People often make comments like “Oman is just one big sandbox,” but that’s far from the truth! Oman boasts a stunning mountain landscape in the northeast of the country known as the Hajar Mountains. Nestled in the Hajar Mountains, approximately 200 km (124 miles) away from Muscat, lies Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman. Jebel Shams is also referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East. With its peak soaring over 3000 meters (9842 feet) high, it features a massive gorge that splits the mountain in two. Exploring this remarkable place is a real treat, and one of the most enjoyable ways to do so is by taking the Balcony Walk. During this hike, you’ll be treated to spectacular views, peering more than 1500 meters (4921 feet) down into the depths of the gorge! Jebel Shams offers an awe-inspiring experience that showcases the diverse and breathtaking natural beauty that Oman has to offer, far beyond the notion of a simple sand desert.
What does the Balcony Walk look like?
The Balcony Walk is an easy hike and therefore suitable for everyone. You walk on an unpaved path, and it’s straightforward to navigate without a guide as there is only one trail. Along the way, you’ll notice the Omani flag painted on rocks to guide you, but it’s actually quite unnecessary as the route is very clear.
During the outward journey, the path descends slightly, and on the way back, you’ll walk uphill a bit. From a distance, the trail may appear more challenging than it actually is, and even if you have a fear of heights, you are unlikely to experience much anxiety here. During the hike, you may encounter a few goats or other hikers, but other than that, there’s nothing else on the trail, so be sure to carry enough water with you.
The route concludes at a water pool and some old huts. You’ll then retrace the same path back.
Distance: 7 km in total (4.3 miles)
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Elevation: almost 6600 feet high (2000 meters)
Start the Balcony Walk with Sunrise
Jebel Shams has earned the nickname ‘the mountain of the sun’ because there are always sun rays shining into the gorge. We started our hike just before sunrise, finding a beautiful spot at the beginning of the trail to enjoy the sunrise. The first rays of sunlight over this stunning landscape made waking up early totally worth it. Except for the bleating of a goat, it was absolutely quiet in the canyon. It was a delightful way to start the day!
How do you get to Jebel Shams and the Balcony Walk?
Here’s how to get to Jebel Shams: From the capital, Muscat, it takes about 3 hours to drive to Jebel Shams. Most of the journey is on the highway, and the last part is through the mountains. The road here is quite steep, and the bends are sharp, but it’s manageable with a regular car, although it’s much faster and easier with a 4×4. Eventually, the paved road gives way to a gravel road. The roads are not as steep at this point, so it’s still fine with a regular car. The town you can enter in your navigation system is called Al Hayl.
And here’s how to get to the starting point of the Balcony Walk: From Al Hayl, it’s about a 15-minute drive to the starting point of the Balcony Walk. The first part is on a paved road, and then there’s an unpaved section, but it’s still manageable with a regular car, as long as it’s dry. The last mile of the route consists of loose sand, and if you don’t have a 4×4, it’s best to park your car somewhere to avoid any issues. We drove to the starting point with a 4×4, and it was very easy. This is the exact location of the Balcony Walk’s starting point.
What should you take with you for the Balcony Walk?
- A sweater and windproof jacket (unless you are visiting during the summer months)
- 1.5 liters of water per person
- Snacks and possibly breakfast
- Closed-toe shoes (hiking shoes or sturdy sneakers)
The most beautiful accommodation near Jebel Shams
We recommend staying near the starting point of the Balcony Walk so you can begin your hike early in the morning and be back before the heat sets in. There are only a few accommodations in the vicinity of the Balcony Walk. Without a doubt, the best hotel option is Sama Al Khutaim Heritage. Its location is unbeatable as it sits right at the beginning of the hiking trail. From the lodge, you’ll enjoy a fantastic view of Jebel Shams, and both breakfast and dinner are included in the price. If Sama Al Khutaim Heritage is beyond your budget, then Sama Heights Resort is the next best option for your stay. It’s approximately a 15-minute drive from here to the starting point of the Balcony Walk.
|Sama Al Khutaim Heritage
||Sama Heights Resort