Just returned from a trip to Salalah in Oman [Wikipedia], if you have never been there and are planning to go by road then there are few things you need to know, this post is meant to serve as a guide, hope you find it helpful.
Before you go
Remember that Salalah is located at 1000Km from Muscat and that is probably going to be the longest drive you did in one go (it was for me) so prepare yourself and the car. An SUV/4×4 is recommended but not required, the point is if you have a comfortable and reliable vehicle then you are good to go.
Do yourself a favor, pick up a full map of Oman and Salalah each, I got the map of Oman from the reception desk of our hotel in Muscat from our last trip and a friend gave me the detailed map of Salalah, these two turned out to be valuable resources.
Leave early in the morning, we left at around 7-ish and reached just before sunset (October) at 6pm.
On the way
There are few petrol stations but there are patches where you wont find any, I didn’t let the fuel tank reach even half before I filled it up again, I recommend you do the same.
Speeding: It’s a single road to Salalah from Nizwa, you can go as fast as you like without worrying about speed cameras, because there are none (at least at the time of this writing, so don’t blame me if you are fined :). Note that some parts of the road are under construction so you’ll need to slow down. Also a big part of the road needs repair so the ride there will not be very smooth and comfortable, be ready for that.
There are 4 Omani Army check posts on the way, that’s something we were not aware of and they come out of no where. Keep your passports, drivers license and vehicle registration card handy, you will need to show it to the officers at each post, also you might be asked to open up the trunk of your car to check your luggage, don’t panic. Common questions were (in Arabic offcourse) “Why are you visiting Salalah?” & “Where are you coming from?” be ready to answer them.
About half way from Muscat to Salalah, there is a relatively big town name “Hema” or “Haima”, we spotted few restaurants there and it was almost lunch time when we got there, that made it a perfect spot.
Salalah itself is a small coastal city, it’s the neighboring Dhofar mountains where all its beauty is.
Mugsayl beach – is located at 47km west from Salalah on the way towards Yemen, the road goes through mountains and the drive is very scenic.
Marnif cave – it is located at Mugsayl beach (just turn left on your way up on the mountain), though we couldn’t find the cave (partly because I read somewhere that its not worth visiting) it’s the view of the beach and the mountains that made it a great spot for some photography.
Ain Homran – is located on the east of Salalah on the way to Taqah and Mirbat, though we couldn’t find a spring “ain” in October
Wadi Darbat – is the most beautiful of all, its located in the east on the way to Taqah and Mirbat, the place is surrounded with trees and has miles of unspoiled greenery, on the top it also has a lake that is surrounded by mountains.
Towi Attair – is located on the way to Wadi Darbat, we went up for quite a while before we decided to return, there is a Sink Hole (and a cave that we couldn’t find), the road goes left just before the police station and is signposted after that, ask for directions if you are unsure.
Taqah Beach – is a beautiful bird watching spot.
Nabi Ayub’s Tomb – is located on the north east of Salalah, though we didn’t go there but the road is quite pretty.
Ain Jarziz – on the way to Nabi Ayub’s tomb you will find the way to this valley on your right, it has a natural spring and is surrounded by mountains on three sides.
Khawr Rawri (Samharam) Archaeological site – its located on the way to Mirbat and is worth visiting, specially if you are interested to know the history of the place which dates back to 5 century AD.
Magnetic Mountains – is the place where you car speeds up to 50km by itself, because the place is not sign posted I couldn’t get there even though I asked for the directions few times (its located near Al Maha petrol station on the way to Mirbat, that’s what they say)
Haffa Souk – we visited some shops in Haffa souk near Sultan’s palace in downtown Salalah, was surprised to see so many women shopkeepers.
Al Balid/Baleedah Archaeological park – I couldn’t see this one but my local contact told me that its worth a visit.
That’s all the major locations in and around Salalah.
On the way back
If you are coming back to Dubai through Muscat-Sohar-Hatta route and are in mood for an adventure and want to drive on the road that goes through mountains, then before Sohar turn left from the roundabout in Al Khaburah town, the road to Al Ghizayn is not very smooth and first it might not feel like a good choice but it gets better before the mountains, the road can be long and tiring but we loved it, this road takes you to Ibri then turn right to go to Mezyad border in Al Buraimi, the treat is that this road is speed camera free so you can speed up.
Enjoy your trip!