Years ago, Sharm el Sheikh lost its charm and authenticity to become a typical beach resort destination. But despite the downsides this implies, that doesn’t mean it should be avoided completely. It’s a great place for a laid back holiday, beautiful scenery, with day trips and excursions to nearby hotspots.
Most hotels are situated around Na’ama Bay, the tourist trap where everything happens. Bars, restaurants, beaches, parties and that constant hassling you get from people trying to persuade you to come into their cafe or shop. This is where most tourists go, and it’s certainly not the place to be.
When I went, I stayed at the Ritz Carlton, which is a little further out, and ended up being perfect for exactly that reason. Although the hotel itself is not up to Ritz Carlton standard, it is away from the crowd with a private beach and beautiful pool area. There is a shuttle bus that goes to Na’ama Bay several times a day, but there are lots of taxis that you can take as well. Be prepared to haggle. As a rule, whatever price you get quoted, half it. At the least. Whenever getting a taxi to the Ritz Carlton, I would always ask for a price to Om el Seed, the area, rather than naming the hotel. It makes you look like you know where you are going and you will get a better price.
Here are five things to do in Sharm el Sheikh:
Na’ama Bay | If you do decide to stay close to town and go to Na’ama Bay, relax at one of the many outdoor bars where you can smoke a water pipe in all sorts of flavours. Tip: Do try to get one with clean water. The sellers will probably resist – water is scarce and they reuse it. Obviously this effects the taste, and for the price you are paying, you should be getting fresh water.
Coloured Canyon | The hike through the Coloured Canyon is beautiful and the scenery unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This rock formation spans almost 800m and is made out of different stones with a variety of hues. It gets very hot and busy in the afternoon, so go early.
Ras Mohammed National Park | Ras Mohammed National Park has beautiful coral reefs and going snorkelling when you are in Egypt is most definitely a must. I had never snorkelled before and to be honest, I was not excited about looking at a bunch of fish. But once I got the hang of the whole snorkelling technique (for some reason, opening my eyes underwater whilst breathing just did not register in my head and it took me about 30 minutes before I managed to do it) I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. It was probably my favourite experience out of the whole trip. The reef is sadly getting ruined by the huge amounts of tourists stepping on it, but it was nevertheless gorgeous and the fish were magnificent. Beyond that, the national park is stunning. We even managed to stop off at a further few spots to look and swim in the clear blue water. Tip: Bring or buy your own snorkelling gear. It doesn’t have to be high quality or expensive. The tour operators will bring you to shops where you can hire a mask and snorkels, but they are likely to be tired and let in water.
Quad Biking | There are a lot of places that offer quad biking trips around the Sinai Mountains, so do some research. Generally, you ride into the desert, where you will stop at a bedouin tent for some authentic tea. I had never driven anything, apart from a bicycle, so it was a bit scary and compelling simultaneously. We left at an awkward time in the afternoon – when we rested for tea, the sun had gone down and we couldn’t enjoy the trip back. It was very dark and didn’t feel safe. Also keep in mind the toilet situation (if there is one at all) is always questionable. Bring some toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
Petra, Jordan | A day trip to Petra in Jordan is long (you leave your hotel around 2.30AM on an organised tour) and tiring but a great opportunity to see this wondrous city carved out of stone. If you can do the trek privately, then do it. With a tour, you are tied to a schedule and the restaurants you are taken to. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just not very adventurous or exciting. I would’ve loved to have more time to walk around the city, but that wasn’t an option. Make sure you dress modestly. The city is, by now, very used to the throngs of tourists wearing very little, but the area remains conservative so covering up out of respect is the best thing to do. See my Photo Diary of Petra here.