Things to do in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

, , 11 Comments

Snorkelling day trip to Ras Mohamed National Park, Red Sea, Egypt

Snorkelling clear water filled with marine life at Ras Mohamad National Park, Sinai, Egypt.

Sharm el Sheikh is one of six places I visited during 23 days of travelling alone in Egypt. Other highlights were Cairo (the Pyramids), the White Desert, Aswan, Luxor and Dahab.

Lonely Planet describes the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh as a “sterile enclave… sanitised for Western consumption, having all the charisma of a shopping mall”. Expats I’ve met in Egypt have called the town “Sharm el $hit”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know this before I arrived, because this is usually the type of place I try to avoid staying in for a long time in unless I’m taking a vacation from travel.

Luckily, my snorkelling and hiking trips with Egypt Excursions Online rescued me from the tourists hoards. Thanks to Hostelbookers, I even stayed at a charming bed and breakfast at a Bedouin village 5km away from the city.

If you ever find yourself in Sharm el Sheikh and want to escape the mass tourist crowds, here are a few ideas to consider.


View Larger Map

1. Snorkeling at Ras Mohamed National Park

Ras Mohamed National Park is a protected area on the Red Sea about 30 km south of Sharm El Sheikh. On my Ras Mohammed National Park Day Trip by Boat trip, we left from the marina in Sharm on a dive boat with about 20 divers and snorkellers and spent the entire day under the sun and looking over vibrant blue waters.

On the boat, one of the crew members briefed us on fishes we might see and fishes to be careful of, like the beautiful but venomous lionfishes. I haven’t developed the photos from my disposable underwater camera yet, but I can tell you that the visibility was incredible – even more impressive than in Koh Tao, Thailand which is hard to beat.

Marina at Sharm el Sheikh - boat to Ras Mohamed

Marina at Sharm el Sheikh - boat to Ras Mohamed National Park

Guides briefing us on the day's agenda, national park and marine life

Guides briefing us on the day's agenda, national park and marine life.

Snorkel stop during the day at Ras Mohamed

1 of the 3 snorkel stops during the day at Ras Mohamed.

Snorkel tour guide in Red Sea

One of the snorkel 'guides' in the beautiful blue water.

2. Day trip to the Coloured Canyon

This was my first time in a canyon and was impressed by both the view from above and the view of the towering rocks from below while walking through the snaking path. The canyon had layers of yellow, peach and brown colours; we occasionally came across shrubs of green vegetation and most of the ground was sand and rocks.

The hike was relatively easy, although there were sections with no steps or that required squeezing between rocks/boulders. After we started encountering these tight spaces, I spent the rest of the hike thinking about the movie 127 Hours, which is based on a true story about a solo hiker in a Utah (USA) national park who gets his forearm caught under a large boulder, and after 5 days finds the determination to self-amputate his arm with his utility knife to escape. Luckily no such incidents happened on my visit ;)

The day trip I took was Safari Trip to Coloured Canyon and Dahab and was 41 euros at the time of writing.

Snorkel tour guide in Red Sea

View of the canyon area, before we descend into canyon.

Coloured Canyon hike guide

Our Coloured Canyon hike guide.

Layers of yellow, tan, gold inside the Coloured Canyon

Layers of yellow, tan, gold inside the Coloured Canyon.

Abandoned hut just outside the canyon exit

Abandoned hut just outside the canyon exit.

3. Bedouin dinner & camel ride

The evening started with a camel ride, followed by a delicious and plentiful dinner of rice, roasted eggplant, chicken, peppers, and more. The show during dinner included belly dancing, fire twirling and other traditional Bedouin dances (see photos below). There were probably 50 other travellers there and a relaxing way to spend the evening.

See Bedouin Dinner and Camel Ride in sharm Desert for the full description of the trip.

Belly dancing performance during evening dinner

Belly dancing performance during Sharm el Sheikh evening dinner.

Traditional twirling performance during Sharm el Sheikh evening dinner

Traditional twirling performance during Sharm el Sheikh evening dinner.

4. Do nothing

I really have to thank Hostelbookers for finding me the charming guesthouse in the Bedouin village 5km outside of Sharm el Sheikh. Not only did the guesthouse made me feel right at home, they helped make my stay extra smooth by providing me a mobile phone to use during my visit.

I wasn’t planning on doing lots of “nothing,” but the warmth of this bed & breakfast reminded me of old apartment in Toronto. I ended up spending hours with the company of large mugs of tea, using WiFi and catching up on reading from my birthday reading list.

I have more photos in my Sinai Old Spices review. To book, go to Hostelbookers, a double room is about $40/night.

Bed at Sinai Old Spices B&B. Love the wall colours.

Beautiful comfy bed at Sinai Old Spices B&B. Love the wall colours.

Morning tea, yogurt and coco puffs on the terrace outside room

Morning tea, yogurt and coco puffs on the terrace outside room.

I’d definitely consider visiting Egypt again and wouldn’t hesitate to come alone. I found the area more comfortable to travel in than I expected, especially when compared to travelling in India. I’m not sure Sharm el Sheikh would be a high priority place to return to, so a big thank you to GetYourGuide and Hostelbookers for making my visit in this city more enjoyable than it would have been if I planned it on my own.

>> Do you spend a lot of time by the hotel when you visit a new city, or do prefer to venture out and explore?

Special thanks to GetYourGuide, Egypt Excursions Online and Sinai Old Spices for hosting me during my stay in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. As usual, all opinions and photos are my own.

Subscribe to Explore for a Year email updates, tweet me at twitter.com/lilyleung, or say hi on Facebook at Facebook.com/ExploreforaYear.


Other travel articles you might like

External resources on Sharm el Sheikh

email
  • Anonymous

    Who knew Egypt was THIS gorgeous!  I don’t think I’d have left the Red Sea!! ;-)

    I can’t believe you got that room for only $40 a night – what a steal…bookmarked!!!

    by the way, FANTASTIC low lighting shots! jealous.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Jen,

      I had no idea the Red Sea and the canyons were this gorgeous either. Before this trip, I thought Egypt was just Pyramids and desert – I love worldly surprises :) 

      Thanks for stopping by!
      - Lily

  • Pingback: Dahab, Egypt – How 5 Days Turned Into 9

  • http://twitter.com/swgraphic Sarah Wu

    Looks like you had  a great time from beautiful blue water to amazing rest at a cozy guesthouse. I wish I’m there right now. The room looks so beautiful is hard to believe it’s only $40/nt.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Sarah,

      I think the clear blue waters of the Red Sea were one of the unexpected highlights of my Egypt visit. I thought the Pyramids would be the most memorable, but it’s been the desert and the clear water. Having a welcoming place to stay at doesn’t hurt either, of course!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      - Lily

  • Christy

    Love your blog! I recently found it through the Jordan Tourism Board while I was researching a trip I’m really wanting to take to Egypt/Jordan. What do you think about the current fighting that has started back up again with the upcoming elections? Do you think it’s all good if I just stay away from the square? I know how it is when people see the media they always think it’s the whole country in trouble – aka Mexico. But I know from experience that it’s not like that in Mexico. Just wondering if you thought the same in Egypt.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Christy,

      When I went to Egypt (and when I checked just now) there was a travel advisory for Egypt on the Canada Foreign Affairs website. The advisory more or less says that Aswan, Luxor and the coast of Sinai are okay – which are some of the the areas most people visit. When I went to the desert, I left from Cairo, but I’m guessing there shouldn’t be as much commotion in the desert as there is in the city.

      For Cairo, you could consider staying at a hotel further from the downtown area. If you end up having to avoid that downtown area altogether, the only major “highlight” you’d miss is the Egyptian Museum which has King Tut’s tomb, but you could still make it to the Pyramids as that’s much further from Cairo. In the grand scheme of your visit, especially if you’re visiting other cities, King Tut in that museum isn’t a big deal in my opinion.

      To confirm the safety levels before I left to Egypt/Jordan, I also checked if the large tour operators (e.g. Intrepid Travel and Gap (G) Adventures) were running their trips – and they were. I figured if it really is unsafe they would modify their itineraries.

      When I was there a few weeks ago, I felt safe in all the areas I visited (Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, Sharm, Dahab – especially in Dahab) :)

      Hope that helps. Let me know if I might be able to help with anything else.Thanks for stopping by!- Lily

  • Anonymous

    I definitely want to go to Sharm el Sheikh. I want to find out why the expats call it “Sharm el money hit.” I could use a hit of money.

    Now for the serious comment part:

    I totally love chilling at a cool guesthouse and doing nothing. One of my favorite parts of travel. I spent over a week in a Chiang Mai guesthouse courtyard drinking smoothies and singhas (not at the same time) chatting with other travelers as they came in.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Ted,

      Haha, I’ve never heard of Sharm being refered to as “Sharm el money hit”, maybe because there’s a number of large casinos there? There’s lots of eastern European, particularly Russian, tourists so perhaps one of them once won the jackpot or something, ha!

      Speaking of hanging out in Chiang Mai, guess what I am at the moment for the next month? ;)

      - Lily

      • Anonymous

        Actually, you were the one who referred to Sharm being called “Sharm el money hit,” except you called it Sharm el $hit :)

        I am going to guess you will be in Chiang Mai next month? That is great. One of my favorite places.

      • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

        Haha, I was wondering after I googled “Sharm el money hit” and didn’t get results ;) Ted, you never fail to amuse, although I suppose I amused myself in this instance.I’m in Chiang Mail already, just arrived yesterday from Jordan. Are you coming back here anytime soon?

        - Lily