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Planning Your Trip

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Oman’s capital is a city of striking contrast: the shores of the Gulf of Oman and sweeping desert; modern skyscrapers and 16th-century cliff-top forts; humble street food and exquisite dining. Here’s how to pack so you can experience it all.

Upward view of a grand mosque built in white stone with a minaret and blue skies in the background
Upward view of a grand mosque built in white stone with a minaret and blue skies in the background
What to Pack
Al Bustan Palace

A pashmina (shawl) is a great multitasker. Use it as a head covering when visiting a mosque, a cover-up at the beach or a scarf for an evening visit to the desert.

Beach Vacation

Whether you’re taking a moment on the shore of a small creek  or on the kilometer-long, tranquil private beach at Al Bustan Palace, here is how to equip yourself.

  • Muscat enjoys year-round sunshine and soaring temperatures in summer. Stay protected with sunscreen that has a high SPF and be sure to reapply regularly.

  • Make the most of the five outdoor swimming pools (including a 50-meter infinity pool) and bring a couple of bathing suits.

  • If you are exploring the coastline, bring a cover-up for before and after you take a swim. While Omanis are very open-minded and understanding of global travelers, discretion and modest dress are strongly recommended.
Exploring the City

From the old souq in Muttrah to the Sultan’s Palace in the old quarter, Oman's capital has many treasures to showcase. Here is how to best enjoy the day out:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle and refill it with fresh infused water from the resort before setting out.
    Temperatures can soar and it’s best to stay hydrated.

  • You might find that you’ve walked many miles taking in the sights in this sprawling city without even realizing it. Wear a hat to avoid getting too much sun.

  • Locals favor modest dress, so it is suggested that visitors wear shirts that cover the shoulders and long pants rather than shorts.  
Day Trips

Surrounded by the vast desert of Wahiba Sands and the majestic Al Hajar mountains, Muscat is a haven for outdoors and adventure seekers. Before heading on an excursion, ensure you carry the following:

  • Trekking through the desert and the mountains can be tiring — but rewarding — business. Be sure you’re prepared with a sensible pair of walking shoes.

  • Despite the soaring temperatures during the day, the peaks of the Al Hajar mountains have temperatures that are about 15 degrees cooler than in town, and desert nights can get quite cold. Bring an extra layer on daylong excursions.

  • A lightweight backpack is ideal for stashing a water bottle, extra layer and perhaps some snacks before setting out.
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
What to Reserve
Al Bustan Palace

While there is more than enough outside of the resort walls to keep a visitor occupied — touring the Royal Opera House, a night under the stars in the desert —there is so much to do on the property — a day of relaxation at the spa, hours watching the ocean — that it’s easy to never leave. Here’s what to reserve ahead of a visit to make the most of your time:

The 33,000-square-foot waterfront spa is built to resemble an ancient Arabian fort and offers separate men’s and women’s areas, including a women’s-only club, pool and beach. Arrive early to relax with a steam, sauna and ice shower before beginning one of the signature treatments like the Absolute Rejuvenation — a decadent hammam experience and exfoliation, a holistic massage and a facial using organic products. Or immerse yourself in the Royal Splendor, which combines the signature hammam experience with a 24k gold age-defying facial.

With a 1-kilometer private beach — the longest in the country — and five stunning pools, it’s easy to spend an entire stay making the most of the sun and sand. Upgrade your time by reserving one of the private beach cabanas ahead of time. A dedicated butler will tend to your every need as you enjoy the breezes from the Gulf of Oman. On the weekend, reserve a relaxing head-and-shoulder massage in the privacy of your cabana.

Make the most of the crystalline waters just outside of the resort with a dive at one of the 22 nearby sites, such as Bandar Al Khayran Reserve — a stunning, remote location about 30 minutes away by boat. Arrange for an early morning boat ride from the nearby Marina Bandar Al Rowdha to watch dolphins in their natural habitat, or take a drive to Ras Al Jinz to witness one of the largest green sea turtle reserves in the world (50,000 of the creatures live within 5 kilometers). For a truly unique experience, spend the night under the stars by camping in a Bedouin tent nestled in the dunes at Wahiba Sands.

Arrange for a shuttle into town to explore the many sites — a tour of the architectural beauty (and behind-the-scenes secrets) of the Royal Opera House; the National Museum, showcasing artifacts from the earliest human settlement in the Oman Peninsula about 2 million years ago through to present day; an educational tour of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque — one of the biggest in the Middle East; or a visit to one of the storied forts like Nizwa or Bahla, which date back to before the Islamic era.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Itineraries
Al Bustan Palace

Tucked into the shores of the Gulf of Oman and surrounded by vast desert and jagged mountains, Muscat — Oman’s port capital — is rich with cultural history. Sixteenth-century fortresses, ornate mosques and museums full of ancient artifacts pair architecture with history for a fascinating experience. And, given its location on the gulf, the city also has a vibrant tradition of fishing and seafaring. In fact, Muscat translates to “safe anchorage,” and beaches stretch from town all the way to Oman’s border with the United Arab Emirates, some 200 kilometers away. It’s a place of incredible beauty and heritage, and Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, is the perfect place to begin your adventure in Muscat.

12 Hours in Muscat

Rich in culture, history and beauty, Muscat, Oman, is flanked by the Al Hajar Mountains and the blue-green waters of the Sea of Oman. This thriving capital city has so much to offer — from mosques to museums, shops, beaches and palaces — so even if you have only 24 hours to spend, you’ll find plenty to do before your return to the comfort of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Short on time? Spend your day exploring the best the city has to offer or indulging in a day of relaxation.

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If You Want to Relax

Breakfast With a View. After the market, head to Tche Tche Café for breakfast with a view of the sea. Enjoy coffee on the shaded terrace and a sampling of omelets, crepes and manaeesh, savory, quiche-like pastries. 

A Walk in the Park. At Qurum Natural Park, you’ll find space, solitude and natural beauty. Birds, manicured lawns and a large lake at the center of the park are among the draws here, and it’s possible to walk all the way to the beach to explore more of Muscat’s natural beauty.

Take Your Tea. Return to Al Bustan Palace for afternoon tea in the Atrium Tea Lounge, where you’ll find uniquely flavored tea as well as stunning décor. Traditional Omani high tea includes your choice of teas, as well as Zaatar spiced grilled vegetables, bread, tarts and scones, all in a stunning setting. 

Spa Retreat. Indulge in a decadent afternoon at the Al Bustan Palace Spa, by The Ritz-Carlton. Opt for a signature massage to soothe sore muscles and release tension.

Night Cap. Although alcohol is primarily prohibited in Oman, you may drink in hotel bars and many restaurants. Enjoy a nightcap at one of two bars inside Al Bustan Palace and admire its beautiful architecture and décor before turning in. 
 

If You Want to Explore

Go Fish. The Muscat Fish Market, in the Muttrah area of town, is busy at sunrise, as fishermen begin bringing in their morning catches. Walk through the stalls to find an authentic, traditional look at Omani culture.

History Lesson. Visit the Bait Al Zubair museum for an extensive look at Omani history and culture. This palatial space includes six buildings of exhibits, a garden and a miniature Omani village and displays one of the largest permanent heritage and art collections in the country. 

Appreciate Architecture. At Grand Mosque Sultan Qabos, you’ll be intrigued by the stunning design. Domes, towers and elaborate décor — the mosque is home to the second-largest carpet in the world — are among the draws. And although this building is new, having been inaugurated in 2001, it’s destined for a place in the history books.  

Find a Guide. Explore Muscat by night with a custom tour of the Old Town of Muttrah, the Old Town of Muscat and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. See the illuminated domes of the mosque, take in beautiful views along Muttrah Corniche, browse Muttrah Souk and explore Al Alam Palace before dinner at a local restaurant. This four-hour tour departs at 4:30 p.m.

Cultural Treasures

Situated on the Gulf of Oman, Muscat dates to antiquity. Once a major trading port between the east and west, the city was ruled at times by indigenous tribes, Persians, the Ottoman Empire and the Portuguese Empire, all of which left significant cultural marks on the country. From cliff-top forts to mosques and ancient art, there’s so much to explore in this vibrant, multiethnic city. Spend a few days immersing yourself in the color, heritage and depth of Omani culture.

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Morning

A Terrace Breakfast. Enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast overlooking the Sea of Oman at Al Khiran Terrace Restaurant, just one of the signature restaurants at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Fresh fruit, pastries and more make for a great start to your day of exploration, and an à la carte menu is available, as well. 

The Overview.After breakfast, travel to the National Museum, which just opened in 2016 and has quickly become known as one of the region’s best. Explore 14 permanent galleries to learn about the country’s rich heritage.
 

Midday

Magic Carpet. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is spectacular in and of itself, built from 300,000 tons of stunning Indian sandstone. But the massive carpet that covers the floor of the prayer hall is the major draw. The rug — the second largest in the world — is made of 1.7 billion knots, weighs 21 tons and combines classical Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan designs. The rug took four years to produce and includes more than 28 colors in varying shades.

Local Lunch.Turkish cuisine is common in Muscat. For an inexpensive, authentic choice, visit Lokanta Restaurant, which offers great food and a family-friendly atmosphere.
 

Afternoon

Shop the Souq. One of the oldest markets in the Arab world, Muscat’s Muttrah Souq is filled with hundreds of stalls and shops, some of which you’ll find down dark side streets. Coins, stamps, handmade jewelry and Omani frankincense perfumes are among the items you’ll find, along with khanjars, handmade daggers like the one you see on the Omani flag.
 

Evening

Fine Dining. Return to Al Bustan Palace for a memorable meal at China Mood, which has quickly become one of the top Asian restaurants in Oman. Sample from an authentically crafted menu created by a kitchen team that was specially recruited to guarantee genuinely wonderful Chinese cuisine.

Morning

Early Start. Wake up early to travel the nearly 160 kilometers to the ancient city of Nizwa.  

Explore a Historic Fort. Once you arrive in Nizwa, visit Nizwa Fort. Built by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’rubi in the mid-17th century, the fort is, essentially, a castle. Two cannons guard the entrance, and inside you’ll find narrow corridors, a maze of rooms and high ceilings. The exterior is a testament to the military history of the region — look for battlements, turrets and additional cannons.
 

Midday

And an Ancient Castle. Koranic verses. Lines of poetry. Those are among the things you’ll find etched on the walls at Jabrin Castle. Imam Bil’arab Bin Sultan, a lover of poetry and the arts, commissioned the castle in 1675. The striking structure was a sanctuary of sorts, a tribute to the Imam’s father, who ousted the Portuguese from Oman. Its preservation is impressive, to say the least.
 

Afternoon

Mural Walk. Although much of Nizwa’s cultural heritage is centuries old, you’ll also delight in its modern adaptation — a series of street murals. Since 2015, the city has commissioned artists to celebrate Nizwa’s reign as the “Capital of Islamic Culture” through vibrantly painted pieces. From traditionally inspired Islamic writing to painted snapshots of men on motorcycles, the art is creating a new cultural heritage for the people of Oman. 

A Surprising Lunch. One of tourists’ favorites is Bahjat Al Sham restaurant, which offers authentic Middle Eastern cuisine that is affordable and delicious, popular with tourist groups who love to experience Middle Eastern specialties.
 

Evening

Catch the Show. Return to Muscat with enough time to catch a performance at the Royal Opera House, where old traditions meet new. The beautifully built structure accommodates 1,100 people and is anchored by a massive pipe organ. Classic operas such as Aida are on the schedule at this incredible venue. 

Night Swimming. After the show, return to Al Bustan Palace for a late-night swim in one of five outdoor pools, including a 50-meter long infinity pool. Look to the stars and reflect on your experiences in this ancient region.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image