Day 1 London - In flight
Fly from London Heathrow Airport on a direct, scheduled Oman Air flight to Muscat.
Day 2 Muscat
On arrival, we meet our local guide and transfer to our accommodation in Muscat, Al Falaj Hotel (4T). You are free to relax and explore before this evening’s panoramic tour of Muscat, visiting the Bait Al-Zubair Museum, which offers an insight into Omani history and development, with artefacts that reflect highly specialised skills. We then visit the bay of Muscat, where we can view Al Alam Palace. The most important of the six residences owned by the ruling monarch, Sultan Qaboos, was built in 1972 in a flamboyantly colourful, contemporary style, and is used mainly for state occasions. A short drive then takes us to the buzzing yet traditional Muttrah Souq, where you can buy incense, gold and spices.
Day 3 Muscat
We start the day with the visit of the Grand Mosque, the most exquisite mosque in the country. This massive temple of simple sandstone was completed in 2001, a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos on the 30th anniversary of his inauguration. The interior is breathtakingly rich, on a grand scale. Both the Persian carpet, hand-woven by 600 women over four years, and the 14m chandelier, decorated with 600,000 crystals, have held world records for their size. We then drive to the vast Royal Opera House Muscat, for a guided tour of this premier venue for arts and culture, and the National History Museum of Oman to learn about the various flora and fauna, and geology of Oman. We also see a frankincense tree, which is deeply rooted in the history and culture of Oman. We take lunch in a local restaurant, before an afternoon at leisure.
Please note: visitors to the Grand Mosque are required to be covered from head to toe.
Day 4 Muscat - Wadi Bani Khalid - Wahiba Sands
This morning we proceed to Wadi Bani Khalid, one of the most picturesque ravines in Oman, zig-zagging through colourful rock formations. We transfer to 4WD vehicles for a journey into the copper coloured desert. Wahiba Sands is the homeland of the Bedouin families of the Wahiba tribe, known for their skills at breeding goats and high-priced racing camels. Our exhilarating drive over steeply pitching and ever-changing dunes offers a chance to visit a Bedouin family to glimpse their traditional, nomadic way of life. Tonight we stay at the 1000 Nights Camp (3T+), unexpectedly luxurious in the barren landscape. This wonderfully peaceful setting is enhanced at night by an incredible canopy of stars.
Day 5 Wahiba Sands - Nizwa
We make our way back to our coaches for our journey to Nizwa via the village of Al Hamra, famous for its dark red clay two-storey houses. These traditional, Yemeni style abodes climb along stony alleyways up the hillside, a living museum to a lifestyle slowly being abandoned through Oman. In the evening we arrive in Nizwa, the old capital in the 6th and 7th centuries. We visit Bait Al Safah at Al Hamra Al Bait, a castle built during the Al Yaaribah era, hundreds of years ago. It exhibits Omani traditional handicrafts reflecting the cultural variation of the Sultanate throughout its rich history. We stay at the Nizwa Apartment Hotel (3T).
Day 6 Nizwa
We visit the town’s cattle market, a highly-anticipated event that attracts visitors from many cities each Friday, with reluctant longhair Omani goats, sheep and cows displayed for potential buyers, and where impromptu stalls are piled high with the kaleidoscopic colours of dresses, toys, pots and pans. We walk to Nizwa Fort, one of the oldest forts in Oman and an unusual example of old Omani architecture with its large cylindrical tower. We then travel by coach to the oasis village of Bahla, a traditional town of legend, and the centre of pottery art in northern Oman. The village is surrounded by a 12km mud wall that protects the palms and the attractive UNESCO-listed fort. We visit Jabrin Castle, the summer residence of Imam Bil’arab in the 17th century and an important learning centre for astrology, medicine and Islamic law. The castle displays of Islamic art and elaborately painted ceilings.
Day 7 Nizwa - Muscat
Today we travel to the oasis of Birkat Al Mauz, set at the foot of jagged mountains, for a walking tour of the traditional irrigation system that keeps date plantations hydrated with spring water, before we visit the source of Al Thowarah spring itself and then Nakhl Fort, rising magnificently out of mountain rock. It has witnessed countless battles, and is full of secret passages and escape routes. This afternoon we return to Muscat and the Al Falaj Hotel (4T).
Day 8 Muscat - London
This morning we enjoy breakfast before transferring to the airport for a direct, scheduled Oman Air flight to London Heathrow.