Our first night on the road in Oman was spent in Nizwa, a city located less than two hours away from Muscat. It was easy to get to by the main freeway, even with a short detour.
Nizwa has plenty of restaurants, supermarkets, hypermarkets (a novelty for us), and is a good base for exploring the mountain regions of Oman. You can easily make a day trip to Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun) for some hiking from Nizwa, but as we had a night booked in the mountains we spent our afternoon exploring the city.
The main sites of Nizwa are the fort and the souq. Somehow we managed to completely stuff up the opening hours of the souq and never managed to experience the market in full swing, but we were able to wander the lanes and eat some delicious (and cheap) shwarma and fresh juice for lunch (look for the dodgy plastic tables under a tree near the gate into the souq, I no idea what the cafe was called!).
Within the walls of the souq is the entrance to Nizwa Fort, and dates back to the 1650s.
After reading the Lonely Planet we were under the impression that entry would only be a few dollars. However, apparently the price has since increased and it now costs 5 OMR ($16 AUD) per person to visit. If you are on a budget, I would honestly recommend skipping Nizwa Fort and heading on to the nearby town of Bahla to visit the fort there – it was a tenth of the price and far more beautiful.
Sure, the Nizwa Fort was nice, but it did feel very renovated and was full of tacky souvenirs and outdated museum exhibits.
At least the views from the top of the fort walls were worth it! Those mountains are just the beginning of what was to come.
We ended up having a little bit of time to kill before we could check into our accommodation, so after some frantic googling we drove to another site in Nizwa – the Falaj Daris Park. The park is quite small, but offer the opportunity to see a traditional falaj, which is a UNESCO world heritage listed irrigation system. The park itself was quite small, but it was interesting enough for a short stop.
An afternoon looking around Nizwa was plenty of time, but it would be a good base location for exploring the surrounding region. Our accommodation had information about various day trips and hikes and I left wishing we had more time to explore! But the mountains were calling…