Al–Dakhiliyah, Oman

Set in the north where the low coastal plain collides with the high desert plateau, Al-Dakhiliyah was a refuge for imams sheltering from Persian hordes. These days you’re more likely to encounter mountaineers than marauders: the Al Hajar range has walnut and pomegranate-tree clad bluffs; shocks of green and pink on the Saiq Plateau’s damask-rose dressed slopes; and soaring Jebel Shams (the highest mountain in the range) and Wadi Ghul, the Omani ‘Grand Canyon’. De facto ‘capital’ Nizwa – renowned for being the birthplace of Islam in Oman – has an impressive 17th-century fort, luxuriant oases, and a famed goat market and souks; other provinces are smaller, but worth exploring for their ghost villages and sand-dusted vestiges. Manah’s eerie mud-brick dwellings echo Babylonian ruins, and the Al Hoota caves near Bahlah have pretty stalactite formations. Visit Oman’s oldest mosque Masjid Mazin bin Ghadouba in Samail (to the north of Nizwa); try rose-infused halwa, and learn about ingenious alfaj irrigation in precariously settled hamlets Al Aqr and Al Ayn; or simply scale a cliff to catch a dramatic sunset: this parched and remote region is far from a cultural desert.

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When to go

High up in the mountains, temperatures are less blistering than the hinterland; from June to September, while the coast sizzles, fog mists up the mountains, making it bearably humid rather than a wash out. If visiting the low-lying provinces, enjoy the most clement climate from October to April.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Fly to Muscat International Airport, a one-hour drive from Nizwa. British Airways (www.ba.com) and Emirates (www.emirates.com) fly into Muscat International Airport daily.
  • Automobiles

    Drive north from Muscat and you’ll see the low suburban dwellings give way to jawdropping mountain-starring scenery. If staying in the mountains, you’ll need an off-road vehicle to traverse the rocky, uneven terrain; newly asphalted roads help to negotiate the wadis and slopes, but they can often be unreliable and cliff hugging. Those unfamiliar with the region may find driving arduous, and if you're hiring a 4WD, carry extra fuel, plenty of water, and a fully charged spare mobile.