The Sinai Peninsula is a small but significant region, spanning 25,000 sq km of desert landscape. The terrain varies from granite mountains in the south to dunes in the north, with a central plateau in between. The Sinai serves as a buffer zone between Asia and Africa and separates the two halves of the Arab world. Despite its rich history, archaeological exploration of the few prehistoric, ancient and mediaeval remains has only just begun. Debates among biblical geographers over routes and sites have resulted in a mixture of fact and fantasy.
Travel tips for visiting Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula may be a beautiful region with a rich history, but it is also a volatile area. It is important to remain aware of the security situation when visiting. Recently, there have been terrorist attacks linked to Islamic extremism targeting tourists in the region.
These attacks have affected Taba, Nuweiba, Sharm El Sheikh, and Dahab. Furthermore, there has been a spate of violent incidents in the Sinai following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, which has been referred to as the Sinai Insurgency.
While security in the resort towns is steadily improving, it is still recommended to check the latest travel advisories before visiting and to avoid travel to northern Sinai, where many of the local attacks are presently taking place.
If you do choose to visit the Sinai, it is advisable to stay in touch with local authorities and tour operators to ensure you are aware of any security risks. Be cautious when travelling, avoid travelling alone or at night, and keep a low profile in public places.
It is also recommended to keep your valuables, such as passports and money, in a secure location and not to leave them unattended in public.
The Sinai Peninsula may be a beautiful and fascinating destination, but it is important to remain vigilant and informed about the security situation. By taking the necessary precautions, you can still enjoy all that the region has to offer while ensuring your safety.
Best things to do in Sinai
From exploring ancient landmarks like St. Catherine's Monastery to snorkelling in the limpid waters of Ras Muhammad National Park, these are the best things to do in Sinai Peninsula.
#1 Lay back on the soft sands of Ras Sedr
A small town located on the western coast of the Sinai Peninsula, Ras Sedr is known for its soft sandy beaches, warm waters and laid-back atmosphere. As such, many Cairenes have holiday homes here.
Unlike the Gulf of Aqaba on Sinai's east coast, the Gulf of Suez is shallow and sandy-bottomed, with abundant marine life and many water sports on offer. Moon Beach, specifically, is one of Egypt's top wind- and kite-surfing destinations.
Diving and snorkelling are also popular. More sedate visitors can enjoy miles of golden sands stretching along the Red Sea for sunbathing, swimming or relaxing under a beach umbrella.
#2 Relax in Hammam Fara’un
Hammam Fara'un, also known as "Pharaoh's Baths'', is a popular attraction located 20 km north of Ras Sedr. The hot springs are known for producing boiling-hot mineral-rich waters that bubble from the base of the mountains and flow into the sea.
The seven springs are believed to have therapeutic properties and are a popular spot for Egyptian families. According to local Bedouins, the waters are said to cure rheumatism.
The area around the hot springs is also home to a few small cafes and restaurants, where visitors can enjoy a meal while taking in the serene natural beauty of the surroundings. Hammam Fara'un is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a relaxing and therapeutic experience in the Sinai Peninsula.
#3 Marvel at the Feiran Oasis
The lush oasis of Feiran is the largest and most fertile patch 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. 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.
#4 Visit the ancient St Catherine’s Monastery
The St Catherine’s Monastery is an ancient fortress monastery located in a wadi between Jebel Musa and the Jebel al-Dayr in Egypt. The monastery’s church, built by the order of Justinian in AD 527, is basilical in form and features great granite columns supporting the nave.
The church houses treasures such as 6th-century mosaics portraying the Transfiguration of Christ and side aisles lined with chapels decorated with ancient and modern icons. A small alcove in the sanctuary opens into the Chapel of the Burning Bush, where God spoke to Moses from a flaming shrub.
The monastery's other treasures include a library of rare manuscripts and a museum containing a superb collection of icons, but these are off-limits to visitors without a letter of introduction. As the world’s oldest Christian monastery still in use for its initial function, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 2000s.
#5 Snorkel Ras Muhammad’s coral peninsula
A national park located at the southernmost tip of the Sinai, Ras Muhammad’s coral peninsula is a haven for snorkelers and divers as it offers some of the best snorkelling and diving spots in the world.
The Shark's Observatory is a popular attraction where a coral ridge drops over 80 metres (262ft) into the open sea, providing a spectacular view of an underwater paradise. Snorkelers and divers can float along the edge of the coral ridge, which is under 1 metre (3ft) deep at high tide, and witness a stunning variety of marine life.
The area is known for its diverse and colourful corals, schools of tropical fish, and various species of sharks. Ras Muhammad is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the beauty and wonder of the Red Sea's underwater world.
#6 Stay over at the great Sharm El Sheikh
Sharm El Sheikh is the region’s international gateway and the hub of a series of resorts that merge into one another – Ras Muhammad, 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).
There are numerous diving and snorkelling sites, including the renowned Ras Mohammed National Park. Visitors can also take a camel safari or quad bike tour through the nearby desert.
The city's traditional markets – such as Old Market and SOHO Square – offer a wide range of handicrafts and souvenirs. Visitors can also explore the nearby Nabq Protected Area, home to the northernmost mangrove forests in the world. At night, Sharm El Sheikh comes alive, with a variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
#7 Chill out at Nuweiba
Nuweiba is a laid-back resort town located 75km (45 miles) north of Sharm el-Sheikh. Offering cheap accommodation in beachside reed huts and relaxed al fresco cafes, it’s the sort of place you come for a peaceful getaway. However, the reefs here are not as good as further south, so diving and snorkelling may not be as impressive.
Nuweiba is an important port town that serves as a gateway to Jordan: AB Maritime operates a daily passenger and car ferry to Aqaba, making it easy to travel between Egypt and Jordan without transiting through Israel. The ferry ride itself is an experience, offering memorable views of the Red Sea and the surrounding landscapes.
#8 Use Taba as a cross-border base
A small Egyptian town located 60km (37 miles) near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, Taba is the location of Egypt's border crossing with neighbouring Eilat in Israel.
Although traditionally popular with Israelis, Taba has been blighted with terrorism incidents in recent decades, including the 2004 bombing of the Hilton Hotel and the bombing of a coach in 2014.
However, if you are entering Egypt overland from Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Taba has all the facilities you could need. Despite its troubled history, Taba is a convenient stop for travellers, and there are onward buses and long-distance taxis available.
Best areas to stay in Sinai
Home to Egypt's most popular resort, Sharm El Sheikh, Senai attracts both beach-goers and adventure-seekers and has a great variety of places to stay.
Sharm El Sheikh
Sharm El Sheikh boasts an abundance of upscale hotels and luxury mega-resorts, as well as a selection of smaller mid-range hotels combined with dive centres.
For those on a budget, Dahab offers an array of budget-friendly guesthouses and basic beach camps.
Ras Mohammed National Park
If you're looking for an authentic outdoor experience in Sinai, it is possible to camp in Ras Mohammed National Park.
Best restaurants and bars
Sinai has a plethora of dining options, ranging from international cuisine to traditional Egyptian fare, with the best places to eat found in Sharm El-Sheikh. Coastal towns like Dahab and Nuweiba have particularly good seafood, too.
Sharm El Sheikh
Although most will eat at their resort, Sharm El-Sheikh has a diverse restaurant scene, with options ranging from upscale fine dining to casual beachside eateries. Seafood is particularly popular here.
Dahab's food scene is characterised by its laid-back vibe and excellent sea views.
The liveliest nightlife area in Sharm El-Sheikh, Na'ama Bay has beach bars along the promenade as well as several bars and shisha cafes.
How to get around
Getting around Sinai is fairly easy, with a lot of regular public transport and plenty of options.
By hire car
Lots of reputable, international car rental companies have offices in Sinai, though driving in Egypt can be a honking nightmare at times.
Most of the major cities are covered by the bus network which has regular daily departures.
Microbuses run along the Sinai Coast, including from Sharm El Sheikh to Na’ama Bay.
Some towns, like Dahab, can be navigated by bicycle. Hotels can source wheels.
Sinai has numerous taxi operators. Most are found in Sharm El Sheikh through Dahab, Nuweiba and the beach camps all have their own fleets.
How many days do you need in Sinai?
If you're interested in exploring the natural beauty of the area, including the mountains and the Red Sea, then 3-4 days might be sufficient.
You can spend one day climbing Mount Sinai, one day exploring the desert and Bedouin culture, and one or two days relaxing by the beach and snorkelling in the Red Sea.
If you want to delve deeper into the history and culture of the region, you may need more time. The Sinai has a rich history, with ancient sites such as St. Catherine's Monastery, the Colored Canyon, and the Nabatean Temple of Hathor, among others. In this case, 5-7 days may be more appropriate.
Ultimately, the number of days you need in Sinai will depend on your interests, budget, and schedule. It's best to research the activities and attractions you want to see beforehand and plan your itinerary accordingly.
Looking for inspiration for your trip? Talk to our Egypt travel experts.
Best time to visit Sinai
The best time to visit Sinai is during the cooler months of the year, from November to March, when temperatures are milder and more comfortable for outdoor activities. During this time, daytime temperatures are usually around 20-25°C (68-77°F), with cooler evenings and nights.
During the summer months from May to September, temperatures in Sinai can reach up to 40°C (104°F) or higher, making outdoor activities uncomfortable and even dangerous. Additionally, the peak summer months are also the busiest tourist season, which can result in crowded beaches and attractions.
If you're planning to climb Mount Sinai, the best time to do so is in the early morning or late afternoon, as temperatures are cooler and the views are more spectacular during sunrise and sunset.
It's also worth noting that Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is observed in Sinai and throughout Egypt. During this time, many restaurants and cafes may be closed during the day, and some activities may be limited or restricted. It's best to plan ahead and be aware of the local customs and traditions during this time.
Find out more about the best time to visit Egypt.
How to get here
International flights are now limited in Sinai, though it's possible to travel via Cairo. Here's how to get to Sinai.
Most flights were suspended from Sharm El Sheikh International Airport after a Russian airliner was attacked in 2015, although some airlines from the Middle East and Eastern Europe are now returning.
There are regular buses between Cairo and all the major towns of Sinai.
Find out the best ways to get to Egypt.