Situated at the Gulf of Aqaba's mouth on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm El-Sheikh is the original Red Sea resort town. Visitors who flock to the city for a change of scene after the Egyptian interior's dusty temples can expect beautiful beaches and world-class reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving. Watersports of all kinds are the premier pastime in Sharm El-Sheikh, and after a rewarding day on or under the water, you can recount tales of your adventures in one of the city’s lively bars. Other attractions range from traditional souks to protected nature areas and eclectic religious sites.
Discover World-Class Scuba Diving
There’s something for every diver in Sharm El-Sheikh, from dramatic reef walls to colorful coral gardens, where warm water temperatures and excellent visibility make each dive a pleasure. Sharm’s marine life is exceptionally diverse, with over 1,000 fish species in addition to turtles, rays, and summer whale shark sightings. Shore diving is a great way to keep costs down, but it’s also well worth taking a boat to the world-famous reefs of the Straits of Tiran, where plunging walls offer the best chance of pelagic fish and shark sightings. Check out Emperor Divers for fun dives and PADI courses.
Dive Sharm’s Famous Shipwrecks
For advanced divers, the biggest appeal of a Sharm El-Sheikh dive trip is the area’s iconic shipwrecks. The first on most people’s bucket list is the SS Thistlegorm, arguably one of the most famous wreck diving sites on the planet. During World War II, the Thistlegorm set sail from Scotland loaded with supplies for the Allied Forces in Egypt, where it was sunk by two German bomber planes. Most of its cargo, including motorbikes, Bedford trucks, and Bren gun carriers, can still be seen onboard today. Other famous wrecks include the Cypriot cargo ship Yolanda and the British steamship SS Dunraven.
Try Your Hand at Other Watersports
If you prefer to stay on top of the water, there are plenty of other ways to get your dose of sun and sea in Sharm El-Sheikh. Most shore diving sites are also accessible to snorkelers, while boat trips take snorkelers out to the more remote Straits of Tiran and Ras Mohammed reefs. You can even admire the reefs without getting wet on a glass-bottom boat tour. For those who like more high-octane watersports, opportunities abound for banana boating, tubing, kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing, and more. Want to learn to kitesurf? Kite Addicts can teach you in just 2.5 days.
Spend the Day Relaxing on the Beach
Many of Sharm’s best beaches are located in Ras Mohammed National Park, but for sun-worshipping sessions in the city itself, Naama Bay is the most popular choice. Here, a wide stretch of golden sand fringed by restaurants, cafés, and lively resorts constitutes Sharm’s main tourist hub, a place to socialize, swim, and spend all day reading on one of the many sun loungers. Further north, Shark’s Bay is a slightly quieter and more authentic alternative, while Ras Um Sid at the southern end of town is renowned as the most rewarding shore diving and snorkeling beach in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Experience Sharm’s Eclectic Nightlife
The epicenter of the city’s nightlife is open-air nightclub Pacha, where world-renowned DJs entertain the crowds until well into the next day. Little Buddha brings Buddha Bar’s trendy sounds to this corner of the Sinai Peninsula; while Bus Stop Lounge is a more laid-back nightspot with a pool table, drink specials, and great music. If you’d rather sit back and swap dive tales over a few beers than sweat it out on the dance floor all night, head to Camel Roof Bar for the Friday night Divers Party; or sit back and admire stunning ocean views at Farsha Café.
Look for Wildlife in Ras Mohammed National Park
Encompassing 185 square miles of land and sea, Ras Mohammed National Park is the jewel in Sharm’s ecological crown. It includes the region’s best beaches and dive sites, many of which are accessible from shore. In addition, a saltwater lake, the world’s second most northerly mangrove forest, and areas of the inland desert provide a sanctuary for plenty of rare wildlife. Keep an eye out for the vulnerable Dorcas gazelle and Nubian ibex, as well as over 140 bird species, including the endangered Egyptian vulture. The park is located roughly 25 miles south of the city at the very tip of the peninsula.
Shop for Souvenirs at Sharm Old Market
For an immersion into the local culture, pay a visit to Sharm Old Market. This crowded souk sells everything you’d expect from an Egyptian bazaar, including pyramids of fragrant spices, silver jewelry, and Arabic lamps inlaid with colored glass. It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs while simultaneously honing your haggling skills. You’ll also find some of the cheapest restaurants and cafés in the city. Grab a seat and spend the evening sipping mint tea and smoking shisha while watching the rest of the world go by. The market is located in the far south of Sharm, near Al-Sahaba Mosque.
Admire the City’s Religious Sites
Although most people come to Sharm for its beaches and reefs, there are plenty of cultural sites, including several beautiful places of worship. Although completed recently in 2008, Al-Mustafa Mosque replicates the Fatimid architecture of Cairo’s iconic Al-Azhar Mosque and is particularly beautiful when illuminated at night. Al-Sahaba Mosque, located in the Old Market, cherry-picks the best architectural elements of the Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman styles, while the Coptic Heavenly Cathedral stands out for its ceiling fresco of St. John’s vision of The Apocalypse.
Sample Traditional Egyptian Food
You can find most cuisines in Sharm El-Sheikh, from Cajun to Mexican. However, if you’re keen to try something a little more local, make sure to check out the city’s Egyptian restaurants. The top-rated choice on TripAdvisor is El Kababgy, located within the Mövenpick Resort on Naama Bay. Opt for kebabs and kofta from the traditional charcoal grill, or try an authentic tagine or hawawshi (local bread stuffed with minced meat). Luxor is another Egyptian fine dining option in SOHO Square, while local favorite El Hoseni in the Old Market offers tasty staples for a fraction of the price.
Take a Day Trip to Mount Sinai
For a complete change of scene, visit Mount Sinai in the peninsula’s interior. Believed to be the mountain where God appeared to Moses to give him the Ten Commandments, it is a pilgrimage for Christians, Jews, and Muslims (Prophet Muhammad also spent time here in the late sixth century). Hike to the top of the mountain in time for sunrise via the Camel Trail or the more scenic but challenging Steps of Repentance, then pay a visit to Saint Catherine’s Monastery with its world-famous collection of religious art and manuscripts. Mount Sinai is a 2.5-hour drive from Sharm.