Oman has been on my top-3-destinations-I-want-to-travel-list for a long time. In October last year I finally made it happen. I checked many options in terms of flights, hotels and car rental offers. In the end my boyfriend and me decided to book an all-inclusive package to Salalah since it was a lot cheaper than booking all individually. In addition we rented a car for day trips within the Salalah region. We booked the package in HolidayCheck and could take advantage of a 100€ voucher. The all-inclusive package included flights (Germanwings), 4* hotel, drinks (including alcoholic drinks) and meals.
Oman is still an almost untouched touristic country. Salalah city is the capital of Oman´s Dhofar district and close to Yemen (around 120km). You will not find many hotel options. Most of the all-inclusive hotels were built just a few years ago and the touristic structure is still developing and growing. We were flying from Cologne to Salalah (direct flight) with Germanwings and had the maiden flight. Therefore we were welcomed at the gate with a catering (arabic coffee, dates and sandwiches) and photographers. It never happened to me before so it was a strange but exciting feeling.
In July and August the moonson Khareef turns the desert around Salalah into a green paradise and temperature drops down to ~20° celcius. It is the season where fruits like banana and coconuts grow (who would have thought that of Oman?). The moonson time is high-season for travellers from all Arabic countries (they love the rain, the green and the cool temperature). Better avoid the summer, prices are high! If you are looking for sunny and hot weather October is a really good month with sun guarantee (no rain days).
To be flexible I decided to rent a car and to do some day trips within the region. The prices are a bit higher than in Europe. We paid around 220€ for one week. Pickup at the airport was easy and the car was in good condition. We had troubles finding our hotel since we couldn´t use internet and only downloaded an offroad-map that was not working so well. Gas is really cheap ~ 0,5€ per liter. Be careful driving at night and check for camels or other animals crossing the streets (outside Salalah city). Note that camels in Oman can be black therefore hard to see at night ;).
Fanar Hotel and Residences
The Fanar Hotel (Website) is located in Salalah Marina Town, around 30 kilometers outside Salalah city (~30min to go to the city and to the airport). It is a 4* beach front hotel, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Salalah Marina Town is a touristic complex that includes a couple of hotels such as Juweira Boutique Hotel, Salalah Rotana Resort, the Fanar Hotel and Residences and some cafes.
Hotel & Room
The hotel is stylish and beautiful. Our room was very spacious with a huge double bed and balcony as well. A highlight was the starry sky ceiling with different colored lights :).
Pool & Beach
The pool area with infinity pool is very nice and with relaxing atmosphere (good music as well). If the hotel is fully booked it can be hard to get sunbeds if you come late in the morning. Towels are provided daily and can be picked up and dropped off at the pool. There is one pool bar (and another bar at the beach) where you can get drinks. Alcohol can be limited during public or religious holidays or specific daytimes. The beach itself I didn´t like too much since it was overlooking the harbour (not the nicest view) and also it had an artifical bay, so no waves. The beach at the Salalah Rotana Resort is by far more beautiful (turquoise water, palms and golden sand), so you should make sure to visit.
In our all-inclusive package we had a dine-around concept included. This means that we could choose to eat at the Juweira Hotel or at the Salalah Rotana Resort once per day. Staying one week in an all-inclusive hotel can get boring when it comes to the meals so we appreciated that option and tried the other hotels as well. In the end our conclusion was that El Fanar has the best food (although it has only 4* and the Salalah Rotana has 5*). El Fanar convinced us with fresh ingredients, a good food variation (pasta, pizza, fish, meat, vegetables, …) and a nice presentation at the buffet.
Day trips Salalah region
Al Mughsail Beach
Al Mughsail Beach is a 1 hour drive from El Fanar Hotel. The beach is around 4km long and very wild and beautiful with stones, turquoise water and waves. It is dangerous to swim here, so better only do sun bathing. During the week the beach is empty, so you can enjoy the beach for yourself. On the weekends locals frequent the beach and do picnics.
Al Marneef Cave
At the end of Al Mughsail Beach you can visit the Al Marneef Cave. Entrance is free and it offers a great scenic view of the Mughsail beach.
The famous blow holes can be seen only during the rain season (moonson). So we were not lucky to look at them.
If you continue the street towards Yemen you will arrive to a serpentine road with many dangerous curves. Be sure to drive slow. After some kilometers follow the road on the left that leads to Fazayah Beach, a hidden, wonderful lonely beach. It is a bit of a pain to drive the road (many curves, bad street condition, stones, sand, … ) but you will be rewarded with the most beautiful beach you can imagine. Make sure to go back before the sunset.
Mirbat is a small town that has a history of frankincense trade. However most parts of the city are abandoned but still show the glory past. I am very interested in abandoned places so to come to Mirbat was a must for me. It is a really interesting detour and you can easily walk all of it.
Jabal Samhan is a part of the eastern Dhofar Mountains and a nature reserve. The peak reaches 2100 meter. It is easy accessible by car (~1 hour from El Fanar Hotel). On your way you will be able to see many camel herds. Jabal Samhan is also called the “Grand Canyon” of Dhofar and offers breathtaking views from a plateau in 1700m height. You can overlook the whole east coast and the Qara mountains. Definitly one of our highlights!
We had a wonderful time in Oman and I can highly recommend to go there. People were extremely friendly, helpful and always up for a chat and we enjoyed some very nice and interesting conversations. Almost everyone was talking English, so it was not a problem to communicate.
The nature and landscape of the Dhofar region is stunning and very diversified. You can find something for everyones taste – beautiful and lonely beaches, desert, mountains, wild animals and citylife. At sightseeing attractions we were often the only tourists which was really cool. Where can you still be alone in an amazing beach? Probably there are not many places in the world left …
You will see many wild animals for example camels walking on the highway 😉 but also goats, cows, birds and more.
If you are concerned if it is dangerous – to us it looked really safe, we didn´t have any strange feeling and could move around without any problems.
As a woman you should respect the rules and always wear appropriate clothes outside the hotel. I was normally wearing long pants and covering my shoulders with a scarf or wearing a longsleeve. Women are dressed with burkas, sometimes only showing the eyes, but they were not looking to me in an offended way (because I was obviously dressed different) and smiled to me friendly.
Prices in general are not cheap (except the gas), so an all-inclusive package really is recommended. I have seen some really good offers for breakfast-only packages, but then drinks and food onsite can sum up very quickly and it will be more expensive in the end.
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