Time difference: GMT +4 hours
Currency: Omani Rial
Flight time: 8 hours direct
The so-called ‘jewel of Arabia’, Oman is worlds away from its nearest neighbours in the UAE. There are no towering skyscrapers or artificial islands here, just miles upon miles of soft sand – whether it’s on the endless unspoilt beaches or the uninterrupted desert plateau. With one of the oldest civilisations in the Arabian Peninsula, this is a country of Disney-worthy sunsets over the dunes, bustling souks and shimmering oases.
A large desert plain dominates the interior, but that’s not to say Oman doesn’t have variation. The capital, Muscat, is a cosmopolitan city of traditional architecture and a busy commercial harbour, an attractive corniche winding its way around the water front in a great arc that shimmers after dark, twinkling lights reflecting off the mosaic domes and minarets. The region surrounding Muscat is where you’ll find most of the country’s luxury hotels, close to the airport and the string of beaches that lace the coastline. Travel further south and you encounter desert, the enormous dunes of Wahiba Sands stretching as far as the eye can see in great ripples of gold, and to the west the craggy peaks of the Al Hajar Mountains where roses blossom and fruit trees grow.
In the far south, the city of Salalah changes from dry desert to verdant forest at the time of the khareef, the annual monsoon, while in the far north the Musandam Peninsular, separated from the mainland by part of the UAE, is famous for its fjord-like coast and remote villages. Here you’ll find a way of life unchanged by modern tourism. As a year-round destination there’s no bad time to visit Oman, but the summer months of May to September can be relentlessly hot.