Jabal Shams is the highest mountain in Oman standing at a height of 3009 meters with some of the vertical drops of 2000 plus meters from the summit to the base. Right in the core of the Western Hajar Mountain chain in the Dakhiliyah region, Jabal Shams is one of the must-see attractions for locals and any traveler to Oman, with spectacular views of the Al Nakhr Canyon also labelled as “The Grand Canyon” of Arabia. Jabal Shams offers mild climate, exciting trekking paths and off-road adventures one shouldn’t miss.
Jabal Shams literally means the “Sun Mountain” in Arabic, and it is so called because it is the first place to greet sunlight at dawn and the last to say farewell at dusk being the highest peak. The temperatures are mild and are usually 10-15°C cooler than the plains making it an ideal weekend spot. Pleasant in the summer and bitter cold in the winter with the temperatures going subzero occasionally, we actually felt the chill right down into our bones during one such visit. Jabal Shams offers various adventurous activities for all people, whether you are interested in nocturnal photography, challenging hike to the peak, exploring abandoned villages, camping under the stars or just a bit of off-roading. Our visit to the mountain on numerous stint has been a blend of the reasons mentioned above.
For many, the main reason to go to Jabal Shams is to camp by the edge of the Canyon, which offers a good escape from the heat in the summer and can be quite cold in the winter months. Depending on who you ask, this is the best place to stay at Jabal Shams and as a camping-lover I can’t disagree with that! The most popular location to camp is right by the edge of the canyon, a short drive after the paved road stops immediately following the Resort at Jabal Shams. Keep in mind that there are only a few suitable camping spots and they could get crowded on public holidays or weekends during the winter months so you may have to settle elsewhere if all the spots are taken. Alternative options are to camp on the opposite side of the road across the edge, where you could get a more private spot, but be careful while driving there as there are many sharp rocks. Regardless where you choose to camp, a beautiful star studded night sky and an amazing sunrise is likely in store for you.
For all those astrophotographer’s, Jabal Shams is a great place to escape the city lights and gaze at the starlit night sky, and tryout your skills. The conditions have to be right, as you will need a clear moonless sky, and you could get lucky with a view of the milky way as well. Even though the ‘accessible’ areas are still reasonably fine for this, there is still a bit of light pollution from the nearby hotels and from Al Hamra village in the bottom; therefore, for best results try stargazing closer to the peak, away from light pollution sources, which you can reach end of the road past the resort or between one of the hiking trails as shown below.
Places to stay
While we do suggest that the best way to spend a night there would be by the edge of the canyon or some of the caved in spots under the stars. Believe us, it’s a great experience. Just carry extra set of warm clothing as it gets pretty cold and windy at night. But if you are travelling with children or older family members and need a secured place, you could book from many of the resort options available online and still enjoy the natural beauty that Jabal Shams has to offer.
Jabal Shams is about 250 kms from Muscat, and is accessible from Al Hamra village which is about 2 hours drive from Muscat. The road up to Jebel Shams is about 40km but due to the road condition and height it takes longer. For the most part the road is tarmac but there is a section which is gravel/rocks. We know people say it’s drivable in a regular car but personally having driven it in a 4×4 I wouldn’t go near it in a regular car cause you run the risk of doing a lot of damage to the underneath of the car. Plus you need all the traction and ground clearance a 4×4 gives you. Have a safe journey and do share your experiences.