Salalah is a climatic wonderland located in the Arabian peninsula. Wonderland because when the rest of the Middle East reaches soaring temperatures, the mercury in Salalah barely reaches 24-degrees celsius. This amazing pleasant season in Salalah is well-known all over the Gulf as the “khareef season” and usually starts from the month of June and stays till mid of September. During this season the barren dry mountains turn into a lush green. The valley from the mountains looks so refreshing, covered with thick fog and rain which sometimes do make you wet.
Khareef season attracts tourists not only from the Gulf but also from Europe and other Asian countries. The favourable conditions make Salalah a perfect escape from the hot summer of the Gulf. For first time travellers to Dhofar, there can be a lot of confusion as to where to go and what to see. At 38,300 sqm and littered with mountains and wide valleys, it can be a little intimidating that a lot of time is often wasted on figuring out where to go and how to go there. This itinerary has been prepared keeping in mind the best places to visit during the khareef season and the destinations were grouped together according to their distance from the main city.
Day 1: East of Salalah
Ayn Athum &
Ayn Tabrook Waterfalls
Tawi Atair (Sinkhole)
Visiting Salalah won’t be complete without seeing the glorious waterfalls which are only available to see during the monsoon season. To enjoy these locations, it is highly recommended to drive a four-wheel-drive as the roads can be slippery.
There are plenty of things to see in East of Salalah. After a good breakfast, it’s better to begin the journey at around 10 in the morning.
Located about 35 minutes away from the main city of Salalah, these are easy to find. Follow Google map or take the road to Route 47 and then to Route 49 (the road heading to Nashib). Once here, the roads are filled with billboards indicating which direction to take. A bifurcation of the roads separate these two waterfalls.
Ayn Athum is definitely one of the most beautiful waterfalls during this season and has been quite popular with the tourists. The drive to both waterfalls is mesmerizing as there is lush greenery that covers both sides of the road. They also get better at every turn.
You may need to walk for a few minutes to get to the waterfall passing through a forest.
If you want, you can also visit the Ayn Athum’s natural caves carved out from the mountains and hidden completely by lush greenery.
Ayn Tabrook can be visited on your way back. Passing through the forest, there will be multiple small waterfalls along the way.
You may need a good three or four hours to enjoy the trek. Once completed checking these locations, head towards Wadi Darbat which is about 40 minutes drive away from Ayn Athum. The cascade waterfalls of Wadi Darbat is an apt place for relaxation. It also has stunning picnic spots and from these spots, you will have access to boating, barbeque, camping, kite flying and various other fun-filled activities. The parking area is also filled with food stalls and stalls selling toys for children. This is the best place to grab lunch.
From Wadi Darbat, you can drive for about 12 minutes to reach Tawi Atair — or Salalah’s sinkhole or if you opt to head to Jabal Samhan which is about 30 minutes away, you’d be able to enjoy the sea of clouds.
Within the area, you can also go to the Anti-Gravity Point on Taqah Mirbat Road. From here, you can proceed to Taqah, one of Dhofar’s oldest towns popular for its local fishing villages.
The township is still in traditional style and you can pay a visit to Taqah Fort and Taqah Viewpoint. Taqah Castle has been turned into a museum and it showcases the lifestyle of Omani people during old times. The museum is a vibrant place to explore and learn the history of the fort. You can view the Taqah town from the Taqah tower and can also witness beautiful sunrise and sunset during a clear day.
Day 2: West of Salalah
Ayn Khor Waterfall
Situated 20 kms from the main city, Ayn Khor is located west of Salalah is near to Raysut Cement Factory. Driving towards Ayn Khor can be both adventurous and challenging and if you are the free-spirited kind willing to see something different, then you’d be pleasantly surprised of the beautiful waterfalls formed only during the monsoon here.
Also set amidst the lush forest, Ayn Khor is a refreshing place to visit and can get really cold. The main source of the waterfall is believed to be from the highest mountain of Wadi Jurdum. Although the pool where the waterfall drops can be tempting, make sure to be careful if you are going for a swim as it can be really deep. The area around Ayn Khor is peppered with different picnic spots and you’d often find families lounging in their mats with their meals all time of the day.
Mughsayl is about 30 to 40 minutes drive from Ayn Khor. Post cyclone Mekunu, a new diversion route has been made which offers another exciting and scenic drive for those who love being on the road. During khareef, you can witness the tri-colour of the ocean i.e. grey, blue and emerald. As one of the most famous places to visit in Salalah, the view of the ocean from Marneef cave is so rewarding. Due to high tides during the khareef season, you can witness jet streams gushing out from the blowholes in the area.
If you are looking for more adventure, Fasaya Beach is just 40 minutes away. It is an isolated beach that is a beauty on its own. The white sand beach has the smoothest sand and the isolated rocks only make the place more picturesque. On your way back to the main city of Salalah, you can explore the old frankincense market.
Haffa Market situated across the Haffa beach. This market is famous for the aromatic resins that are sold here and also famous for the authentic Omani restaurants. What is better than ending your day by enjoying traditional Omani sweets.
Day 3: Itin
Ittin Cave Restaurant
Salalah Tourism Festival
Ayn Garziz is only about 15 minutes away from the main city of Salalah. On your third day, it would be wise to start your trip here as this place is famous for its natural spring waterfall. The water is so crystal clear that the valley is reflected on its surface including the lava rock formations that peppered the area. While the pool is filled with aquatic life, it is not for swimming, however.
Not far from the waterfall, you can also explore the nearby natural caves that are accessible to the public. Benches were installed for those who’d like to spend some time soaking in the view. Within the area, children can go horse riding. There are also some small shops selling toys and food items. It is recommended to visit Ayn Garziz while there is still light as driving in the dark can be a challenge. In case you want to enjoy some local food, there are restaurants at the foothills of Itin where you can grab delicious food.
From Ayn Garziz, you can drive for about 40 km to where Nabi Ayoub or the Tomb of Prophet Job is located. Here, you will find the mosque and tomb believed to be of the prophet. You will also see a grave around 13 metres long and also see a well where a preserved footprint is believed to be of the prophet. Nabi Ayoub has historic and as well as religious importance.
From Nabi Ayoub, you can visit the viewpoint of Itin. During khareef, this valley is usually covered with a thick fog and you can also enjoy the cool breeze and light drizzle. This place is ideal for camping or enjoying hot cup of tea.
Itin is also popular for its cave restaurant. From here you can grab some food and definitely, their cheese and honey fatiras are a must-try. In the evening of your third day, don’t forget to visit the festival which rages on till the end of August. Immerse yourself not only with the culture of Omanis but also the sumptuous food. You can enjoy your evening by either shopping from the multiple stalls, taste different snack, enjoy rides at the amusement park and witness the amazing performances by local people and fireworks.
During the khareef season, the streets of Salalah comes to life. A festive celebration, it is when locals greet you with their warmest smile while nature salutes you with its kindest breeze. It is also a time when you meet people from around the world. Expect for apartments and hotels to be jam-packed so it’s advisable to book them in advance to avoid the inconvenience of not finding a place to stay.
BY Upasana Venaik