Day trips from Salalah Oman

Salalah, in the southern part of Oman, is known as a destination where one can see lush green and waterfalls in the desert.  It only happens during the monsoon season, called khareef, which happens between July and September. Though that would be the optimum time to visit, we were there in December, so had to suffice with quite a bit of brown, though we still found plenty to see and do.  It is possible to hire a guide, but we rented a car and used Waze to navigate.  We had purchased a sim card from Omantel for 2 rial at the Muscat airport which was enough data for 4 days, and then one phone could be used as a hotspot for the other devices. Google maps and Apple maps don't speak so though they can be helpful for planning, they aren't useful to navigate during driving. We also had a map of the Salalah area we picked up at the rental car agency. This helped when the dirt paths were not found on Waze.

Here are 3 days worth of excursions that are guaranteed to give one a real taste of Oman, rather than just a touristic view. All of these were places I found on the Beautiful Salalah blog. We stayed at Salalah Gardens Hotel, linked to Salalah Gardens Mall, which was a place to see where the locals went for coffee and shopping. You may find different spellings for these places when checking google.

Day 1: Wadi Darbat, Taqah Castle, and Souly Lodge.
This drive takes you to mountainous wilderness where camels, goats, and donkeys roam. During Khareef, there are waterfalls, but we only saw one place with water. Put Wadi Darbat boat rental in Waze and it will take you to a boat rental where you can navigate a river by paddle boat, or take an electric motorboat operated by a vendor. This was a short boat tour, but it was great to get up close to herds of camels and fig trees. Because of a bacteria in the water (maybe due to the camels we saw pooping) swimming is NOT allowed, even though it looks clear. We arrived here mid morning and drove slowly looking for camels along the route.
Camels are plentiful on the way to Wadi Darbat

From here we drove to Taqah Castle, which wasn't very large nor very old, but it was interesting enough.  Here's a video that shows the view from the Taqah cliffs where you might see dolphins on a good day. You can also drive down to the fishing port to see fishermen come in with their catch, if the timing is right.  I think of all the fishing ports we saw, this one was the best because it wasn't too large but it had a variety of boats and fishermen. If you want to go fishing, you can hire a captain to take you from this port.
Taqah Castle

By now, we were looking for lunch and found this off the beaten path place called Souly Lodge.  It's an ecolodge that also serves lunch and dinner with fantastic views of the beach. Run by a couple Egyptians, the food is delicious and fresh, but don't expect fast.  I recommend ordering a lunch and then walking the beach, looking for dolphins and birds. Take off your shoes and breathe deeply. This is really as good as it gets, in my opinion.  I could have stayed here all day, but eventually we left and made our last stop, right down the street, at the Salalah Rotana Hotel for coffee.  We had to stop for camels crossing the dirt road, which only added to the charm. With more time, we probably would have included a stop at Samharam historical area and Mirbat, where one can drive to an anti gravity road.

White sand beaches with hundreds of seagulls near Souly Lodge
Day 2: Frankincense museum, Al Baleed, Coconut Stalls, and Al Baleed Resort

This is a short day of driving, but could involve a lot of walking if you choose. The Frankincense museum includes some history about the boats and marine heritage Oman enjoyed before the industrial age.  It makes sense that with such a long coastline and good placement that they would have been powerful in that regard. Unfortunately it was shortlived, though they are rebuilding ports and ships now to increase their might. In the gift shops you will find all sorts of frankincense products and can learn more about how they are created.  We took a short boat ride down the canal where with a good set of binoculars, one might see some birds common to the area. Then I took the golf cart tour, rather than walking, through the archaeological site of Al Baleed. Archaeologists were working on the area, still uncovering artifacts and putting together old buildings built around 2000 BC. A new boardwalk area that may soon house shops and restaurants had recently been completed along the beach. Using the Salalah map or Waze, put in the Coconut Stalls and you will find them very near this area. We purchased a few papayas here which were delicious for breakfast the next day. We had lunch at Al Baleed Resort, with outdoor seating and views of the beach and pool.

The ruins at Al Baleed
Fresh papaya

Day 3: Al Mughsayl Beach, Marneef Cave and Blowhole, Al Fazayah Beach

Part of this drive is best done with a 4 wheel drive vehicle because there are winding roads through the mountains, and if you go to Al Fazayah beach, the road is unpaved. It's easy to find Al Mughsayl and the cave/blowhole area because it's right on the main coastal roadway.  If you choose to find the last beach, be prepared for some off the beaten path experiences. There is a dirt path identifiable on the map, but not easy to find on Waze. It's the only one, so when you see it, you will know where to go.  On this route, we saw cows, goats, and lots of camels.  This was interesting because one of the camel herders was helping with a newborn camel in one spot.  At another, a camel was being milked right off the path.  The herder offered us the fresh milk to try. Once we left the camels, the beaches opened up with turquoise waters and rugged cliffs. Fishing nets were placed offshore all along the coast. We brought bathing suits, changed in the vehicle, and enjoyed the water which was warm.  The beach was dotted with camel poop in long lines as though it had washed up like sea shells.  Walk carefully. This area, once known only to locals, is widely becoming a destination for tourists. Guides were unloading their vehicles, coolers, umbrellas, and everything else making it a picnic area. There were still plenty of spaces where we were completely alone. Though the map shows a circular road, it doesn't connect.  We had to come back the way we came in. On the way back through the city, we stopped for a quick look at the enormous commercial port which is so large it can be seen from space! We brought drinks and food with us so we were not rushed to leave the beach area where there are no services.

Some VERY winding roads through the mountains

Turquoise water with rocky shores

Swim here in the warm waters
Fresh camel milk
If you choose to visit Salalah, I'm sure you'll enjoy the natural beauty as well as the historic places.  This is just an overview.  If we'd had another day, we'd have driven up towards Habit to see Wadi Dawkah Frankincense resort. We managed to see lots of frankincense trees growing on our other drives, but that was part of the frankincense trail.

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