One of Oman’s most stunning destinations is actually far removed from the rest of the country. Jutting into the Strait of Hormuz, the 695-square-mile Musandam Peninsula is surrounded by the United Arab Emirates at its base and is some 5 hours away from the rest of Oman. This unusual geographic arrangement puts Musandam within 90-minutes of Dubai by car – a dose of strategic good fortune that has allowed it to emerge as one of the most vibrant ecotourism destinations in religion.
Musandam’s allure is as the crystalline waters of its Persian Gulf shores: its pristine coastline is set against a striking tableau of rocky cliffs hewn by water and wind. The most dramatic are called khors, deep fjords that are the reason this land is known as the Norway of the Middle East. Romantic afternoon or twilight rides on dhows, traditional Arabian wooden vessels, are often trailed by dolphins, and you may also catch a glimpse of what may be the world’s only population of nonmigratory humpback whales.
The tourism scene in this stark corner of Oman has always been small-scale, luring visitors with otherworldly scenery rather than luxury accommodations. Visitors traditionally trekked, scuba dived, or Kayaked during the day and then camped out at night. But Musandam’s resort scene shifted into overdrive with the 2008 opening of the Six Senses Zighy Bay, an exclusive waterfront resorts that blends perfectly with its dramatic environment and takes its “Old Arabia” design motifs the nearby traditional fishing village.
Each of the 82 enormous villas includes a private plunge pool, and the resort’s dreamy spa set alongside a burbling brooks is often lauded as the finest in the Arabian Peninsula. It has a traditional hammam, or Turkish bath, and treatments that use native organic ingredients, such as gold, clay, mint, and frankincense. The clifftop bar and restaurant provide breath-taking views, along with an inspired menu accented by regional ingredients.
Less posh but still pleasingly tucked into the natural setting is the Garden Tulip Resort, Khasab, with excellent Persian Gulf views and that most crucial of Musandam necessities: an on-site dive center. The modern, 60-room hotel is the only one Khasab – Cape Musandam’s de facto capital – with sea-front views and a liquor license.
WHERE : 360 miles/500 km northwest of Muscat, 100 miles/160 km northeast of Dubai.
BEST TIME : Sep – Nov to avoid summer heat and winter rains.