Visiting Oman’s sulphur springs (Al Ain Sahban)
In an attempt to be spontaneous, Polar and I impulsively decided one evening that “this weekend we would go over the border to Oman”. I was both impressed and confounded by our ability to be spur-of-the-moment (this is a couple who plans their holidays 6 months in advance and needs 48-72 hours notice for social engagements).
We had heard rumours about how stunning Oman’s sulphur springs are and now seemed as good a time as any to investigate this phenomenon. There was a scant amount of information about these springs online but not really much detailed information. While it might seem weird to plan a trip to visit somewhere I didn’t know much about, I believe that this is the essence of travel for me- to discover and share my discoveries with the world.
Note: This post is aimed at people coming from the UAE but you can also easily reach this spot from Muscat, Sohar or Al Buraimi.
The Visa Process
Oman is no longer granting visa on arrival to GCC residents. Apply for your eVisa online from the official Oman Police Website. It costs 5OMR/50AED and takes 24 hours to be granted.
We hired an SUV from Thrifty Car Hire in order to do this trip. We paid a 350AED surcharge for taking the car over the border and having the necessary insurance in Oman. Make sure your vehicle has unlimited mileage because you will be driving for a considerable amount of kms. For piece of mind, I strongly advise getting an SUV with the 4 wheel drive capability. At the very least just a sturdy SUV. For the last 17km the road is rocky and hilly. A normal sedan will struggle and a car that sits low on the ground (not sure of the technical term) will be annihilated. I discuss the roads in greater detail later in this post.
We left Dubai at 5am and followed the following Google Maps link in order to get Oman’s sulphur springs:
If you want more information about which borders you can use to enter Oman as an expat please read through my Border Crossing into Oman for UAE Expats page which include necessary documentation & costs to successfully cross over & back.
Our route was determined by the border posts that allow non GCC citizens to pass through. Your route may differ if you live in a different emirate or hold a passport from one of the gulf countries.
When we arrived at the place that Google Maps (and various signs and a kind Omani cyclist) advised to stop at, we were kind of concerned because we couldn’t immediately see any water. But a few 100m from where we parked our car, we eventually heard the water and found the crystal clear water. I literally gasped out loud (me the oh-so-jaded traveler) when I saw the water. Photos don’t do it justice at all. Its STUNNING.
We hiked around and into the pools. There is no clear path to follow so you need to be careful and plot your route carefully. If you want to swim in the pools, you need to be reasonably mobile and have the ability to climb a small rock face. It wasn’t strenuous at all, we only hiked for about 5 minutes in total. The water wasn’t deep either; it came up to my waist (I’m 1.53m).
We arrived at the pool at 9:30am and had the place to ourselves until 11:30 when 4 locals came to have a picnic (they kindly invited us to join but we sadly didn’t have the time to accept). Even with the locals there, it was very relaxed and quiet environment. Either our timing was good or not many people know about this gem?
If you love a good road trip and have a sense of adventure then an outing to Oman’s sulphur springs is a great day trip for you from the UAE or from Muscat. If you take your own food (we took sandwiches and fruit) and own an appropriate vehicle then this is a relatively cheap trip! It costs nothing to visit the sulphur pools, 50AED for the Oman visa, 30AED to pay the UAE exit tax and we used less than a tank of petrol to go and return to Dubai. You could also camp at the site or stay in a hotel in Sohar or Al Buraimi if you wanted to extend your time in Oman.
Do note that this destination is not for the mobility impaired or for very young children (under 10). Please wear footwear for mountain climbing (something with good grip) and take a trash bag to clean up after yourself as there are no bins.
What to pack
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How to get there
Plug in ‘Ain Sahban’ to Google Maps. Make sure you have Oman saved as an offline map and load your route while you still have internet access.
The most direct way is to leave the UAE through the Khatam Al Shikla border. Google Maps will try to take you through the Hilli Border post because it’s the quickest. However the Hilli Border Post only allows GCC nationals through with no exceptions. Add ‘Khatam Al Shikla’ as a stop on your Google Maps route.
Once you’ve exited the UAE, you will drive for a bit and stamp into Oman at the Wadi Jizzi Police Checkpoint. Show your printed visas & Oman insurance if asked for it.
Continue along route 7 for around 20kms. Eventually you’ll turn off the highway and find yourself a dirt road. The road forks and we took the fork on the right (not sure where the left one leads). There is no room for getting lost beyond this point as there is only one road. The terrain is rocky and the road is only one lane for both directions of traffic so drive slowly.
The road will eventually fork again after some time at the site of a ruined watchtower (its just rubble). You can go left towards the trees or right to follow the brown sign to Ain Sahban. Following the signs will lead you to the parking site. The signs look like this:
The parking (and I’m being generous by using that term) looks like this:
Yes that is our rental car! From this point, you’ll see an abandoned home (?).
Walk past that, towards the ledge. Look down and you will see the beautiful blue water. Walking to the left of the abandoned home leads you to the bigger pool but you’ll need to cross over to the other side and climb down the cliff to enter the water. Keep walking right to the shallow wadi.
Repeat process in reverse when its time to leave Oman’s sulphur springs crossing the same border posts and driving home via Al Ain.
For more information on Oman, what to do when visiting Oman and how to plan a trip to Oman, click here. Would you consider visiting the sulphur springs in Oman? Let me know in the comments below!