Salalah is the capital city of Oman's southern Zufar and Dhofar region. It is often considered to be the "second city" of the Sultanate, although some of this designation is probably due to its distinction as Sultan Qaboos' birthplace.
The region is famous for its khareef (monsoon), and the Khareef Festival is an annual event here. Many locals will in fact be quite surprised to see non-Arab visitors at other times of year.
Salalah and Dhofar are historically famous for the frankincense trade. The region has tended to be rather independent over history, although this has changed since Qaboos' ascention to the throne. The Jibbali (Arabic: those of the mountains) tribes maintain a slightly distrustful stance to the government in Muscat, although this is more a stance of custom than anything else. Interestingly, the tribes speak a different language to the Arabic spoken throughout the Peninsula, although visitors are unlikely to encounter it.
Oman Air flies from Muscat to Salalah at least three times a day. The flight takes roughly 90 minutes. The same carrier flies from Dubai to Salalah, with the flight taking some 2 hours scheduled on Wednesdays and Fridays.There are direct flights to Indian cities of Kozhikode & Kochi, and Thiruvananthapuram via Kochi. Air Arabia flies twice a week to Sharjah on Thursdays and Saturdays. Flydubai operates three flights every week from Dubai on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Qatar Air also has a direct flight from Doha to Salalah.
Beware, the taxi from the airport is 10 or 20 times the normal taxi rate.
It is possible to drive from Muscat to Salalah. The trip takes roughly 12 hours (although there are numerous places worth a detour en route). From the starting point sure its a cheerful trip where you can enjoy the wild beauty. Rusayl, Nizwa, Haima, Thumrait and next is the most beautiful Salalah.
Watch out for renegade dunes on the way! When you get hungry, thirsty or tired, you should take the next opportunity to stop - there might not be another one for dozens of miles.
Driving to Salalah from Muscat can either be an amazing and memorable experience, or a very uncomfortable one depending on what kind of traveler you are. The first 5 hours will be very scenic, as you pass Nizwa and other towns. However, it's barren desert and oil fields for most of the remainder of the trip. Travelling at night is usually better than driving in the heat of day (arriving in Salalah at night is a must - the city lights from the high-altitude entry point is gorgeous). There are several stops along the way for food, drinks, a cigarette break, or nature calls.
There are daily buses between all Omani cities, very cheap compared to the cost of taxis, airfare, etc. In August 2011 Muscat-Salalah was 6 R.O. (and 11 R.O. for two way ticket)--it's a 12 hour trip. There is also bus service to and from Dubai.
There is at least one operator in Muscat that will charter you to Salalah.
Salalah is quite a small city in tourist terms, as most places of interest are close to each other. During warmer times of year, though, walking may not be the best idea. The usual unmetered Omani taxis operate here.
The average taxi fare to travel within the city is 500 baiza.
- Sultan Qaboos' Palace
- al-Hisn Souq
- The Haffa Souq
The old city is confined to the area called Haffa. The Haffa souq(market place) has wide range of collectables to offer: frankinsence, dates, handicrafts, souvenirs etc.You'll need to practice your bargaining skills before you go shopping there. Better would be to have a local resident accompany you while you shop, so you know you are paying for the real thing.
- Salalah Gardens Mall, Besides Hamdan Plaza Hotel, . This is the first modern shopping mall in Salalah and hosts branded shops, Carrefour, City Cinema and Food court edit
- Al Baleed Archaeological Site, As Sultan Qaboos Street (Near Haffa and Dahariz areas). Its a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ruins of Al Baleed site are approachable by walking or taking a ride on the golf cart. There is a entry ticket of OMR 2 per vichle and OMR 0.5 per person for golf cart ride. Boat ridding option is also available. There is also a museum there called Frankincense Land Museum. The Museum hosts artifacts found at Al Baleed site, models for various types of boats and ships and information about Oman. edit
- Al Haffa Beach. Good beach, bird watching is common there. edit
- Remember to collect your road map from the airport, or any agent promoting Salalah as a tourist destination. It might help if you get lost someplace and need directions to your hotel.
- SUVs do the best job carrying you in and around Salalah, since most places of tourist interest lie off the road. Salalah experiences annual rainfall during the months of July-September, so off-roading on slopes and slippery terrain is not advisable for salon cars. Rememeber to book your SUV from car rentals (Budget/Avis/Europcar/Thrifty) well in advance if you intend to do some serious off-roading.
- Remember to carry your passport/visa papers with you wherever you go, at least photocopies; as you can expect local police/military patrols to check on you when you least expect them to show up; even if you are within city limits (its just a routine procedure to check for illegal workers/immigrants.)
- Don't go swimming in the sea or permit toddlers/children to wander off at beaches. The sea shore in Salalah has very strong ocean currents and steeps drastically. It is very unsafe for swimmers, experienced or beginners.
- Always drive cautiously outside the city as visibility can be bad due to fog/mist. You could be lucky to have an encounter with camels/cows/goats at the most unexpected times, so stay within speed limits even if the road is not monitored by radar.
Frankincense is the souvenir purchase in Salalah, and only visitors who avoid shopping will not be offered some. Myrrh is relatively easy to find as well, as are the myriad Omani perfumes on offer throughout the country.
If you decide to visit places outside Salalah city (good advice for traveling anywhere in Oman), remember to carry some food packed for emergencies (fruits, fruit juices, sandwiches recommended) as there are few restaurants outside the city. Always carry a bottle of drinking water since you may not find any store on the highways. There is, however, a delightful ocean-side cafe on the way to Mughsayl and the tidal geyser there.
- Siam Kitchen is a great little Thai restaurant in Dahariz, serving a good selection of authentic Thai dishes. It is the only Thai restaurant in Salalah and all dishes are prepared by a talented Thai chef. All dishes are served with steamed Jasmine rice and range from 1.5 - 3 OMR. Open six days per week and located within walking distance of the Crowne Plaza. Open for lunch and dinner.
- Hassan Bin Thabit Restaurant serves Arabic, Chinese, Continental and Indian Cuisines. They have two branches in Salalah. Located @ 23rd July Street in Salalah and at Al Awqadayn Roundabout renamed as Khareef Salalah Restaurant , Awqad. Tel 23291010 & 23210030 Click on the link for Menu []
- Bawarchi Restaurant offers Authentic Indian and Chinese food. Special price for group bookings. Located on Al Salam Street, near Bin Qasim Transport, Telephone Nos 00968-23297750/ 23297740.
- Al Khutaini offers a wide range of continental dishes but specialize in Pakistani cuisine. It is situated on 23rd July Street.
- Chinese cascade and Chopsticks are chinese restaurants offering decent food.-no buffets.
- Al Fareed restaurant offers indian,chinese,arabic food.Buffet at R.O.3.5 per head on Thursday nights.
- Ittin Cafe - On the road to Ittin Garziz. About 10 min drive from Salalah
- Ba'albek-absolutely wonderful Lebanese food. Fantastic hummus. They bring a plate of fresh vegetables and pickled vegetables before your meal, and watermelon and tea after your meal.
- Qadri Resturant - Situated in the Sanayya area, it is besides the car showrooms. It offers a wide range of Pakistani food.
Hazza Al hoqani, Pizza Hut and KFC are always options for anybody wanting a taste of home. Baalbeck, a Lebanese restaurant near the main market, serves very good food. It's a small family restaurant but serves excellent hummus, tum and shwarmas. Oasis Club in Raysut offer a wide selecion of international cuisine at a very reasonable price (a fraction of the cost of the Hotel restaurants and better quality). This restaurant is also fully lisenced
- Lebanese House - This restaurant offers good Lebanese food at a reasonable price ( 10 Rial for 3 people (starter & main incl. 1 drink each)
- Browniz - This cafe/ restaurant close to Pizza Hut offers a good range of European food.
- Woodlands-airport hotel
The restaurant outlets at the Hilton Salalah and Crowne Plaza offer high-end dining services. Both Restaurants do a la carte as well as buffets.
- Hilton - for the ultimate romantic (maybe the only) dining experience in Salalah, reserve one of the small "pavillions" on the beach and enjoy top quality food while you listen to the sound of the sea.
Alcohol is available at high end hotels, Woodlands Restaurant (in the airport) and Oasis Club (near the port). Liquor permits are only available to non muslim expatriates.
For a refreshing drink, stop at any of the many road-side vendors selling fresh coconut. They will lop the top off a green coconut for you for 2-300 baizas.
A lot of furnished 1/2/3 bedroom apartments are available on daily rent basis at a cheap price.
- Al-Jabal Hotel, situated on Sultan Qaboos Road, The hotel has clean rooms, but the variety for food is limited. http://www.aljabalhotel.com/
- Haffah House- good rooms and service, very close to the airport and in the centre of the city so it's easy to reach any place you want to get to, reasonable swimming pool, gym and tennis courts. Banking and rent a car services are available in the same building.
16/03/09 from personal experiance few days ago, very bad maintained hotel, bathroom dirty, kitchen smelly and bed mattress had wooden bits raising out of it. Management very ignorant to your needs. didn't stay more than the night to try the rest of the facilities.
- Dhofar Hotel
The hotel offers basic accomodation at very affordable prices. Located in the city centre it is a convenient option for those who are not looking for luxuries or a beach-facing hotel. Service is very friendly and hotel is reasonably clean.
- Arabian Sea Villas
Located on the beach of South Dahariz,adjacent to the coconut groves, is one of the best budget options in Salalah. www.arabian-sea-villas.com Tel.: +968 23235833 - Fax: +968 23235830
- Hamilton Plaza now called Hamdan Plaza Hotel ( DEC 2008 )
- The Hilton Salalah resort is a popular choice for European visitors. It is located roughly 12km outside town and runs a shuttle service to and from the Gold Souq daily.
- The Crowne Plaza offers a better alternative for luxury accommodation as the property is much larger than the hilton and more importantly it is close to the city center.
- Salalah Marriot Hotel, located near Mirbat and at one hour drive from Salalah, is an alternate for those who want to stay near Taqa, Khor Rori, Wadi Durbat and Hasik.
Mobile coverage using Oman's providers is close to flawless, but roaming can sometimes be slow. There are several Internet cafes around town, but speeds are inconsistent. Be sure to look for a place that's got broadband if Internet access is vital at the point in time. Prices vary, but are usually cheap.
Salalah is a very safe place. However, the Salalah (arabic) way of driving might need some getting used to for non-Arabs.
- It's advisable for females to bring conservative clothing, especially if travelling outside the city. Nothing too major- a longish top with sleeves is adequate. When on the beach, keep a sarong handy.
- Plenty of water if travelling outside the city. And sunblock.
- Job's Tomb (an-Nabi Ayyub) makes a very popular excursion from Salalah.
- Al-Mughsayl beach (30 km from Salalah). The drive to Al-Mughsayl is good.
- Marneef Cave is just a few kilometers away from Al-Mughsayl Beach and a worthy place to go. There are blow holes there and one can enjoy the scenic view of the sea with mountains in the background.
- Taqa (35 KM) - Visit the fort. The beach at Taqa is also good.
- Khor Rori - close to Taqa. This is an inlet where fresh water and water from the sea comes together. It is a protected area where migratory birds can be found. There is also a UNESCO site that overlooks the Khor and is known as Sumhurum.
- Wadi Darbat - close to Taqa and Khor Rori. This is a beautiful green wadi with a river running through it, even during the hottest months (May/ June). To reach the Wadi you drive into the mountains and then take a turn off for Wadi Darbat. The winding road leads you to the "oasis". There is a picnic spot that is shaded by large trees. A good place to spend time with the family.The most amazing thing about Wadi Darbat is that during the Khareef, the water creates waterfalls that flow over the edge of the wadi and plunged meters down.
- Mirbat (70 KM from Salalah) - Visit Mirbat Castle and the harbor. It seems a bit run down when you first look at it but the houses are quite old and have interesting architectural details. Mirbat also has the most hospitable and friendly locals that you are likely to come across in any of your travels and the locals were the highlight of my stay in Mirbat. The beach is also beautiful but swimming should not be attempted as, despite the calm appearance, underwater currents can be a hazard.
On the way from Salalah to Mirbat, 63 Km from the city is an anti gravity point where vehicles drive upslope in neutral.
- Hasik/ Hadbin- 3 hours drive from Salalah. The last hour and a half of the road to Hasik is simply amazing. This must be one of the most beautiful costal roads in the world! The road snakes along cliffs, desert beaches and the blue sea.
- The road to Dalkut (near the Yemeni border) - The road leads past Mughsayl and up in to the Dhofar mountains. After about 30 minutes you reach an army checkpoint. You need to bring your passport in order to go through. The road continues onto a plateau at about 1000 m above sea level. After about another hour you pass the 2nd army check point. Now the most fascinating part of the road begins. It winds along drop offs through the mountains and valleys. The lime stone formations are impressive. This is a very beautiful mountain road. When you reach Dalkul there are a number of restaurants where you can enjoy a simple lunch. At the beach you can see a wreck of a helicopter half buried in the sand.