Planning a visit to Salalah and curious about the top attractions? Salalah boasts an abundance of experiences from pristine, unspoiled white sands and crystal clear waters, to majestic mountains and awe-inspiring wadis. Does that not sound like heaven on earth?
While my adventure in Salalah had its highs and lows, it was nonetheless enjoyable. Picture this. On my last day, just when I had snapped amazing photos and was heading to the airport, my phone accidentally fell into a squat toilet, resulting in the loss of all my pictures except for the few I had luckily uploaded on Facebook that morning. It was a devastating moment!
Despite this unfortunate event, I thoroughly relished my time in Salalah and am keen to share all you need to know about Salalah including the best time to visit, ways to navigate around, ideal duration of stay, and the must-visit spots. So, let's dive in!
Understanding Salalah and its uniqueness:
Located in the southern part of Oman, in a region known as Dhofar, and just around 200km from the Yemen border, Salalah is Oman’s second city after the capital, Muscat. It sits on the Arabian Gulf and is blessed with warm sunny weather throughout the year.
What makes Salalah truly exceptional is its unique micro-climate and the 'khareef' season. This climatic phenomenon happens between June and September when while the rest of the Middle East is under a blazing sun with temperatures soaring up to 50 degrees Celsius, Salalah enjoys a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius. The city experiences a light drizzle almost all day, and fog in the mountains, thanks to the monsoon winds, or 'khareef' in Arabic.
People from other parts of Oman, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, retreat to Salalah during the hot summer months to escape the intense weather conditions at home and enjoy the cooler climate. The khareef season sees the landscape around Salalah metamorphose from the regular brown desert terrain to verdant green valleys, making it the ideal time to experience Salalah’s natural beauty.
Though this is a peak time for tourism in Salalah, it doesn't feel crowded as international tourism hasn't fully taken off yet.
You can choose to either fly or drive to Salalah. Direct flights from Muscat (via Oman Air or Salam Air) or Dubai (via Fly Dubai) are available, taking around an hour, and are quite affordable.
However, if you wish to embark on a road trip, you can drive from Muscat or Dubai. This journey takes around 14 hours and covers more than 1000km. Please note, this option might be exhausting, and driving fatigue can lead to accidents. Hence, flying is recommended.
Renting a car or hiring a driver is essential once you land in Salalah as the attractions are spread out, and public transport is not readily available. The roads are well-maintained, but with sparse petrol stations, plan your fuel stops in advance if you choose to self-drive. If visiting during khareef season, ensure to book your car or driver beforehand, and a 4x4 vehicle would be ideal owing to the muddy roads during the rainy season.
Remember to download an offline map before your arrival to navigate efficiently since road signage is not the best, and cellular reception can be spotty.
A 2-day and 2-night stay seemed perfect for my Salalah trip. Despite not having an endless list of things to see, the attractions are widely spaced, meaning you'll spend a significant amount of time driving. Therefore, a well-organized itinerary ensures efficient exploration.
Suggested 2-Day Itinerary:
Start with West Salalah: Visit Mughsail beach and Murneef Cave, Al Fazayah beach, and Ayoub's tomb.
Explore East Salalah: Taqah old city and castle, Wadi Darbat, Ayn Razat oasis, and Al Haffah souq (in Salalah city).
Highlights of Salalah:
Mughsail beach, located 40km west of Salalah, is a popular destination renowned for its white sand and intriguing blowholes, which are essentially holes on the ground. They fill with water from crashing sea waves, leading to pressure buildup and releasing it by ejecting it through these natural blowholes, creating a fountain-like effect. The blowholes make a notable sound, and the water can reach over 20 meters high during khareef season.
Al Marneef Cave nearby offers a magnificent bird's-eye view of these blowholes and the ocean. For unobstructed photos, get here early as it can get crowded later in the day.
Al Fazayah Beach:
A 30-minute drive west of Mughsail beach will take you to Al Fazayah Beach. This stunning 5km long beach features immaculate white sands, transparent water, and an impressive coastline with various rock formations. Be cautious while swimming due to potentially strong currents and the rocky coastline.
Located on Jebel Ittin mountain, Ayoub's tomb is the resting place of the Prophet Ayoub, known as Job in the Old Testament. The simple building housing the tomb might not be as impressive, but the breathtaking views from the top of the mountain are undoubtedly worth the visit.
Situated about 35km east of Salalah, Taqah is a charming coastal fishing village known for its 19th-century castle, which provides insights into local life through its architectural beauty and displayed cultural artifacts. Enjoy a seafood lunch at the harbour and interact with the friendly local Bedouins.
Located 30 minutes east of Salalah, Wadi Darbat is one of Southern Oman's most picturesque valleys, especially during the khareef season. The mountains here are often shrouded in a captivating white fog.
Ayn Razat oasis:
Visit the serene Ayn Razat, a spring water oasis and park, on your way back to Salalah.
Al Haffah Souq:
Spend the evening at Al Haffah souq, Salalah’s main market, where you can haggle over incense, clothing, spices, gold, and handicrafts. Don't miss out on buying frankincense, a product Salalah is known for.
While accommodation options in Salalah are relatively limited, comprising a few chain hotels, family-run places, and Airbnb listings, they provide a decent stay. If visiting during khareef season, ensure to book your accommodation in advance due to high demand. For a unique experience, consider camping, which is a popular and safe activity in Oman.
What To Wear:
As an Islamic country, Oman requires visitors to dress conservatively, with attire covering from shoulders to below the knees. Avoid wearing a bikini in public beaches; instead, cover up with something light. However, be cautious while swimming during the khareef season due to potentially strong currents.
In conclusion, those are some of the finest attractions in Salalah. Enjoy your trip, snap plenty of beautiful photos, and always remember to remove your phone from your pocket before using a squat toilet!
Additional Spots Near Salalah:
If you wish to explore more of Oman, check out my Oman Travel Itinerary, detailing information for all the popular tourist spots. Don't miss out on visiting Oman’s most renowned wadi - the iconic Wadi Shab!
Final Tips and Suggestions:
Try some local Omani cuisine while you're there. From savoury rice dishes like Shuwa and Majboos to sweet treats like Halwa, the local cuisine is a must-try. Fresh seafood is also plentiful due to the coastal location of Salalah.
Omanis are known for their warm hospitality. You may find yourself invited for coffee or tea during your travels. Accepting these invitations is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Omani culture and customs.
Salalah is home to a variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. You may also encounter camels roaming free, especially in the countryside.
Exploring the Old City:
The old city of Salalah, known as Al Balid Archaeological Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was once a key hub for the frankincense trade. Here, you can walk through the ancient ruins and visit the on-site museum to learn more about the city's historical significance.
If you have some extra time, consider taking a day trip from Salalah. The Empty Quarter, or Rub' al Khali, the world's largest sand desert, is just a few hours away and offers a truly otherworldly experience.
While Oman isn't known for a bustling nightlife due to its cultural norms, there are a few options to explore. Some hotels and restaurants in Salalah offer traditional Omani music and dance performances.
Apart from Al Haffah Souq, you can also check out the modern Salalah Mall or Lulu Hypermarket for a wider range of products, including international brands.
Oman is generally a safe country for tourists. However, it's always a good idea to check for travel advisories and maintain typical travel precautions, like safeguarding your belongings.
I trust this guide has provided a comprehensive overview of what Salalah has to offer. Whether you are a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a unique cultural experience, Salalah caters to all types of travelers. Enjoy your journey and treasure the unforgettable memories you'll undoubtedly create during your time in this remarkable city.