Why is Musandam So Special?
Musandam is a Governorate of Oman, but it’s physically separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates, which makes it an exclave. We’ll get to the specific location next, but what makes Musandam so special is it’s natural beauty.
Let’s put it this way: If Norway’s Fjords had a middle eastern cousin, it would definitely be Musandam. It displays similar landscapes, but far less greener and much warmer. It is a very isolated region where some of its villages are only accessible by boat.
The “rocky mountains” extend to heights above the two thousand meters mark inland and create near labyrinthic passages for the seas along the coast. Musandam’s calm waters are home to beautiful coral reefs and dolphins - which are not unusual sights.
Where is Musandam?
Separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE, Musandam is located on the norther tip of the peninsula facing the Strait of Hormuz and it’s a natural barrier between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is also the beginning (or end) of the Al Hajar Mountains ( The Rocky or Stone Mountain), a mountain range in the Arabian peninsula spreading through Oman and the UAE (and Oman again) and separating the coasts of the Gulf of Oman with the desert plateau.
The combination of sea and rocky mountains offers astonishing landscapes and near labyrinthic passages to get lost on daily boat rides, followed by bottle nosed dolphins - yes they love to follow the boats!
What To Do in Musandam?
This is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway from the UAE or even Muscat (the capital of the Sultanate of Oman). We always recommended our friends and followers that will visit the UAE to get a multi-entry visa so they can add a trip to Musandam to their travel plans.
Drive from The UAE Border
This is rather a how to get to, but the drive is really enjoyable. It is a very good road along the coastal line, with plenty of bends. You'll pass by some small villages and beautiful beaches next to the roads.
Daily Boat Trips
The most common activity in Musandam are the daily boat trips in modern versions of Dhows or Abras, which were the traditional sailing vessels. These boats are big enough to fit about 20 people, but you have to be quite unlucky to get a full boat. Normally they are only half-full.
Tours will depart early in the morning and will take you to different spots to snorkel and to enjoy the views. A traditional Arabic buffet will be served for lunch (hummus, falafels, tabouleh, fattoush and grilled goodness).
This is a very enjoyable experience, especially when coming from the vibrant lifestyles of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The waters are calm and there is no other man-made noise except for the motors of the boat. Dolphin sightings are almost guaranteed, as the dolphins love chasing the boats to get a free ride while surfing the waves coming from the motion of the boat.
This is what the Al Hajar Mountains are all about. They are beautiful, unique and ,for most part of the year, an escape from the middle eastern heat.
Musandam is not any different, although the roads to certain peaks and trails might be a bit more challenging than in other parts of UAE and Oman. We certainly struggled with our SUV and, ultimately, decided to just turn and take the main road instead. That time we were on a tight schedule, so next time we’ll reserve more time to explore this adventurous roads (maybe even rent a 4x4).
Enjoy the Beaches
As mentioned before, Musandam has it's fare share of beaches mostly spread along the coastal roads from UAE and on the west side of the peninsula. The beaches on the southern-west area have fine sand with small dunes and offer an incredible contrast to the peaks and cliffs on the other side of the road. The waters are relatively calm.
Then, as you reach the northern area close to Khasab, the waters become louder and stronger. Bassa Beach, next to the Atana Khasab, is beautiful and very popular for both day trips and overnight camping. The colors of the waters here are stunning and you get unique views to the fjords further north.
Most parts of Musandam are inaccessible by road, but we managed to get our SUV to a very quiet beach facing the Gulf of Oman to the east - look for Khor Najd in google maps. This place is totally recommended for daily camping trips. Don't miss out on the amazing views from the top of the mountain as you drive to this remote area!
Wild camping is legal in Oman and you can pitch your tent on any public land - logically this is also applicable in Musandam.
Some camping spots tend to get very crowded with visitors coming from the UAE for the weekend, especially in and around Bassa beach. However, Musandam is relatively large and there are plenty of other quieter spots. Drive anywhere and set up your tent in any place you like!
We set up our tent in Khor Najd. We were alone at night, but as the day began people started to leave and we could enjoy our morning by ourselves.
How Can I Go to Musandam?
Musandam is accessible by air, land and sea. If your combining your trip with a visit to the UAE then the logical option is to get there by car. It is a beautiful drive, all the way.
Khasab is about an hour away from the border crossing, so about 3 hours from Dubai and 4 hours from Abu Dhabi (not including the time in the border). We recommend you to sort out your e-Visa prior to your trip, although we saw people applying for a visa-on-arrival at the border crossing - you better be safe than sorry! The official statement from the authorities is that you should get an e-Visa in advance when entering by road and we’ve heard of people not being allowed access to the country on the border crossing.
If your adding Musandam to your UAE trip please consider that you'll be leaving the UAE so make sure to apply for a multiple entry visa.
For people coming from the rest of Oman you can either fly to Khasab's airport, take a ferry from Shinas or drive all the way. The ferry from Shinas to Khasab operates two times per week and takes approximately 3 hours and you have to add a 3 hour drive from Muscat to Shinas. It seems that the duration of the trip is the same either by car or by boat, but you'll save yourself two border crossings per trip with the latter.