Wadi Bani Awf & Snake Canyon

Wadi Bani Awf (وادي بني عوف), also spelled Wadi Bani Awuf, is a large wadi in wilayat Al Rustaq in the South Batinah Governorate of Oman. The wadi covers a large area with several villages and lots of cool attractions worth visiting, including the well-known Snake Canyon! Wadi Bani Awf offers some of the best off-road driving you experience in Oman – with beautiful scenery and stunning cliffs and canyons throughout. The route connects several villages, including the scenic Balad Sayat village, and extends across the Hajar Mountains portion separating Al Batinah from Al Dakhiliyah region.

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You can’t refer to Wadi Bani Awf as a single attraction due to the large area it encompasses and the many attractions to visit. In this post I will highlight the mountain crossing route, which connects Al Batinah to Al Dakhiliyah. Wadi Bani Awf is most famous for being home to the popular Snake Canyon – you can refer to my other post for more information about it – but here I will briefly talk about another small canyon known as the Little Snake Canyon.

We referred  to the Oman Off-road Guide during our visit to Wadi Bani Awf – which is a great book by the way and one that I recommend for anyone wanting to explore Oman with their 4WD car.

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Wadi Bani Awf and the Mountain Crossing to Dakhiliyah

You enter Wadi Bani Awf by turning on the signpost off pointing to it from the NakhalAl Rustaq road, after Al Awabi (العوابي). The road is paved until the village of Al Tikhah (الطيخة) after which it becomes graded as your drive deeper into the wadi but still at level ground and normal elevation .

There are spots you can stop and see but the first place we stopped was a few kilometers after the village of Al Tikhah where the track opens up to an expanse of wadi rocks. On your right you will notice a small canyon opening through the rocks to a small route. Here is a good spot for anyone wanting to camp as there are a few trees offering good shade, but obviously you need to be aware of the risk of flash floods. We explored the route hoping to find some water, but it was completely dry although the rocks we found there were just amazing. We wish we had a geologist with us to tell us how they form, but these rocks were like wood panels, and made some really stunning formations. Do check out MJ McMahon’s website for geological explanation of some of these formations, some great information there!

Wadi Bani Awf

Further the graded road you will come across an intersection with signboards pointing to various villages, you will need to take the left turn pointing towards Balad Sayt and Al Hamra. The right turn takes you eventually to Wadi Al Sahtan (وادي السحتن) (also takes you to the stunning village of Wajmah (وجمه), which I need to write about in a different post!). From here it is a ~3 km until you see the entrance to the Little Snake Canyon (on your right) and another ~5km until you reach the village of Al Zamah (الزامة)– you will get to see quite a bit of palms and farms along the way.

From Al Zamah village onwards, the proper mountain path starts which is the toughest portion of the drive and extends all the way to an area refereed to as the Eastern Mountain (الجبل الشرقي) by the locals or Sharaf Al Alamein (شرف العلمين) area in Al Dakhiliyah passing through several other villages. This path is quite steep with really tight bends on tough terrain – so not only is a 4WD a must, but you should also be confident driver, and able to use your car’s 4WD capability functionality to ensure your safety and the safety of others along the path – especially keeping an eye out on incoming traffic. The elevation change from start to end is something like 600m to 2,000m towards the end at Sharaf Al Alamein.

I advise against attempting this portion if you have not driven on mountain paths before or you are not confident on your ability to do so (I do offer Wadi Bani Awf Crossing as one of my tours if you like to have a guide take you there :))

Having said that, once you have the driving sorted out and while the driver is concentrating on the road – you will be get to see some of the most stunning scenery in Oman along the drive. This includes the narrow gorge of the Snake Canyon, with its ‘Left‘ and ‘Right‘ forks clearly visible from the road, as well as the location where they converge. After that, you will see the turn-off to Balad Sayt village as the road continues to climb up before encountering one of the most scenic football fields in Oman – the ‘Audi Balad Sayt Football Field’ referred to as such because Audi had placed the artificial turf on the football field used by the village (they did that for a commercial which you can check out on YouTube here).

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From Balad Sayt it is a couple more kilometers until you pass Hatt village (قرية هاط), which has a small pool and canyon view (I am unsure if it is possible to access Snake Canyon from here though!) and a few more to Al Hajir village (قرية الحاجر) after which the road starts to get much steeper as the elevation continues to go up until you reach Sharaf Al Alamein at about 2,000m, and the graded road ends. On the way to and at Sharaf Al Alamein you will get to have some stunning views of the road you just took, the villages – and if you really squint you can even see the Audi Balad Sayt Football Field! You can also barely make-up the satellites stations at the peak of Jabal Shams.

Sharaf Al Alamein is a popular area for people to camp (the locals call the area Eastern Mountain) and there are some suitable flat areas for camping, the temperature is more pleasant at higher elevation (it hits low-to-mid 20°C in summer when it is +40°C at Al Hamra), and the amazing cliff-side views of the Wadi Bani Awf. After Sharaf Al Alamein it is approximately 30km drive to Al Hamra, with a steep mountain descent portion (but at least this is on paved road).

Obviously, the Wadi Bani Awf mountain crossing can also be done in the reverse of how I described it – starting from Al Hamra and ending at Al Batinah side. I really love this mountain crossing – despite the toll it takes on my car -and it is one I definitely recommend for you to try if you want to get a feel of the mountains and canyons in Oman, and love the thrill of driving on mountain paths!

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The Little Snake Canyon

The Little Snake Canyon (location on Google Maps link below) is covered on both sides with very high cliffs giving you a perspective of the vastness of this place. There are some huge boulder stones and small waterfalls that you need to scramble through as you trek but the coolest place is the long water pool approximately 45 min to 1 hour from the start of your trek. This ‘zig-zag’ pool is almost 50m long and is probably the narrowest point of the Little Snake Canyon, it was really fun swimming there but also really cold (in December during my first visit) because the place gets little sunshine due to the narrow cliffs covering it! Unfortunately, the water level is extremely dependent on rainfall, and it can be dry for extended periods of time – in my subsequent visits since my first there was so little water that this pool was almost completely dry!

The Little Snake Canyon may not have amazing waterfalls or places to jump in the pools (unlike Wadi Shab or the proper Snake Canyon) but it is a fun place to visit, and because of the relatively short trek – it is a good spot to stop and explore during your crossing of Wadi Bani Awf. Please keep in mind that many of the boulder stones here are super smooth and can be very slippery, so do have proper footwear and be prepared just like a trip to any other wadi in Oman.

Wadi Bani Awf
Can you spot the person in black shirt?

Wadi Bani Awf Wadi Bani Awf Wadi Bani Awf

Al Zamah Village and the Snake Canyon (Wadi Bimah)

Wadi Bimah (aka the Snake Canyon) is a proper canyoning adventure that you should probably attempt only with a guide if it is your first time. It involves jumping into several water pools that you are unable to climb back from, and you will be exiting the canyon at another end from where you being with (near Al Zamah village) – I have written about it in detail in my other post here.

How To Get To Wadi Bani Awf

Wadi Bani Awf can be reached either from Al Batinah side or Al Dakhiliyah side as is a tough and steep road where a 4WD car is a must. Even with a 4WD, if you are not confident driving on steep mountain paths then please ensure you go with an experienced driver.

If you’re coming from Muscat, drive towards Nakhal towards Al Rustaq and turn into Wadi Bani Awf after Al Awabi village. From Al Dakhiliyah side, you will need to drive to Al Hamra and take the turn to the right just at the roundabout right before the village (the one after the roundabout where Shell Petrol Station is) – from there follow the signposts towards Balad Sayt as you drive between the houses and village farms.

The Little Snake Canyon is ~20 kms from the turn into Wadi Bani Awf from Al Batinah side, and you can find it by going forward past the signpost pointing to Balad Sayat at the intersection, you won’t miss a large canyon on the rocks to your right ~3kms after the signpost.

All the locations are highlighted in Google Maps below:

View Wadi Bani Awf | OmanTripper in a larger map

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55 replies on “Wadi Bani Awf & Snake Canyon”

Dear Ali,
You are doing a brilliant job of spreading the love of nature with your blog & photos! I am in Dubai for past 14 years & how I wish I was in Oman instead!!! You are lucky to have such beautiful places around.

Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the kind words Milind 🙂 We’re just trying to show beauty of Oman and make it easier for people to visit and explore new places. Dubai is only ~500 kms away, so weekend trips are very doable 😉 Thanks for your support.

HI Ali,

Thank you for all your posts… I am in Oman these for 3 weeks and your blogs are helping me alot… Good job buddy.

Amazing shots , I am really impressed
With the nature and your efforts in showing
All of us the beauty of this country.
God bless

We did it last year in October from Al-Hamra to Al Awabi: it took 4 hours, including a short visit to Bilat Sayed.
Glad we did it, but I wouldn’t do it again!!


Winter time would be the best time to visit in my opinion (Nov-Feb), but you have to be prepared as it can surprisingly cold especially since if you’re swimming in the water. You also need to check the forecast beforehand since the area can flood easily if there’s rain.



I love the layout of your website/blog!

You mentioned you wished you had a geologist with you. I am working on a virtual filed trip of Oman Geology and have posted a few high resolution zoomable images from Wadi Bani Awf with explanations which might be helpful.

Wadi Bani Awf:

Other Oman geology images are available for view at:

The images at this web page are not in any particular order, but the virtual field trip, due out in 2016, will put all the images in context.



Hi Michelle,

That is amazing, thank you for sharing the information with us. I’ve put a link to the images in the post.

I look forward to checking out the virtual field trip when its out!


I’m visiting Oman again for a week. Thinking about trek in Snake Canyon. Does it require any special equipment? Could you please send me a GPS location of start and end point? How long does that trek take?

BTW, I also run the travel & photo blog and have some posts and photos from my last Oman trip (2013), unfortunately only in Polish at the time. If you’re interested in some informations, ask me anything :-).

Regards, Szymon

Hi Szymon,

Great photos on your blog, I’ve shared it on our facebook page.

Unfortunately I do not have exact GPS coordinates of the whole trek, the information from the google maps I posted are as close as I could locate it (I believe the Oman Off-road book had the coordinates but I don’t have it with me now to check sorry!). As for equipment, I understand you should take safety helmets, ropes and harnesses to be safe, as well as personal flotation devices. I advise you go with someone who knows the place or with a tour company (Oman Dive and Adventure centre arranges trips there and provide necessary equipment).

Let us know how it goes and enjoy the visit 🙂

Start of snake canyon: 23 deg 21.41 N , 57 deg 23.04 E

Don’t have the figures for the exit but if you leave a vehicle someone in Az Zammah you’ll be fine. As for kit, well, it depends on the individual I guess. Sandals and swimming trunks at one end of the scale, right up to full mountain exploring kit at the other! Just know that everything will get wet so dry bags are required if you want to take your camera. I’m doing it for the first time next month but have been discussing it in detail with the ex-pat who’s running it.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

(Did Wadi Bani Awf last weekend, absolutely fab. Highlight was leaving the car and waking through the canyons to the village of Balad Sayt, once again don’t try it if you don’t like getting wet!)

Thanks for posting this information Stephen. That sounds fantastic, and looks like you are well prepared to take on the canyon! Are you going with guides or doing it with friends? Let us know how it goes 🙂
I am yet to do Snake Canyon myself and really hope to be able to do it sometime in November (when I am back permanently in Oman).

OK did the canyon last weekend. Fantastic fun but the water level was a little low. We took a climbing rope and needed it three times. Without it we’d have had to turn around almost straight away. We didn’t use a guide but every adult bloke (4 of us) is ex-military so has done this sort of thing before. I’d be happy to take people now but the first time I recommend going with someone who’s done it before. You jump into the wrong pool and you’re going to break your legs! The guys who brought their young daughters made them wear helmets but no-one else did. One point of note, you must be a confident swimmer even wearing boots, rucksacks etc. Even with a low water level there were parts were you had to swim and there was nowhere to rest. With the channel dropping to a few feet wide if somebody panics then things can get unpleasant very quickly!


I have done plenty of climbing before and am set to head to do the Upper Canyon walk next weekend, weather permitting. I have a 60m rope and a range of belay kit out with me, is this enough? Are there belays set up? (eg some not too old climbing tat) Is 60m long enough, eg a 30m double rope, to get down the drops? It looks amazing and can’t wait.


Many thanks for sharing your experience with the Snake Canyon Stephen. It’s good to keep in mind that it’s not a straightforward place to explore and good preperation must be done before attempting it! Your description makes me want to visit the place even more, but I definitely need to find a guide. Perhaps let me know if you attempt another trip soon and if you’re looking for others to join 🙂

Hi Nathalie,
I wouldn’t recommend doing the trip with toddlers. Even the drive might be too bumpy for them!

Would like to know how much a guide would cost and if anyone could recommend a good guide. Sis and I would love to try it for the Christmas hols. Thanks.

Hi Evita,

I realize this is not useful now as its after couple of months from your question, but I hope you managed to find a tour guide for your visit! (I had issues with receiving comment notification and only got to read your comment today).


May I use your photo of the entrance to Wadi Bani Auf and Snake Canyon? It is for a book I am writing about the years I spent in the Middle East. Wadi Bani Auf was a favourite place, near our temporary home at Rustaq. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Jane,

Apologies as I had been extremly busy and haven’t been able to see comments on the blog for the past couple of months. You can contact me on my email about the photo you want to use, I can provide a higher resolution image for your use.


Hi there,
we (3 persons) will come over to oman beginning of february and would like to go the snake canyon mid of february. anyone with similiar plans in that time to do it together ?
any good guides to recommend ?

greetings, kevin

Hey Kevin,

Apologies for delay to get back to you, I had issues with receiving comment notifications. Did you manage to go to the snake canyon?


Hello we want to do the trip on our own (without the guide) – of course with 4×4 car is it safe? I am a bit scared 🙂 how long usually the trip take, thanks a lot

Hi Lenka,
With a 4×4 you should be fine, but please remember it depends on the weather conditions. Make sure you check the forecast before you go as you don’t want to be there when its raining! The length of time depends on what you want to see. If you just want to do the crossing by car (something which I haven’t actually done completely myself as I only went from one side half-way and returned), I’d say allow at least 2-2.5 hours 🙂

Hope that helps,

Hi Alimsk thanks a lot, can u recommend some page for weather forecast where we can check(if there is some omanian page…) recently, there have been some floods so we have to be careful…we are going next friday…i have one more question regarding malaria risk, i have read something about that, do you thunk its risky? Thanks a lot

Hi Lenka,

The best source to get weather updates is from the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA), you can check this link: but also check their twitter account as they update regularly there:

In addition, it is worth checking with The Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance (PACDA) if you’re worried, but I can’t find their English website, their contact details can be found at the bottom of this page:

Regarding Malaria, I honestly don’t have any idea but its not something that I am aware to be an issue 🙂

Let me know how the trip goes, I am actually hoping to go there too in the coming weeks 🙂

Hope that helps,

Hi Julie,

I haven’t actually done the full crossing to be honest, only did a bit from both sides. But if I was to cross it I’d allow 2-2.5 hours for the crossing 🙂


If you are planning to drive the complete route, check the weather and that the road has been repaired.

We tried to cross from Nakhal to Nizwa using Wadi Bani Awf on the 8th March using a 4×4. The weather was sunny but it had rained the previous day. Several parts of the track had water in them, some quite deep and the track was difficult to follow in some places. We managed to visit Balad Sayt and then carried on towards Hat and the paved road at Sharaf Al Alamyn. Just past the falaj, we were stopped by some local people who told us that the track was impassable. They had abandoned their 4×4 and were walking to Hat. We decided to turn around and go back. a lucky decision as the area had the worst storm in living memory 30 minutes after we left the wadi.

The new Explorer Oman Off-Road book is on sale at the WH Smith shop in the airport’s Arrivals area after customs, priced at 23 Rials. Well worth getting.

Hi Linda,

Glad you hear you made it out there safely, it is a very dangerous to be if you’re there during floods!

And I definitely second the Oman Off-road explorer book recommendation, its a great guide!


Hi Leon,

Unfortunately, the only people I’m aware of who do the guide are the guys at Muscat Diving and Adventure Center. You can google and find out their details. I am in the look-out myself for any other guides organizing trips there as I am yet to explore it properly!


Jus need a suggestion….There are two ways to reach Bilad Sayt…one is via wadi bani awf (Rustaq route) and the other one is via Nizwa route…Which is the best route (safe route) to reach bilad sayt???
I am planning this weekend…..Somebody please let me know…

Hi Mali,

I hope someone can help you with that question 🙂 I attempted part of the route from either side without completing it, from my experience the one from Al Hamra/Dakhiliyah side was a bit more difficult. But please keep in mind that from that route I managed to visit Balad Sayt, while when I drove though Wadi Bani Awf I did not make it all the way to Balad Sayt (because I didn’t have enough time), so I am not sure if the road gets harder.

Hope this helps!

The nizwa one is safer of the two and you will descend down to Bilad Sayt. It does require a proper 4×4 though. For the other route you will need to ascend upto Bilad Sayt when you start from wadi abni auwf. Its dangerous for sure and you will need to tip ur 4×4 on side of the mountain to let an oncoming vehicle pass (its so narrow) but it will reward you with the best views of the Al Hajar range.

There’s a lovely walk through the waterfall gorge to Bilad Sayt. It’s more exciting when one has to wade through water, but spectacular even with only a little water. Coming from Wadi Bani Awf to Hat you will pass the road to Bilad Sayt, but ignore that and carry on ’til you see a cliff to your right and a gorge to your left. Go towards the cliff and you will see the waterfall. There is a steep path up the side of it to the gorge on top. Many locals use the route and frankly, if there’s a lot of water, you need to see how they go through/around it. Trekking poles are useful to keep one’s balance.
Oman is a fabulous place. My husband has lived there for 28 years and I visit every Xmas. If you want a pretty wadi to walk up which isn’t known to many, try Wadi Qurai. You can walk along much of it on the side of a falaj.

hi there,

I m planning to be there this weekend and i would like to know if the road from As Awadi to Al Hamra via Bald Sayt is difficult or not for an average driver. I know it’s difficult to answer but any held would be very helpful.


Hi Aleks,

The road is quite tough with lots of steep hills. I do not think you need to be an exceptional drive to go through it, but you need to be comfortable driving off-road and on steep hills, so if you haven’t done this sort of driving before then it will likely be more difficult for you. Otherwise, you just need to drive safely, and know how to use the 4WD functions of your car.

Hope that helps!

Hi Ali

I am intending to go tomorrow with a friend, is it easy to find from Sohar with the satnav?
Chokran jazeelan

Hi Joerg,

Both ways are equally beautiful, the direction depends on what is your plan for the day, e.g. Start from Al Awabi side if you want to continue your journey to Al Dakhiliyah (Al Hamra, Jabal Shams, etc.).

But all things equal, I’d probably start from Al Hamra side to avoid the steep ascent from Balad Sayt to Al Sharaf (which is quite tough). Keeping in mind that the descent is equally steep and tough, but using low gears etc and you can manage. So I’d take that option.

Hope this makes sense?


Assalam Alaikum, Dear Ali

Keep up the excellent job. Truly love your blog. It helps a lot Alhumdulillah.

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