Sharm el Sheij

Your Practical Travel Guide to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt

Sharm el Sheikh presents a modern face of Egypt, a country that has diversified its tourism offerings to showcase its many other treasures beyond the pyramids of Giza and the monuments of ancient Egyptian civilization. This vibrant city on the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula boasts some of the world’s top vacation resorts. It offers a perfect mix of relaxation, sun, and beach, while also serving as an excellent base for numerous activities.

Little wonder then that Sharm el Sheikh has become an increasingly popular destination, especially among Western tourists, who visit either for a leisurely vacation or as a final stop on circuits through the rest of Egypt. Whatever your preference, at Egipto Exclusivo, we can tailor a package to meet your needs, complete with accommodation, transportation, and activities of your choice. To help you plan your trip, here’s all the practical information you need to know.

Table of contents

Geographic Location and Climate of Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm el Sheikh is situated at the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula, located in the South Sinai Governorate. The city is positioned in the Strait of Tiran, which faces the island of the same name, and it’s located at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba. As you look behind the city, you can observe the steep and barren mountains with a purplish tone belonging to the Mount Sinai massif, while the relentless Arabian desert encompasses everything.

The latitude of Sharm el Sheikh, almost 28ºN, corresponds to that of Middle Egypt approximately, farther south than Cairo. As Sharm el Sheikh is a coastal city, one would expect a moderating effect on the extreme heat, but the effect of the desert in which it is located has a more significant impact on the temperatures. Sharm el Sheikh has a BWh (hot desert) climate classification, similar to the rest of the country, but with higher values than other areas. Here are the meteorological values you should take into account:

  • Average maximum temperatures: above 37ºC in the summer months and slightly above 20ºC in winter. Some heat peaks can raise the mercury beyond 45ºC.
  • Average minimum temperatures: in summer, they do not drop below 26ºC, while in winter, they remain around 15ºC. In December, January, or February, they can fall below 10ºC exceptionally.
  • Temperature range: it is less pronounced than in other cities in the Nile Valley, around 10ºC between day and night and 15ºC between winter and summer.
  • Annual precipitation: almost non-existent, with barely 2.2 mm, indicating that it hardly ever rains.
  • Water temperature: around 28ºC in summer and around 23ºC in winter.
  • Maximum ultraviolet index: really high in summer, above 10 on average.

Taking into account all these meteorological data, it can be concluded that the ideal time to visit Sharm el Sheikh is autumn, winter, and the early stages of spring, although hotels and activities are open year-round. 

Ubicación Sharm el Sheij

History of Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm el Sheikh has little in common with the rich history of Egypt. While Egyptian civilization dates back over 5,000 years, the city itself only dates back half a century. Until the mid-20th century, there were only a few fishermen’s houses here, with no trace of ancient Egyptian buildings or links to early Christian tradition, unlike other parts of the Sinai Peninsula.

As a result of the Arab-Israeli conflicts of the mid-20th century, Israel annexed the entire Sinai Peninsula. In 1982, it was returned to Egypt as agreed in the Camp David Accords, which marked a turning point for Sharm el Sheikh. The Egyptian government implemented a new tourism policy, building on some of the experiences Israel had during its occupation.

This new policy transformed the Red Sea coasts and Sinai, making Sharm el Sheikh one of the most popular destinations in the region. With a population exceeding 70,000, most of whom work in the tourism industry, the city offers a range of attractions including water activities, conferences, luxury shopping centers, and more.

Despite having experienced terrorism in the past, Sharm el Sheikh has managed to cultivate a climate of tolerance and respect, earning the nickname “the city of peace.” As a result, it has been the site of various peace summits between Israeli and Arab representatives, sometimes with Palestine as a backdrop.

Playa de Sharm el Sheij

What to See in Sharm el Sheikh

As you can see in the following section, the key question in Sharm el Sheikh is not “what to see?” but “what to do?” Given its non-existent ancient history, there are virtually no buildings of interest from a historical-artistic point of view. Therefore, a good part of tourism focuses on leisure activities.

However, Sharm el Sheikh has also aimed to promote cultural tourism among its visitors, at least for those who wish to satisfy their curiosity between swims. In this sense, the following proposals can be mentioned:

  • Sharm Museum: It is the newest of all, housed in a modern newly-built building. However, its content is the oldest, as it showcases a selection of pieces from Ancient Egypt. For example, two boats from Sesostris III (19th century BC, 12th dynasty, Middle Kingdom), from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which are displayed in rooms designed expressly to contain them. Or mummified animals, such as birds, found in a peculiar Saqqara necropolis destined for this purpose.
  • King Tut Museum: Taking advantage of the international appeal of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (14th century BC, 18th dynasty, New Kingdom), this museum was opened, in which replicas of pieces that made up the treasure found in 1922 in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings of Luxor, now in the Grand Egyptian Museum of Giza, are exhibited. Its museographic design is modern, with audiovisual displays during the visit.
  • Al Sahaba Mosque: It is the main religious temple in the city. Its construction is modern, but there is an attempt to mix three of the most representative Islamic styles in the country: the Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman.

What to Do in Sharm el Sheikh: A Privileged Sea

Many tourists visit Sharm el Sheikh to either relax and do nothing or to make the most of their days with various activities. If you’re looking to relax, the numerous beachfront resorts are perfect for resting and cooling off with a swim from time to time. It’s an excellent plan for those who want to disconnect from a busy work season.

But if you’re already energized, Sharm el Sheikh offers an enormous range of activities, with the Red Sea as the protagonist. The sea is the main attraction and provides a wide variety of high-quality water sports. Expert instructors and equipment can be easily found at nearby rental shops. Here are some of the main water sports you can try:

Diving in Sharm el Sheikh

The crystal-clear waters that surround the coast and the abundance of fish make diving the top attraction in Sharm el Sheikh. The location offers ideal circumstances to enjoy this sport in all its varieties and at all levels.

The most popular diving spots are Near Garden, Middle Garden, and Far Garden, which can be accessed by boat as they are about 8 km from the port. Middle Garden is the easiest dive site and is perfect for beginners. It is located at the Hyatt Hotel and is sheltered from wind and waves, with a sandy bottom at a maximum depth of 14 meters. Near Garden is slightly more challenging but offers a breathtaking underwater mountain chain.

Far Garden is the most famous spot and reaches a depth of around 40 meters. It features the magical “cathedral,” a rocky protrusion full of corals that attracts many divers. Turtles, reef sharks, the odonus niger, and gorgonians are all easily spotted in these waters. Other popular diving locations off the coasts of Sharm el Sheikh include Ras Um Sid, Amphoras, and Tower.

Another popular option for visitors to Sharm el Sheikh is to take a day trip to other remote but equally stunning locations. The most prominent among them is Ras Muhammad National Park, situated at the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The park’s most iconic site is the Marsa Bareika peninsula, where more than 200 species of coral, including about 125 soft coral species, and over a thousand species of fish, starfish, mollusks, and crustaceans thrive in its waters.

About 50 km north of the Marsa Bareika bay lies Tiran Island, which is also part of the Ras Muhammad National Park. While not all parts of the island are accessible, visitors can explore the famous Thomas Reef and Gordon Reef. The latter is home to oceanic whitetip sharks, mantas, and several species of fish, including parrotfish, trumpetfish, and coral bannerfish.

For those who prefer a more comfortable approach to observing the marine life or lack the physical ability to dive, there are semi-submarine boats available that depart from Sharm el Sheikh. These boats have a glass-bottomed hull, allowing passengers to admire the richness of the natural ecosystem without exerting any effort.

Buceo en Sharm el Sheij

Other Water Sports in Sharm el Sheikh

Diving is not the only water sport you can enjoy in Sharm el Sheikh. The area also offers great conditions for other activities, particularly wind-related sports. For instance, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and wakeboarding are popular in the Nabq Bay area, located north of the city.

Furthermore, the Sharm el Sheikh marina, situated to the south of the city, provides opportunities for sailing. Here, you can rent different types of boats to explore the surrounding waters or book excursions with a skipper to discover the area.

Excursión en barco en Sharm el Sheikh

Leisure Options in Sharm el Sheikh

As a city that heavily relies on tourism, Sharm el Sheikh offers plenty of leisure options for visitors of all ages and preferences. There are several attractions that cater specifically to families with children. Cleo Park, the city’s main water park, is one such option, with a range of slides, waterfalls, and pools of various sizes, all designed with an Ancient Egyptian theme.

For children, pirate-themed boat rides are also available, along with activities like face painting. Additionally, entertainment venues that offer shows suitable for the entire family, such as Alf Leila Wa Leila (One Thousand and One Nights), can also be found in the city.

Visitors who are not traveling with children can explore other high-end options in Sharm el Sheikh, such as Naama Center, one of the city’s primary shopping destinations, where you can find well-known brands like Hard Rock Cafe, alongside local souvenir shops offering a mix of tradition and luxury. Soho Square is another notable leisure center, featuring a bowling alley, nightclub, and a variety of dining options.

Lastly, Sharm el Sheikh’s casino scene is one of the most extensive in the country, with several options like Casino Royale, Aladin Casino, and Sinai Grand Casino, among others.

Excursions From Sharm el Sheikh

For travelers with plenty of time in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt has much to offer in its surroundings. In the Sinai Peninsula, there are places of great cultural interest that can be visited on day trips. Among the favorites by tourists are the following:

Excursion Church and monastery in Saint Catherine

Monastery of Saint Catherine

The Monastery of Saint Catherine is one of the most fascinating places to visit in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, especially for those interested in history and art. It is located just over 200 km away and takes about 2.5 hours to get there from Sharm el Sheikh, although it is recommended to plan a separate day trip to Mount Sinai, which is nearby, to fully experience the sacred mountain.

The monastery, also known as Deir Sant Katreen, was founded in the 6th century AD and is located at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was built on the site where Empress Saint Helena had ordered a chapel to be built, commemorating the place where, according to tradition, Moses had the biblical episode of the burning bush. As it became a place of pilgrimage, a monastery was constructed during the time of Emperor Justinian, with the appearance of a fortress to provide greater protection.

Although the monastery received its name from Saint Catherine, the martyrdom of this saint actually took place in Alexandria with a toothed wheel. According to legend, her body was transported by angels to Mount Saint Catherine, which is located next to Mount Sinai and is the highest peak in all of Egypt (2,642 meters above sea level). The monastery also includes a mosque, which was built by a Bedouin who worked for the monks and serves as an excellent example of interreligious dialogue.

As the monastery is still functioning, not all of its spaces are open to visitors. However, the most significant areas that can be visited include the Basilica of the Transfiguration, the Well of Moses, the Burning Bush, and the Library. For more information on these locations, you can visit the page dedicated to the Santa Catalina oasis.

Excursion to Sinaí from Sharm el Sheikh

Mount Sinai

From the Monastery of Saint Catherine, visitors can admire the imposing and beautiful rocky shapes of Mount Sinai. But for those seeking a spiritual and tourist experience, climbing to the summit is a must to witness the transcendental events that the Bible relates.

The mountain is revered not only by Christians but also by Muslims and Jews, who call it Mount Horeb or Mount Yahweh. According to the Old Testament, this is where Moses received the Tablets of the Ten Commandments from God after praying for 40 days.

While spending 40 days here is not feasible for most visitors, many choose to spend the night and witness the breathtaking sunrise from the summit. However, it’s essential to come well prepared for the cold night and bring warm clothing and a sleeping bag (camping is not allowed) to combat the extremely low temperatures of the night and the cold wind of the summit, typical of its desert and mountainous climate.

There are two options to reach the summit. The first is to climb the almost 4,000 Steps of Repentance on foot, which requires good physical condition. The alternative is a more manageable path that joins in the final stretch of the steps. Visitors can also hire Bedouins with camels to carry them, although the last few hundred steps must be done on foot.

Symbolic places on the route include the Gate of Confession, where a monk used to confess to pilgrims, and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity at the summit, which is of Greek Orthodox worship but is unfortunately closed to visitors.

Wadi Feiran Oasis

Wadi Feiran is one of the most significant oases in the southern Sinai Peninsula, with a link to the story of Moses. According to the biblical account, when Moses and his people were in exodus, he struck a rock here, and water flowed out to quench the thirst of the weary group.

The oasis is located about 200 km from Sharm el-Sheikh, taking a little over two hours by car to reach. Today, it is a small settlement with archaeological remains from the early Christian era and buildings of interest for religious pilgrims, such as the modest Monastery of the Seven Girls, surrounded by palm trees. From a nearby elevation called Jabel Tehuna, you can have a panoramic view of the place, similar to what Moses witnessed. Some theories suggest that Moses watched the battle between Amalekites and Israelites from this viewpoint, although there is no consensus on this.

Serabit el-Khadim

Ancient Egypt enthusiasts vacationing in Sharm el-Sheikh have the option to not only visit the Sharm Museum and the King Tut Museum but also to take a tour related to that civilization and see the remains of Serabit el-Khadim.

This archaeological site, located just over two hours by car from Sharm el-Sheikh, was a mining area that was exploited during the Middle Kingdom to extract turquoise. For this reason, a religious temple was built at this settlement where, among other deities, the goddess of turquoise, Baalat, was venerated. However, the temple, which has pillars and stone blocks with engravings that have been preserved, was mainly dedicated to Hathor and Sopedu. The latter was the protector of the eastern frontier of Ancient Egypt.

Practical Information About Sharm el-Sheikh

If you’re planning a trip to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, here’s some practical information to help you make the most of your vacation:

How to Get to Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm el Sheikh’s location on the southern Sinai Peninsula, away from large crowds and with access to the Red Sea and Arabian desert, make it an ideal vacation destination to disconnect.

The city has excellent air connections with Egypt and the rest of the world, with numerous direct airline routes available throughout the year. Sharm el Sheikh International Airport is conveniently located near the city center, about 15 km away, and even closer to some vacation resorts in the north. Over a dozen companies, both Egyptian and foreign, operate at this airport, including Air Cairo, EgyptAir, Nile Air, Flynas, easyJet, and Holiday Europe.

These are the main regular routes that are usually available throughout the year:

  • Egypt: Alexandria, Cairo, Hurghada
  • Rest of the world: Bergamo, Bologna, Rome, Verona, Milan, Naples (Italy), Tbilisi (Georgia), Warsaw, Katowice (Poland), Yerevan (Armenia), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Zurich (Switzerland), Cologne, Hanover (Germany), Kuwait (Kuwait), London, Birmingham, Manchester (United Kingdom), Jeddah, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Amman (Jordan), Istanbul (Turkey), Brussels, Charleroi, Bruges (Belgium), Eindhoven (Netherlands)

In addition, there is a long list of seasonal or charter flights designed to provide comfortable and direct service to tourists on specific dates. Although this list is subject to change, it is helpful to be aware of the range of possibilities:

  • Seasonal: Cairo, Luxor (Egypt), Amman (Jordan), Beirut (Lebanon), Bucharest, Cluj (Romania), Chisinau (Moldova), Riga (Latvia), Bergamo, Milan, Verona, Bari, Bologna, Catania, Naples, Rome, Venice (Italy), Tirana (Albania), Belgrade (Serbia), Baku (Azerbaijan), Kharkiv, Odessa, Zaporizhzhia (Ukraine), Nuremberg, Leipzig, Berlin (Germany), London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield, Cardiff, East Midlands (United Kingdom), Zurich (Switzerland), Medina, Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Katowice, Warsaw, Poznan (Poland), Chisinau (Moldova), Vilnius (Belarus), Baghdad (Iraq), Kuwait (Kuwait), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Tallinn (Estonia), Bratislava (Slovakia), Brno, Ostrava, Prague (Czech Republic), Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Aktau, Aktobe, Karaganda, Oral, Taraz, Shymkent, Kostanay, Oskemen (Kazakhstan)
  • Charter: Almaty, Nursultan (Kazakhstan), Kiev, Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), Brest, Grodno, Gomel, Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk (Belarus), Billund, Copenhagen (Denmark), Almaty, Nursultan (Kazakhstan)

 

The distance of Sharm el Sheikh from other countries makes ground transportation an uncomfortable option for reaching this destination. There is no train service available, and the bus lines that do operate are mainly national, connecting Sharm el Sheikh with nearby cities and primarily with Cairo. However, intercity bus options are not commonly used by tourists. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that regular bus services depart from here to some of Egypt’s major tourist cities, such as Cairo, Giza, Luxor, Alexandria, Marsa Alam, and Assiut. If you plan to travel by bus to Giza, expect to pay around 225 LE.

Moreover, the Sharm el Sheikh seaport has recently been expanded, and regular passenger lines are now available. However, it is currently not connected to other countries, and the only operational line is between this city and Hurghada, which is also located in Egypt.

How to Get Around Sharm el Sheikh

When it comes to getting around Sharm el Sheikh, taxis are more convenient than urban buses and other shared means of transportation such as minibuses, as is the case throughout Egypt. The public transportation network in this city is very limited, with fares around 2 LE, although foreigners may be charged more. Expect to pay around 20 LE for a taxi ride from Naarma Bay to the center of Sharm el Sheikh.

Car rental services are available in Sharm el Sheikh, with branches of large international companies. However, it’s worth noting that Egipto Exclusivo offers personalized transportation services with high-end vehicles and drivers at your disposal, making it easier for you to move between your hotel and various points of interest.

Tourist Information Offices in Sharm el Sheikh

En Sharm el Sheij no hay oficinas de información turística: ni en el aeropuerto ni en el centro de la ciudad. Sin embargo, dado el carácter turístico de esta ciudad, las recepciones de cada hotel han asumido esta función. Por tanto, si tienes alguna duda de última hora o necesitas algún mapa o folleto, puedes acudir a los empleados de tu resort para preguntar.

Y si prefieres tenerlo todo atado de antemano, con un profesional que te sirva de enlace en tu propio idioma, ponte en contacto con Egipto Exclusivo para disponer de un concierge o un guía, que os podrá acompañar cuando lo necesitéis, proporcionando información útil al instante.

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