Khareef season in Salalah, a coastal city in the south of Oman, is a magical time of the year. The term "Khareef" refers to the monsoon from June to early September — the weather is cooler, there's some rain, making everything misty, and most of the surroundings are green. Some parts of Salalah will appear as if one is in New Zealand or Europe because of the greenery. However, traveling in the off-season is equally as beautiful, with some colors appearing yellowish/orange, not to mention fewer crowds.
Here's my comparisons of visiting Salalah during both the tail end of Khareef and in the off-season in November.
Wadi Darbat is a scenic plateau in the hills north of Salalah.
During Khareef, green is everywhere in Wadi Darbat. With the waterfalls flowing and chances to ride a paddle boat, this is an excellent place to stop. Remember that many people will be around taking pictures with the waterfalls in the background. I would suggest stopping here early to avoid crowds.
While there are no waterfalls in November, this is the time to hike through Wadi Darbat to find the water source. The difference in colors ranges from orangish hues and yellow, but visitors will still see some turquoise water. The caves also have unique shapes and crevasses, so stop inside to take a break. On this visit I went with a group called Dhofar Adventure, find them on Instagram: instagram.com/dhofar.adventure/
Ayn Razat is known for its natural springs and cave. An excellent place to come for a picnic and to walk to the nearby cave, visitors will notice a difference between Khareef and low-season.
During Khareef, the turquoise-colored water is full of fish. The other side includes dozens of Lilly ponds. The short walk to the cave makes for some good pictures, with the greenery and flowers in full bloom in the background.
During the off-season, the blue water level is a little low; however, the views from the cave are still beautiful, with some yellow flowers and trees in the backdrop. Because there are few tourists, there are many spots to picnic.
If you are lucky, you may spot camels on the beach during Khareef. Guests will likely see blowholes coming near one of the viewpoints. In November, I went in the late afternoon to enjoy the sunset. There were only three other people, so we had the place ourselves. It's an excellent spot to visit, enjoy cliffs and sea views, and walk around.
The ancient site is a must-see when coming to Salalah. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was once a trading center during ancient times. Visitors will notice the frankincense trees placed around the park. Next door is the Frankincense Museum, so stop in to learn more about Dhofar. There will be information about the water Falaj system, Oman's history, and the importance of frankincense and Dhofar.
🚗 Driving around. While driving around, one will feel like Salalah is New Zealand or somewhere in Europe with the greenery during Khareef. However, the yellowish grass colors still make for some good pictures when driving around in the off-season.
🏝 Mirbat. If there is time, drive toward Mirbat to visit the water pool near the baobab trees. It was stunning in November, with the turquoise pool of water and the waterfall coming from the other side of the pool. The green trees were still there, and no other visitors were there when we went.
🥥 Coconut/banana shops. Of course, one needs to visit the coconut and banana shops. During both seasons, the prices are reasonable, and if you buy ten or more coconuts to take home, as my friend did, the shop will offer a discount.
🛍 Frankincense souq. The souq (a street market) is always open, no matter the season. The souq is available in the morning and then again from 4:30 pm onwards. The evening is a better time to go because it's livelier. During the off-season, travelers may be able to negotiate lower prices.
🍛 Restaurants. For breakfast, I recommend going to Sekah 75 to try Tawi-a flaky thin bread with filling inside, such as egg, Korous- a small pancake, and Luqaimat- similar to fried donuts. Bin Ateeq also has good Omani food. They have Qabouli - rice with meat, vegetables, and sometimes nuts, and Arsea- like a thick chicken porridge made with rice all ground up, and Harees-similar to Arsea, but cooked with a grain.
🏨 Accommodation. Book early if coming during the busy season. Many hotels and apartments book fast. The benefit of going during the off-season is that many hotels and apartments are accessible. We waited until the day before we arrived to secure something.
Whenever you decide to visit Salalah, it will be beautiful no matter what. Try to come for at least three or four days to take advantage of the many places Salalah offers.
Erin Coyle is a freelance travel writer living in Sur, Oman. Erin's work has been published in the Times of Oman, Oman Observer, Adventuress Travel Magazine, and more. Learn more about Erin at erinshotpot.com/about/