our 7-day travel of Oman in the country’s capital, Muscat. Completing our journey in an anticlockwise direction, we felt it was the best way to enjoy the scenery leaving the refreshing wadis (our favourite part) until the end.
7 Day Self Drive Oman Itinerary
➤ Day 1: Arrive Muscat
➤ Day 2: Muscat
➤ Day 3: Jebel Akhdar
➤ Day 4: Jebel Shams via Nizwa
➤ Day 5: Wadiba Sands Desert via Al Wasil
➤ Day 6: Sur via Wadi Bani Khalid
➤ Day 7: Muscat via Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole
Detailed Self Drive Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Muscat
Depending on your flight arrival time, you may choose to explore the many sights Muscat has to offer, including its beautiful beaches, Mutrah Corniche and Mutrah Souq for sunset.
The Mutrah Souq closes after 1pm and reopens again at 4pm, so it’s important to plan your visit accordingly. Whilst in the area, you may like to visit the Al Bustan Palace (A Ritz-Carlton Hotel) for a beautiful sunset at the beach and a drink from the hotel’s beach side bar.
Day 2: Muscat
Plan to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Open from 8am-11am, this is an absolute must. One of the most elegant mosques we have visited.
Follow their strict dress policy and make sure to visit the information centre which opens at 9am for a very friendly and open conversation, served with local dates and coffee or tea.
After the mosque, stop by the Royal Opera House. This is a very intricate musical venue, and you’ll marvel at the architecture and rich handmade décor. Other places to visit on day 2 include the National Museum, Old Muscat, and Al Alam Palace.
During our time in Muscat, we opted to stay in an AirBnB to help reduce costs. There are suitable campsites along the beach area, however we had not picked up our 4WDtat this point.
Day 3: Muscat to Jebel Akhdar
154 kms / 2.5 Hours Driving
On day 3 we left Muscat early and headed for Jebel Akhdar. This is a stunning mountain range, and one of the highest points in Oman and eastern Arabia.
We had a few sights and activities that we wanted to complete in this day:
Things to do on Day 3
➤ There are two incredible viewpoints at 2,090 meters (one was our campsite for the night). Don’t be afraid to hike up the little hills and have a walk around. Enjoy the views here.
➤ Wadi Bani Habib. Whilst dry when we visited, it is considered one of the best places to see in Jebel Akhdar. Take the stairs down to admire the view of the canyon and the old abandoned village.
➤ The short hike from the local Al Ayn village to the Al Aqur rose village. We really liked the old village of Al Ayn. It has beautiful views of the mountains, the old streets and tunnels you can walk through on your way to the plantations and terraces is truly special.
➤ Diana’s viewpoint.
➤ Sunset anywhere in the mountains.
GPS point: 23.0494440, 57.7227780
Our campsite was just behind a key viewpoint on the way up to the villages of Jebel Akhdar at 2,090m. Very private, little road noise, and with spectacular sunset views made our first night camping in Oman truly special.
Access: Follow dirt track to the left of parking lot. Just behind the boulders on the left.
Day 4: Jebel Akhdar to Jebel Shams via Nizwa
184 kms / 4.5 Hours Driving
Before heading up to Jebel Shams, we stopped off at Nizwa and the traditional hillside town of Misfat al Abriyyin. There are many differing opinions about stopping in Nizwa.
This is a personal choice depending on your time constraints, budget and interests. We stopped off at the Nizwa Souq to pick up a few supplies and spent our time exploring Misfat al Abriyyin, a smaller traditional village 50 minutes from Nizwa.
Things to do on Day 4
➤ Nizwa Souq – It is one of the oldest markets in the country and you will find fruit, meat, sweets, pottery, souvenirs and antiques. We love visiting the Souqs, haggling a bargin, and mingling with the locals.
➤ Nizwa Fort – a combination of a castle, a fort and a museum. A little expensive to visit at 5 OMR; so if you are not on a tight budget or a bit of a history buff, then don’t miss this.
➤ Misfat al Abriyyin. The agricultural terraces, beautiful wadi, hiking options and old houses, makes Misfat al Abriyyin a very attractive place to visit. We did the W9 hike, through the village, pass the irrigation system and onto the wadi. A very peaceful visit. Dress conservatively here and respect the traditional culture of the area.
➤ Al Hamra. This is considered one of the best preserved old towns in Oman, and is the home of the Bait Al Safah living museum. Take a walk in between the old abandoned building and old houses. Visit the museum and discover Omani traditions with men and women showing you ancient practices.
➤ On your way up to Jebel Shams, consider a detour to walk at the bottom Wadi Nakhr. There is a small road sign pointing to this.
Upon arriving in Jebel Shams we immediately made our way to the Balcony Walk starting point to make the most of the remaining natural light. Whilst this walk takes up to 4hrs, there are multiple viewpoints along the way, so you can walk as short or as long as you like.
Our campsite was on the rocky plateau, right on the cliff edge overlooking Wadi Ghul canyon. While the lighting in the canyon disappears quickly, the sunset colours were spectacular. Sunrise was just as special too.
GPS point: 23.201110, 57.201389
Access: Follow the dirt and gravel road past Jebel Shams Resort for approximately 2km. You will see many rocky tracks that break off from the main road which lead to the cliff edge. The campsites are a little exposed and it can get quite windy here, however, for those in tents you will find some flat surfaces and small wind breaks (this is where the roof-top tent excels).
Day 5: Jebel Shams to Wahiba Sands
272 kms / 4 hours driving
We left early for what was our biggest drive day. There is a small amount of time to explore other sites in and around Nizwa if you missed them in the days previous.
We visited the Bahla Fort and Jabrin Castle one our way out of Nizwa. Jabrin Castle is one of the best to visit in Oman. Entrance is very cheap at 500 Baisa and it wasn’t very busy.
There’s a labyrinth of rooms to explore and you can enjoy views of the date palms and mountains from the towers and battlements. You may also like to visit the sites you missed on the way to Jebel Shams i.e. the villages and forts.
Like all deserts, Wahiba Sands is great place to spend a night in a blissful place. The sunset and sunrise here were magical. As you drive, you will begin to see the dunes etch closer and closer.
Once camp is all set up, walk around and admire the changing colours of the dunes as the sun sets. Our campsite was 13km into the desert via Al Wasil.
Situated between Sama Al Wasil Camp and Nomadic Desert Camp, in the valley we were towered by gorgeous sunlit dunes. Very private, with only 5 cars passing by, and direct access to the dunes. This campsite provided spectacular sunset views from the dunes above. You can venture onto the dunes to camp if you desire.
GPS point: 22.360277, 58.696666
Access: We entered at the village of Al Wasil. Follow the sandy track through the valley until the end, where the dunes close the valley. Remember to lower your tyre pressures and engage 4WD before entering the desert.
The staff at MII Car Rentals will provide guidance and recommendations for appropriate tyre pressures for your vehicle. Upon returning from the desert, the fuel station and local tyre repair shops will assist you in inflating your tyres for a small fee of 500 Baisa.
Day 5: Wahiba Sands Desert to Sur via Wadi Bani Khalid
176 kms / 2.75 hours driving
After watching the new day break on the sand dunes we slowly packed up and made our way to Wadi Bani Khalid. Here, a short walk takes you to large emerald pools and a narrow zigzagging canyon filled with giant white boulders.
You can go swimming or just dip your feet in the water. Beware you will get a free pedicure as the little fish eat at your dead skin!
We highly recommend to swim in any of the smaller pools in the upper section where the water is transparent with small pebbles at the bottom. The rocks to the upper section can be quite slippery, so where appropriate shoes and take care.
Once you have dragged yourself out of the blissful pools, continue to drive onto the seaside town of Sur. Sur is a quite historical, cultural and natural attraction. Depending on your time constraints, we recommend visiting:
Things to do in Sur
➤ The lighthouse of Sur. Near to the lighthouse, in the area of Al Ayjah, be sure to walk around the old town and admire the details in the old buildings.
➤ Dhow Yard – the home to traditional boat building yard.
➤ Stroll up the watch towers for incredible views of the white buildings and blue waters.
➤ Turtle-watch at Ras Al Jinz Reserve (Seasonal).
We didn’t spend a night in Sur, rather we made our way to the beach close to Wadi Shab as we wanted to get to the wadi very early the following morning to avoid the crowds.
GPS point: 22.853402, 59.236889
Access: Follow the rocky road just after the Wadi Shab Hotel down to the water. The road will split at a fork, take the left side towards the rock cove.
Day 6: Sur to Muscat via Wadi Shab
244 kms / 2.5 hours driving
At the top our list to visit, we made the effort to wake early to reach the car park of Wadi Shab prior to 8am. We were first on the boat ride across (1 OMR per person return), and on the path walking by 8am.
It’s a 40 min walk to the wadi pools. Wadi Shab is made famous for its cave and waterfall accessible only by swimming through the pools. You must be a confident swimmer and be able to swim at least 50m without holding onto the sides and be able to tread water inside the cave.
Arriving too late will result in queues to enter to see the cave and waterfall, and ultimately removes the tranquillity of being one of the only people in the pools in the morning. You will pass the large crowds walking in on your way out, feeling ecstatic that you arrived early.
Allow 3 hours for this visit. You may also like to consider visiting the below on your way back to Muscat:
Sites to see on your way back to Muscat
➤ Wadi Tiwi – Not far from Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi is another variant of those deep gorges cut in the mountains and running to the sea. There are several swimming areas along the wadi.
➤ Bimmah Sinkhole – the colour of this eroded sinkhole is very magical. A very busy place, but still worth the visit and swim. Like Wadi Shab, it is best to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
➤ Fins beach – explore numerous small and hidden coves with beaches, or wider expanses of sand, or cliffs dropping precipitously into the sea.
After arriving back in Muscat, we were sad to return our 4WD wishing we had much more time to further explore the wonders of Oman.
Tips For Travelling and Camping in Oman
Talk to locals – whilst apps like Maps.me and iOverlander are great for finding campsites others have used, Omani people are extremely friendly and are usually more than happy to share their ‘local’ best campsites.
Arrive to the Wadis early – Omanis are late starters, meaning that if you can arrive to the wadis early in the morning (8am), it is highly likely you will have them to yourself.
Arriving early also means you can ensure the tranquillity before the other tourists arrive. The water may be slightly cooler, but the peacefulness is definitely worth the early wakeup.
Enjoy the local foods – although you are camping, it doesn’t mean you have to prepare all your meals yourself. The path we drove had many restaurants along the highway and in major towns that are perfect for lunch stops. The Arabic food is delicious and quite affordable!
So, when do you plan to take off for Oman?