Hiking has a history of one-and-a-half million years, beginning the moment mankind stood upright and began walking through the wilds. But as a leisure activity, it’s a bit more difficult to say when these survival treks for hunting and scouting became a form for fun and recreation.
We do know that during the 20th century, after the industrialisation, a walk in the forest was seen as a luxury, and nowadays it’s a billion- dollar business with millions of people donning high-tech gear and setting out to explore the nature at home and around the globe through hiking holidays. Here in Oman, new mountain lodges are erected and new hiking trails are marked every season to meet the demand of the ever-increasing hiking enthusiasts.
Unlike other GCC countries, Oman has a unique geography that is perfect for both for multi-day hiking holidays and short day hikes. And although hiking is probably the last activity that comes to mind during the hot, humid summer, the fact is, Oman’s mountain ranges are breezy and much cooler than the cities and beaches, making them a perfect place to enjoy some outdoor adventure while escaping the heat waves.
Walk through stunning canyons, explore remote abandoned villages, and experience true wilderness camping. Lay out your sleeping bag at night on a mountain top under the stars, turn off your head lamp and say goodnight to fellow travellers and just lay there, focusing on the stars above. The view of the night sky in Oman’s mountains and deserts, miles away from city lights, are magical—the other worldly twinkle of stars from numerous galaxies laid out in front of your eyes. The next morning, wake up early with the sun and have a camp breakfast before breaking down your campsite and heading deeper into the mountains.
There are numerous marked hiking routes in Oman – both on interior mountain ranges and on coastal ridges. The most popular hiking routes are in the mountains of Jebel Shams, Jebel Akhdar and the Sharqiyah Mountains, as well as the coastal areas of Tiwi, and Kalhat.
The experiences are different as the mountains will keep you cool at higher altitudes and you can enjoy great views of canyons, valleys, abandoned villages, crystal clear wadis, and green oasis orchards. Meanwhile, the coast offers fresh sea air with great views of the ocean, rugged coastline, and pristine beaches, though in the summer the coast also equates to tropical humidity and intense sun, so be sure to stay hydrated and get ready for some serious tanning.
Oman Mountain Club (OMC) organises short hiking trips every week along with a once-per-month ‘long walk’ through the eastern and western Hajar Mountains. The group is open to all, and they offer practice hikes once or twice a week in the late afternoons (normally on Fridays and Tuesdays) to get beginners ready.
Wadi Walkers is another such group that conducts hikes every Wednesday, exploring the wadis of Muscat. They have identified more than 20 new wadis so far. The group also organises special walks, especially during wintertime, to places like Wadi Bani Kharoos and Jebel Akhdar for day-hikes. They occasionally offer ladies-only trips to encourage Omani women to join in.
Day hiking is the perfect way to enjoy the natural wonders of Oman. It is inexpensive, free save for the petrol to reach your route and a pair of hiking shoes, though as the main action is walking, it is important to select boots that offer proper ankle and sole support. Anyone can enjoy it going for a hike, improving each week as you are getting stronger and more familiar with the terrain. Most multi-day hiking excursions are not meant for casual leisure tourists, as some of the routes cross challenging terrains on unmarked paths. But for seasoned hikers, these unmarked trails are especially fun, as they afford the opportunity to blaze a new trail, a sweet goal to aim for indeed. —[email protected]
• Food and water (a minimum of 4 to 5 litres per day)
• Good hiking boots
• Long trousers to protect against thorns and snake bites
• Rucksack (backpack)
• A light, waterproof jacket to protect from wind and rain
• Large rubbish bag (pack out what you pack in)
• Emergency kit including a torch, matches, knife or multipurpose tool, first aid, sunscreen, and insect repellent
• Respect nature
• Keep to existing trails (except on official expeditions)
• Do not damage plants or trees or endanger wildlife
• Respect the environment
• Do not pollute water sources
• Do not litter (clean up after yourself and others)
• Respect others
• Dress and behave appropriately at all times
• Bandar Khayran Reserve
• Grand Canyon
• Jebel Hareem
• Samhan Mountain
• Jebel Shams (Sun Mountain)
• Majlis Al Jinn Cave (Salma Plateau)
• You can obtain hiking route maps from Ministry of Tourism omantourism.gov.om
• Oman Mountain Club
+968 9419 2102
+968 9288 5593 (Eva), +968 9235 4114 (Khalid)
• Wadi Walkers
• Canyon Adventures
+968 99412660, Abdul Rahman (Specialised hiking guide)