The Frankincense Route
Be immersed in the extraordinary kaleidoscope of Oman and discover the unique art, architecture and crafts while uncovering the fascinating history of its sultanic dynasties.
Begin in Muscat, nestled between the Central Hajar Mountains and the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Oman, and wonder at the intricate traditional textiles, woodwork, jewellery and pottery in the souks, museums and mosques of the historic capital.
Journey through the picturesque wadis of the east coast, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fabled ‘Lost City of Ubar’ and travel through the golden dunes of the Wahiba Sands.
Explore the mountain-top villages and medieval fortresses of Jebel Akhdar, the mysterious archaeological ruins at Al Ayn and the ‘living’ mud village of Misfat Al Abriyeen. Lastly, discover Salalah and the sandy expanse of the Empty Quarter.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Arrive in Muscat on suggested Emirates flights and transfer to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements including travel insurance (a condition of travel), accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.
At 17:30 attend a welcome briefing with your tour leader Alex McKay followed by a special welcome dinner with Alex and fellow tour members.
Today, explore Muscat, Oman’s capital city. Begin with a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in Oman, accommodating up to 20,000 worshippers. The Indian sandstone edifice is considered an architectural masterpiece, with its main minaret reaching over 90 meters high and a three-story library containing thousands of books.
After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to the Bait Al Baranda Museum. Housed in a renovated residence from the 1930s, the museum traces the history of Muscat and greater Oman from a regional, commercial and cultural context.
In the late afternoon, return to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
This morning, drive past the colourful Al Alam Palace on the way to the National Museum of Oman. Enjoy a guided tour of one of the many permanent galleries that display more than 5,000 artefacts outlining the heritage of Oman, from its maritime history to cultural practices.
Enjoy time at leisure for lunch in Muttrah, the port of Muscat. See the 16th century fort and explore the lively Muttrah Souq, one of the oldest marketplaces in Oman, before strolling along the Corniche waterfront promenade.
Tonight, admire the Hajar Mountains and coastline from a sunset dinner cruise on a traditional wooden dhow, an Arabian sailboat.
Check out of the hotel and depart Muscat in 4WD vehicles. Travel for the remainder of the tour will be in a convoy of comfortable and spacious 4WDs.
Drive southeast along the spectacular rugged coastline to Sur, one of the most important Arabian ports of the Middle Ages. On the way, visit the picturesque Wadi Al Arbaeieen and witness the pools of mesmerising green water. Stop for a picnic lunch at the Bimmah Sinkhole, a spectacular limestone crater, before continuing to Wadi Tiwi, a precious source of water in the harsh Gulf of Oman Desert.
Arrive in Sur in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel.
In the morning, visit the Sur fish market and walk through the local souq. Then, visit the Sur shipyards where traditional dhows continue to be constructed. Sur has a long history of shipbuilding because of its important maritime location between the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Continue to the Ras Al-Jinz Scientific Centre for a guided visit examining the ecological conservation work of the centre. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the turtle nature reserve, a sanctuary for nesting sea turtles.
Return to Sur in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
In the morning, visit Old Castle Museum, which houses the personal collection of Sheikh Khalfan Al Hashmi. Then, depart for Wahiba Sands, stopping at the natural oasis of Wadi Bani Khalid. Gaze upon the translucent blue waters of the wadi, fringed with date palms and providing an ideal opportunity for a swim.
In the late afternoon, arrive at Thousand Nights Camp in the heart of Wahiba Sands, an expanse of some 10,000 square kilometres of desert. Enjoy the remarkable experience of a night in the desert, which starts with a golden sunset, continues with a densely-starred nocturnal sky and concludes with the soft light of a desert dawn.
Depart Wahiba Sands to admire the city gates and ornate wooden doors, carved in Zanzibar, of Al-Mudayrib. Continue to the ruins at Ibra and Al Munisifeh, settlements which were built with wealth that flowed from the Zanzibari trade.
Enjoy time at leisure for lunch in the picturesque village of Birkat al-Mauz. Continue to Jebel Akhdar, known also as the ‘Green Mountains’, and famed for its terraced fruit orchards irrigated by aflaj, traditional water systems. Visit the UNESCO-listed village of Falaj, where archaeological remains sit alongside farms that are green year-round, fed by these traditional irrigation systems.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon before dinner at the hotel.
This morning, drive to Al Aqor, a picturesque village in the Jebel Akhdar mountain range. Choose to walk from Al-Aqor to Al-Ayn or to walk from Al-Aqor to Ash Shirayjah, and learn about each village’s unique history and rich culture. See how the locals cultivate various fruits, vegetables and flowers on terrace fields.
In the early afternoon, return to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure.
Tonight, attend a talk by Alex followed by dinner at the hotel.
Today, explore the oasis city of Nizwa, the capital of Oman in the 16th and 17th centuries. The impressive Nizwa fort was once a centre of trade, religion, education and art, and today it is renowned for its superbly restored 17th century fort, the old village densely surrounding its walls and the silver work sold in the local souq.
Enjoy lunch at Nizwa fort before a guided tour of the city of Manah, known for its ancient religious architecture, offering an insight into how traditional Omani culture remains practised by the townspeople.
Return to the hotel in the evening and enjoy dinner at the hotel.
In the morning, depart for Jibreen Castle. Built as a defensive stronghold, Jibreen is perhaps the finest of Oman’s castles, with its superb wood carving, stucco and painted decoration hinting at Moghul influences. Then, travel to the village of Bahla and visit Bahla Fort, a unique example of fortification methods used by the Banu Nebhan tribe.
After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to the village of Al Ayn, renowned for its well-preserved 4,000-year-old beehive tombs. Located in the Hinterlands of Oman, the area showcases remnants of life during the Bronze age.
In the late afternoon, return to Nizwa and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Enjoy an excursion to Jebel Shams, the ‘Mountain of the Sun’. At approximately 3,000 metres, Jebel Shams is the highest point in Oman and eastern Arabia. Beneath it lies the breathtakingly beautiful “Grand Canyon of Arabia”, a series of jagged valleys and rugged escarpments disappearing into the distance.
After lunch, continue to Al-Hamra, a town built on a tilted rock slab which contains some of the oldest extant houses in all of Oman. Constructed centuries ago, many of the traditional houses of Al-Hamra are roofed with palm fronds and extend over as many as four storeys.
On the way back to Nizwa, visit the lovely village of Misfat Al Abriyeen, with stone houses perched on a cliff edge.
Return to the hotel in the late evening.
In the morning, check out of the hotel and drive to Muscat. Arrive at Muscat Airport in time for an afternoon flight to Salalah (flight included in tour price).
Arrive in Salalah in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. Enjoy some time at leisure before dinner at the hotel.
Enjoy a full-day safari to the edge of the Rub’al-Khali, translating to ‘Empty Quarter’ in Arabic, Arabia’s legendary desert of seemingly endless sand dunes. Drive towards the ‘Qara’ mountain range and enjoy spectacular views of the Salalah plains.
Continue to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the fabled ‘Lost City of Ubar’. Ancient documents suggest the archaeological ruins match the city of Ubar, thought to have been lost in the sands of the Arabian desert.
Return to Salalah in the afternoon, stopping at Wadi Dawkah, a site of naturally grown Frankincense trees. Arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.
After breakfast, wander through the Haffa souq in the historic port of Al-Balid and visit the Museum of the Frankincense Land, chronicling human settlement in the area since 2,000 BCE with a special emphasis on maritime trade and tradition.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before exploring the ruins of Sumhuram Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This archaeological site is one of the oldest settlements in Oman, with artefacts dating back to the fourth century BC. Continue to the Wadi Darbat, a complex of waterfalls, bright blue pools and rivers.
This evening, join Alex and fellow travellers for a special farewell dinner.
Transfer to Salalah Airport for suggested flights via Dubai. Tour arrangements conclude upon arrival at Salalah airport. Renaissance Tours can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.
Per person, twin-share
Deposit per person (at time of booking)
Final payment due
16 September 2024
*Prices do not include the Value Added Tax (VAT) which Oman proposes to implement during 2024, at a percentage to be confirmed; Renaissance Tours reserves the right to update tour prices should VAT be implemented.
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in four- and five-star hotels (or best available) with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- One-way Economy Class flight Muscat – Salalah (30kg luggage permitted)
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches and 4-wheel-drive vehicles
- Lectures and talks by your tour leader, Alex McKay
- Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport porterage
- Visa for Oman
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Muscat – Intercontinental Muscat*****
Sur – Sur Grand Hotel***+
Wahiba Sands – Thousand Nights Camp****
Jebel Akhdar – Dusit Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort****
Nizwa – Golden Tulip Nizwa Hotel****
Salalah – Crowne Plaza****+
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.
Tour code: AG2414
Fitness level: Challenging
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.
Suggested airlines: Emirates
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian passport holders require a visa to visit Oman, which may be obtained online prior to travel via the following website: https://evisa.rop.gov.om/. Visas can no longer be applied for upon arrival in Oman.
New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Oman.
Download booking form here.