Aptly named in Arabic as the ‘Gorge Between Cliffs’, Wadi Shab is one of the most lovely destinations in Oman, despite Hwy 17 slung across the entrance. The wadi rewards even the most reluctant walker with turquoise pools, a busy falaj (irrigation channel), waterfalls and terraced plantations; kingfishers add glorious splashes of colour and year-round trusses of pink oleander bloom by the water’s edge. A five-minute boat ride (OR1 return) is required to cross the mouth of the wadi to the trail head.
While swimming in the lower pools is forbidden (they are a source of drinking water), there is an opportunity for discreet swimming in the upper reaches of the wadi, where you can duck into a partially submerged cave (skinny dipping is strictly taboo though). Guided hikes though the wadi (OR25 per person) can be arranged from Wadi Shab Resort, with discounts offered for groups. As with all wadis in Oman, flash flooding can make them impassable for a time. Check with recommended tour companies for up-to-date information on accessibility, especially after rains.
Toilets, open from 7am to 7pm in the car park, are intended to dissuade visitors from relieving themselves in the wadi. Lighting a barbecue and camping are not permitted. Wadi Shab is signposted off the Muscat–Sur Hwy. You can’t miss it: the vista of mountains opening onto a pea-green lake is sublime after the barren plain. Vehicles, thankfully, cannot navigate the wadi beyond a small parking area.