Jebel Shams is the mountain top next to Wadi Ghul, also known as the Grand Canyon of Arabia. With spectacular views over the canyon, a cooler climate than at sea level, great camping opportunities and several hiking trails, it’s well worth a visit when you’re in Oman.
How to get there
To get to Jebel Shams, you will need to drive several kilometers on unpaved roads up the hill, which requires a good car. We did see a few 2WD saloon cars up there, and I’ve heard some more reports from people who made it up there without a 4WD so I know it’s possible, but having seen the road conditions, I never would’ve tried. We even passed some people in Jeeps or other great offroad cars on the way up, standing by their cars with the hood up and concerned looks on their faces.
The road is paved at first, then unpaved, then paved again at the end. I thought the drive was quite fun, but also kind of scary as we would sometimes go over a hill and not see where the road was going on the other side. Some guides drive up there way too fast, but there were plenty of places where I could just stop by the side to let them pass in a cloud of dust.
Where to sleep on Jebel Shams
We were camping, and there are such amazing camping spots up there! This is the one place we camped where we saw plenty of other campers, but the area is so big that it doesn’t get crowded.
There also seemed to be groups with guides camping up there, so I think you can find a tour that will provide you with all the equipment needed if you don’t want to camp for the whole trip but still enjoy waking up to these amazing views.
If you’re just not a camper, there are also two hotels up there, Jebel Shams Resort and Sama Heights Resort. We had lunch at the latter and took a look around, and they seemed to have a range of accommodation, as well as a good restaurant.
Walking the Balcony trail
Our highlight was the hiking trail W6, also known as the Balcony Walk, that goes from the village of Khateem to the abandoned village of As Sab, and then back. To get from Jebel Shams Resort and the camping spots to the start of the trail, drive on the sand road that starts at the resort until you get to a parking lot and a tiny village. The trail starts from there and goes along the inside of the canyon.
The trail is quite narrow, two people can meet in most places but not more than that, and it goes along the edge of the cliff so you’ll have to pay attention to where you put your feet. That’s easier said than done with views like that. This is easily one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever done.
We started just after 8 in the morning and it took us about an hour and a half to reach the old houses at As Sab, with some short breaks on the way. When we reached the end, there were already lots of people resting, and annoyingly some guides who were playing music on their phones.
On the way back, we learned that we’d slowly been going down the whole way there without noticing, and the return was so much more strenuous with a bit of a climb, a higher temperature, and more tired legs.
It was a really, really nice hike though, and I would highly recommend it. It’s not a very difficult one, but it’s not easy either, and I think people who have difficulties with their balance will struggle, both physically and mentally.