After exploring noisy Muscat, coastal Sur and ancient Nizwa city, we have finally reached magnificent natural beauty of red desert in Oman – Wahiba Sands. One of the most incredible sights I’ve seen. Here is a bunch of useful information on how to get to Wahiba Sands and spend an overnight in one of the luxury camps for best adventure: desert safaris, sunset watching and silky dunes.
How to get to Wahiba Sands - red desert?
Only jeep cars can drive through the sand dunes. So the only way to get to Wahiba Sands is by renting a 4WD car or booking an organized tour (you can’t miss sunset over the red desert!).
Distance between Muscat and Bidiyah (Wahiba Sands) is located 195 km and it’s a max 2h drive. from Muscat/the capital From Sur (coastal city) it is only 109km.
The best town to stay near Wahiba Sands is Bidiyah, which can be your starting point for any red desert tour.
Wahiba Desert Night Camps & Resorts.
There are few luxury night camps in Wahiba Sands Desert. Some of the prices reach 450 Euro per night! Most camps offer a pick-up service from the suburb of the desert if you do not have a 4WD car. Al Raha Camp is a mid-budget without pick-up option. We hired a jeep with a driver to take us to AL Raha Camp. We asked to stop in the famous 1000 Nights Camp (highly recommended online). Amazing place but way above our budget. When we got to our Camp it turned out we are the only guests, which meant that we have no option for any transportation to take us back to the city the next day. It took us all day and a lot of money to reach this place but finally we had to quit and drive back to the nearest city – Bidiyah to come up with plan B. We asked at the reception of the hotel about organized trips to the desert but it was crazy expensive (searching online and booking in advance is highly recommended).
Best Night Camps in Oman Desert.
After two tours exploring Wahiba Sands Red Desert in Oman (and visiting few camps) I can highly recommend the following top rated camps for best location & facilities:
- AL REEM DESERT CAMP – $100-110/per night
- WAHIBA BEDOUIN RUSTIC CAMP – $74/per night including breakfast
- QUEEN DESERT CAMP – with barbecue facilities and $105/per night
- RASHID DESRT PRIVATE CAMP – $123/per night
- LUXURY DESERT CAMP – $205/per night
- ARABIAN NIGHTS RESORT & SPA – exceptional place, $265/per night including breakfast
- DESERT NIGHTS RESORT – fabulous camp! $415/per night.
- Browse for more options.
Quick stop in Sur.
Sur was one of the most amazing travel destinations in Oman! Great hotel staff, friendly, always eager to help 🙂 The hotel receptionist in Bidiyah told us that 1 km from the hotel there’s a local taxi station. This is how we discovered SHARED TAXIS IN OMAN – 3 Rial per person to get from Bidiyah to Sur.
The driver must have been very old, just like his car. Shortly after we got in, another two guys hopped in the car to travel with us. I’m sure we were sponsoring the whole trip but who cared at that stage! 🙂 The trip was incredible – to watch these local people, we were driving somewhere in Oman in a private car, with absolute strangers, who spoke absolutely no English! Anyway, the Omani guy was very friendly, he kept asking us: Is OK? You could sense they are good people. He dropped us exactly in front of our previous hotel in Sur. It was again our friend Nasser who we planned a trip to Wahiba Sands red desert.
Driving to Wahiba Desert from Sur.
Me and Lya though about renting a car ourselves, which would give us so much flexibility and freedom. But we skipped this idea after everyone was telling us how dangerous is driving through the desert. I cannot believe I listened to them! I’m quite experienced in offroad driving and it is very managable to drive yourself. We were more concerned to get lost in the desert rather than my driving skills. But actually there are many jeep tracks and generally the drive is much simpler than you can imagine.
So if you feel comfortable driving offroad DO IT YOURSELF, GET a 4WD car and be independent! The main access to the desert is near Bidiyah Castle (first 24km is a gravel road, and then follow sandy tracks). You will also see road signs to Wahiba Sands and you can always ask people for direction if you feel lost. The sandy road is quite flat and pretty whipped, simply follow car trails and you’ll be fine.
Renting a car in Oman.
You can drive yourself to Wahiba Sands Red Desert in Oman, it is very much doable. All you need is 4WD car and follow sand tracks. Road infrastructure in Oman is well established and the car will give you lots of freedom in traveling around.
CAR RENTAL: Best car rental in Oman is DISCOVER CARS – No hidden cost, 24/7 support and best deals from all rentals & best car rental booking website in 2022. 4WD car will be need when driving to Wahiba Sands (the red desert).
Wahiba Sands - the red desert in Oman.
There is no permanent settlement in the desert, apart from Bedouin temporary camps and luxury tourist camps. Nasser (our guide, our friend, our lovely companion!) told us that taking pictures across the desert area is forbidden all the way till the camps. It’s to protect local privacy and to avoid people taking photos of the interior of Bedouin’s houses.
In some places the interior of the house would be visible from the dunes level – but in general taking pictures of Bedouins is absolutely unacceptable in Arabic culture.
When driving through the desert you will see many camels walking along the road. We immediately jumped off the car greet these amazing animals and take some pictures. They are so soft and gentle! I couldn’t stop hugging them. For the forst time I saw white camels. Said told us that white camels are very special. We asked why they are special? He said: Because they are white! 🙂 Even though the camels are wondering alone through the desert they are all in a possesion of some people. Camels are too expensive and too valuable, so at the end of the day they are kept behind wired field..
Wild camping in Wahiba Desert.
Me and Lya wanted to try wild camping in the desert. But Said said it’s highly dangerous to camp outside the resorts due to high volume of jeep offroads and quad races, organized by rich residents especially at night time. Wild camping in Wahiba Desert is not forbidden and a lot of websites say you can camp alone.
Best tours to Wahiba Sands red desert in Oman.
Sunset over the Wahiba Desert sand dunes!
Sunset over the red desert is probably one of the best sceneries I’ve experience. Red desert is a magic place. The silence is so laud. This was such a wonderful feeling climbing barefoot over the velvet sand dunes and watching huge sun sinking in the red sand. In March 2016 there was almost no rainfall, we could see green bushes growing over Wahiba Sands! Nasser told us that only recently his friend – a local guide brought a professional photographer who was doing a reportage on Wahiba Sands. Once they arrived to the desert the photographer though he was misled by the guide and called him a liar because the desert was all covered with green bushes.
Must-have during Oman trip!
Essentials to take to Oman for Red Desert and Canyon Tours in Oman:
GoPro HERO12 Black – Waterproof Action Camera with 5.3K60 Ultra HD Video! Must have for all incredible Canyon Tours!
Alternatively get GoPro HERO11 Black (slightly cheaper option)
- FLOATING WATERPROOF DRY BAG/different capacity – this is a must while going on canyon tours – while swimming to hidden caves or between the pools. This one is the best type of a bag you can get.
Waterproof Cell Phone Pouch: 3 Pack Universal Dry Bag Case with Neck Lanyard – Underwater Clear Cellphone Holder
Bedouins in Wahiba Sands.
You’ll see a lot of Bedouins houses in the desert. When taking a red desert tour you will certainly visit their households and explore their settlement. The tour guide will describe their traditional lifestyle. Bedouin families are very friendly, they will eagerly invite you to show the interior of the house. It’s nice to buy a small souvenir but it’s not required. The name Bedouin is derived from the Arabic word Badoo, which means the beginning. Bedouins feel a strong link with their land and animals. They stay in the desert in colder months. In summer, when the temperatures increase up to 50 degrees, they move to the city.
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