Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

North of Ras Muhammad, on a beautiful natural harbour much damaged by the ill-planned building of successive occupants, is the town of Sharm El Sheikh, international gateway to the region and the hub of a series of resorts that merge into one another – Ras Muhammad (see above), Na’ama Bay, Coral Bay, Shark’s Bay (a good family resort) and Ras Nasrani. Peace Road, running a little way inland, links all the bays together (taxis and minibuses ply the route).

 

The best travel tips for visiting Sharm El Sheikh

Old Sharm lies a little way inland, as authentic a piece of Egypt as you will see on this part of the Sinai coast, with small shops on backstreets and an unhurried atmosphere: it is well worth a visit.

 

Eight kilometres (5 miles) farther on, Na’ama Bay is the centre of Sinai’s tourist boom, with hotels, restaurants, camping grounds and diving shops. It is over-developed but it makes a good base for visiting local beaches.

Some of the best for diving and snorkelling are The Tower, Ras Umm Sid, Ras Nasrani and Nabq. Equipment can be rented at one of many diving centres, where boat trips to Gazirat Tiran, an island in the middle of the straits with superb corals, can also be arranged.

Shipwrecks dot the shoreline, testifying to the difficulty of navigation between the reefs.

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Egypt Sharm el Sheikh © Shutterstock

Sharm el Sheikh © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Sharm El Sheikh

From great resorts and the lofty Mt Sinai to the Oasis of Feiran and charming Old Sharm, these are the best things to do in Sharm El Sheikh.

#1 Check out Al-Tur

Al-Tur, the capital and largest town in South Sinai, is reached after 75km (45 miles) of hot driving through a wide valley. Settled in ancient times because of its good water supply and excellent harbour, it was the chief quarantine station for pilgrims returning to Egypt from Mecca.

Modern Al-Tur, despite scattered palm groves and a beautiful beach, retains this way-station atmosphere. The town’s population is a broad ethnic mix, many of them descended from Berber and African immigrants.

#2 Discover Old Sharm

Old Sharm lies a little way inland, as authentic a piece of Egypt as you will see on this part of the Sinai coast, with small shops on backstreets and an unhurried atmosphere: it is well worth a visit.

#3 Go diving at Na’ama Bay

Na’ama Bay is the centre of Sinai’s tourist boom, with hotels, restaurants, camping grounds and diving shops. It is over-developed but it makes a good base for visiting local beaches.

Some of the best for diving and snorkelling are The Tower, Ras Umm Sid, Ras Nasrani and Nabq. Equipment can be rented at one of many diving centres, where boat trips to Gazirat Tiran, an island in the middle of the straits with superb corals, can also be arranged. Shipwrecks dot the shoreline, testifying to the difficulty of navigation between the reefs.

Naama Bay in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt © Shutterstock

Naama Bay in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt © Shutterstock

#4 Find peace at the Oasis of Feiran

The Oasis of Feiran is the largest and most fertile patch of cultivation on the peninsula. Parched for most of the year, winter rains and melting snow send down short-lived torrents to water the valley. Peppered throughout the palm groves are clusters of Bedu huts.

The wadi may have been the site of the biblical battle between the Amalakites and the Israelites. Within the mountain are the scattered remains of monasteries, chapels and hermit cells of early Christian monks who believed this to be the Elim of the Bible. Tranquil and serene, it is difficult to imagine that Feiran was a cathedral city in the Middle Ages.

Today it is spread with the ruins of dozens of ancient churches, some dating back to the 4th century AD, and you can often visit the small operating convent here with permission.

#5 Seek solace at St Catherine’s Monastery

From Feiran the road climbs into an open plain and after 32km (20 miles) reaches the settlement of St Catherine. The St Catherine’s Monastery is in a wadi between Jebel Musa – most popular candidate for the site of the delivery of the Ten Commandments – and the Jebel al-Dayr just up the hill to the south.

The Roman emperor Justinian ordered the building of a fortress-monastery on the site in AD 537 in order to protect the Sinai passes against invasion. Originally dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ, the church built within the fortress was renamed after St Catherine (a 4th-century Alexandrian martyred for her derision of Roman idol-worship), after her body miraculously appeared atop Sinai’s highest peak, apparently looking none the worse for wear.

This miracle, coupled with the Crusaders’ occupation of nearby Palestine, ensured the support of Christian rulers. The monastery’s fame spread, so that by the 14th century up to 400 monks lived there.

st-catherine-monastery-sinai-egypt-shutterstock_142326277

St. Catherine Monastery, Sinai© Shutterstock

#6 Climb Jebal Musa (Mt Sinai)

Just behind the monastery, a path leads ultimately to the summit of 2,285-metre (7,497ft) -high Jebel Musa, popularly known as Mount Sinai. There are two principal routes to the top and it takes about two-and-a-half hours each way.

The longer and less steep route, Siket El Bashait, can also be negotiated by camel (for hire in the village). The steeper, more direct route, Siket Sayidna Musa, is up the 3,750 “steps of penitence” – rough stone steps that were likely constructed in the 6th or 7th century. The climb is fairly easy, but coming down is trickier, and care should be taken.

The view from the top is magnificent, particularly at dawn or sunset. In fact, many visitors book tours that arrive at approximately 1am at the foot of the mountain in order to climb to the top to watch sunrise.

#7 Go kite-surfing in Dahab

Sediments washed down from the mountains have created a broad sandy plain hereat Dahab. An Israeli-built town on a sandy cove, it has hotels, restaurants, camping and diving facilities and a reputation as the “Ibiza of Egypt”.

It is world-renowned for its wind- and kite-surfing as reliable winds provide superb flat-water conditions inside Dahab’s sand spit. The scuba diving is also excellent thanks to coral reefs just offshore, and there are several dive schools.

Hurghada kitesurfing, Egypt © Pixabay

Kite-surfing in Dahab © Shutterstock

#8 Try snorkelling at Ras Muhammad National Park

Ras Muhammad is a coral peninsula thrusting its head into the Red Sea at the southernmost tip of the Sinai. It is a national park and one of the outstanding snorkelling and diving areas in the world.

At the Shark’s Observatory, a coral ridge falls over 80 metres (262ft) into the open sea and the wary diver or snorkeller can float along its edge (under 1 metre/3ft deep at high tide) and look out into an underwater paradise.

Best areas to stay in Sharm El Sheikh

Most of the best accommodations in Sharm El Sheikh are lined along the coastline. Here are some of the best areas to stay in the resort.

Ras Um Sid

From luxurious hotels and resorts to individual villas, beach houses, and budget apartments, Ras Um Sid caters to families, honeymooners, and groups alike. Right at the tip of the peninsula, this area offers stunning views of the Red Sea and the reefs, making it the perfect location to unwind and enjoy the tranquillity of the area.

Naama Bay

As the bustling tourist hub of Sharm El Sheikh, Naama Bay offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. From budget hotels to high-end resorts, the bay has something for everyone.

Shark's Bay

With some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in Sharm El Sheikh. Shark’s Bay has a number of luxury hotels with great views over the Red Sea.

Old Sharm

This charming historic area is more relaxed and traditional than the rest of Sharm El Sheikh and the hotels and guesthouses reflect that.

Browse the best hotels in Sharm El Sheikh.

Divers passing over soft coral. Ras Muhammad National Park, Red Sea -Sinai Penninsula © Shutterstock

Divers passing over soft coral. Ras Muhammad National Park, Red Sea -Sinai Penninsula © Shutterstock

Best restaurants and bars

Get out of your resort and you’ll find that Sharm El Sheikh is a food lover's paradise, offering a range of cuisines from traditional Egyptian street food to high-end fine dining options. Here’s where to eat.

Naama Bay is a bustling area that is home to numerous restaurants and cafes. Visitors can find a range of cuisines, including Italian, Indian, and Lebanese at Naama Bay. Most restaurants offer beautiful sea views, too.

The Old Market is a charming area and filled with street vendors selling traditional Egyptian street food. Visitors can sample authentic dishes such as shawarma, kofta, and falafel.

If you are looking for fine dining options, Soho Square is the perfect place for you. It is a trendy area that is home to many high-end restaurants, including Japanese, Italian, and French.

How to get around

Sharm El-Sheikh is a popular tourist destination for exploring the Sinai Peninsula. Getting around this coastal city can be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors, but with the right information and planning, it can be a breeze.

By taxi

Taxis are readily available in Sharm El Sheikh and can be hailed on the street or arranged through your hotel. Always negotiate the fare before getting in the taxi. Bargain hard.

By microbus

Microbuses are an inexpensive way to shoot around Sharm El Sheikh. They run from the resort to Na’ama Bay early morning until late at night and are marked with the destination in Arabic. Flag down on the street.

By car

It is possible to hire a car and private driver for smaller trips in and around Sharm El Sheikh, including tours.

By bike

Many hotels and rental shops offer bicycles for rent. Cycling is a great way to explore the resort, allowing riders to take in the sights at a leisurely pace.

Mount Sinai, Egypt © Anton Kozlovsky/Shutterstock

Mount Sinai, Egypt © Anton Kozlovsky/Shutterstock

When is the best time to visit Sharm El Sheikh?

The best time to visit Sharm El Sheikh is between October and April when the weather is mild and pleasant. During these months, temperatures range from around 20-30°C, making it ideal for outdoor activities like swimming, snorkelling, and diving.

Additionally, this period is the peak tourist season, so you can expect most activities and events to be happening during this time.

However, if you are looking for a cheaper time to visit, you can consider traveling during the shoulder season from May to September. During this time, the weather is hotter with temperatures often reaching above 35°C.

While it might be too hot for some activities, you can still enjoy the beautiful beaches and resort facilities. Additionally, prices for accommodations and flights are often cheaper during this period.

It's worth noting that during the months of November to March, the water temperatures in the Red Sea can be quite cool, so if you're planning on swimming or snorkelling, you may want to bring a wetsuit.

Find out more about the best time to visit Egypt.

Street market in Egypt. Old Market. Sharm el-Sheikh © Shutterstock

Street market in Egypt. Old Market. Sharm el-Sheikh © Shutterstock

How many days do you need here?

The number of days to spend in Sharm El Sheikh depends on what you want to do and see.

If you just want to relax on the beach and enjoy the resort amenities, 3-4 days may be enough.

However, if you want to explore the surrounding area and go on excursions, you may want to stay for a week or more, especially if you wish to hike to the summit of Mt Sinai.

How to get here

With its own international airport, it’s easy to fly into Sharm El-Sheikh but there are plenty of other ways to get here as well.

By air

Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport is the nearest airport to the resort, around a 20-minute drive to the resort centre.

By bus

There are regular bus services from Cairo and other major cities in Egypt to Sharm El-Sheikh, including Alexandria, Dahab, Luxor and Nuweiba. Note that the bus station is around 7km northwest of the resort near the ring road.

By car

If you are driving from Cairo, take the Suez Road and then the Sharm El-Sheikh Road until you reach the resort.

By ferry

There is a high-speed ferry that links Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada which takes two-and-a-half-hours and runs twice weekly.

Find out the best ways to get to Egypt.

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