Flanked by craggy ancient peaks and beach-fringed, diver-drawing seas, Oman's capital is as far removed from Dubai glitz as serving $817 ice creams is from reality. (Black Diamond at Dubai's Scoopi Café, if you've more money than sense.) Muscat, with its rich history, old fort and growing cultural kudos offers a 'real' glimpse of Arabic life, as well as serving up a thoroughly decent dining scene. Offshore, its winningly warm waters play host to some A-grade aquatic activities, with the desert and mountains inland providing more rugged adventure playgrounds.
When to go
To avoid temperatures that could make a camel wilt, visit in the cooler months between October and April.
PlanesIn the 1970s only three airlines flew into Muscat International airport. Now it serves 55 destinations in 27 countries, including daily British Airways and Emirates arrivals. The city centre is a 15-minute drive away.
AutomobilesDriving is possible but airport transfers are much less stressful and taxis are plentiful.