Visit beautiful, tranquil Musandam Oman and experience a simpler and slower pace of life with glorious views of fjords, mountains, castles, dolphins and more!
Musandam’s stunning fjords have led to its nickname, the Norway of the Middle East. Of course, it’s much warmer but this means a trip meandering through the Musandam fjords is always a pleasant experience and snorkelling and swimming are possible year round.
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Musandam might be considered a bit of a geographical oddity as it is an enclave which sits above the United Arab Emirates bordering the emirates of Ras al Khaimah, Fujairah and Sharjah.
As a peninsula, it is surrounded by water on three sides, the Arabian Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. I should really say it’s surrounded by azure and turquoise crystal clear water which is a diver’s dream!
Skip to Dibba Musandam
Norway of the Middle East
Popularly known as the Norway of the Middle East, Musandam has fjord after fjord all around the coastline. You can join a group dhow trip or book your own private one to enjoy the splendour of the fjords and their clear, calm water.
Once out in the fjords, your crew will start searching for and calling dolphins who will often swim alongside the boat. Further round, you’ll anchor at Telegraph Island where you can swim, snorkel, dive or just take a walk around the island.
Telegraph Island is where a telegraph point was set up by the British some decades ago to improve communication between the Middle East and India.
If you opt for a half day tour, which currently costs around 15 riyal (150AED/$40) per person, your boat will then head back to the harbour after this. You’ll also be served fruit and cold and hot drinks throughout.
If you choose the full day, this includes lunch and a trip further along the coast. The full day doesn’t cost much more. You can also charter a boat for longer overnight trips to explore more. You may also wish to give the crew a tip when you return.
Personally, I’ve always used Dolphin Tours, but they all seem pretty good at what they do. Whatever option you choose, don’t miss a dhow trip in the Musandam Fjords off your list! You won’t regret doing it, but you’ll probably regret it if you don’t!
A trip to Khor Najd for the stunning view shouldn’t be missed! It does involve a drive up a fairly steep and winding track but this can be done in most cars.
When you reach the I Love Oman sign, that’s the best viewpoint. You might not even believe you’re in the Middle East but think you’ve been teleported to Norway!
You can continue down the other side but as mentioned above, the best viewpoint is at the top. The road down is steeper with more bends than the first part but I’ve seen sedans and small trucks go on it.
Acacia Forest and Children’s Park
After Khor Najd, you might choose to drive down to the end of the road where you’ll find a village and some pretty interesting, colourful rock formations on the left and the Children’s Park and Acacia Forest on the right.
The forest is a lovely place for a picnic but make sure the goats roaming around don’t steal your lunch! There are toilets there but I did a quick about turn at the door, so plan ahead.
The park is popular with local families so please remember to respect the local culture while you’re there. Also, make sure you tidy up after you and put any rubbish in the bins or take it with you.
The drive up Jebel Hareem is steep at many points and winding most the way. I’d say it’s one of the more challenging ones I’ve driven around here but that might also be because of the length.
I’d say it needs a 4WD or AWD as do most reviews but I do know someone who did it in a sedan. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that, but you can decide.
There are some great and diverse views along the way – looking down the mountain into the wadi, a plain on the way up with wild donkeys grazing, stacks of enormous chunks of rock, old villages, farms and at the top – the plain of Seih.
On the way, look out for old cave dwellings – mostly a cave in the mountain wall with a stone wall built across it. They can be hard to spot as the stones are the same colour as the cave.
Seih plain is very peaceful and visitors should keep in mind that this is a spot where people go to enjoy the tranquility.
The road continues on to Rawdha, a valley far from other villages but which has been inhabited for centuries as the Islamic and pre-Islamic graveyards tell.
The other turn on the road continues on to Dibba but is only accessible for GCC nationals and there are checkpoints and you’ll notice military vehicles roaming around. Wadi Bih is also not accessible to anyone including GCC nationals unless they have a special permit.
If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can also go up with a tour company from Khasab such as Dolphin Tours and Musandam Tours.
Khasab Castle and Museum
Whilst in Khasab, be sure to visit Khasab Castle and Museum. It’s very well done with everything clearly explained with easy to read boards and small chunks of information. This is great for people like me who see a big board of text and then just skim read it! It’s also much easier for younger ones to read and take in.
Khasab Castle was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. The circular fort in the centre, however, was built earlier by the Omanis.
Opening times are from 9am to 4pm and to 11am Fridays. Entrance 500 baisa for adults, 200 for children over 6, under 6 free, card payment only.
Nearby is another small castle which is now inside a residential area. You can walk there from Khasab Castle but you cannot enter it, just walk round the outside.
The picturesque town of Bukha is about 15 minutes drive from the border crossing near Al Jeer, Ras al Khaimah, and so is easy if you’re just looking for a day trip from the UAE. You can combine a trip to the beach or exploring some other nearby areas.
One of the main sights of the town, Bukha Castle was built between the 16th and 17th centuries. It actually originally stood on the shoreline and there was a moat around it linked to the sea. Having been restored in 1990, it is now open to visitors.
Al Qala’s Fort stands high above it on a hill. It’s closed but you can still drive up there and and see it from outside and there’s a great view up there too.
You can park at the fort and there is also a rest area where you could enjoy a picnic or flask of tea overlooking the bay. The road to get there is a bit steep and winding.
Another nice viewpoint in Bukha is at the opposite end of the bay. You’ll need to follow a dirt track that turns off the asphalt road above the main road. You’ll come to an area where you can park and sit or walk around. Further up is a private house.
The mosque is also worth a visit even if just from outside. It was locked when I went at the end of 2021 but it may be open now as covid restrictions have been lifted in Oman.
Other stops along the road to Khasab
There are quite a few side roads into wadis, villages and up hills that you can take and explore further. It’s always the best way to discover in my opinion.
You’ll pass some beaches along the road, some where you can camp. Bassa Beach is popular and although I’ve heard it can get busy, it was empty when I was there on a Friday, but a bit busier on Saturday afternoon. The other beaches before Khasab such as Hil, Jerri and Jadi were very quiet.
Most of these beaches don’t have facilities and when they do, they’re often not taken care of. There was a caretaker at Hil Beach Park so maybe they are clean there but I didn’t look.
You’ll not find an abundance of cafeterias as you do in the UAE so be prepared food and drink wise . (I didn’t find any at all). Make sure you have plenty water at least. If you forget, try the petrol station at Bukha.
To visit Dibba Musandam, you’ll need a permit (see How to get to Musandam Oman below) We organised a trip with Musandam Sands who arranged our group members’ permits. There are two parts to this trip – land and sea. We started with land!
After a quick stop at Dibba fish market where freshly caught fish was being sold at a lively auction, we drove through the wadi past many villages abandoned in just the last few decades.
Next we drove up to the cliff top view over Zighy Bay. As well as being home to a luxury resort one side, Zighy Bay is also still home to some locals on the other side.
At the cliff top, there is the fine dining restaurant, Sense on the Edge with a wonderful view over the bay. The restaurant opens evenings only and menus start from 61 riyals (610 dhs) for a five course dinner. See Sense on the Edge
For even better views over the bay and the wadi, you can climb up the steps next to the restaurant. The cliff top is also a take off platform for paragliding for the adventurous. This can be booked through the hotel.
From there we drove along the road that goes towards Khasab and stopped on the way at a stream with beautiful clear water and rocks of many colours and patterns and then further down Wadi Khab Al Shams, a canyon with enormous walls.
As we were unlucky with the weather that day, we didn’t do a dhow trip but it was calm enough to do a speedboat trip along the coast instead. Speeding on the beautiful turquoise waters and along the stunning multi-coloured rocks was lots of fun.
After having lunch with freshly caught fish at Shati Lima in Dibba (Oman), we took a walk along the top part of the beach. It’s one of my favourite beaches that I’ve walked on many times and I rarely meet anyone other than a few fishermen and some fiddler crabs and various species of birds.
At the northern end there is an abandoned village with houses built from colourful rock. From there you can hike up the rocky hill behind.
Dibba Beach Resort (previously Golden Tulip) sits on the beach is designed to blend into the environment and sits at the top of this beach and rates are currently very low. Book Dibba Beach Resort
We went back another day to do the dhow cruise which goes from Dibba Oman port along the coast to Haffa beach. You’ll see breathtaking scenery of the Gulf of Oman and cliffs rising up in their stunning colours and formations.
Once you approach Haffa, you can swim, paddle board, kayak and snorkel, in the glorious turquoise sea. There are also some areas nearby where you can dive underwater and emerge into a small cave.
As part of a tour group, you can camp, picnic or barbecue on Haffa beach or just lie back and enjoy the beauty around you. You might find some local goats dropping by to say hello as well as the resident dog!
All your meals will be provided during the trip with a tasty buffet lunch, hot and cold drinks on tap and fresh fruit. On the dhow, you can bask in the sun on the roof or relax on the large cushions down on the lower deck. The dhows are fitted with toilets and showers.
If you’d like to stay overnight, tents can be set up for you on the beach or you can sleep on the boat deck if your prefer. As night falls, you will see the glow of the bio-luminescent life in the sea. A pretty cool sight to see!
You can reach the beach by boat or by hiking over the hill from the wadi. The villagers of nearby Haffa and other coastal villages like Lima can only get to their homes by boat.
Don’t be surprised if you see a dhow passing with large water containers or even building materials. You might also see the children going to school by speed boat.
If you want to try the banana boat ride on your trip, a speedboat will take you further out so the fishermen in the area aren’t disturbed. Will you manage to hold on or will you be like me and fall in?
The speedboat can also take you to the white caves where the weather-worn swirls make the limestone make it look like you could be on another planet.
You’ll see two big caves, one with a pebble beach. If you don’t mind wading through the water, you can go on it. The pebbles on the beach are in all kinds of colours, rock type and sizes.
The time to do this trip comfortably is between October and March, but you could go in April or May too depending on the weather and your comfort level.
Our guide was Mohammed and you can contact him directly at Enjoy Musandam and tell him Alison sent you 🙂
Finally in Dibba town, you can also visit the 200 year old Dibba Castle and wander around the town.Follow In Scotterati Footsteps on WordPress.com
Accommodation and Food
There are only a few hotels in Khasab – the old trusty Khasab Hotel which has served me for many years and the newer Atana Khasab (formerly Golden Tulip) and the even newer Atana Musandam Resort. There are a couple more and also a few apartments to rent.
I’ve been staying at the Khasab Hotel for over 17 years now because I just want somewhere clean and comfortable to lay my head between adventures. The rooms are spacious and it has a pool, children’s play area and dining room and all for a very reasonable price. Book the Khasab Hotel
On the Dibba side, there is the very luxurious Six Senses Zighy Bay resort and spa or the much more affordable Dibba Beach Resort which is right on one of my favourite beaches. Book Zighy Bay or book Dibba Beach Resort
Of course, you can always camp too! There are a few beaches on the way up to Khasab which are great for camping but don’t expect much in the way of facilities. Be ready to rough it! You can also camp around other areas beyond Khasab.
If you’re going to Dibba Musandam, you might also choose to stay in Dibba, UAE.
For food, my first tip is to take snacks for the journey up and a flask if you like hot drinks as there is practically nowhere to buy anything after the Ras al Khaimah border.
My second tip is to make sure you have cash for eating out or getting take away anywhere other than the hotels. Just at the entrance to Khasab, there is a restaurant next to the petrol station where I had lunch and it was quite good and reasonably priced. They had family rooms as well as an open area.
There are also lots of cafeterias around the town but quite a few seemed to be closed in the afternoon. It took me a while to find somewhere and I ended up buying some delicious bakery items near the roundabout going to Khor Najd and Jebel Hareem. Sometimes it’s best just to ask around the area. Both hotels have restaurants for dine-in.
For self-catering, there is a big Lulu hypermarket on the waterfront (spoiling the view!) where you can get practically everything. I haven’t been into this particular Lulu as I didn’t want to spoil my experience of being in a small, sleepy town but all other branches sell hot meals to take out so I’m sure this one does too.
Money in Musandam
The currency of Oman is riyal but UAE dirham notes are accepted everywhere at a rate of five dirhams to one riyal. You will, however, receive change in riyals. Not everywhere in Musandam accepts cards, so take cash with you. Cash is also needed at the border control.
How to get to Musandam (and what do you need to enter Musandam)
You can get there by air from Muscat, by road from the UAE or by boat. There have been changes over the years and some areas are accessible to GCC residents only, some to GCC citizens only and some to only people with special permission.
To go to Bukha, Khasab, Jabal Hareem, Rawda, etc., you drive through Ras al Khaimah to enter at Al Dhara border. Some nationalities can get a visa on arrival and others will need to do it online beforehand. Even if you can get it on arrival, it can be easier and quicker to do it in advance. Apply for online visa at https://evisa.rop.gov.om You can also find companies to do it for you.
You need the registration card (aka mulkiya) of your vehicle. If it is a rental car or you have a car loan, check first whether it is allowed from the company or bank to take the car and if you need a no objection certificate.
Car insurance is required which means either you have an ‘orange card’ from your existing motor insurance or you can pay for insurance at the border. (Note: not available at Dibba border). I have always shown the PDF of my orange card in my phone without issues.
Health insurance for one month is also required. Sometimes you’ll be asked for it and sometimes not. Your current health insurance may cover you already.
You’ll go through several steps at the border which can be a bit confusing but just follow the route through and stop where you see kiosks!
At the moment you will have to show that you have had two doses of a recognised covid vaccine to enter Oman. The vaccination certificate should be printed off so they can stamp it. PCR is currently not required but always check up to date rules before going.
To enter the Dibba side now, you can get a permit rather than a visa. This can be arranged by your hotel or tour agency in advance. GCC nationals require only passport or national ID.
Non-GCC citizens cannot drive the whole way between Khasab and Dibba. From Dibba, you can go as far as the canyon at Wadi Khab Al Shams and from Khasab side until Rawda.
If you’re staying in the UAE and would like to rent a car to go to Musandam, compare car rental rates below.
Look out for more posts on Oman coming soon!
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