There’s always that mid-winter lull that makes summer seem like a far and distant memory. Beach-weather in Europe is essentially a mirage in March, so we’ve got our sights set on one of 2020’s hottest travel trends: Oman. Highs of mid-20s promise the feeling of being whisked away to a far-flung destination that promises lazy afternoons spent in the sun.
Adventure is also at the core of Muscat for its multifaceted landscape made up of secret beaches, canyons and wadis (Arabic for valley). An average day might involve a hike in one of the surrounding wadis followed by a midday afternoon massage back at the hotel – right before sunset cocktails by the beach. What’s the catch? A one-off 6am wake-up call to squeeze in all of the action. That’s it – we promise!
Those clear blue skies make it the ideal time to visit, ridding you of any icky winter blues. These are the top activities we got to try on a recent #TeamCoco trip to Muscat.
Starting with food is always a good idea. Zale Lounge is a sophisticated and stylish beachside restaurant serving a blend of cuisines and pan-Asian inspired dishes. Highlights include succulent seafood options like sushi wrapped in sticky seaweed and a signature lobster salad. The mix of booths and sofas offer a laid-back vibe, cleverly softening the high-octane luxury connotative of Kempinski with a quiet palette of creams and whites. Fun features include an elaborate cocktail list that glows in the dark and live DJ sets to take you into the night. Venturing out to the city? Bait Al Luban is a top contender for Omani cuisine in a charming converted guest house overlooking the sea.
Adventure in the Wadis
The sheer beauty of the wadis makes any 6am wake-up call worth it. Witness sunrise and the arid Omani landscape light up as the sun-dappled mountains become more prominent in the eventual morning light. Wadi Tiwi’s rugged rocks and clear emerald pools beat any ordinary hike. Stumble upon mountain goats, secret coves and local villagers floating with ease from one rock to the next. #TeamCoco tip: Husaak Adventures have an excellent guiding team with extensive knowledge of Arabia’s landscapes. Don’t forget a waterproof phone case to capture the cascading waterfalls in real time.
Kayaking in Bandar Khayran
This can be adventurous or super chilled out depending on your mood. A leisurely sunset tour is as relaxing as it sounds, especially witnessing the sun’s rays sink slowly atop the surrounding mountains. The colours shift from ochre to sienna in simultaneity with the sky’s altering hues. Bandar Khayran is a top adventure location made up of several mini beaches for snorkelling and scenic beachside hikes along the rocky shorelines. Do it like the locals and picnic in between pockets of the towering cliffs for some shade and solitude.
A short 15-minute drive from the airport in Al Mouj Muscat, Kempinski Hotel is definitively luxurious, but not in terms of excess opulence. The sun-dappled lobby is perhaps the shiniest part of the hotel, but rooms have a refined elegance and a quiet palette. Having direct access to 6km of stunning coastline means you can go for a run or flop on a sun lounger. The 10 exquisite restaurants and lounge areas also promise an eclectic experience. Pamper your palate at Bukhara Restaurant for North Indian cuisine and tabasco-inspired cocktails, or The Kitchen restaurant for all-day dining on the sun-drenched terrace.
Explore the city by foot
Souks are a large part of Omani culture, offering aromatic sandalwood, fancy hookah pipes and other interesting trinkets. Taste honey-glazed dates in the vegetable market and pop your head in the buzzy fish market in Muttrah to blend in with the locals. The catch is delivered at sunrise and sells out by 11am, which is astonishing considering the sheer size and scale of the market. Muscat’s pristine streets are steeped in history; the mosques are monumental and tell stories from as far back as 627 AD. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the whole of Oman and happens to be handily located in Muscat, just make sure to book a tour in advance to secure your spot.
Royal Opera House
Arts and culture abound in Oman’s premier venue for lavish ballets and eclectic concerts, hosting performances from Jazz legends and Arab pop stars. The exquisite architecture replicates modern Omani palaces and is particularly striking by night when the surrounding lights give it an otherworldly glow.
A trip to Muscat isn’t complete without understanding its rich heritage. Delve into Muscat’s history as far back as the country’s earliest human settlement in a series of interactive exhibitions and installations at the National Museum.
Al Alam Palace
Just across from the National Museum in the heart of old Muscat, Al Alam Palace is the original ceremonial palace by Sultan Qaboos and a tourist hotspot for its flamboyant design.
Kempinski Hotel (+968 24 985000) offers a starting nightly rate of £170 inclusive of breakfast for one.