The Red Sea Riviera is one of the most popular short-haul destinations for British holidaymakers – and for good reason. Fantastic beaches, beautiful blue seas, year-round sunshine and a wide selection of affordable accommodation mean it offers a great-value beach holiday.Red Sea snorkelling | from Pure Offers
Popular playgrounds such as Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Hurghada have been joined by new purpose-built resorts such as El-Gouna, Taba Heights, Marsa Alam, Safaga and El Quseir, each with their own distinct characteristics.
The Red Sea is also renowned for its world-famous dive sites. If you’re a novice, many of the larger hotels have on-site dive centres and operators offer cheap learn-to-dive packages. For more experienced divers, live-aboard cruises are available to more remote, challenging and unspoilt reefs.
Other activities include snorkelling, horse riding, sailing, golf, quad biking, camel treks and spas. From families to couples, there’s something for everyone on the Red Sea.
Getting there/getting around the Red Sea
British Airways offers scheduled flights to Hurghada and Sharm, while there has been a growth in flights from UK regional airports to a number of other resorts.
Once you’re there, taxis are cheap and widely available in the resorts. Day trips are offered from many resorts offering swimming, diving and snorkelling.
Beaches on the Red Sea
On the Sinai peninsula, most hotels in ever-popular Sharm boast their own stretch of private beach. Further up the coast, Dahab attracts divers, windsurfers and holidaymakers looking for a quieter, less crowded atmosphere, although burgeoning hotel expansion here means this may not be the case for long. Nuweiba and Taba Heights boast luxury hotels.
Elsewhere, privately-owned El-Gounaoffers affordable three-star and self-catering accommodation close to the lively marina. The beach is long, narrow and stony in places but has plenty of shallow waters which are great for kids.
Nearby Hurghada is a bit tatty compared to glittering neighbours such as Safaga, El Quseir, Makadi Bay, Soma Bay and Sahl Hasheesh.Further south, Marsa Alam has benefited from the opening of a new airport and is a growing resort. It is also the gateway to live-aboard dive cruises to the southern Red Sea.
Sightseeing on the Red Sea
This is not the place to come if you’re seeking ancient history. But if you stay in Sharm, Hurghada or El-Gouna, it’s possible to enjoy day and overnight trips to Luxor (Thebes), Cairo or the temples of Abu Simbel overland or by air.
The only real point of interest on the Sinai coast is the Coloured Canyon, named after its technicolour rocks, and St Catherine’s Monastery. Tours can be arranged to climb the peak above the building, Mount Moses, in time to see the sunset but the route is arduous and can get crowded.
Family attractions on the Red Sea
Most kids will be happy splashing around in their hotel pool or enjoying on-site kids’ clubs and facilities.
At the beach, there is a vast range of water sports to entertain them. Older kids will enjoy camel treks, snorkelling and quad-bike safaris.
Day trips around the Red Sea
You can’t visit the Red Sea without catching a glimpse of its underwater treasures – from most resorts, dozens of boats offer snorkelling and diving trips out to the reefs and world-famous marine parks. The day-long cruises are packed and typically involve an early start. In peak season, divers can expect to be fighting for space on some coral reefs, which can be frustrating.
Day trips to islands are also possible. From El-Gouna, boats depart for uninhabited Gobal Island, where you can swim and snorkel to your heart’s content in uncrowded waters, or sunbathe on deserted beaches and coves.
Eating out on the Red Sea
Resort hotels offer a wide range of global food as well as Middle-Eastern cuisine. Buffets are typical at breakfast and dinner. In Sharm and Hurghada, there are numerous British-style pubs offering homely comforts, if that’s what you’d prefer.
El-Gouna offers upmarket dining choices including French and Moroccan, thanks to its luxury hotels. The Sheraton hotel’s seafood buffet is particularly excellent.
Nightlife on the Red Sea
Egyptian entertainment usually takes the form of an oriental show, with local musicians, endless whirling dervishes and Egyptian dancers. If you want to join in, there will be plenty of opportunity but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
You’ll also find discos, casinos, bar singers and pianists. Sharm and Hurghada have a particularly lively nightlife scene, whereas El-Gouna’s is far more low-key.
Shopping on the Red Sea
Popular souvenirs include shisha pipes, statues of cats and Egyptian gods, spices, papyrus pictures, fake designer clothes and handicrafts.
Hurghada and Sharm have souks which resemble nothing like those found in Cairo. Most of the seafront shops in Dahab sell cheap, kitsch souvenirs. El-Gouna has its own outdoor arts and crafts markets, as well as upmarket boutiques.