Best Things to do in Nizwa and around Nizwa

Best things to do in Nizwa

Best Places to Visit in Nizwa

Nizwa is a wonderful place to discover the world of Omani tradition, heritage and history whilst exploring centuries-old forts, tasting freshly made Omani sweets, browsing silver incense dispensers, daggers and letter holders, smelling burning frankincense, chatting with local shopkeepers, wandering through lush green oases, and roaming round the cool plateau and terraced farms on nearby mountains.

Let’s start exploring the best places to visit in and around Nizwa.

Disclosure: When you make a booking or purchase through links on this site, I may earn commission from partners at no extra cost to you. This helps me to build the site and bring you more great posts!

Nizwa Fort

Nizwa Fort was built in the mid-17th century on top of an earlier structure dating back to the 12th century. It is the largest in Oman and consists of a fort and a castle in one spot. The enormous cylindrical tower has thick walls, is 36 metres across, 30 metres high and its foundations 30 metres deep.

The fort was built to defend the city against invaders through its domineering structure and the two dozen cannons pointing in all directions and loopholes. There were also numerous clever traps inside the fort if enemies succeeded in infiltrating it.

Nizwa Fort is a labyrinth of corridors, staircases, rooms, stores, prisons and living quarters. The decor of some rooms reflects how they may have looked in the past, while others contain exhibits from different periods.

Don’t miss going up to the top of the tower for a view over all of Nizwa. The stairway isn’t as dangerous as it used to be!

Be sure to visit the farm at the back and wander around or sit and relax in the green haven of tranquillity. Observe the falaj system (irrigation channels) throughout the farm. The fort itself was built over an underground stream.

This wonderful old fort is definitely one of the top places to visit in Nizwa.

Nizwa Fort Entry Fee

Adults – 5 riyals for tourists, 2 riyals for Omanis, 3 riyals for children over 6.

Nizwa Fort Opening Hours

Saturdays to Thursdays, 8am to 6pm, Fridays 8am to 11:30am and 1:30pm to 6pm

Nizwa Souq

Nizwa Souq is next to the Nizwa Fort and you can enter from that side or, if you’re driving, it may be easier to go to the front entrance.

It has a marvellous mix of shops selling weaponry, pottery, old coins, jewellery and letter holders, spices, incense, honey, Arabic coffee, frankincense oil and so much more.

Nizwa Souq - Omani sweet

Don’t miss the indoor Omani sweet section, where you can try different types with free Arabic coffee on the side. Don’t worry about the sweet going off. Keep it in a cool place and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated by dirty or wet spoons and it will last for a long time.

If you’re self-catering or planning a barbecue, head to the fresh meat and fish section and the fruit and vegetable market.

Near Nizwa Fort entrance is a row of shops on the opposite side selling silver jewellery, souvenirs, etc. Further down on the other side is Souq al Gharbi (Western Souq), which sells other traditional items such as instruments and old silver goods. So even if you don’t intend to buy, take a walk through to feel yourself being swept back in time.

If you want ideas for gifts from Nizwa, I recommend some silver or spices. If you have a friend or relative suffering from aches and pains, frankincense oil is excellent for this.

Heritage and Walking Tours of Nizwa

You can tour the old town in an old-fashioned car or take a walking tour to see more.

Book a walking tour

Book a Nizwa Tourism Cart tour

Best Things to do near Nizwa

Jebel Akhdar

Jebel Akhdar means Green Mountain and if you’re coming from the city or a neighbouring Gulf state, the greenery and cooler temperatures will bring joy to several of the senses for sure!

First things first, to actually go up Jabal Akhdar, you have to pass a checkpoint at the bottom. To do that, you need to be in a four wheel drive vehicle. (You might be able to convince them of an AWD as I did.) and you will need to show both your car registration card, driving licence and maybe ID.

The road is paved up until the main hotel area and only turns into an off-road track somewhere beyond that. It takes around 40 minutes to get to Jebel Akhdar Plateau. If you don’t have a 4WD, the other options are to take a 4WD taxi from the car park if available, go with a guide or try your luck and see if some nice person will give you a lift from the bottom.

Check tours of Nizwa and surrounding area from Muscat

You can also find more information and maps at the Visitor Centre near the car park.

Jabal Akhdar

Plot twist – Jabal Akhdar isn’t the name of the whole mountain, but the plateau higher up. There are several villages on the mountains and lots of terraced farms nestled into the mountain side. Fruits grown here include mangos, pomegranates, figs, almonds and so on. The views and mountain life make this one of the best things to do near Nizwa.

On the plateau and several kilometres before the peak is the Anantara al Jabal al Akhdar Resort as well as a small town and several restaurants.

See Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort and book

We had a tasty dinner at the Iranian restaurant, Layali al Jabal, next door to the Anantara with a view over farm terraces further along the mountain. The restaurant had lots of different places to sit both indoors and private gazebos were also available in the gardens.

If you’re more adventurous, you can camp further up but keep in mind that it will get cold at night. Even if you’re not camping, you might need a sweater or jacket in the winter months. We were there in October and the weather was a very pleasant 24°C but the mosquitoes did come out after sunset so you might want to add repellent to your backpack.

There are several hikes you can do around and see old villages, wadis, caves, pools and so on. Some may be easy but others are best done with a guide.

At Wadi Bani Habib at the end of the road, you can take a walk down the many steps to the old abandoned village. You can also continue further to find another village.

Take a walk from Al Aqor round by the farm terraces to Al Shurayqa village where the Damask roses are grown that are used in making Oman’s famous rose water. To see the roses, you should visit in early spring.

For something longer take the Mirage Trail which starts near the Alila Hotel. See information from those who have done the trail.

An alternative is the Discovery Trail which is around the same length but is an easy trail down from Hayl Al Hadab to the Alila Hotel, until you have to go back up again! if you’re staying at the Alila, you could always take the easy option and get someone to drop you off or take you on a guided walk. See more information on hiking trails in the area on All Trails.

Search and book hotels at Jebel Akhdar

Jebel Shams

Jebel Shams is further from Nizwa than Jebel Akhdar and quite different. It is the highest mountain in Oman but you can’t go right to the top as there is a military area there. It’s not green like Jebel Akhdar but still offers awesome views over the Hajar Mountains and canyon below.

The best and easiest viewpoint is Wadi Ghul. You can also go on the Balcony Walk, a marked trail with a cut path. It’s

You can drive up the mountain to the plateau. It’s a paved road most of the way. There are a couple of hotels, options for camping and a few more basic and traditional places to stay. There’s lots of opportunity for hiking and you can find routes on All Trails and Wikiloc or go with a local guide.

Book Canyon Rest House – traditional, three bedrooms, living room, outdoor area, great price – must see!

Search and book other hotels at Jebel Shams

Search organised tours to Jebel Shams

Birkat al Moz

One of the best things to do around Nizwa is to take a drive out to Birkat al Moz which is lovely to walk around.

Birkat al Moz Oman

Next we had coffee at Sabah Rest House (aka Sabah Heritage Inn) where we had a chocolate cake to share but it was so good, we ordered another! They only serve drinks and cakes, but they were very good. They also have rooms to rent. Book Sabah Rest House

Sabah is set in Hirat al Siybani, an abandoned village built in the 17th century. Some houses were lived in right up to the early years of this century. It’s set on a hill with houses and alleys going up the hill and a Falaj (water channels) running through and farmland at the bottom. It was a delight to explore!

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort is somewhere between 500 and 800 years old but has been restored.

Al Hamra Oman

Al Hamra is about a 40 minute drive from Nizwa so it can be a day trip, be included en route on your road trip to Oman or you might decide to stay there for a night or two.

Al Hoota Caves are around 2 million years old, contain stalagmites and stalactites and is about 5 kilometres long and you can visit them alone or with a guide. There was a train taking you to the cave but it seems it’s not working at the moment. The website is currently down and it’s not clear if it’s open at the moment. You can check tourist reviews and tour options here for more recent information.

Bait al Safa Museum is a living museum where you can learn about traditional Omani life. It has several rooms including a kitchen, majlis and changing room. You can see Arabic coffee and bread being made, sample Omani food, chat with locals and try on Omani dress.

Bait al Safa itself is believed to be around 400 years old. This is one not to miss on your stop in Al Hamra Oman. Entrance is 3 riyals and it’s open 9am to 5:30 pm.

There is a park next to it where donkey rides and cart rides are offered.

Check these gorgeous top-rated traditional places to stay in and near al Hamra for an authentic experience!

Misfat Al Abriyeen

Misfat Al Abriyeen is a lush agricultural area near to Al Hamra so the two can be combined in a day trip. It’s very traditional and, as in many places, the people are conservative but also friendly.

Whilst many of the old houses are abandoned, some are still inhabited and you can wander around following a marked trail if you wish. You can stay at the Misfah Old House. Book Misfah Old House

Hotels in Nizwa

There’s a variety of places to stay in Nizwa from budget to luxury but let’s start with where we stayed which was The Antique Inn, NIzwa.

When I spotted the listing for the Antique Inn, I knew right away it was the one for me, places with a traditional and unique feel to them are right up my street!

The inn is made up of buildings that are around 300 years old, the main inn and several houses down an alley. The ones belonging to the Antique Inn have been restored but some of the other houses in the alleys are still in their original dilapidated state and this just adds even more character to it.

Sitting within the old Nizwa city wall, it just had a wonderful sense of ‘old world’ about it! If you arrive by car, leave it there and head off on foot to explore the old town. Nizwa Fort and the old Nizwa Souq are just minutes away.

The decor in the rooms was simple but traditional and they’re not very big but there are several seating areas around the hotel with free Arabic coffee and dates with one on the rooftop.

breakfast at Antique Inn

Breakfast was mainly Omani food with options of cereal and toast and served on the roof with a wonderful panoramic view over the old city, farms and mountains and a soundscape of chattering birds.

This is by no means a luxury experience, but it is an authentic one and for that reason, they have chosen not to install certain features. (Don’t worry, the bathroom isn’t an old traditional one!) I’ll be going back for sure and several people I already recommended it to loved it.

(It’s important to note that this hotel isn’t really suitable for someone who has difficulty going up and down steps. If you still want to stay there, ask for a ground floor room when booking and order breakfast to your room.)

Book Antique Inn

Let’s look at some other hotels in Nizwa and the surrounding area – tap to see rates and to book

Search more hotels and guest houses in and around Nizwa

Search hotels in Muscat

Where to eat

We had dinner at Nizwa Al Khair which was recommended by some locals and served Omani food. It’s a few minutes walk from the fort.

As mentioned above, we had delicious coffee and cake at Sabah Rest House and later dinner at the Iranian restaurant on Jebel Akhdar. You might also want to treat yourself to lunch or dinner at the Anantara.

Search restaurants and cafes in and around Nizwa

Shopping in Nizwa

The best place for shopping in Nizwa is Nizwa Souq but if you need some clothes, groceries or household items, you can head over to the Nizwa Grand Mall. They have Centrepoint which sells clothes, shoes, accessories, make up etc, Max for clothes, Home Centre, The Body Shop, Carrefour Hypermarket, perfume shops, electronics stores, coffee shops as well as a cinema and play area.

There is also Nizwa Mall (confusing I know!) which has a Lulu hypermarket, several perfume shops, jewellery shops, a host of other shops, a play area and food court.

Money

You can pay contactless almost everywhere including Nizwa Souq, but it’s always wise to carry cash too. You can pay in dirhams and you’ll get change in riyals. One riyal is considered 10 dirhams. Keep cash for tips, tea and times that a card reader doesn’t work.

If you need to change money, you can find exchange offices in the malls and other places. You’ll also find ATMs in the malls.

How to get to Nizwa

If you are flying in, you can fly to Muscat Airport and then either rent a car, take a tour or take a bus. If you’re going on an Oman road trip from Dubai or other emirates, you may be wondering the best way how to get to Nizwa as there are three routes available.

Search for flights to Muscat

You can choose which is the best route for you depending on your starting point and if you want to combine other locations. The easiest for most is via Al Ain. There are several borders there so unless you’re a GCC National, you need to make sure you’re heading to the correct one which is the Mezyad checkpoint.

The other options are the Hatta border and Kalba. Again there is more than one at Hatta and you need the Al Wajajah checkpoint. The border at Kalba is called Khatmat Milaha. Google may try to take you through other borders but some of these are only open to GCC Nationals.

You can see the two different routes we took through Mezyad and Hatta further down.

You may also choose to rent a car. If you rent from the UAE, check whether it’s allowed to take it to Oman.

EN - 728x90

Entry requirements to Oman

To enter Oman, a visa is necessary for all except GCC nationals. Whether you can get a visa on arrival depends on factors such as nationality and country of residence. You can check if you are eligible at the official website but applying online will always be the best way to ensure you don’t face any difficulties. Check eligibility or apply for online visa here.

Oman dropped all COVID-19 restrictions in Spring 2022 and so you no longer need to be vaccinated, show proof of being so or do a PCR.

To bring your car into Oman from other Gulf states, you need to show your valid car registration card (known locally as mulkiya), plus what is known as your orange card for car insurance cover in Oman.It seems it’s no longer orange but in any case check if you’re covered with your current motor insurance and if so, make sure you have the required documentation.

If you’re not already covered, you can buy insurance at the border and driving licence.

Road trip to Oman from Dubai – Our routes via Al Ain and Hatta

We started our road trip to Oman from Dubai through the Mezyad border at Al Ain

The first part of the road was rather boring but the mountains on the left got more interesting as we went along. We then stopped off at Sulaif Castle at the other side of Ibri.

It was an interesting stop off and I recommend it if you want to break up your journey.

The last part of our road trip to Oman from Dubai was the journey home. We took a different route through the Hatta border to enjoy some different scenery.

We drove back towards Ibri but turned off before to visit Bahla Fort which is posted above.

Next onto Yanqul via route 8 with some interesting hills and rocks on the way. At Yanqul we visited Bait al Marah Castle and drove and walked round the narrow streets and between farms. There’s a paved walk in Yanqul up to a viewpoint.

After Yanqul we headed towards Sohar which took us through some great mountain scenery, streams and fords across the roads. Allow yourself time to stop off and maybe plan for a picnic. It looked like a lovely spot for camping in Oman.

Unfortunately, we then turned onto the much less interesting highway. From there you can either go towards the Hatta border (Hatta Fort Hotel in maps, Dubai on road signs) or Kalba border (Khatmat Milaha.) On the Kalba route, you could stop off at Sohar if you wanted or carry on with a UAE road trip up the east coast if you’re coming from further away. (To see more on the UAE Northern Emirates, visit Glimpses of the UAE.)

Search hotels in Sohar, Oman

Other options to continue your Oman road trip include heading to Rustaq or Sur via Muscat. Or for a longer Oman road trip, head down to the south coast. In the summer, Salalah and neighbouring areas make a great break from the heat if you live in the Gulf.

Final Words

Oman is a wonderful and welcoming country but we should always respect local culture, the people, the area and the environment. Leave nothing but footsteps and take away warm lasting memories of a beautiful country and even more more beautiful people.

Books on Oman

Buy from UK – print, Kindle and Audibles

Buy from US – print, Kindle and Audibles

Buy online for UAE and Oman delivery

Where to go next? – To see more of the beautiful country of Oman, see my post on the Omani enclave north of the UAE – Beautiful Fjords of Musandam, Oman or plan a Cultural Day Out in Abu Dhabi

Nizwa Oman – FAQs

  • How far is Nizwa from Muscat? 155km/95 miles
  • How long does it take to drive to Nizwa? from Muscat? About an hour and a half
  • How far is Nizwa from Dubai? 418km/260 miles if you go via Al Ain
  • How long does it take to drive to Nizwa from Dubai? Around 4hrs 45 mins
  • How far is Nizwa from Abu Dhabi? 440km/273 miles
  • How long does it take to drive to Nizwa from Abu Dhabi? Around 4hrs 45 mins
  • How to get to Nizwa from Muscat? If you don’t have a car, you can rent one, go on an organised tour or take a public bus from Azaiba Bus station or Muscat Airport. The bus takes about 3hrs 45 mins. You may need to get a taxi or microbus when you reach Nizwa?
  • Is there public transport in Nizwa? No, you can use taxis or shared taxis
  • Can I drive up to Jebel Akhdar? Yes, but you’ll need a 4WD if you want to drive yourself.
  • Is camping allowed on Jebel Akhdar? Yes, but you’ll need a 4WD to get there.
  • Is camping allowed on Jebel Shams? Yes
  • Is wild camping allowed in Oman? Yes
  • Do I need a visa to go to Oman?Yes. Some nationalities and some GCC residents can get visa on arrival. Check eligibility or apply for online visa here.
  • What is the required passport validity to enter Oman? 6 months
  • Are there hiking trails on Jebel Akhdar? Yes, there are several guided trails and more you can find on All Trails or Wikiloc.
  • Are there hiking trails on Jebel Shams? Yes, there are several guided trails and more you can find on All Trails or Wikiloc.
  • Can I pay with credit cards? Yes, you can pay almost everywhere with Visa or Mastercard credit or debit cards. Keep cash for tips and small shops on the road.
  • Do I need to change money if I am coming from the UAE? No, dirhams are accepted everywhere at a rate of 10 dirhams to one riyal. You’ll get change in riyal though.

Follow on Instagram or Facebook

Follow In Scotterati Footsteps on WordPress.com

Comments

  1. Nizwa Fort (and well all of Nizwa) looks amazing! I have wanted to visit Oman for years (since friends at university told me it was their favourite area in the Middle East…) Now you are showing me I need to hurry up and go! Thanks for this really enlightening post!! Hiking in Jebel Akhdar looks like my cup of tea.

  2. Deb

    Great post, beautiful photos!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.