Oman - City, Desert, Mountains and Beach
Oman is a jewel in the Arabian gulf with breathtaking mountain scenery, rolling sand dunes, charming beaches and dramatic forts. It is also a country that, whilst nestled between the controversy of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, welcomes you with open arms.
Tourism is currently flourishing in Oman and unlike its neighbour of the UAE, it retains a traditional culture which makes you feel like you've been transported to a magical world but with only a 7 hour flight - perfect for winter sun.
In a country with such a rich heritage and so much on offer, speaking to someone who has been themselves is so crucial. For it is only once you have been that you can have a true understanding of the beauty of this peaceful country and its gentle people.
The perfect Oman itinerary starts inland with the mountains. After an hours drive from Muscat you reach the Al Hajar Mountains check point where your car is given a once over to ensure it is good enough to take on the mountain road. An hour later you find yourself winding through the village of Jabal Akhdar. Here you can stop at the much covered Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar Resort but I would recommend travelling 40 minutes on to the breathtaking Alila Jabal Akhdar. The Alila is designed to melt into the jaw-dropping background but no means is this hotel shy and retreating. Its understated beauty is simple and classic with everything that you need and nothing more but totally luxurious. Overlooking the wide valley and a few degrees cooler than the city, the mountains are the perfect place to start.
From here you can take the mountain pass back down towards Nizwa - with its impressive fort and exotic bazaars this is the perfect spot to spend the day before heading to your desert camp.
The best way you can experience the desert is in a private tented camp that has been set up just for you and the Magic Private Desert Camp is an experience like no other. The mobile tents are similar to those you find across Africa, with ensuite bathrooms of bucket showers and eco-loos as well as full beds. These "tents" are a far cry from the image of a damp rainy day in the Lake District. From camel rides to dune bashing activities aren't left short here either and when the day is over, the stars take over the vast sky transforming the arid desert into glistening dunes.
Leaving the desert behind you'll be longing to switch your vista from sand to water so head back to Muscat where we love to base ourselves at The Chedi. Whilst Muscat isn't known for its white sand beaches and turquoise waters, The Chedi's location makes it the perfect base to relax by the sea (or in one of their three pools) as well as explore the delights of the city. This isn't a city like many of its Arabian cousins, here it is illegal to build above 10 stories, the local culture is authentic and the people are genuine. Make sure that a visit to the Grand Mosque and the Opera House is on the cards.
Of course no piece written about Oman can miss off the magical Six Senses Zighy Bay. Located in the northern province of Musandam this beautiful hotel stands strong in the Six Senses brand for some short haul winter sun. If you're a true beach lover and you have time to spare then you can easily add it on to the end of your Oman itinerary as well as it being a standalone spot. As the surrounding mountains tumble into the sea Zighy Bay is cut off from anyone who is not a guest making this exclusive beach spot all yours.
Since my visit in September I have spoken to everyone and anyone who will listen to me about visiting Oman and for me, the question isn't 'Should I go?' but 'When should I go?' because it needs to be on your list.