Western Hajar Mountains
Key information: Western Hajar Mountains
The highest and finest region of the Arabian Peninsula's biggest mountains. Magnificent and varied trekking.
- Walkopedia rating93.5
- Natural interest16
- Human interest14
- Negative points0
- Total rating93.5
- Length: Your choice
- Maximum Altitude: 3,084m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The Hajar Mountains form the central and south-eastern reaches of that 600km rocky spine which climbs out of the sea in the Musandam Peninsula and marches, parallel to the Gulf of Oman, until it stutters out south of Sur far to the south-east.
These mountains snake along the country's eastern seaboard; on the eastern (seaward) side, plains hoard much of Oman's population. To the west lie the vast Arabian deserts, with the range’s slopes and irrigated valleys, and the nearby plains, harboring ancient villages and towns.
This is the highest mountain range on the Arabian Peninsula, with views to boot. It is riven by canyons and wadis; soaring mountains and tremendous cliffs are the order here. Its uplands include rough grasslands, scrub and a lot of bare rock.
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 Hajar also have a rich culture and history: Oman sat on great trade routes, on sea and land, and these brought several periods of wealth. Throughout their length, the Hajar display a wealth of ancient villages, many now abandoned, and the sophisticated and irrigation systems which supported their often luxuriant valley-bottom and hillside fields; unlikely forts; and forgotten routes over remote passes.
Because of all this history, there are many old paths, pack trails and livestock paths, often superbly made and dramatically sited.
There is a plethora of great walks here, from short explorations to multi-dayers. Note that few paths are marked (and indeed often barely exist, often being on faint animal tracks), and, given the contorted nature of the landscape, it is easy to get lost, so walk with care: a guide is a good idea for long/remoter walks.
The Western Hajar Mountains are so big, there are many sub-ranges and standalone areas within it.
Oman’s highest mountains, at the centre of the Western Hajar, boast 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.
This is Oman’s premier walking/trekking area, and contains a huge variety of walks. See our Jebel Ahdar page for much more.
In the far west is the Jebel Shams area. Wadi Nakhur, also known as Oman’s Grand Canyon, is 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 and the Balcony Walk, one of Oman’s best-known walks. Peak baggers should try Oman's highest mountain, Jebel Shams.
Mid-Akhdar - see our Jebel Ahdar page for several fabulous walks in the middle of the range.
The East - See our Jebel Ahdar page for more details. 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. Wadi Muaydin, an endlessly deep gorge, makes for fascinating exploration, as it slices its way southward from the edge of the Sayq Plateau. The huge Ghubra Bowl in Upper Wadi Mistall, to the north-east, has superb scenery and walking below the Sayq Plateau.
Northern Foothills - See our Jebel Ahdar page for a selection of fine walks here.
This can be tough walking in remote mountains with uncertain and often very hot weather. Come fully prepared.
Have a look at TripAdvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on guides, places to hike and places to stay in Oman.
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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Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk (support us: find these using our Amazon search box)
Oman Trekking – Explorer. A very useful selection of general information, as well as details and a map for 12 of Oman’s best day walks.
Adventure Trekking in Oman – Anne Dale and Gerry Hadwin. 50 or so of Oman’s best walks, including maps. Said to be hard to find.
Find these and other books on Amazon.
Oman - Diane Darke/Bradt.
Birdwatching Guide to Oman
Field Guide to the Geology of Oman – Samir Hanna: Oman has fascinating rocks, and this is tour guide.
Trees of Oman – S. Ghazanfar – includes some other vegetatiuon.
Southern Approaches To the Arabian Peninsula. – Freya Stark: OK, so mainly about Yemen, but a fascinating insight into the region and its turbulent history.
Find these and other books on Amazon.
There really aren’t any reliable detailed maps to be had, and the best you can get are in the guidebooks, and these aren’t that detailed. A decent country map is available in some shops locally.
GPS is therefore really worth having if you plan to go remote without a guide.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
October to March are the best times to walk here, although October and April can still be pretty hot. Summer gets up to nearly 50°on lower ground and still very hot in the mountains, so isn’t realistic for walking. It was still too hot for comfortable walking in lower areas when Walkopedia was there in early November, but the highlands were perfect, or the warm side of, with a hint of breeze most of the time.
Generally hot and dry during the day - hot enough even in the cooler months that you won't necessarily be able to trek on lower ground in the day's middle hours, and for much of the year so hot that you definitely don't want to get lost. But come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather, including carrying a waterproof. It can get cold if it rains, so carry suitable layers. It can also get properly cold at nights in the mountains – check how cold it can get in your area, and come prepared, including with a warm sleeping bag.
Check the current visa position for people from your country. Could be obtained on arrival for visitors from most countries when we last checked.
Most people fly in to Muscat and can fly on internally, although Salalah in the south also has an international airport. Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding the flights you need; otherwise look at what’s available on TripAdvisor.
Buses are a viable option for longer-distance journeys.
Car hire is reasonably easy, and the road system good, although once off-road, think 4x4. Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, although you are advised to agree the charge upfront.
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.
No permits are needed to do these walks.
You can arrange a guide and pack animal.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Altitude: expect to puff and perhaps a mild headache in the higher mountains if you aren’t acclimatized.
- Mountain weather: rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.
- Heat, humidity (at some times of year) and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: can be dangerous; some walks are not for those who have difficulties with heights.
- Dangerous/harmful animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, scorpions, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
- Canyon dangers: wadis/canyons can be lethal, particularly as a result of flash floods. Assess and prepare for all risks on those walks involving canyons. In particular, check the weather carefully and don’t go after rain in the area or upstream, or if rain is possible.
- This is remote country: food and other supplies will not be readily available and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
- Health risks: the interior is remote, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications. Take care to drink clean water.
- Be sensitive about photographing people: don’t without permission. Ask permission if in doubt about whether they would mind.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do many of these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.
Given the often difficult and confusing terrain, guides are advisable for the less-experienced taking on remoter/longer walks, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages.
In any case, many form or join organised/supported expeditions, particularly when doing multi-day walks. Given the remoteness of the country and difficulty of getting supplies, many will prefer to do it this way. The firm will (with luck) have chosen the best routes, will arrange camping or accommodation, and your bags carried from one night stop to the next.
Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital. If hiring a guide locally, meet him and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!
Expedition organisers include:
- KE Adventures – Walkopedia travelled with them in Oman, and we were very pleased.
- Explore! - reputable and experienced organisers.
- Wilderness Travel
- Alternative Travel Group
- Steppes Travel
- Kudu Travel, Walkopedia friends. Some walking on this interesting-looking expedition.
PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.
There are plenty of hotels and guest houses in the main centres. Some new establishments in atmospheric old buildings are emerging, some in beautiful old oasis-buildings.
The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation.
Camping is usually the only realistic option once on a remote trail. Wild camping is acceptable, but keep away from houses.
Other information and tips; responsible tourism
Tipping is appreciated, so come mentally prepared and with enough cash. Check guidebooks for current rates. Do err on the side of generosity if unsure – it will make a big difference.
Do be careful, considerate and respectful in all dealings with the locals. You will need to dress conservatively in remoter areas.
Walkopedia encourages responsible tourism! Have a look at www.stuffyourrucksack.com for projects you can take things for. The Bradt guidebook lists some good local charities.
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Hajar_Mountains - as usual, a good starting place, with other reasonable pages on the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oman as well as key areas. Also https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Hajar_Mountains
- Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this area.
- Have a look at TripAdvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views.
Other things to do in the area
Oman has a huge variety of great walks.
Mountain biking, climbing, canyoning, birdwatching.
Culture, history and people watching.
Coastal/sea fun and chilling. Some of the world’s best SCUBA diving.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more