Marsa Alam is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists seeking unforgettable diving experiences. Like other coastal cities along the Red Sea, such as Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh, or Dahab, Marsa Alam offers unbeatable diving conditions. However, Marsa Alam also offers an added attraction: a greater sense of tranquility and connection with the surrounding nature, such as in the nearby Wadi El Gemal National Park.
While it is true that many tourist developments have been initiated in recent years, not all of them have been completed due to various circumstances. However, Marsa Alam’s great aspiration is sustainability: to promote tourism that grows in harmony with nature and not in spite of it. In this travel guide, we will provide you with information on what to do in this emerging destination and how to organize your trip. Seeking the assistance of Egipto Exclusivo will make your journey much easier.
Marsa Alam is situated in the Red Sea Governorate, approximately 250 km from Shalateen, which marks the border with Sudan. It can be considered the southernmost tourist destination on the Egyptian coast. However, Berenice, which we will mention below, is even closer to the border limit (about 100 km).
Compared to other cities on the Red Sea, Marsa Alam is quieter and smaller, with only several tens of thousands of inhabitants. Its population fluctuates depending on the flow of visitors it receives.
The city’s latitude is 25ºN, which is practically the same as Edfu, about 220 km away by road and the closest city in the Nile Valley. However, the climate is noticeably different due to the waters of the Red Sea, which slightly temper the temperatures in Marsa Alam and minimize the torrid desert climate that dominates inland. Here are some values that may serve as a reference:
Sunshine is very high due to the permanently clear skies, and solar incidence is very high due to the city’s southern latitude. It is crucial to protect yourself well with sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat for your head, and bottled water for good hydration.
When you visit Marsa Alam as a tourist, you’ll quickly notice that the main attractions are related to what you can do, rather than what you can see. This small, peripheral locality doesn’t have any notable historical or artistic monuments in its urban area. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Marsa Alam began to gain recognition.
The opening of its international airport marked the beginning of Marsa Alam’s popularity as a destination, with diving in the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea being the main attraction. As a result, numerous accommodations have emerged, though they aren’t as focused on the resort concept as in Hurghada. Additionally, many specialized companies offer a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the main ones to consider during your trip to Marsa Alam:
Diving in Marsa Alam is undoubtedly the highlight of this tourist destination. The reason: the numerous diving spots or simply snorkeling from the surface. Some of these spots are extraordinary coral reefs located practically next to the shore. In fact, you have to be careful when approaching many of them, as divers can unintentionally step on them.
But don’t worry, the instructors you dive with in Marsa Alam will give you instructions about it. These instructors are available for all levels and work for companies that can provide you with all the necessary equipment. Egipto Exclusivo can book this service and the best equipment for you.
There is a huge variety of species that you can see when diving in Marsa Alam, including masked fish, clownfish, parrotfish, and Napoleon fish. Larger species such as hammerhead sharks, fox sharks, dolphins, green sea turtles, and spectacular dugongs can also be spotted, although their presence often depends on the season of the year in which you travel.
As for the diving spots in Marsa Alam, there are several outstanding options to choose from. Here are some of the most notable:
Diving is not the only way to enjoy the Red Sea in Marsa Alam, as there are many other options available, such as boat rides. There are different types of boats, offering various experiences to visitors. For those interested in the underwater world, semi-submarines are an excellent option. These boats have a glassed-in hull that allows you to admire the shallow layers of the sea without getting wet, making it an ideal option for families with children.
For those who want to go deeper, submarines can take you several tens of meters down into the water, offering a wider range of marine fauna and flora to observe, including the coral reefs. Many companies in Marsa Alam offer special packages on board, with explanations in different languages, which can be arranged through Egipto Exclusivo.
Marsa Alam also has a marina, allowing tourists to board traditional boats for trips around the Red Sea. You can visit nearby islands, other coastal cities like Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh, or even go to strategic spots for dolphin watching. Boat rides are undoubtedly one of the favorite activities for visitors to Marsa Alam, with large populations of these friendly cetaceans present in the area.
One of the unique attractions of tourism in Marsa Alam is the opportunity to explore the Eastern Desert of Egypt through various routes. There are two main ways to do this: by motor vehicles or on camelback.
For those who prefer motor vehicles, 4×4 jeeps are the popular choice as they offer speed and safety to go further into the desert. Alternatively, visitors can opt for quads and other individual off-road vehicles to experience the thrill of driving themselves.
On the other hand, camel routes provide an authentic cultural experience for tourists in Marsa Alam. Led by Bedouin guides, visitors can interact with these iconic animals while learning more about Bedouin culture. The experience often includes visiting desert farms and tasting traditional tea and other gastronomic products, making it a unique and enriching adventure.
In addition to diving, Marsa Alam offers excellent conditions for two other exciting water activities – kitesurfing and windsurfing.
With many windy days throughout the year, particularly from March to May and July to September, and its calm, shallow, and crystal-clear waters, the beaches of Marsa Alam are perfect for these activities. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, there are several companies and professionals that offer services and equipment for all levels, which our agency can arrange for you.
If you have extra time to explore Marsa Alam, taking full-day excursions to other places can enrich your trip. These excursions can focus on the natural beauty of the area, or they can include a cultural component that is often present in tours around the country.
For those who have extra days to explore Marsa Alam, taking full-day excursions to other places can enrich your trip. Some of these excursions focus on the natural beauty of the area, while others include a cultural component that is often present in tours around the country.
Wadi el Gemal National Park, located about 50 km south of Marsa Alam, offers an interesting excursion to discover why this seemingly arid and inhospitable place hides such a surprising ecosystem. The protected natural area spans about 50 km in a straight line along the coast, with untouched beaches that have yet to be exploited by mass tourism. Some tourist resorts have been built along the road leading here, but some are designed with ecological and Bedouin tastes.
One of the main attractions of Wadi el Gemal National Park is the mangroves found in some of its beaches, such as Qulaan Mangrove Beach. The trees themselves are a true natural wonder, both for their beauty and uniqueness. In this area, there are examples of the Avicenna Marina species, which have great salt tolerance and grow with water surrounding them, almost like a miracle of nature.
Inland, taking a safari with professional guides and vehicles adapted to the terrain may be an interesting option. The tour may combine a vehicle ride with trekking to reach certain points of interest, such as remains of ancient settlements or elevated viewpoints to enjoy the surrounding panorama.
Wadi Sikai is a fascinating site located within the Wadi El Gemal National Park, and it holds a significant historical and cultural importance. This ancient mine was known for its extraction of precious emeralds and was popular during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The mine operated until the Arab domination of the Middle Ages, and it is believed that the original purpose of the communication route between Marsa Alam and Edfu was to transport these luxurious gemstones.
Myos Hormos, a coastal settlement, is related to this activity, and it could have been used for the export of emeralds. Wadi Sikai is one of the ten mines in the mining complex called Mons Smaragdus, which was significant during Roman times. Today, the main attraction at Wadi Sikai is a Ptolemaic temple that is carved into the rock of the mountain. However, reaching this place is not easy, and it is essential to have professional guides who know the area well. Therefore, some tourism companies in Marsa Alam organize excursions to this site with all the necessary safety measures.
Berenice is a small town located about 150 km south of Marsa Alam. Although its tourism industry is still in its early stages, the country is strongly investing in its takeoff. Recently, a new international airport has been completed, which we will discuss in more detail below, and numerous excavations are being carried out that could yield visitable deposits in the future. In the past, Berenice was a Roman port of some importance that was partly dedicated to the export of minerals, like its neighbor Myos Hormos. Combining these historical aspects with the established diving tourism in Marsa Alam, Berenice could become an increasingly popular destination in the Red Sea circuit.
For day trips, visiting Berenice could be a plus for those who wish to delve into diving, with spots like Hamata, or to enjoy newly built resorts with paradisiacal beaches nearby, as in Wadi Lami. It also offers possibilities for kitesurfing, an activity that is becoming increasingly popular among travelers.
For travelers who visit Marsa Alam and don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore some of the most famous places of Ancient Egypt, there are plenty of full-day excursions available. While the city’s airport offers a variety of flight options to other parts of the country, the easiest and most popular way to explore Egypt’s cultural gems is to travel by car to the two closest cities in the Nile Valley: Edfu and Aswan. Both cities offer a wealth of cultural and historical attractions, and are often included in Nile cruises.
Edfu is the closest and easiest to reach from Marsa Alam, with just 220 km separating the two cities by road. The most impressive attraction in Edfu is the Ptolemaic temple, which boasts stunning architecture and intriguing secrets that can be discovered with the help of an expert guide.
Aswan, on the other hand, is a bit further away from Marsa Alam, with a distance of around 360 km by road. However, many travelers find the journey well worth it, as Aswan is home to a range of top-level attractions such as the island deposits of Elephantine and the Nubian villages. For more information on these destinations, check out our pages dedicated to Edfu and Aswan.
If you’re planning a tourist trip to Marsa Alam, here is some useful information to help you plan your stay and make the most of your experience once you arrive.
Tourism in Marsa Alam experienced a significant change with the opening of its international airport a couple of decades ago. The airport is located about 60 km north of the city and also serves other Red Sea coastal towns like Quseer. It has allowed a humble coastal town to become a popular holiday destination, especially for diving enthusiasts. Marsa Alam is directly connected with other cities in Egypt and various countries on different continents. Below is a list of usual connections:
Additionally, Marsa Alam now has a second international airport called the Berenice Airport. It is located on the outskirts of the town of the same name, approximately 150 km south of Marsa Alam. Although it is a recently completed infrastructure, it still has limited air traffic. However, it is expected that new routes with other cities will be opened in the near future. We recommend that you also consider this option.
On the other hand, road transportation is another viable option to reach Marsa Alam. This is particularly common for tourists coming from other parts of the country, especially those who take Nile cruises. Our agency often offers Nile cruises departing from Edfu and ending in Aswan, which are the nearest and best-connected cities in the Nile Valley to Marsa Alam. Therefore, it is common for travelers to enjoy a cruise on the legendary river and then head to a Red Sea holiday destination for a few days of relaxation. The distances and travel durations by road are as follows:
Moreover, it is also possible to reach Marsa Alam by sea, particularly in private boats from other Red Sea points that share the same attraction for diving. Marsa Alam is not too far from Hurghada and Sharm El Sheij, so it can be part of a program of this type.
Getting around Marsa Alam is best done via a private vehicle with a driver, especially for tourists visiting the city and its various points of interest. This mode of transportation offers the most comfort and security as the service conditions can be agreed upon in advance, and there is a wide availability of transportation schedules.
Taxis can also be found waiting for passengers at the airport, where several car rental offices are also located. However, due to the city’s small size and lack of a dense network of urban lines, buses are not a viable option for travelers. The long distances between accommodations, the airport, and places of interest, such as diving spots and beaches, make it difficult to move around exclusively on foot or by bike.
Marsa Alam is not a city with a central tourist district, so there are no official tourist offices in the area. However, most hotels have reception areas where guests can request information about the region and obtain maps of the area or directories of services.
For those who prefer to rely on professional services, we recommend turning to experienced local agencies like Egipto Exclusivo. Our agency can assist with all aspects of your vacation, including accommodation, meals, transportation, guided tours, and diving courses in Marsa Alam and its surroundings. Contact us to ensure that every detail of your trip is taken care of and that you have a stress-free and enjoyable holiday!