Oman is made for camping. With mountains, deserts, wadis and beaches, it has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to finding wild campsites. With a population of just 5 million in a country the size of Italy, there is no shortage of wide open spaces. A seemingly endless array of unique and beautiful locations await the adventurous camper, and even the most popular camp spots are hardly overrun. From October to March, daytime temperatures hover just below 30 degrees and the nights range from cool to warm – almost perfect camping weather. In addition to the country’s natural advantages, wild camping is legal and regarded as perfectly normal. And to top it all off, the people you meet are welcoming, hospitable and friendly.
On our camping road trip we pitched up in 25 wild campsites in Oman, covering the country from Musandam in the North to Salalah in the South. Among those 25, some were truly outstanding – real jaw-droppers. So after much deliberation and careful consideration, we’ve selected the best places to camp from our month travelling the country. But before we introduce you to our favourite campsites, we’ll give you a quick rundown about what you can expect in all of them.
As you’ve already gathered, all 11 are wild campsites. Free camping being legal, the country doesn’t do official campsites – toilet blocks and showers there aren’t. This means there are a few key things to remember when pitching up in any wild campsite in Oman.
Since there are none, it’s a good idea to have a small camp trowel with you. When you feel the need, find a secluded spot at least 50 metres away from any water source or campsite, and dig 6 inches deep. Cover the hole when you’re done and bag your toilet paper. You can then bin it later or burn in your campfire.
Everyone loves a good campfire. Just remember to take care where you build one. Keep it well away from potential wildfire risks (including your tent). Dig a fire pit or keep it contained with rocks, and only use dead wood lying on the ground. You can buy bundles of pre-cut firewood at all the big supermarkets too.
Oman isn’t blessed with plentiful sources of fresh water. Only one of the following sites has suitable water for drinking or cooking – this is true even if you’re purifying, so make sure you’re always well stocked. We recommend buying a few 6L bottles at the start of your trip and filling them up as and when you need to.
Finally, remember to bag all your rubbish, carry it away with you and toss it in the nearest bin. Unfortunately recycling options aren’t currently widely available, although it seems the government is making steps in the right direction.
A Note On Wadi Safety
When camping in wadis, always pay attention to the weather forecast. Wadis are seasonal river beds which are prone to flooding. A sudden downpour in distant mountains can potentially cause flooding where you are. It’s not a common problem in the dry season but it’s always sensible to be prepared.
For everything else you need to know to plan your Oman journey, get stuck into our in-depth guide to an Oman Camping Road Trip.
Okay, let’s get down to the exciting part and check out some of the best camp spots you’re likely to find, not just in Oman, but anywhere.
PLANNING YOUR OWN OMAN ROAD TRIP?
PLANNING YOUR OWN
OMAN ROAD TRIP?
4WD in L4 down to the shore
2WD possible to park up top and walk down
The nearby cove to the right is walkable only
Be sure to drive/walk up to the viewpoint a little beyond the paved road for a spectacular lookout over the coast
Bandar Al Khiran camp spot, and the smaller beach to the right (walkable only) as seen from the viewpoint
Only an hour away from Muscat, this rocky cove is the perfect place to start or end your Oman wild camping road trip. Accessible by 4WD from the road above, the rough trail descends steeply towards the shore. Sat below sandy orange cliffs, the rocky beach curves around a secluded inlet of brilliant blue water. When the tide is high, it’s perfect for swimming, and when it’s low, you can wade out through the channel or round to the neighbouring beach. Just remember to check the tide levels online before you go, look at the tide line when you arrive, and pitch your tent accordingly.
It’s quite a popular spot for those with 4WD’s – a group of Czech travellers and a few locals were there with us on a weekend, but there is room for a few vehicles and mid-week you’ll likely have it to yourself.
4WD needed to drive onto the beach and park at your chosen campsite
Another campsite close to Muscat, Yiti Beach is also a great option as your first or last stop. It was the first of our campsites in Oman, and we went full circle, spending our last afternoon here before driving back to the airport for our flight out. We stayed here before scuba diving with Extra Divers Qantab – at just 24 km away it’s the perfect place if you want to combine a spot of underwater fun with your wild camping trip.
The beach itself is long and golden, bracketed by craggy cliffs at one end and a palm-fringed village at the other. The best areas to camp are set well back behind the tide line – occasional trees offer shade and low cliffs rise behind offering protection from the wind. Like most places – especially close to Muscat – it can be busy at weekends but is generally quiet on weekdays.
Camping in the shade at Yiti Beach
4WD best but 2WD OK if careful
The best beach camp in Musandam. Turn off the Khasab Coastal Road opposite the village of Al Harf and follow the winding dirt road down to Rocky Beach, tucked away far below. Park at the bottom and carry your gear 20-30 metres along the beach to the optimal camp spot, in front of the water tanks and rickety shelter.
It’s an amazing wild camp spot. The road is hidden high above and the beach is buttressed either end by Musandam’s distinctive layered limestone cliffs, helping to break the waves and make it the perfect place for a dip in the warm coastal waters, surrounded by colourful fish. The beach gets its name from the overlapping rocks covering much of the shore, draped in seaweed and home to a multitude of crabs. At the far end in front of the best camp spot, a small sandy beach slopes gently to the shore.
We had the place to ourselves at night, but were visited by a herd of inquisitive goats in the morning, followed by a water tanker ship pulling up to the beach. A couple of guys dragged a huge hose up to the water tanks and pumped them full of fresh water – they come by once a week to fill them up. This was our only wild campsite in Oman that had its own water supply.
One of our all time favourite campsites, you definitely need a 4WD to reach this beauty. A small rocky clearing off the main dirt track, it gives you 360° views of majestic mountains and dramatic views over Wadi Bih – the off-road road to the U.A.E. That way is only open to GCC nationals, so to get here you have to drive south from Khasab, up through the Sayh Plateau, skirt round Jebel Al Harim, and wind your way down towards Wadi Bih on the other side. This whole area is outstanding – one of the very best places we visited in Oman. It’s a ton of 4WD fun and has some of the most striking and varied mountain scenery going. An absolute must if you make it to Musandam.
It was the perfect evening for us. With a fantastic sunset in the offing the tent was up in record time. We sat for an hour or more watching the sun go down, barely a breath of wind to disturb us. That night the dark sky was patterned with stars, and the next morning gifted us with delicious pinks and yellows at sunrise.
Our only caveat about this wild camp spot is the weather. It’s pretty exposed so if the winds are high it’s not advisable to camp here. There’s a decent campsite covering a large flat area below Jebel Al Harim (GPS 25.9665, 56.2065). We stayed here on our first night in these mountains. It’s not as spectacular but is more sheltered, so if the wind’s blowing this’ll be your best bet.
2WD gets you to parking spot within walking distance
Keep going beyond the initial wadi pools, clambering up the rope section to the ‘hidden’ pool surrounded by ferns for the biggest wow factor (23.2320, 57.0805).
Look out for more petroglyphs and carved scripts on rocks to the right not long after the rope section.
Tucked away in the Western Hajar Mountains, we debated whether Wadi Damm would make it into our best wild campsites in Oman. Camping on the wadi bed itself with high sided blue grey cliffs towering above and palm trees lining the sides, it’s not unattractive – although the rubbish bags piled up let it down a bit. What sold it for us however, was everything around it.
Camping in Wadi Damm – a falaj and ancient rock carvings are just behind our tent
The fascinating Bronze Age UNESCO beehive tombs at Al Ayn and Bat are on the approach to Wadi Damm, making it a great place to stay while visiting them. The cliffs in the wadi themselves are decorated with ancient rock carvings in near perfect condition. We stumbled on them in the dark, head torches on while watching frogs in the falaj – it was a proper Indiana Jones moment.
Now while the tombs and carvings are reason enough to go, what makes this place really worth the trip is the wadi itself. Damm means hidden, and that couldn’t be more accurate. Forty five minutes of clambering and scrambling from the campsite leads you past a succession of stunning pools, sunk into the smooth curved rock of the wadi bed. The final pool is the best of all. Still blue green water fringed by luscious green ferns and a curtain of drops falling like rain. It’s the perfect place to wash away the dirt and the dust.
3500 year old rock carvings and hidden wadi pools at Wadi Damm
4WD needed for this spot
2WD to other options nearby doable
(some dirt road driving required)
Last to show up, but we still bagged this incredible spot overlooking the Grand Canyon all to ourselves
Jebel Shams has the potential to be one of your busiest wild campsites in Oman. It is one of the country’s most popular areas for tourists. Two exclusive resorts sit on the high plateau, many people camp and even more visit on day trips from Nizwa, Misfat Al Abriyeen and such like. The most popular place to camp is on the rim of Oman’s grand canyon, and there are several options available.
We found this particular spot thanks to i-Overlander. About 50 metres away from where others had made camp, our 4WD was essential in getting us there. Turning off the main dirt road, we rumbled and rolled up a gentle slope of rocks and boulders, coming to a clearing at the very edge of the canyon.
Twilight views from our camp spot at the very edge of the Grand Canyon rim
We had the spot to ourselves and even had a hand built low rock wall to protect us from the cool wind. The sunset and twilight views over the canyon were breathtaking. To top it off there’s a narrow trail round to the left, overhanging rock above, canyon falling away below – your very own balcony walk. It’s an awesome spot, wild camping at its best.
Two things make this exact site stand out from all others. Firstly, it’s the best place to see sunrise, the vantage point gifting a view of the curved rocky rim wall lit up like burnished gold. And secondly, the less than obvious and slightly tricky approach means that you may well have it to yourself. Not bad for one of Oman’s top tourist traps. Oh, and you’re in prime position for a morning visit from some comedy goats.
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2WD possible with care
(plenty of locals do)
In the far south of Oman, an hour away from Salalah and 100 km from the Yemeni border, lies possibly the finest collection of beaches in the whole country. After climbing a series of steep switchbacks, a turn to the left takes you off-road and down a wide, flat dirt track to the coast. The views down to the shore are stunning (unless it’s the khareef – monsoon season), and the long drive down only serves to heighten your expectation. As you turn the final corner, the Raysut II wreck* comes into view, grounded during a cyclone in May 2018.
*The wreck has now been removed
Fazayah Beach comes complete with a shipwreck
The first beach is beautiful. White sand curves round shining azure water, calm and still, the waves broken by the perfectly positioned ship. This is just the first of many beaches however, so push on a bit to find the best places to camp. Honestly, it’s a tough decision to make. Lining the coast for a kilometre or two, there are at least five good sized beaches and a few small hidden ones tucked in between. A hard packed sandy track winds along behind them. After much deliberation, we settled on the long beach where the impressive rock formation was being battered by the surf. We set up in the low grass just behind the beach, once the roaming camels had vacated our campsite of choice.
Deciding which beach to camp on at Fazayah is a tough choice. The roaming camels won us over in the end.
The next day we headed to a small hidden beach near the shipwreck to while away a few hours. Camping here was possible but it was a little too close to the tideline for our liking. If you have the time, consider spending two nights here. It’s the perfect place to relax and break up your trip.
4WD to the heart of the wadi
2WD park off the main road and walk the short distance in
Perfect reflections at Wadi Suneik
On the coastal road between Salalah and Muscat, this is a true hidden gem, a real slice of paradise. We found it on Maps.me, where it was perfectly described as a ‘sweet as oasis’. After coming down from the road, the track leads you into the heart of the wadi, beneath craggy cliffs and tall palm trees. An open sandy area (perfect for camping) looks out onto the large wadi pool, framed by impressively shaped rock formations and long grass. Quite a few wild campsites in Oman can be a bit dewy in the morning, but this wasn’t one of them. We slept with the fly off our tent and were treated to a glittering night sky.
If you arrive late in the day, save time in the morning to properly enjoy the spot. The wadi is great for a swim, and for the more adventurous, it’s possible to swim all the way across and climb the rocks opposite and walk down to the breathtakingly beautiful beach. Wadi Suneik is pretty out of the way, so if you do make it here, there’s every chance you’ll have it to yourself.
NEED MORE OMAN INSPIRATION?
(let air out of your tyres when on soft sand)
Rising behind the long coastline 500 km south of Muscat, the Sugar Dunes have an otherworldly feel to them. Past the village of Al Khaluf, the long white beach stretches for almost 20 km, running alongside the turquoise blue rough waters of the Arabian Sea. Behind the beach rises the Sugar Dunes, so named for the super fine, pale powder white sand.
Getting lost in the Sugar Dunes
You can camp almost anywhere along the beach by just pulling off the long sandy track, but to get the full Sugar Dunes experience, we recommend following one of the many pre-existing trails into the dunes themselves. Barely a hundred metres from the coast it feels like you’ve entered an altogether different world. Beautifully white dunes rise and fall in perfect curves. Find a good spot, park up and make camp in one of the many flat and sheltered areas. When you’re all set, climb up through the impossibly soft sand and get exploring. If you’re lucky, you may even meet a camel or two.
Aside from being quite simply spectacular, camping in the dunes themselves has an added benefit. The coast can be pretty windy but the dunes offer a fair bit of protection. If you’re not an experienced dune driver (I’m not either) and are worried about getting stuck, keep to any existing tracks. It’s also a good idea to read up before you go on best practices for driving on sand too.
4WD to reach all the best places to camp
2WD for a more limited experience
Be sure to check the weather forecast prior to setting off for Masirah Island. If it’s too windy the ferries will be cancelled, and you’ll struggle to pitch your tent anyway. Our return journey on a private ferry in rough waves was an experience never to be repeated!
Not just one campsite but a whole island, one with so many great options for camping. Measuring just 95 km end to end, it’s not huge – you can easily drive round it in a day.
Picture perfect beaches on the west coast of Masirah Island
The west coast is characterised by small and intimate white sand beaches; the east coast features sprawling golden sand beaches, battered by rough seas. While there are plenty of interesting places to camp on the east, the fierce winds stopped us from staying there. Many beaches on the east coast are also turtle breeding grounds, attracting an incredible 40% of the world’s Loggerhead turtles. The nesting beaches are well signposted and it’s important not to drive or camp on any of them.
The beaches on the west – at least when we visited – were much better for camping. The GPS coordinates above mark our only campsite on Masirah. It was a great spot with good protection from the wind. We tried to set up elsewhere on the second night but the wind had other ideas – if you have better luck then you’ll find this gorgeous spot at 20.3490, 58.6398.
Sunrise and sunset from our beach camp on Masirah Island
To get to Masirah Island, you need to take a ferry from Shannah Port on the mainland, 450 km south of Muscat. It’s only an hour away from the sugar dunes so it’s easy to combine the two. The National Ferry Company runs a fast ferry to the island, but cheaper and slower private options go throughout the day too. We took a private ferry there and back, costing us a total of 10 OMR each way.
As far as 2WD’s go, it’s easy to get to Masirah on the ferry and easy to drive round the island on the main road. But in reality, all the best driving routes and campsites are off-road, and if you really want to explore Masirah fully, a 4WD is an absolute must.
Coming down from the Eastern Hajar Mountains with sunset approaching, we made a beeline for White Beach near Fins. We’d read reports online that it was an attractive beach and a good place to camp. The reality was a little different. The beach wasn’t that clean or especially white; the wide, rocky, flattish area behind was okay for camping but didn’t really inspire us. A few others had set up camp – we decided to backtrack towards Fins and look for a better spot. It was the right decision.
Just a few hundred metres from the beach we came off the dirt road, following a trail towards the rocky coastline. We could see huge plumes of spray shooting skyward as the violent sea smashed into the battered coastline, but pulling up, it was revealed to be blowholes, bursting metres high like a blue whale’s spout. After quickly checking the area was safe, we put the tent up in the gathering dark, aided by head torches and headlights. Dinner was made to the soundtrack of crashing waves and high pressure spray.
The blowholes in action at sunrise, right in front of our tent
The next morning we stayed longer than planned, watching the blowhole symphony as the sun rose. Driving away after breakfast, we both agreed this was a definite inclusion in the ‘best wild campsites in Oman’.
At under 2 hours from Muscat, this is also a good option as a first or last campsite on your Oman road trip. It’s very close to a number of top places including Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi and the Bimmah Sinkhole. Another 100 km down the coast are the turtle beaches at Al Hadd and Raz Al Jinz. And if you fancy a drive through the mountains, there’s a great dirt road leading you up and over the Eastern Hajar, dropping you down close to Wadi Bani Khalid – 4WD dependent of course. That route and many others can all be found in the Oman Off-Road Explorer book.
So there you have it, 11 of the very best wild campsites in Oman. After 25 consecutive nights of camping, these spots stood out above all the others. There are a couple of notable exclusions, namely Wahiba Sands and the beaches around Raz Al Jinz. We stayed at a Wahiba Sands desert camp in 2014 (which was great), and planned to wild camp this time round. Unfortunately we lucked out with the weather, strong winds preventing us from driving into the desert. And even with a month in hand, there was so much we didn’t see. Raz Al Jinz was one of the sacrifices but we hear it’s a great area to camp.
Finding Your Own Campsites
If you’re not close to any of the above campsites and find yourself in need of a good place to stay, check out Maps.Me (iOS/Android), Google Maps satellite view (iOS/Android), or i-Overlander (iOS/Android). There are usually a few options marked with a short description and maybe even a picture or two. The excellent Explorer Oman Off-Road book also marks suggested camping spots on all their routes (if you can’t get hold of this book in advance, it is widely available at bookshops such as WH Smith at Muscat Airport and in shopping malls around Muscat).
We booked our car hire through Holiday Autos, whom we’ve used for road trips all over the world, from Iceland to Japan and highly recommend to find you a great deal. A 4×4 will give you far more freedom and allow easy access to all of these stunning campsites. A 2WD will cost considerably less however, so if you’re budget constrained this is a good option.
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Be sure to organise a comprehensive travel insurance policy for your Oman trip. Some policies will cover car rental excess, so this is worth considering when weighing up the options. We travel with either World Nomads or True Traveller travel insurance. They are two of the few insurers out there who can cover you even after you’ve left home.
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