Away from the capital of Muscat, the Hajar mountains and Oman’s most favourite sites lies the verdant region of Salalah, located in the Dhofar region of the Sultanate. During the summer months, when the rest of the region bakes in near 50-degree Celsius weather, Salalah benefits from balmy temperatures making it a popular spot for a regional break or, indeed, for travellers looking to explore the Middle East in summer. From June to early September, in what as known as Khareef season, the moisture from the cooler waters of the Indian Ocean condenses and brings in fog and rain, bringing in temperatures that hover around 27 degrees and a light drizzle. Here’s what to see, do and where to stay in Salalah.
What to do in Salalah
Salalah’s beaches, long stretches of wild sand, rugged cliffs and tropical forests with papaya, banana and coconut groves are unlike most places you’d find in the Middle East – rugged and wild and filled with nature. Travellers can enjoy excursions to Rub’ al Khali, known as the Empty Quarter, a vast stretch of endless dunes stretching to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or make the most of the cooler temperatures with outdoor pursuits in Salalah itself. Salalah’s untamed beaches are steeped in natural beauty, and travellers should make time to visit Eftalqout beach, Al Haffa, Fazayah, Dahariz and Shaat Hidden Beach – known for their stretches of white sand and cliffs. A sea of green awaits visitors in the lush Wadi Darbat – Salalah’s tropical green valleys with waterfalls, natural pools and wildlife. Khor Rori, the largest natural reserve in the region, is also a must-visit.
Aside from natural beauty, Salalah is also filled with fascinating human history. There’s the archaeological site of Sumhuram Old City, the Museum of the Frankincense Land – detailing how the aromatic resin’s part in the rise of the Omani Empire – the ruins of the Frankincense trail (an exciting hike in itself) and the grand Sultan Qaboos Mosque. A day trip to Mirbat Castle and its surrounding merchant houses is also a great thing to do when visiting Salalah, the site of the well-documented 1972 Battle of Mirbat.
Where to stay in Salalah
Alila Hinu Bay
Luxury boutique hotel brand Alila’s long-awaited second Omani resort has instantly become one of the best hotels in Salalah, located on a long stretch of rugged, peaceful coast backed by lofty mountains. The contemporary resort marries modern design with traditional Omani touches, though modernity prevails with its stone villas, structured lines, neutral tones and lots of floor-to-ceiling glass. Alongside 96 terrace rooms, guests can book into one of 16 private pool beachfront villas spread over 175 square metres with outdoor bathtubs and showers and views of the Arabian Sea. The hotel regularly offers attractive incentives to stay during Khareef.
Doubles from AED860; alilahotels.com/hinubay
Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara
Just like Alila, whose first property lies in the Jabal Akhdar mountains, Anantara’s second property is also found on this peaceful stretch of coastline. The hotel sits between a natural beach and freshwater lagoon, a stone’s throw from the UNESCO-listed ruins of Al Baleed (part of the ancient city of Z̧afār), and has a sprawling infinity pool, 250-metres of private sandy beach and a water sports centre to keep guests entertained. The resort was the first, and much-anticipated, luxury resort on the Dhofar coast and offers guests stays in seafront terrace rooms and low-rise villas (one and two bedrooms), some with private pools. There’s everything on offer from paddleboarding to tennis and cycling (the hotel has a small fleet of Electra bicycles) and there’s a kids’ club, gardens and plenty of dining options.
Doubles from AED840; anantara.com