Nizwa is the most important city in the mountainous region in the center of Oman and an excellent base for travelers wanting to explore some of the most interesting features of that area.
Those must-see places include oasis, magnificent mountains, irrigation and water systems, abandoned villages, medieval forts, and picturesque markets.
Nizwa is now a small city, but in the 6th and 7th centuries it was the capital of Oman.
It’s always kept a strong presence in the region’s politics. Its proud nature resurfaced again in the early 1950s when the tribal leaders of Nizwa started a rebellion, violently suppressed with the help of the British who bombed the city.
Visit Nizwa – What You Need to Know
Nizwa has about 70,000 people and its fort is one of the most visited monuments in the country. Top attractions include the goat market that happens there every Friday.
After the damages of 1950, Nizwa stayed out of the spotlight only claiming its former glory after Sultan Qaboos rose to power. He made sure the city would have all the conditions to grow and invested in railroads and other urban infrastructures.
Festivals and Holidays in Nizwa
- 1 January – New Year
- 3 April – Isra and Mi’raj
- 18 November – National Day of Oman (Independence from Portugal in 1650)
- 19 November – Sultan’s Birthday
Top things to do in Nizwa
- Goat Market
- Nizwa Fort
- Nizwa Souk
- Al Hoota Cave
- Misfat Al Abriyyin
- Al Hamra
- Bahla Fort
Map of attractions in Nizwa
Map with the most popular attractions in Nizwa
Quick travel tips to visit Nizwa
- Wake up early and be the first at monuments, museums, and other landmarks
- Go to the top of the Nizwa Fort tower for a 360-degree view of the city
- Don’t skip a visit to the Bahla Fort, a few kilometers away from Nizwa
- Nizwa’s animal market is famous.
- Get to know about the local climate and the seasons to know when to go to Nizwa.
- To visit Nizwa in the summer be prepared for high temperatures that could reach 45 Celsius degrees in the hotter hours of the day.
- There is a lot to see in Nizwa in Oman, so plan your trip well to make sure you don’t miss any of the must-see sites. That way you’ll have a well-planned trip and a great vacation without skipping sites.
Best places to visit in Nizwa
Top 8 places to visit in Nizwa.
1. Animal Market
The Nizwa goat market is the main attraction in the city and one of the highlights of any trip to Oman. Despite the name, you’ll see all kinds of cattle in the market.
When planning your trip, keep in mind this is a weekly market that happens every Friday early in the morning.
Make sure you arrive as early as possible to find a parking place, to feel the atmosphere before the other tourists arrive, and to be there when the market is the liveliest. The best time is to be there around 7:00 am.
Then, just watch. The cattle breeders arrive in their trucks and pickups and unload the animals. Then they’ll take turns parading each animal in front of potential buyers. All business is done in an auction.
Observe the people around you. The men in traditional clothes, mostly white, with the typical hat on their heads. The women dressed in colorful clothes, some of them wearing thin fabric masks.
By mid-morning it’s almost over. Deals are made and buyers load their newly bought animals on their vehicles. It’s time to go and find other attractions in Nizwa.
This market includes different sectors in different areas. This one is the animal section where one can buy cows, calves, goats, sheep, horses, and camels.
It’s interesting to see how salesmen parade the animals in a circle, like in a catwalk for animals. It’s fascinating to watch.
2. Nizwa Fort
The Nizwa Fort is said to be the most visited site in the country. It was built around 1650 by Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’rubi on the ruins of a defensive structure that existed there since the 12th century.
It’s a typically Omani castle where the top feature is the massive 30-meter high and 36-meter diameter tower. It was destroyed by the British during a rebellion in the 1950s but was rebuilt. The fort’s foundations are solid and almost 30 meters deep. Inside, you have dozens of small rooms to explore. The main tower used to have 24 cannons, of which only four remain.
The fort was built over an underground watercourse that was used to supply the fortress in case of a siege. The storage areas were spacious enough for large quantities of ammunition and food, especially dates. Considering the techniques and military means of that time, this was an undefeatable fort.
It’s open every day from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, except on Fridays when it only opens in the morning from 8:00 to 11:00 am.
Tanuf is a ghost town, a group of ruins from the bombings in the early 1950s when the British Air Force wiped out the area to crush the rebellion against the Sultan’s government, who had the support of the United Kingdom.
It’s 25 km north of Nizwa, near the road to Bahla. It’s a picturesque place not just for the ruins, but for the number of people who go there to spend some time with their families having picnics and doing outdoor activities at the dry river bed.
Tanuf is also famous for its water. Most of the bottled water you’ll find in Oman comes from here.
4. Nizwa Souk
The Nizwa Souk is in the old part of town, near the castle and the place where the famous goat market happens. Its best products are vegetables and fruits, but you can buy a bit of everything here from traditional kitchen utensils to ceramics and even war weapons.
If you’re looking for dates, you’ll get good deals here. To wrap up the morning, if you visit after the goat market is over, you can have a meal at the new pavilion. It’s not a very traditional environment, but the food is good and affordable.
The fruit market at the Nizwa Souk is in front of the indoor vegetable market. Here you can buy all kinds of fruits, but you’ll see mostly bananas, pineapples, and mangos.
On Fridays, you can come to the market just to see men bartering with the fruit vendors. All the men wear typical Omani white clothes.
Don’t skip a visit to this place in Nizwa so you can have an idea of what the locals’ daily life is like, how they shop, and how they socialize.
5. Al Hoota Cave
This cave was formed almost two million years ago and it’s located about 40 km northeast of Nizwa.
The cave has about 4.5 km of tunnels and galleries, of which 500 meters are open to the public. It opened in 2006 and has guided tours that last for up to 45 minutes.
The cave has a rich ecosystem where 100 animal species live, and that includes two underground lakes. The stalactites and stalagmites formed over thousands of years resemble some animals that we can see with a little help of our imagination, like the “lion” of Al Hoota.
Please note that the cave is a preserved site and the daily number of visitors is restricted, so you must book in advance. The ticket for foreign citizens costs around 16 Euros.
6. Misfat Al Abriyyin
Misfat Al Abriyyin is a quaint mountain village, 55 km north of Nizwa, named after the Al Abri tribe that comes from that region.
Here you’ll see some terraced farms with lots of palm trees and fruit trees that produce pomegranates, citruses, papayas, and mangos, painting the landscape near the village in green and adding a touch of freshness.
The traditional houses, made of clay, were built on the rocks in different levels and connected by several staircases and winding alleys.
A canal of abundant fresh water flows through the village, diverted from its natural course to supply the community.
There’s a viewpoint from where you have the perfect view of the village and where you’ll find a map for travelers.
When exploring the village try to stay in the areas that are clearly public. In recent years, the influx of tourists has caused distress among the locals, who have started to post up signs forbidding tourists in some locations.
7. Al Hamra
It’s an ancient village founded over 400 years ago, located in the outskirts of Misfat Al Abriyyin, about 50 km north of Nizwa.
Its traditional houses were abandoned by most of the population who prefer to live in apartment buildings made in western style, as it’s happened all over the country. That’s why it’s crucial to visit this place before time takes over and slowly destroys what’s left of its past life.
There are some two- and three-floor buildings built in a style inspired by the Yemenite constructions.
8. Bahla Fort
The Bahla Fort is about 40 km from Nizwa, near the town of Bahla, and it’s a must-see site.
No one knows exactly when the Bahla Fort was built, but it was probably between the 12th and 15th centuries. The tribe of Banu Nebhan, who controlled the trade of frankincense at the time, built the fort making Bahla their capital city and the center of Ibadism, a branch of Islam.
It’s a massive fortress, one of the largest in the country, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Where to Stay in Nizwa
Tanuf Residency Hotel
After searching for several hotels to find the cheapest, the Tanuf Residency Hotel was the most affordable I could find regarding room rates.
There aren’t many hotels near the city center in Nizwa, so you’ll always have to travel about 4 km from your hotel to Nizwa old town.
The rooms have a private bathroom, TV, and air conditioning. One night in a double room costs 20 Rials.
Read my page: Visit Oman • 25 amazing places & top things to do.