Hajar Mountains

Prehistoric beehive tomb at Al Ayn with Jebel Misht in the background

The Hajar Mountains are a range in Northern Oman stretching along the northern coast of Oman, from southwest of Muscat to the United Arab Emirates.

Understand

This dramatic mountain range has a wealth of attractions for the adventurous traveler, including trekking, rock climbing, canyoning, and off-road exploration. In addition to outdoor activities, there are numerous sights of historic, cultural, and geological interest.

Temperatures in the higher elevations tend to be on average 10-15°C cooler than Muscat, and snow, although very rare, is not unknown. In summer the mountains offer a retreat for those looking to escape the heat baking the rest of Oman and the Arabian peninsula.

Get in

From Muscat, Highways 15 and 21 skirt the southern reaches of the range, and Highways 13 and 11 provide access from the north. Travelers from the UAE will arrive via Highway 21.

Get around

It is possible to get a glimpse of some of the mountains' spectacular scenery with just a 2WD, but to really explore a 4WD is essential, as many highlights are otherwise simply inaccessible.

See

Ruins of old Tanuf
Falaj irrigation system in Misfat al Abriyyin
Nakhal Fort

Itineraries

View from the W18b (Village Walk) trekking path on Jebel Akhdar

Jebel Akhdar

Jebel Akhdar ('Green Mountain') is topped by the vast Sayq Plateau (Saiq Plateau), home to traditional mountain villages, fruit orchards, and terraced gardens. Oman's most highly-prized rosewater is produced here, and springtime is particularly beautiful when the fruit trees and rose gardens are all in bloom. This is a cool destination even during the height of summer, and in winter temperatures drop below freezing. It is possible to visit as a very ambitious day trip, but to really appreciate it is best to allow a couple of days. The road is newly paved and in excellent condition but a 4WD is mandatory; travelers without a suitable car will be turned back at the police checkpoint.

Jebel Shams

View of Wadi an Nakhur from the W6 (Abandoned Village) trekking path

This is Oman's highest peak, with several excellent hiking trails providing spectacular views into Wadi an Nakhur and Wadi Ghul. It is possible to visit as a day trip from Nizwa, but as with Jebel Akhdar it is best to take a couple of days for this excursion.

The road approaching Jebel Shams is not paved for the last 13 km, but is regularly graded and well maintained. It does however occasionally get washed out following heavy rains, after which it becomes impassable without a 4WD. Depending on the weather and the current condition of the road, it is possible to drive to the end with a 2WD, but those with a rental car should note that driving it off pavement will void your auto insurance.

Wadi an Nakhur

Road entering Wadi An Nakhur

Wadi an Nakhur is the deepest canyon in the Middle East, and according to some is the world's second-deepest canyon after the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It is sometimes also referred to as Wadi Ghul, although technically Wadi Ghul marks the canyon's mouth, and Wadi an Nakhur is the proper name for the canyon at its widest point.

The canyon is accessed from the road ascending Jebel Shams and turning right near the village of modern Ghul. The trailhead for trekking path W6a begins by the abandoned village of   old Ghul. The road then passes by the village of Al Hajir, after which point the pavement ends. Here it quickly degrades into a rough track requiring 4WD, but persistence is rewarded with spectacular views of the 1000 m-high cliff faces. After 7 km the road ends at the village of   An Nakhur.

Wadi Bani Awf to Al Hamra

Road to Wadi Bani Awf

This is possibly the most scenic route in the Hajar Mountains, and a long drive requiring at least 4 hours and 4WD. Because it passes through some remote areas it is strongly advised to bring a spare tyre and jack, warm clothing, and extra food and water. It is equally scenic to complete this itinerary in reverse.

Do

Entrance to Little Snake Canyon

Trekking

There are a number of trekking routes in the Hajar Mountains, ranging in difficulty from easy 2-hour walks to challenging 10-hour hikes. Many trails follow ancient donkey paths and have been in use for centuries. The Oman Ministry of Tourism has begun waymarking many of these trails, with maps and descriptions available online; an overview map is available for download here, and detailed trail maps can be downloaded here and here. Two of the most popular (and easiest) trails include W6 (Abandoned Village Walk) and W18b (Village Walk). In general the trekking season runs from September to May, with the best months from October to April. Year-round trekking is possible at altitudes above 1900m.

Oman Trekking is a collection of the above listed trails and maps, printed on heavy weather-proof cards by Explorer Publishing and available in English-language bookshops in Oman and in the UAE. Adventure Trekking in Oman by Anne Dale and Jerry Hadwin is also an excellent guide, although it is out of print and increasingly difficult to find.

Rock climbing

There are some excellent climbing locations in these mountains. Well-known areas are Wadi Bani Awf (described in the itinerary above) and the spectacular   Jebel Misht (near the UNESCO site of Bat and Wadi Al Ayn), with many routes still unmapped. Climbers should be aware that Oman has no mountain rescue service, and in case of medical emergency could be waiting a very long time for help, especially in more remote areas.

Three via ferrata routes have been established. Two are currently closed for maintenance, but   VF1 (Grand Canyon). is now open.

The Wall in Muscat is Oman's only rock-climbing gym, and is a good place to get topographical maps and route information, and to find climbing partners.

Drink

Dehydration is always a risk. Bring plenty of water – plan on 3 litres per person per day.

Sleep

Aside from a handful of accommodations including those listed in the itineraries above, or in nearby Nizwa, the options for lodging are few and expensive, but include full board.

Wild camping is permitted anywhere outside of inhabited or cultivated areas; to camp near a village it is always best to ask permission first. Inexpensive, basic camping gear can be purchased at any of the hypermarkets in Muscat, and can also be rented from some tour outfitters.

Be cautious about camping in or near wadis, especially during the winter months, as flash floods are not uncommon. Nights can be chilly even in the summer, and in winter often drop to below 0°C. If sleeping in the open, be aware that scorpions and goats can be a nuisance.

Stay safe

Almost every year there are fatalities due to flash flooding – wadis can become raging torrents in a moment without warning. If the skies are overcast or cloudy, even if not in your immediate vicinity, it is always best to stay out. If camping in a wadi, be prepared to move your campsite if the sky looks even remotely threatening.

Mobile phone coverage in the mountains is spotty to non-existent, and there is no mountain rescue service. For particularly remote destinations, it is always wise to bring extra provisions.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.