What to See on the Red Sea

Sunny Sharm el Sheikh and the resorts that line the coast of the Red Sea have been preferred winter sun retreats of ours for years. What if you want to sail a little further afield? Red Sea cruises are an excellent option for winter without flying too far from the UK and we’re going to lift the lid on the sights that line the coast.

Aqaba, Jordan

Red Sea Cruise - Aqaba
The bright white Sharif Hussein © Ralf Siemieniec

This coastal city in Jordan is a popular stop on cruise routes. It’s also a popular destination for holidays and you’ll find many luxury beach resorts and hotels here.

Activities and sights:

  • Visit 14th century Aqaba Fort
  • Take a historic hammam – the Turkish bath house in Aqaba dates back to 306AD
  • Snorkel the coral reefs of the gulf of Aqaba
  • Try kunafah (an Arab cheese pastry) in one of Aqaba’s many coffee shops

 

Eilat, Israel

Red Sea Cruise - Eilat
Underwater Observatory Tower © Gorshkov25

Alternatively you might stop just across the border from Aqaba in Israel in the city of Eliat. The two cities were once one, so a stop in Eilat offers up the same warm climate, sandy beaches and gorgeous views of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Activities and sights:

  • See the sealife whilst keeping your hair dry with a visit to the Underwater Observatory. You can also climb the white tower for above-sea-level views
  • Join a desert adventure following ancient trading routes through the Negev desert
  • Snorkel the coral reefs of the gulf of Aqaba – yeah it’s the same as above. It’s still good!
  • Swim with dolphins at Dolphin Reef

 

Safaga

Red Sea Cruise - Luxor
Luxor Temple © WitR

The resort of Safaga, about 30 miles south of Hurghada is another popular stop. In common with every other stop on the Red Sea there’s amazing diving in the off-shore coral reefs, but many people choose to head inland from Safaga. At 140 miles this is the closest Red Sea port to Luxor. Cruise ships often dock overnight to allow passengers even more time to explore the amazing ruins.

Activities and sights:

  • Head to Luxor, the “world’s greatest open air museum” where you can explore the temples and tombs at the Valley of the Kings and the ruins at Karnak.
  • In the desert you can find the ancient Roman quarry, Mons Claudianus
  • More diving! There are stunning towering coral reefs here and you can spot massive marine animals including tuna and manta rays
  • Sunbathe: Safaga is famed for its black sand-dune beaches. The colour is caused by natural minerals, and nearby springs are said to treat rheumatoid arthritis

 

Port Sokhna

Red Sea Cruise - Cairo
The Sphinx and Pyramid © mareandmare

Port Sokhna is your gateway to Egypt’s capital, Cairo. After all, it would be a crime to come to Egypt and miss the only remaining Ancient Wonder of the World, the Great Pyramid at Giza.

Activities and sights:

  • The Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza are obviously the number one attraction in these parts
  • The treasure and artefacts from the Ancient Egyptian tombs is now spread over the world, but you’ll still find the best collection at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
  • Get a 360 degree view of Cairo from the Cairo Tower in the Gezira district. You can even spot the Pyramids to the west
  • You can shop for perfume, spices and gold at Khan El Khalily, Cairo’s souk area. Don’t forget to haggle!

 

Sharm el Sheihk

Red Sea Cruise - Sharm
Desert Quad Biking © Matteo Volpi

Sharm is commonly the start and end point for any cruise around the Red Sea. The popular holiday destination at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula is also known for its excellent diving (what else?) but there are plenty more fun activities to do here:

Activities and sights:

  • Quad biking is popular in Sharm – you’ll get given your own quad and guide and get to enjoy one bumpy ride through the surrounding desert dunes
  • Enjoy a night, or at least a meal, under canvas with a trip to a Bedouin tent in the desert
  • The mountain in the distance is Mount Sinai, said to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. It’s about three hours drive from Sharm and you’ll need a guide if you want to climb to the top
  • Don’t miss the diving! The reefs of the Ras Mohammed Park have to be seen to be believed. The sheer walls of coral will make you feel like you’re flying.

 

Any more?

Why yes! The Red Sea stretches down as far as Sudan, and there’s plenty more to see along its banks. However very few cruise routes go down that far. If you want to do more cruising on the Red Sea then look out for a cruise headed to Dubai, these skirt along the eastern length of the Red Sea, along the coast of Yemen as they head deeper into the middle east. Some even include a trip through the Suez Canal – it’s a surreal experience to be sailing through the desert.

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