One of the things that makes Oman such an incredible destination is the fact that it is off the beaten path, with a plethora of obscure adventures to experience. This can also make it a challenging place to explore for new visitors. Hiring a local guide or joining a tour can be a great entry point into this fascinating place. Pretty much every Muscat hotel offers tour options through local partners, so ask at reception about booking options. There are a few particularly good tour operators available to help you discover all there is to see and do in the Sultanate.
Al Sansool. Offering all manner of oceanic experiences, from dolphin-watching to game-fishing to cruises up the coast of Oman, Al Sansool tours are a great option for taking full advantage of Muscat's spectacular coastline. Captain Salim is personable and incredibly knowledgable about the local aquaculture. Lunch and pickups from local hotels are provided. Muscat, Masqat. 9679 0191; www.alsansool.net.
Aywa Holidays. Run by a Spanish tour guide, AYWA Holidays offers fully customized trips, from one-day excursions to wadis, mountain towns, and sights of interest within the capital city, to two- and three-day overnight trips into the desert, turtle-watching along the coast of central Oman, and even journeys up to the northern peninsula of Mussandam near the UAE. The tours are informative and fun, especially great for the flexibility with which they are run. Aywa Hostel, where tours begin, is behind the Grand Mosque, near the Millenium hypermarket in Ghubra. Ghubrah North, Way 3209, Number 725 130 Muscat, Muscat, Masqat. 9804 9029; aywaholidays.com.
Big Bus Tours. The hop-on, hop-off tour is the most economical option for getting an overview of the capital. The recorded tour information gives a solid synopsis of the history of the sights, including the old souk (market), the Al Alam Palace, and Parliment, as well as plenty of stops to take photos of the gorgeous sea and rocky mountains. You can enter the bus at various locations throughout Muscat, and tickets are valid for 24 hours from purchase. Muscat, Masqat. 4340–7709; www.bigbustours.com/en/muscat/muscat-bus-tours/. 24 rials.
The Guide Oman. The Guide Oman provides an unparalled service, offering tours that bypass Muscat, heading south through difficult mountains of sand where you will likely see no one aside from occasional Bedouin. It's a uniquely Omani experience of crawling over sanddunes in a 4x4, sleeping in tents under stars, and feasting on expertly prepared food. These tours cater to both locals and visitors, so guests are expected to come in their own rented vehicles. The expert leaders will teach novice drivers how to safely navigate the rugged terrain. Meeting points are arranged from Muscat. The company also offers day tours in and around Muscat. Muscat, Masqat. 980 38820; 9393–9359; www.theguideoman.com.
Oman Day Tours. Oman Day Tours offers private and group day tours around the capital city of Muscat, into the towering mountains of Jabal Akhdar, to the ancient village of Nizwa, and to the famed Wadis of Sharqiyah. The company can take you boating in the Oman Sea or on an overnight excursion to the coastal province of Mussandam in the north. The full-day and overnight tours include meals, and all the tours include the services of a knowledgable, English-speaking guide. While the prices are a bit steep, the tours are a hassle-free, efficient way to take in all the must-see sights of Oman. Pickups can be arranged from any area of the city in which the tours originate. 9771–0486; 800/815 7030; www.omandaytours.com. From US$55.
Pioneer Tours. Run by three young Omani brothers, Pioneer Tours offers overnight camping expeditions into the Al Hajer Mountains, including Jabal Akhdar, Jabal Shams, and other lesser-known mountain and desert destinations. Day trips can be arranged for hiking and swimming at Wadi Shab, visiting an old trading town in Nizwa, or exploring the major sights of Muscat, as well as their own favorite shops, restaurants, and scenic viewpoints. Every trip is customized, and guests can be picked up from any hotel in Muscat. The local expertise make this the best value in town. Pioneer Hotel Apartments, Nuzhah St., Muscat, Masqat. 9936–3700.