Visit Wadi Ghul, Oman’s Grand Canyon

wadi ghul oman grand canyon

Oman is rich in natural wonders and history, from ancient stone castles in the desert to the waterfalls and lush vegetation appearing during the monsoon season (khareef) in the south. Once foreign visitors land at Muscat International Airport, there are plenty of tourism options opening up.

Adventure-seekers and lovers of nature will not want to miss out on the so-called Omani grand canyon or grand canyon of Arabia, the Wadi Ghul.

This article includes useful information for those who wish to see the Wadi Ghul, including what to do and where to sleep.


What Is the Wadi Ghul?

The Wadi Ghul is an immense dried riverbed near Jebel Shams (‘Mountain of the Sun’), the highest peak in the Hajar mountain range. The village of Ghul gives the canyon its current name.

The canyon is truly impressive and one of the country’s most famous natural attractions, reaching in some points 1 km (0.6 miles) in depth.

Visitors come here to enjoy stunning views, breathtaking overhangs, an abandoned village, and an idyllic oasis.


How to Get to Wadi Ghul

Jebel Shams is about 240 km or 150 miles from Oman’s capital, Muscat,  and 500 km (300 miles) from Dubai. The best way to get to Wadi Ghul is driving and taking the main highway (route 21) to the mountains.

There are plenty of rental car options in Muscat. Renting in Dubai is also possible but the international insurance coverage will make it noticeably pricier.


Hiking the Balcony Walk in Wadi Ghul

The Balcony Walk is perhaps the most famous hike in the country. The spectacular path starts at Katheem and winds around the cliffs up the rim of Wadi Nakhr to the abandoned village of As Sab.

Hikers will enjoy the best and most dramatic views of the canyon and the villages below and will be able to observe wildlife such as birds of prey.

The path is part of the hiking route W6 and is clearly marked by flags painted in white, red, and yellow.


Is the Balcony Walk hard?

Anyone in good physical condition can take the walk. However, plan the hike ahead and choose the right time to visit in order to avoid harsh weather.

Except for the most popular walk, there are also harder trails for expert hikers and even spots that are ideal for rock climbing.

Those who do not feel comfortable walking on their own or would like to learn more about the Wadi Ghul can take a guided Oman grand canyon tour. It is possible to book in advance or to join a tour on the spot.


Where to Stay in Wadi Ghul

For those who would like to sleep in the area, there are many options available. Several resorts are perched right on top of Jebel Shams. These are relatively affordable and clean but do not offer luxury accommodation. Typically, tourists can choose between chalets and Arabian tents.

Many visitors decide to live a unique experience and camp under the stars. Wild camping is permitted in Oman so it is just a matter of finding the right spot to pitch the tent. Some guided tours also offer camping options.

There are a few higher-end hotels for those who prefer more comfortable sleeping options.


Do I Need a Visa for Wadi Ghul?

The majority of those who do not hold an Omani passport need a visa to enter the country. There are several Omani visa options available depending on the traveler’s nationality and specific circumstances.

Fortunately, the government offers the possibility to apply for a visa online just a few days before visiting Oman. The electronic visa is available to tourists who intend to spend a short period of time in the country.

Those who are already in Oman will need to carry a copy of their visa with them at all times, including during their trip to Wadi Ghul. Those who arrive from Dubai or other countries specifically for the trek will need to cross the border and show their passport and visa to the border control officers.

There are no other documents needed for the Wadi Ghul specifically. Those who are driving should have their driving license with them.