With the winter season only a few days away, it’s time to start planning that much-needed break. If you happen to be living in or around the GCC, winter may just be your favorite season. The softer sun and cool breeze mean you can spend more time outdoors, exploring the regions vast expanses. Instead of catching a 10-hour flight, why not stay closer to home and take advantage of the region’s perfect winter weather. Get to know the best getaways for the winter holiday in the GCC.
Saudi Arabia’s rough summer climate makes it almost unbearable. However, it is also home to some of the best getaways for a winter holiday in the GCC.
Known for its Arab hospitality and generosity, Hail is also the hometown of Hatem Al-Ta’i. In this beautiful city, you will discover an ancient civilization that left behind a resonating culture and heritage. During the winter, the surrounding desert and valleys welcome adventure seekers who are looking for mountain climbing, nature watching, and even Hail Rally racing.
Taking a ride through the desert in a 4×4 vehicle is only the start of you Hail adventure. You can also go mountain climbing in Nufud Al Kabir or even explore the peaks of Aja Mountain. Amongst the maze of rugged granite peaks of Aja Mountain, you will come across springs that descend into cascades and freshwater lagoons. Wildlife is abundant and the natural setting, that of palm and acacia trees, is soft and tranquil.
When in Hail, you need to visit Jubbat Ha’il, one of the most significant archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia. A series of rock illustrations and inscriptions spread throughout Um Sanman Mountain and other nearby mountains, the Jubbat Ha’il inscriptions date back to three separate time periods. Located on a dry lake surrounded by the sand dunes of Nufud Al Kabeer, Jabbat Ha’il boasts inscriptions that depict animals, humans, plants, and symbols.
Oman is definitely a favorite when it comes to a winter holiday in the GCC. This beautiful nation has it all, from lavish resorts and stunning beaches to mesmerizing ancient cities.
Separated from the rest of the Sultanate by the UAE, the Musandam Peninsula is also known as the ‘Norway of Arabia’. Famous for its khors (rocky inlets), small villages and mountain-hugging roads, Musandam is a winter trip you cannot miss out on.
Many tourists come to this peninsula for its lively marine life. A traditional dhow will take you on a cruise where you will meet dolphins leaping in and out of the sea. The cruise will also take you to small fishing villages, some of which boast makeshift homes that blend in rocky cliffs. Moreover, Musandam gives you the opportunity to engage in many water sports such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing.
If you are into history, try to visit ‘Jazirat al Maqlab’, or Telegraph Island. This is where, in 1864, the British laid the first telegraph cable that ran from India to Iraq. You may even get the chance to visit the spot where the stationmaster would send telegrams to different places as some remains of the building still exist.
If you’re seeking a historically rich winter holiday in the GCC, Nizwa is definitely the place for you. Also known as the ‘Pearl of Islam’, this ancient city was the Omani capital during the sixth and seventh century. Moreover, Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in the Sultanate. Here, you will find many destinations to explore, all while walking amidst sturdy date palms.
Built in 1668, Nizwa Fort is Oman’s most visited national monument. The majority of the fort took almost 12 years to build. Furthermore, it features a 40m tall round tower that offers unrivaled views of Nizwa’s date plantations and the Hajar Mountains.
While in Nizwa, you should also visit the souq which is famous for handicrafts and agricultural products. Nizwa Souq boasts items from meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables to spices, dates, gold, and silverware. Moreover, Nizwa locals are experts at making unique curved daggers (Khanjar), which are also available at the souq.
The Dhofar Governorate is rich in natural scenery. From lush greenery and waterfalls to a lively wildlife scene. Located in southern Oman, Dhofar is the largest of the eleven governorates in the Sultanate. Make sure you give yourself more time while planning this trip.
About 40km off the coast of Dhofar lies the miniature archipelago consisting of four small islands known as Khuriya Muriya. These islands will surprise you with their dive sites, unspoiled beaches, birdlife, and turtle-nesting grounds. Moreover, you can dive to visit the wreck of the British ship, The City of Winchester, which was sunk by German forces in World War I. Unfortunately, there are no organized dive trips to the islands. You can, however, reach them by riding a fishing vessel from Hasik, Sadah, or Mirbat.
Wadi Darbat and Khor Rori
A winter holiday in the GCC cannot be complete without visiting these mesmerizing locations. Around 7 km past Taqah, you will reach a cliff that transforms into a dashing waterfall where water spouts out from lush greenery. During the dry season, instead of water, you will catch views of the pockmarked rocks of the cliff face – known as a “travertine curtain”. The ‘travertine curtain’ is a common geological formation in Dhofar where sandstone has been dissolved by the force of the water into strange, wax-like shapes.
The waters of Wadi Darbat pour down into Khor Rori below. Separated from the sea by a low sandbank, the creek’s mouth is outlined by two small symmetrical cliffs. Filled with fresh water from Wadi Darbat, Khor Rori is brimming with fish. Aquatic birds and camels are often seen around the creek’s softly splashy waters.