Key information: Jebel Akhdar
- This very varied region in the Western Hajar Mountains contains Oman’s (indeed the Arabian Peninsula’s) highest mountains and a superb array of landscapes.
- This is Oman’s premier walking/trekking area, from straightforward wanders between its villages, to tough traverses of its highlands, to thrilling tramping and clambering in its wadis (gorges).
- Walkopedia rating93.5
- Natural interest16
- Human interest14
- Negative points0
- Total rating93.5
- Length: Your choice
- Maximum Altitude: 3,048m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
This very varied region in the Western Hajar Mountains contains Oman’s (indeed the Arabian Peninsula’s) highest mountains and a superb array of landscapes, from the rough, tough broken limestone of its highlands, to the huge gorges crashing out of the range and the tremendous chasms falling off to the sides. To the north are the vast Wadi Bani Kharus, Wadi Bani Awf and Wadi Sahtan, which you can gaze on from the highest ridges and peaks at the range’s northern extreme. The range slopes southward, riven by gorges, in particular the grand Wadi Tanuf/al Qasha in its heart and Wadi al Muaydin to the east of the Sayq Plateau, a slightly strange area of rough undulating hills surrounded by gorges.
While there seems to be a bit of uncertainty about classification (some maps allocate it to the Jebel al Qannah), the range includes the Arabian Peninsula’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (3,084m, although this appears to be uncertain, too) at its western end.
The range varies in its “feel”, from its arid lower slopes to its more vegetated highlands – although “greener” would be overstating it for much of the year: much is bare rock littered with shrubs and hardy plants making a tough living.
Oman is home to a huge range of plant and animal life, which is somehow counterintuitive considering how arid the country is, and is testament to its green credentials. That said, you will be lucky to see many mammals other than wild donkeys; and birds can be elusive even though Oman sits on major migratory routes and is a bit of birdwatching heaven.
The range shelters no less than 58 communities, although much of it feels very empty, and there are many deserted villages bearing testament to the fading traditional rural way of life – or the easier life now to be made elsewhere, if you like. The area was heavily fought over during the insurrection of the 1950s, and you will tread on detritus – mortar parts, rifle casings – as you walk the high ground, passing rough stone bastions and lookouts as you go.
This is Oman’s premier walking/trekking area, and contains a huge variety of walks, from straightforward wanders between its villages, to tough traverses of its highlands, to thrilling clambering in its wadis (gorges).
In the far west is the Jebel Shams area.
To the south of Jebel Shams itself is Wadi Nakhur, also known as Oman’s Grand Canyon, a huge and truly spectacular hole with vast cliffs dropping to its deep and, in its lower reaches, lush bottom. There are two waymarked, connected walks along its western rim to a maximum altitude of 1,900m. The Rim Walk follows old donkey trails linking Wadi Ghul at the canyon’s base to Al Khitaym on the high rim plateau, taking in a couple of abandoned villages en route. It has superb canyon views. The Balcony Walk from Al Khitaym on the high rim plateau to As Sab abandoned village is justly famous. This straightforward (if at times a tad vertiginous) but exciting and enormously atmospheric trail follows a wide, sloping ledge/fault in the vast cliffs of the canyon’s western side to a superbly sited abandoned village in a corner-bowl.
Peak baggers should try Oman's highest mountain, Jebel Shams. It is approachable from various directions, but the trail from the “plateau” to the west is the easiest and best known. It is still a long, demanding round trip, albeit a generally steady climb on generally reasonable paths. It barely needs saying that that the views from the summit are huge and stupendous.
Routes W8, W9 and W10, in the mid-range north-east of Al Hamra, lead in on old paths from: Balad Sayt in Wadi Bani Awf (see more below) to the north (W8); Sharaf Al Alamayn to the east (W10); and from the remarkable ancient village of Misfat al Abriyyin (well worth visiting in its own right, and you can stay here in old houses) to the west (W9), to meet on the high ridge (at around 2,000m) in the middle, so offer a number of different walking options to tailor to your wants, especially as they are varying nature and difficulties. You can either walk in and back if you need to get back to a car, or create a memorable day walk (of varying lengths) – and difficulties across the high, rough, magnificent mountains by joining the paths, which Wakopedia would love to do.
Qiyut to Ar Roos Traverse: Walkopedia did this walk, an inspiring meander along the high slopes, with huge views out over the chasms to both sides of the range. Marvellous. See our account of this walk [link to account in relevant page]. Part of the Long High Traverse, below.
Long High Traverse:This walk, from Ar Roos in the east along the high range to Jebel Shams, or vice versa, would be the ultimate Western Hajar walk. It follows Explorer route W10 in its middle part. It would take several days, and would probably require carrying full camping kit. (Diverting to find accommodation with resulting long days, or being met at key roadheads to be taken to accommodation, are in theory possible, but would involve at least one huge day.) Walkopedia is confident this would be an amazing walk, although we have not yet researched it. Detailed information in Adventure Trekking in Oman.
The Sayq Plateau is a peculiar high areas of rough hills at the eastern end of the range. The best walk here is between the villages of its south-eastern rim: fascinating, historic villages in their terraces on the rim of dramatic Wadi Muaydin.
Wadi Muaydin: this endlessly deep gorge makes for fascinating exploration, as it slices its way southward from the edge of the Sayq Plateau in the eastern Jebel Akhdar. It is a beautiful place, and is easy walking with some minor scrambling. Most enter the gorge at its upper end and walk down to the roadhead where it widens out.
From Mutti north of Izki in the south-east, a good path with old stone steps leads up a steep wadi into the Jebel Akhdar.
The huge Ghubra Bowl in Upper Wadi Mistall, to the north-east, has superb scenery and walking below the Sayq Plateau. In particular, you can do the two very different walks between Hadesh and Wukan.
Wukan to Hadesh High Route: an Oman classic, a long, rough, in places steep and occasionally exposed loop from Wukan on the western wadi flank up the cliffs to the Wukan Pass onto the Sayq Plateau, where you curve round, on very different landscape, to the Hadash Pass at the plateau edge and thence back, steeply, to Hadesh on the eastern flank of the bowl.
Hadesh to Wukah: Lower route; an ancient trail links these villages, crossing the Ghubra Bowl. Fine views and the delight of the greenery around the villages: while it is marked, and less demanding than the higher route, it is hard work (and crosses several lower passes) and exposed in places, so not for beginners.
The super-fit could link these walks to make a long but exceptionally interesting circuit.
Wadi Hawasinah: another spectacular gorge, inland for Al Khaboura some 150km west of Muscat. This is a relatively demanding hike to a gorgeous pool for a well-deserved swim. It involves some “chain” assisted sections, so it isn’t for vertigo sufferers.
Wadi Bani Awf: This huge, multi-fingered gorge contains a number of interesting villages, including historic Balad Sayt on its little hillock among irrigated fields and date palms.A plethora of fine walks. Including on Explorer route W8 up to the high Jebel Akhdar ridge (see above) , and a short pop down the narrow, sheer sided canyon just below Balad Sayt.
Wadi Halfayn: a disused falaj channel runs some 6m up the wall of this dramatic gorge in the east of the Jebel Akhdar, leading to some deep pools for delightful swimming. Lush greenery. 2hrs to the first pool. The Persian Steps , 1,400 of them said to be cut by the…. er….Persians, lead to the high Jebel Akhdar. 4hrs one way.
Further info and photos needed- please send in!!
Wadi Abyadh:This lovely green gorge near Wadi Mistall contains a walk from the well-known blue calcite pools to the village of Al Abyadh. 1 ½ hrs one way.
Oman Trekking (Explorer) and Adventure Trekking in Oman (Anne Dale and Gerry Hadwin) have worthwhile sections on some of these walks. Recommended. Find relevant books on Amazon.
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For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Western Hajar Mountains walk page.
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