Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada are by far the best known resorts on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, but there are a few less crowded options with the same great beaches, world-class diving and endless sightseeing possibilities.
For clients who want a relaxing holiday with an authentically Egyptian flavour, consider the smaller resorts on what has become known as the Red Sea Riviera.
Soma Bay, Abu Soma and El Quseir are all quieter than Sharm, and for those wanting a base from which to explore, look along the Sinai coast, which runs from Sharm in the south to Taba in the north.
Its proximity to the borders of Israel and Jordan make day trips to Eilat, Jerusalem and the ancient city of Petra a possibility. Here’s our round-up of the best of the rest. All prices quoted are for travel before the end of July.
Where? An unspoilt stretch of the Red Sea coast, on a peninsula shared with Abu Soma, about 45 minutes south of Hurghada.
What’s there? Soma Bay offers pristine dive sites with untouched hard and soft corals and a variety of marine life. There are PADI dive centres, windsurfing and sailing and an epic kitesurfing spot at Kraizi Bay. There’s also a championship 18-hole golf course next to the Sheraton hotel.
What else? Nearby are the monasteries of St Paul and St Anthony, St Anthony’s Cave and the ruins of Mons Porphyrites and Claudianus Roman mines.
Sample package:Abercrombie and Kent offers seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Sheraton Soma Bay from £599 including flights. The hotel offers water sports, a health club, three restaurants, a kids’ club with pool and an 18-hole golf course.
Where? On the Aqaba Gulf, between Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba, an hour’s drive from both.
What’s there? Dahab means ‘gold’ in Arabic and the resort is named after its sandy beaches. Though relatively small, the resort is quite lively and offers a variety of souk-style shops, busy bars and restaurants, while the seafront promenade has lots of traditional shisha cafes.
What else? For much of the year Dahab is one of the world’s top five windsurfing locations and it has a number of well-known dive sites, including the Blue Hole and the Canyon. To the south of the tourist area are traditional Bedouin villages.
Where? On a peninsula on the south coast, next to Soma Bay.
What’s there? Mount Sinai provides a stunning backdrop to the resort which also boasts a long beach and crystal clear sea. It’s a hot spot for divers and there are PADI centres catering for all abilities. Cross-shore breezes also make it a great place for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
What else? There is an aquarium nearby but most activities are within the resort-style hotels, such as the InterContinental, which has a spa and health club and offers diving, tennis, windsurfing and horse riding.
The resort is just about close enough to Luxor and the ancient capital of Thebes, a three-and-a-half-hour drive away, for day trips to Egypt’s most famous temples and antiquities.
Where? On the Aqaba Gulf, about 60 miles north of Sharm el-Sheikh, an hour’s drive from Taba.
What’s there? Nuweiba is still a peaceful resort surrounded by mountains, deserts and beaches but the port area has become quite busy and Nuweiba City has a bazaar and tourist shops. There’s a Bedouin fishing village to the south and Bedouin tourist villages to the north. The diving is good and there are camel and jeep safaris into the desert.
What else? This is a good base from which to explore the Sinai coast. The Coloured Canyon and an 18th century Turkish citadel are nearby. For those wanting to go further afield, there’s a daily ferry service to the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Sample package: Longwood Holidays has seven nights’ all-inclusive at the Coral Hilton Hotel, which has a water sports and dive centre, from £445 including flights.
Where? Situated on a cluster of small islands, 19 miles north of Hurghada and 20 minutes away by car.
What’s there? Known as the ‘Little Venice’ of Egypt, El Gouna is surrounded by the lagoons of the Red Sea and is fast becoming an alternative to Sharm for water sports including diving, windsurfing and parasailing. The heart of the resort has been built in traditional Egyptian-style with inner-courtyards and winding alleyways with shops, art galleries, cafes, bars and discos.
What else? El Gouna is unusual in that it has its own brewery. The Pharaonic Museum is worth a visit and the environmentally protected island at Mahmya is a boat trip away.
Sample package:Kuoni has seven nights at the all-inclusive Three Corners Ocean View Hotel from £604 including flights and transfers. The hotel has its own diving centre (extra charges apply), two swimming pools, table tennis, darts, volleyball and organised bike rides.
Where? Approximately two hours south of Hurghada.
What’s there? Not an awful lot. Once one of Egypt’s prime trading hubs, it is now little more than a sleepy port with sandy beaches and clear waters, home to turtles, spotted stingrays, reef sharks, moray eels and more.
The resort itself is refreshingly non-commercialised, though the narrow streets are lined with colourful bazaars. The nearby sandy mountains are great for exploring by jeep, mountain bike or camel.
What else? A good diving location, coral reefs are accessible from the shore and home to rainbow coloured fish, but the varying depths of the dive sites do not suit beginners. Nearby is the Wadi Hammamat, famed for its pharaonic graffiti.
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