Its' official: next year is going to be one of the country's biggest. Lonely Planet has released its Best in Travel 2017 list and Oman has made the grade, named one of the Top 10 countries to visit in the coming 12 months.
Why? Oman is the jewel in the crown of the Arabian Peninsula; a country that combines nature and culture, adventure and luxury, history and the best of the modern world.
“Oman has been the ace in Arabia's pack for a while, but with more flights than ever before and high-end hotels popping up all over the place, the Sultanate looks ready to raise its game yet again,” says the publisher's website in its appraisal. It goes on to mention some of the new luxury hotels around the country: Anantara has two new five-star properties in the Hajar Mountains and on the beach at Salalah in Oman's southern region; Kempinski will open its beachfront hotel at Muscat's Al Mouj Marina; and Starwood will reveal the Westin Muscat in January. There is also a huge water and theme park, Majarat Oman, due to open next year. The park, designed by Australian company the Sanderson Group, is located north of Muscat at the Al Sawadi Beach Resort and is the first of its kind in Oman.
Of course, much of Oman's appeal lies not in what is new, but what is ancient. Start in Muscat, where it's possible to explore the Mutrah Souk, stroll the corniche at sunset and be awed by the immense Al Mirani Fort. Travel into the mountains, where wadis bring life to traditional villages, or to the southern coast near Salalah, where the khareef (an annual monsoon) creates a lush, subtropical playground, including seasonal waterfalls, in the desert. Then there is the Musandam Peninsula, where the rugged coastline resembles Norwegian fjords. This part of the country is best explored by dhow (traditional wooden boats), often accompanied by pods of dolphins.
Oman offers styles of travel suitable for every explorer, whether backpackers who want to camp, families looking for light adventure or couples seeking romance. Make 2017 a year of Omani discoveries.