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Egypt's been topping travel lists left, right, and centre – from being named the second-best diving destination for 2019 to ranking 4th on the UNWTO's list of fastest-growing destinations and everything in between. While there are plenty of ideal winter destinations to visit across the globe, Egyptian winters are short and acceptably cold (depending on who you ask), so they're the perfect time to explore the country without breaking a sweat sitting down. This upcoming year isn't going to do us Egyptians any favours when it comes to national holidays, so we'll have to get creative and make use of every day off we can squeeze out of 2020 – perhaps by checking out what our own backyard has to offer?

From Siwa to Aswan and everything in between, Egypt's got plenty of beautiful destinations worth checking out this winter. 

MARSA ALAM via Abraham Zakhary

A treasure trove of natural beauty, Marsa Alam is slowly but surely becoming a popular destination for Egyptians and foreigners alike outside the summer months. Marsa Alam is a diving hub for those in the know and joined the plastic-free movement earlier this summer when it banned the use of plastic bags. The drive whether by car or bus might be a bit lengthy, but it’s totally worth it.

TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Get your diving on: If you're an avid diver, you know this already. If not, this is your chance to get that license and to start exploring those reefs. Marsa Alam boasts the most beautiful corals and reefs in Egypt.
2. Snorkel with turtles and dugongs in Abu Dabab, the dive and snorkel destination in Marsa Alam.
3. Visit Kolaan Village; the first sustainable village in Egypt, it is completely solar-powered.
4. Sail to Sataya Island where sightings of dolphins are very common.
5. Take a dip in Marsa Nayzak, a water pool that was made by a comet, just 14 km north of Marsa Alam.

LUXORvia Osiris Tours

Luxor is a gem on the Nile that was once the ancient capital of Egypt – Thebes – and it alone has one-third of the world’s ancient monuments! Full of ancient wonders and open museums, Luxor is proof of the ambition of ancient Egyptians, represented in their mammoth buildings and vast tombs. There are so many monuments in this city that you could easily spend a week exploring and soaking it all up and you still wouldn’t be able to truly see everything. Luxor is basically a huge open-air museum, and there’s no better place in Egypt to lose yourself in the wonders of the ancient world. You can take a flight to get there or take the scenic route if you take the day train; there are also sleeper trains from Cairo to Luxor if you prefer the red-eye option and are short on time.


TOP 5 THINGS TO DO:
1. Karnak: the most important place of worship during the New Kingdom with Amun Temple right at its center. Amun-Ra was the preeminent state god of Luxor.
2. Valley of the Kings and Queens: the sights of the royal burials of the Pharaohs, once referred to as the Place of Truth, Valley of the Kings has 63 magnificent royal tombs while the Valley of the Queens at least 75.
3. Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut: a dazzling almost modern-looking monument befitting a true queen.
4. Luxor Museum has a great collection of well-preserved and well-chosen antiquities dating from the end of the Old Kingdom right through to the Mamluk period.
5. Nile cruise to Aswan, which brings us to our next destination...

 

ASWAN via Cruise Mapper

Luxor and Aswan usually go hand in hand when planning a trip to Upper Egypt, but we are talking about two different experiences. Aswan is the relaxed and beautiful cousin of Luxor’s culture maverick. The Nile is wide and languorous, and it's the perfect spot to relax after the dash of temple viewing in Luxor. Aswan also boasts having the friendliest people in all of Egypt, no wonder it’s so relaxed over there.

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO:

1. Visit the Nubian Museum for a greater understanding of the Kingdom of Kush (ancient Nubia).
2. Walk around Elephantine Island for some further peace and quiet. It’s a great place to take a walk and explore the traditional Nubian villages of Koti and Siou. At the southern tip of the island you’ll also find the ruins of Abu, the oldest settlement in Aswan.
3. Wander the Botanical Gardens at Kitchiner Island, a garden of exotic plants from Asia and Africa.
4. Have a drink at the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel, a former British colonial property that is now managed by Sofitel. You’ll find pictures of former guests of the hotel such as Lady Diana, Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie, who used the hotel as a setting for her novel Death on the Nile. Catch the sunset from the terrace and thank us later.
5. And of course visit Abu Simbel, which was built by Ramses II. There are two temples at Abu Simbel – the Great Temple, dedicated to Pharaoh Ramses II, and the smaller one, for his wife Nefertari. It’s a three-hour drive so make sure to plan ahead for this excursion.

SIWA OASISSiwa is an underrated marvel of a destination and a place of serenity and tranquility. The locals are Amazigh tribes whose unique traditions and lifestyle remain untainted due to the secluded nature of the oasis. If you want an in-depth analysis of everything and everywhere you need to go in the Sunset Oasis ,check out our Ultimate Guide to Siwa. For a quick recap ,read on.

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO:

1. Bike around the oasis; this is also the ideal way to get around Siwa and it will only cost you 50 EGP/day.
2. Temple of the Oracle of Amun: The most famous historical landmark with a great view of all of Siwa, where the people of Siwa used to live before they fled after repeated attacks by Arabs and bedouins.
3. Have breakfast at Abdu Restaurant in the heart of the oasis or at Kenooz Restaurant at Shali Lodge for some unique Siwan jams not found anywhere else.
4. Catch the sunset at Fatnas Island, Taghaghein Island, or from atop Dakrour Mountain.
5. Take a dip in any of the natural hot springs.

RAS MUHAMMED NATIONAL PARK via Egypt Tours

Now, if you want to have an experience that's a little bit more adventurous, this one's for you. Located at the tip of Sinai and 12 km from Sharm El Sheikh, this is the perfect camping destination. Ras Muhammed, Egypt’s first national part, will provide you with the most important ingredient for a guaranteed unplugged experience: a priceless view. The drawback is that you’ll have to make sure to bring everything else for yourself. It has an endless list of diverse habitats; mountains, wadis, deserts, dunes, and mud planes.

TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Diving/snorkelling: The coral reefs are mostly close to the shorelines and you can check out Yolanda (which has a shipwreck) & Shark Reef.
2. See the mangrove channel by the sea.
3. Discover the various wildlife, such as birds, desert foxes, and turtles, and plant life, like herbs and acacia trees. 
4. Sleep under the stars.
5. See the great crack formations in the Earth formed by an earthquake thousands of years ago.

NUWEIBA via Pinterest

A tranquil coastal town on the eastern Sinai Peninsula, Nuweiba was historically inhabited by two Bedouin tribes – the Tarabin to the north and the Muzeina to the south. For some natural beauty and true tranquility and peace plan a trip to Nuweiba this winter.

TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Gaze at the stars at Star Beach. Whether you decide to stay there on your entire stay or just for the night, this is an activity that’s not to be missed. And if you’ve done it before, is there such a thing as seeing the stars too many times?
2. Visit the Nawamis site; circular prehistoric site of stone tombs, the bones found in the tomb are believed to be dated between 4000–3150 BCE and it is believed that the tombs themselves are younger than the bones. 
3. Climb Jebel Mousa; the hike is filled with many wondrous sights such as the magical basins filled with lush trees and shrubs, the rock of Moses, historic Byzantine chapels, Ramadan’s garden, and Farsh Loza. We recommend you do this overnight so you can watch the sunrise on top of the mountain.
4. Visit the Coloured Canyon, a dazzling rock formation on the Sinai Peninsula; if you're lucky you might catch some gaudy and hued shades on the stone’s surface.
5. Live like a Bedouin in Ain Khodra; see the remarkable contrast created when greenery meets barren land and of course mingle with the locals and have a taste of some amazing food.

DAHAB via Dahab Tours

A small beach town on the southeast coast of Sinai, Dahab has become a staple Egyptian getaway. Beyond the promenade that boasts seaside cafes and plenty of photo ops of you swinging into the sea – and hopefully not getting pushed over by that one friend, Dahab is a hop, skip, and a jump away from several adventure experiences to contrast the otherwise laid-back vibe. Before it became the ultimate diving/boho-life destination in Egypt, Dahab was only a sleepy Bedouin fishing town.

TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Ras Abu Galoum Protectorate is where you will fall in love with Dahab. Defined by its breathtaking scenery, Ras Abu Galoum is surrounded by granite mountains in contrast of ochre and blue. If you’re a plantophile, this is a great chance for you to discover the 167 species of rare desert plants.
2. Free dive in the infamous Blue Hole, a submarine sinkhole that goes 100m deep. The Arch, the 26m tunnel that leads to the open water, is considered the ultimate free-diving challenge.
3. Camel or horse riding tour: This is your chance to discover Dahab in a different way. Organize your ride just before sunset and enjoy some traditional Bedouin tea after the ride.
4. Explore your spiritual side. Not called a boho destination for nothing, there's no shortage of places that offer yoga, qi-gong, or meditation classes, and even multi-day retreats.
5. Have dinner at Zanooba Slow Cooking followed by a drink at Yalla Bar.

SAHL HASHEESH via Oberoi

A bay located on the Red Sea coast across from Sharm el Sheikh, Sahl Hasheesh is a relatively new addition to the coastal towns of Egypt. Sahl Hasheesh is more of a resort town but with an artistic edge – a go-to for some luxury r&r and home to several music festivals that take place throughout the year. It's a five-hour drive from Cairo, but you can also fly over.

TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Bike along the Old Town Corniche.
2. Snorkel in the Sunken City, a partly submerged artificial city, with an artificial reef that attracts many fish.
3. Dive in Abu Hashish Island; located at the center of the bay, it's a local protectorate containing a flourishing community of marine life. It was once used as a drop-off point for smugglers bringing hash into the country. A tongue of reef extends about 1 km south of the island.
4. Quad Biking safari in the Red Sea desert.
5. Go for a night out on the town and enjoy some live music.

FAYOUMvia Wikimedia

Only an hour and 15 minutes drive from Cairo with year-round moderate weather, Fayoum is one of Egypt’s seven oases. It is the place to be for nature lovers, rich with attractions from several different eras – Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic. There's no shortage of activities – whether natural or historic – that we had a hard time narrowing it down to five. It is definitely a worthwhile getaway spot.

TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Take a pottery class in Tunis Village, or, if you don’t want to take the leap, watch professionals do it in El-Nazla.
2. There's no shortage of sand-boarding spots in Fayoum but the most well known is Qoussour El-Arab.
3. Wadi El Hitan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is referred to as Whale Valley because of all the fossilized whale skeletons scattered across it. Make sure to also check out the Magic Lake nearby; its name is derived from the fact that it changes colour throughout the day. 
4. Go fishing in Lake Qaroun.
5. Petrified Forest: Located to the north of Lake Qaroun in Gabal Qatrani is the largest petrified forest in the world. It houses 40m high trees that have survived in ossified form for thousands of years.

BAHAREYAvia Pinterest

A truly beautiful oasis and destination that is perfect to visit in the winter. The oasis floor is covered by sprawling shady date palms, full of natural springs and offering some truly breathtaking sites that will make you feel like you’re on another planet. It’s about a 4.5-hour drive, but we think it’s totally worth it.

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO:

1. The White and Black Deserts; with names like that who wouldn’t want to go see these polar opposite sights?
2. Gebel Dist: A local landmark that’s visible from almost anywhere in the oasis, it's known for its fossils where several dinosaur bones – like the Paralititan stromeri, a large herbivore – were found in 2001. This find meant that Bahareya was likely once a swampland like the Florida Everglades.
3. Al Hayz Water Education Center: Let your nerd out and learn about water and the geology and agriculture of the Western Desert. 
4. Ain Gomma: A magnificent spring with crystal clear cool water. Bonus: there is a funky cafe right beside it.
5. El-Jaffara: A sort of mini-oasis of its own, El-Jaffara has two springs – one hot and the other cold.