Oct 13-20, 2021 “Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh”
Seeking an exotic adventure? This Desert Kingdom is the Holy Grail of fun! There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Oman, a place of exquisite natural wonders, timeless villages, countless topaz waterholes, turquoise beaches, vast sands and rugged mountains. So pure, so exotic, so much to explore! We’ve timed this perfectly as an add-on to our AFS Turkey for a small group of adventurers.
Our last AFSers gushed over Oman, saying it exceeded all expectations. It was like visiting a whole other world! Often bypassed for its ritzier UAE neighbors, glorious Oman is the best of 7 Emirates, not overrun by tourists. Here is the biblical land of the Three Wise Men. The serene Sultanate of Oman is the epicenter of ancient treasures, all so authentic, it will cast its spell on you.
We start in mystical Muscat, where we explore magnificent palaces, historic forts and the Grand Mosque before heading to ancient AL Haman and its thousand-year-old ruins. You’ll have to fight the temptation of buying your own camel while attending the centuries-old Friday cattle market in incredible Nizwa where we will likely be the only outsiders. It’s sensory overload at the Nizwa Souq, a maze of alleys where you can barter to buy crafts like rugs, lamps, or leatherwork directly from the artisans who have created them.
You’ll love our cool Desert Camp. Sunrises and sunsets await us on the famous Wahiba Sands where we go Dune Bashing, Sand Surfing, and Camel Riding. Experience a true oasis as we swim in deep blue pools of palm-fringed waters of the warm wadis. I couldn’t get my last group out. There are enumerable canyons to explore with hidden treasures around every turn. Prepare to have your mind blown by the sheer color of the deep blue Bimmah Sinkhole – created by a falling star – where you can dive into its dazzling waters.
After our tents, we head to the exclusive 5-star Shangri La Resort on the Arabian Peninsula where mountains drop into spectacular Gulf waters. It’s total luxury to revel in the spas, dine like a sultan and enjoy the water sports. Oman is an expensive destination, but we worked to make it affordable for our special group of only 16 who are curious about unique lands and who long to be nomads in the Arabian desert winds. It’s all so surreal, like a Nat Geo moment. I believe Oman will be your best solo vacation ever!
Our Glorious AFS Itinerary
(Oct 12 – Depart USA to Muscat if you’re not doing AFS Turkey trip.) It’s easy to arrange your own air roundtrip USA to Muscat or we may present group air layer in our Trip Tips.
Those extending after our Turkey trip, we depart Istanbul at 7PM to arrive Muscat at 1AM next day. Luxury rooms at the Grand Hyatt are booked for our late arrival.
After sleeping from late flight arrival, enjoy an afternoon orientation tour. You’ll love the glittering capital of Muscat on the Arabian Sea juxtaposed against rugged mountain peaks. It’s a modern city with an enchanting history for us to explore in the port district of Mutrah and Muscat’s Old Quarter. Here we will see centuries-old Portuguese forts, colorful mosques and priceless yachts lining the harbor. So many photo-ops!
Overnight in the Grand Hyatt Muscat (1 night)
Oct 14 – AL Hamra B
After breakfast, we check out and enjoy a city tour. We head to the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. (Bear in mind that we’ll be required to dress respectfully with head covering.) Among the highlights is the mosque’s beautiful prayer carpet. Hand-crafted in Iran over a four-year period, this vast rug fills the entire prayer hall and is the second-largest carpet in the world.
Muscat and Sohar are dotted with six royal residences of the ruling monarch, Sultan Qaboos (a well-loved king), but none is more beautiful than the magnificent Al Alam Palace where we will stop for photos. Then it’s on to the premier venue for performances in Oman, the Royal Opera House that’s beyond opulent!
After exploring Muscat we head north to Al Hamra village, a picturesque 400-year-old town in the region Ad Dakhiliyah. The town is thriving and lively considering that it was originally built around an abandoned village – estimated to be 1,000 years old.
Our hotel is appropriately named “The View.” Nestled into the rocky slopes of the Jebel Sham Mountains, each of these eco-luxe rooms overlooks the stunning valley below.
Overnight: Hotel View (1 night)
Oct 15 – Nizwa – Wahiba Sands B/L/D
We start early and head deep into the heart of Oman to get to know the true people of the country, traveling to Nizwa. This is the most authentic place where feel you’ve stepped back in time. Our first stop is the colorful Cattle Market. A centuries-old tradition, the locals come here to trade all types of livestock, particularly camels, goats and cows which are sold by auction. Join the locals in haggling. Business is still conducted in an old fashion manner. Pure theater to watch with great fun and photos.
Next, we will visit Nizwa Fort, established in the 1850s by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’rubi. This engineering marvel took 12 years to build because it spans an underground stream. It is one of the most visited national attractions in Oman for its historical significance and because it was the main administrative seat of authority for Nizwa’s Wallis and Imams (rulers) during peace and war times. The Nizwa Souq within the walls of the fort is a maze of alleys and divisions. In operation for hundreds of years, the Souq is the place to come for every ware you could dream of including daggers, copper, antiques, livestock sale, fish, vegetables and unique handicrafts.
From here, we head across the desert in our 4-wheel drive Land Cruisers to our amazing camp in Wahiba. Located in Oman’s Empty Quarter surrounded by mountains, the amazing camp offers views and experiences that will last a lifetime. You’ll feel like a Bedouin in your lux tent with a/c, full bath and delicious meals. Tonight, we will celebrate beneath the stars with a traditional barbeque dinner.
Overnight Arabian Oryx desert camp, Wahiba (2 Nights)
Oct 16 – Wadi Bani Khalid + Wahiba Sand Dunes Experience B/L/D
Let the fun begin! Today is all about the desert experience!! We head out to a true desert oasis and the incomparable Wadi Bani Khalid with its deep blue pools of water fringed by the date palms which is an ideal spot to relax or enjoy a refreshing swim. You won’t believe the clear waters.
After we luxuriate, we enjoy lunch among the desert sands, followed by thrilling Dune Bashing over the mind-blowing Wahiba Sands – the best sand dunning on the planet! These vast mountains of sand give us a real taste of the Arabian Desert. Massive dunes climb almost 500 feet, all scattered with encampments of the Bedouin tribes who still manage to eke out a living here, wandering from waterhole to waterhole with their animals.
Later we explore the dunes on camelback if we want and interact with one of the Bedouin families. Feeling adventurous? Grab a sandboard and try surfing down the dunes. AFSers loved it all!
Overnight Arabian Oryx desert camp, Wahiba (2 Nights)
Oct. 17 – Muscat Sightseeing and shopping B/L
After breakfast, we check out from the camp to head back to Muscat with some great stops along the way. Our roads wind through mountain terrain offering breathtaking glimpses of the blue waters of the ocean en route. We’ll take a photo op at Wadi Tiwi, a canyon with imposing rocky walls that encloses lush plantations of dates and banana trees as well as a traditional village. (You’ll have your fill of the freshest dates. Bring some home.)
Pictures won’t even begin to truly reflect the incredible Bimmah Sinkhole, an iridescent sinkhole in the heart of a desert area. Legend has it was created in the limestone by a falling star. The freshwater mixes with seawater giving it a turquoise color. You may get a fish pedicure from the little fish that are known to nibble people’s toes as you swim. We swam with locals and got great photos, but water is chilly.
One of Oman’s most amazing wadis is Wadi Al Arbaeen which provides the ultimate soundtrack of nature, with sounds of running water, birds and the wind, flowing through the narrow channels of the ravine. Our Jeeps navigate the wadi in rare form by crawling over rocks and channels as we traverse it.
Lunch with is a traditional outdoor tented Arabic buffet lunch on carpets with the canyon as our backdrop.
We will also stop at one of the oldest market places in the Arabic world – Muttrah Souq. Housed under modern timber roofing, it is also one of the few markets in the world where it is possible to buy gold, frankincense and myrrh all under one roof. Also, the best spices, pottery, gold jewelry and Omani sliver to bargain. We all bought stunning hanging lanterns. So many things to buy here!!
Oman is famous for its fragrances. We end at the decades-old luxury perfume factory, Amouage. Some bottles run $5000, but also great affordable options. For over 30 years the name ‘Amouage’ has been known as a luxury brand famous for its decadence and sophistication. While it is an amazing globally known brand of the product, pay attention to the beauty and workmanship that went into designing the building itself to reflect the luxury brand.
Finally, we arrive in paradise that is set in a stunning cove at the Gulf of Oman – the Shangri La. Google our resort to view the beauty and all the amenities.
Overnight at Hotel Shangrila Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa (2 nights)
Oct 18 – Free to Play Day B
This is a day to truly relax and take advantage of activities that are offered at the Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa. You have so many options from which to choose: Go dolphin watching by speed boat, yoga class or take part in enumerable watersports including kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, (what’s hot now are) paddle boards or even jet packs!
Overnight at Hotel Shangrila Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
Oct 19 – Explore Muscat B
Our last day is yours to enjoy fabulous Muskat. See www.omanexperience.com for countless things to enjoy.
Oct 20 – Depart Muscat for home B
Land Price $2495 pp twin share
Not included: Gratuities
Group Air: We will present a group air option 10 months prior in the tab labeled Trip Tips if demand.
- Land prices per person twin share. Trip price based on a minimum number of participants.
- Single rooms limited with $ supplement. Cost varies. Email us for availability. AFS will find you a roommate.
- The earliest we present group air is 10 months prior. We’ll send email to ask who wants it. A minimum number of 12 is needed.
- Please review AFS Terms and Conditions, Heading Abroad with AFS, Covid Policy. Travel insurance is important nowadays. It’s rare, but we reserve the right to modify schedules, tour and hotels.
- Read Trip Tips on its own tab next itinerary for latest details.
Group Air TBA
- All prices are per person twin share. Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies. Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably. AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”
- Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.
- Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
- We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary.
- Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!
TBA We’re working on it. Please check back later.
Book AFS with Confidence 2021– The health of our Travelers comes first. As the world slowly opens, we are dedicated to creating responsible adventures! All our trips are different, so specific plans in each region may be circumstantial. We work closely with our local suppliers to know the best practice in each country. That being said, we present a blanket procedure below to be followed on ALL AFS trips. Our local guides will brief you on arrival with the support of our Trip Leaders to ensure we follow local safety protocols. They are fully committed to aiding your well-being.
We will re-discover the world through more slow, easy and mindful travel. Our groups will be smaller. All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are Covid free and will follow all safety protocols. Booking travel now is complex because rules always change. Tour companies can’t become “health and safety experts” when policies are inconsistent. Even experts are in the dark at times with the changing patchwork of government laws, but we’ll do our best. This is a learning process for all of us and as we go, we will strive to make each step as safe and seamless as possible for you. Read all below on AFS detailed Terms & Conditions.
Thank you for booking! We are blown away by the support from all of you throughout this pandemic. It validates the trust and values AFS was built on over 30 years. As countries reopen, so will we. Travel is a shared experience. Together we press on and travel boldly. Below are new guidelines. We all must adapt and embrace any challenges with confidence for the freedom and privilege to travel.
As in life itself, travel comes with some inherent risk the minute we step out our door. Travel isn’t dangerous. Being irresponsible is. For your protection we want you to be proactive in following new health and safety protocols. They involve teamwork and personal responsibility, but they do not preclude you from having fun and enjoying your trip! Things constantly change and it’s a huge challenge for airlines, airports, hotels, cruises and tour companies. We will do our best to keep you up to date with any adjustments.
- Please understand we reserve the right to amend any tour activities, if needed. To present responsible travel, we at AFS do our part: Our vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under CDC guidelines. At present, some international airlines may require a negative Covid test within 96 to 72 hours of departure. Details later as they come. This may change as rules are always being revised.
- If you are in a high-risk group, it is suggested you do not travel.
- It is your responsibility to check the resources below as well as your airline requirements for travel. You may need to show proof of wellness note. Click to see CDC , WHO
- You may not travel if you have any symptoms such as sore throat, shortness of breath, fever and verify you have not been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid in the last 14 days.
- Safety measures on a trip; frequent handwashing, (bring personal sanitizer), exercise social distancing and wear a mask when applicable.
- All provide trip cancellation (not from fear), trip interruption, added medical protection. Call them to understand coverage. We are not responsible for any additional cost to do to quarantine or illness
Helpful CV Resources– Below are helpful links to facts and stats for you to reference as you gear up for all your travel domestically and abroad.
- Facts about coronavirus-symptoms/transmission/precaution/treatment
- CDC entire situation summary
- US State Department Travel Advisories (Often old news)
- We at AFS assure you we will continue to offer you quality trips to countries where you will feel protected – countries that are going to extraordinary lengths now to provide a safe visit. Each destination is far less crowded than ever before and that means better personal attention. Planes are half full and we can trust our astute global suppliers when each country is clear to visit. We’re taking great precautions and encourage you to remain positive.
Our Pledge to You – Our global, vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under new CDC guidelines.
- We ensure that heightened sanitation methods have been adopted in every place we visit and that all hotel properties and vehicles have passed cleanliness protocols.
- Our guides and drivers must test negative and pass stringent safety measures.
- Most of our groups will be limited to half the size of normal in the past.
- We are choosing destinations with wide-open spaces for physical distancing.
- Some private tours for groups of friends only can be arranged.
- We’ll monitor your trip closely and provide a 24/7 emergency number if your trip is disrupted.
- All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are COVID-free and will follow all the safety protocols.
- We relaxed booking conditions with most trip deposits at only $250 and final payment deadlines from 4 months out to 70 days before departure. This is a learning process for all of us as we go. We will strive to make each step as safe and seamless as possible for you!
Your Pledge to AFS – We ask you to assume personal responsibility to protect your health and the well-being of your fellow travelers, guides and locals.
- Read and print all updated Trip Tips on AFS website
- Get travel insurance with trip interruption
- Stay healthy with vitamin D and zinc
- Confirm within 14 days of departure but you have no symptoms of Covid nor being in close contact with anyone diagnosed with it.
- You agree to assume any risk of participating in trip activities, comply with applicable government, airline and health authorities.
- Exercise social distancing and local guides directions whenever possible.
- Sanitize your hands and phone throughout.
- Read more here – https://www.afstravelers.com/terms-and-conditions/
Rapid COVID-19 PCR Tests
Rules are changing daily! At this time, we must rely on each airlines policy. Read Covid rules at the top of airline website up to a week before departure. Every airline and country differs. 2 weeks prior, will send you final AFS departure letter with instructions specific to your trip. Please wait!
As of January 26, 2021, a rapid PCR test is needed to enter most countries and needed to return to USA. We hope this will be eliminated by the time your trip goes. RT-PCR (by nose swab) is only test excepted. No mailing kits. All tests are free or covered by insurance, but these may have a line to wait. Now appointments are taken. To get fast with no wait, make appointment at private lab. They are now thousands of labs around US. Also, more testing sites opening daily with easy drive through. Just google “Covid PCR test near me”.
Outbound – Most airlines require negative PCR test within 96 to 72 hours prior to departure. This new rule makes travel more challenging, but we must follow to protect ourselves and those on the flight. Read specific airline rules on website, also any rules on connections in transit. Those vaccinated still need to show a test.
Get RT-PCR test with guaranteed results within 24 to 48 hours. They email result to you. Print out to bring at check in. Also screenshot copy on cell phone. Test must read “PCR”. (We’ve had nobody test positive yet, if so, call us 770-432-8225. Many tests are inaccurate and a re-test shows negative.)
Homebound – Airline may require negative PCR test to board departure flight. Each carrier differs. We hope this is eliminate by your trip date. If test is necessary within 72 hours of departure, we can help arrange test for group in each country. Details later by email.