Located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, between Tiran Island and Ras Mohammed National Park, Sharm el-Sheikh features some of the world’s most amazing underwater scenery. The crystal-clear waters, rare and lovely reefs and an incredible variety of exotic fish darting in and out of the colorful coral have made this a snorkeling and scuba-diving paradise. In a prime position on the coast, incorporating the two adjacent coves of Na'ama Bay and Sharm al-Maya, the purpose-built resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is a tourism boom town devoted to sun-and-sea holidays that draws in legions of European holidaymakers every year on all-inclusive tour packages.
For families who want to bring the little ones to Egypt for a beach holiday, and package-travelers looking to mix resort comfort with world-class diving, Sharm covers all bases. If it was not for the chain of jagged desert mountains that rim the western edge of town, most visitors here could easily forget they are in Egypt. Sharm el-Sheikh's international restaurants and private hotel beaches make it an unashamed pleasure-seeking European enclave on the edge of Sinai.
Top tourist attractions:
Ras Mohammed National park: This Park is what initially put Sharm el-Sheikh on the tourist map. Surrounded by some of the world’s most incredible dives, this peninsula is home to glorious beaches with excellent snorkeling just offshore, the world’s second most northerly mangrove forest and a salt water lake. Travelers seeking a good view should head to the Shark Observatory Cliff top right on the southern edge of Ras Mohammed where views stretch across both sides of the Red sea.
Na’ama bay: Fringed by a white sand beach and swaying palm trees, Na’ama Bay is the epicenter of Sharm el-Sheikh's resort life. There are plentiful restaurants, cafés, and souvenir stores, but Na’ama Bay is all about the beach. For those looking for a holiday full of sloth-like sunbathing, this is one of Egypt's top choices. The entire beach area has excellent facilities including ample sun-shades and loungers, and beachside cafés.
Shark’s Bay: Further north from Naama Bay is slightly more exclusive Shark’s Bay, which has some of Sharm el-Sheikh’s most luxurious five-star resorts and hotels clustered across its sweep of sand.
Jolanda reef: Also called as Yolanda Reef, this is one of the most popular dive sites in the northern section of the Red Sea, and lies within the Ras Mohammed Marine Park. Divers flock here to explore the remains of the Jolanda, an old Cypriot freighter ship from 1980. Jolanda Reef also encompasses the coral walls of Shark Reef with its huge numbers of fish life and enchanting coral gardens.
Ras Um Sid beach and reef: One of Sharm el-Sheikh’s best beaches is Ras Um Sid, right at the southern tail of the town, near the lighthouse. Here, people slouch on the beach between snorkeling trips into the water where an excellent coral reef is just offshore. Further away from the sand, Ras Um Sid Reef is perfect for first-time forays into diving and is used as a try-dive site by many local dive operators.
Jackson reef: In the straits of Tiran between the Sinai Peninsula and the southern tip of Saudi Arabia, Jackson Reef is one of Sharm el-Sheikh’s prime dive sites. There are masses of large plastic fish to be seen and is one of the Red Sea’s top spots for shark sightings. The reef is also home to the wreck of the Lara, and exploring this freighter ship wreckage adds an extra element to this dive.
Gardens: At the Northern end of Na’ama Bay, the Gardens Reefs stretch out just offshore from the coast. This reef system is actually three different snorkeling and diving sites: Near Garden, home to a lovely chain of pinnacles; Middle Garden, a fringing ridge that gently slopes down to a bed of sandy 'trails'; and Far Garden, home to the 'Cathedral’, a colorful overhang in deep water.
Thomas reef: Part of the Tiran straits set of dive sites, Thomas reef offers incredible underwater vistas of soft coral and vast schools of fish. It is a deep wall reef dive that is popular with experienced divers for the fantastic array of colored coral on display.
Sharm Old Market: Also known as Sharm al-Maya, this market is the town’s souq area where twinkling Arabic lamps, traditional shisha pipes and finely engraved woodwork can be found in abundance. It is best to come at sunset or later when the worst heat of the day has dissipated and you can shop and browse in comfort. The area is full of cheap and cheerful restaurants and cafes.
Nabq Protectorate: North of Sharm el-Sheikh, Nabq Protectorate is a coastal desert landscape of arid beauty and home to the world’s most northerly mangrove forest. The landscape here is a vista of sand dunes, lonely beaches and arak bushes and is one of Egypt’s most important protected wilderness sites with huge amount of birdlife as well as endemic gazelles and ibexes.
Day trips from Sharm el-Sheikh
Saint Catherine’s Monastery: The Sinai Peninsula’s top historical destination, St. Catherine’s Monastery sits at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments. One of the oldest working monasteries in the world, this Greek Orthodox hermitage is home to the famous ‘burning bush’ of the Old Testament as well as glittering collection of religious icons and ancient manuscripts that are revered as one of the finest in the world. A day trip here is a must for any history-lover staying in Sharm el-Sheikh and can also include a hike up to the summit of Mt. Sinai.
Dahab: Sinai’s backpacker beach resort and a chilled-out alternative to the holiday package feel of Sharm el-Sheikh. Along the shore is a huge number of casual restaurants and cafes while a cute shopping district winds its way up to the main highway in a jumble of souvenir shops. Diving and snorkeling takes place here which is why most people come to Dahab.
The Blue Hole: Sinai’s most notorious dive site is the Blue Hole, and people come from far and wide just to dive. Despite the site’s reputation for danger, divers who stick within sensible limits are perfectly safe here, and the fish life and incredible vistas of ethereal blue make this an incredibly beautiful place to dive.
Colored Canyon: The swirling mineral-rich layered rock formations of this canyon are one of the Sinai’s top out-of-the-water natural attractions. It is a showcase of the natural beauty of the desert with plenty of opportunities for scrambling around the rock faces and hiking fun. For nature lovers, this is an opportunity to explore the bizarrely shaped pinnacles and boulders, which have been brushed with shimmering red and orange hues making for some fantastic photography.