1. Inside edge of the Grand Canyon
How to get there: Drive southwest from Muscat to Nizwa. Turn north at Nizwa to the town of Al Hamra at the foothills of the mountains. Fill your tank with petrol at the Shell filling station at Al Hamra. You are now about 200km from Muscat's airport. Turn left, the road will climb, follow it and the signs to the top of the Grand Canyon. The road turns into a dirt track. Follow it past the hotel, to the village of Al Khatim, where it ends. Start your hike from here, following the painted markers.
Why go: For the most stunning views in Oman. You will be following a walking trail on a narrow ledge on the inside edge of the Grand Canyon, looking down hundreds of metres into the gorge below. At the end of your trail is the abandoned ancient village of Sap Bani Khamis, which you should reach in around an hour and a half. It was inhabited for hundreds of years, its residents protected from the outside world by the toughest approach possible. Explore the sparse ruins of stone houses, a one-room mosque with a carved wooden door and empty food stores. Below are plantation terraces, now bare, and ahead of you a pool of water. The ridge opens out quite wide at the village, up to maybe 15m and this is a great place to camp for a while.
2. Birkat Sharaf
How to get there: Drive from Muscat to Nizwa, and then to Al Hamra. From there, drive straight through to Misfat Al Abriyeen, up the mountain at the end of the road. Walk through the village, following its irrigation channel through to the other side, parallel to the gorge. Follow the marked hiking trail across the gorge, up the mountain, past the settlement of Aqabat Al Hamra and to the pass at the top, Birkat Sharaf. You are looking at around five to seven hours of hiking time.
Why go: Most people would avoid such a long hike, and that's the attraction: no tourists, just the mountain and you. The landscape is beautiful, appearing almost Mediterranean the higher up you go.Birkat Sharaf is nothing but a pass on top of the mountain, between wadis. It is here that you will be able to sleep under a juniper, 2,000m high, as people have for thousands of years. Return the same way or cross over to Wadi Sahtan, 11 hours down the other side. The other attraction is at the beginning of the hike, the village of Misfat Al Abriyeen, or Misfah. It is quite touristy, and for good reason: it is a superb example of an Omani mountain oasis, with stunning paths, gardens, architecture and local culture.
3. Persian Steps, Jebel Akhdar
How to get there: Head out of Muscat towards Nizwa. Drive past the town ofAl Afiah and dirt tracks into Wadi Halfaynto Imti, and take the first turn-off to Birkat Al Mawz and Izki, a few kilometres afterAl Afiah. It will take you a little more than an hour to get to this point. Turn right once you get to a little roundabout, immediately after you get off the highway, and driveon through Qaroot Al Janubiyah, intoa wadi. Carry on for a few minutes, driving straight ahead until you come acrossa one-room hut on your right. Park your car here and walk on, into the gorge that opens ahead, slightly to your right. After about 15 minutes of walking around and over boulders, you will see a splash of white paint on the wadi wall to your left, a few metres above. This is the beginning of the famed Persian steps, and all you have to do is walk up them and keep following the ancient pathway. Along the way, you'll have white arrows painted onto rock to guide you, and, further up, piles of stones that you'll have to look out for. When in doubt, climb high, and look out for the cairns.
Why go: Absolutely no chance of tourists, plus gorgeous landscapes and the challenge of climbing up the Jebel Akhdar on steps supposedly put in place by ancient armies.