Do you want to visit the Western Desert in Egypt? Are you looking for a hidden gem in Egypt? A secret place that isn’t on everyones list? Then you have to take a trip to the White Desert National Park!
When thinking of Egypt, the first things that usually come to mind are discovering the pyramids, cruising the Nile, trying to read hieroglyphs and relax at an all in resort. But did you know that almost 90% of Egypt is made out of Desert? And that it’s actually possible to have the desert adventure of a lifetime near Caïro?
And I am not just talking about the world-famous Sahara desert. Just to the West of Cairo is a vast expanse of desert, the Western Desert. Very different from any you’ve ever seen before. There is the Black Desert National Park and the White Desert National Park, all waiting to be discovered. From the black mountains to the white chalk dunes and everything in between. The deserts in Egypt are as varied as they are extensive.
How to Visit the Western Desert in Egypt
Why tour the Western Desert in Egypt?
While planning my trip through Egypt I wanted to find a location that still felt unexplored. A hidden gem to have a nice contrast with the touristic areas of Giza and Luxor.
When I bumped into a tour company called Western Desert Tours, I knew that I had found a hidden gem in Egypt. Since I didn’t have that many extra days to plan in a tour, I opted for the “Crystal Mountain” tour which is 2days/1 night. But If I had to book it again I would definitely opt for at least 2 nights in the desert! It gives you such a feeling of freedom and peace of mind.
What to expect on a tour to the Western Desert?
- A fully guided tour – Both our driver and tour guide did an amazing job and gave just the right amount of information and enough freedom so we could explore and take awesome photos. Both of them were fluent in English and really kind and helpful.
- Meals are included – All of the food and drinks were provided and prepared for us. There were 2 lunches, 1 dinner and 1 breakfast included.
- Camping – But without the hassle of actually having to set up your own tent. Your guides will set up the camp site and you’ll sleep underneath the stars in the middle of the White Desert. Blankets and pillows to keep warm and comfy during the night were present and I had one of the best sleeps of my life.
- Safe environment – We were two girls travelling alone with two male guides and not at any moment did we feel unsafe or uncomfortable.They were very professional and I would 100% recommend this tour, even to a solo-female traveller. I think it’s important to mention this especially since it’s Egypt! We experienced a lot of street harassment during our time in this beautiful country, but that couldn’t have been any more different while on this tour and I want solo female travellers to know that!
- Well organised and prepared – Everything went so smooth and we got all the information needed from before. Their driver picked us up from our hotel and also dropped us off at the exact location where we had to be the next evening. He even helped us out with printing our train tickets for the night train to Aswan!
What to bring to the Western Desert?
- Tripod + remote control – You’ll want to take photos of the gorgeous night sky and since you’ll have to shoot them at such a long exposure time, make sure to include a wireless remote so you don’t even need to touch your camera when taking the photo. Otherwise chances are high that your photos will turn out blurry.
- Sunscreen – During the day the sun can be scorching! You might also want to bring a hat and a pair of sunglasses! Especially in the White Desert the sun can reflect a lot!
- Sneakers – I climbed in sandals, but I would definitely advise you to take some comfier shoes with you.
- Sweater and scarf – During the night it can get pretty cold in the desert.
- Toilet paper/tissues – There is no toilet in the middle of the desert, so it’s all about scooting down and doing your thing.
- Portable battery/spare battery for your camera
Western Desert Itinerary
We started our trip in Cairo where we got picked up from our hotel at 7am and drove for 5 hours to the Bahariya Oasis.
Once we arrived, Khaled prepared us a delicious homemade Egyptian lunch. Next up it was time to leave for the White Desert National Park! We chose to not bring our big suitcase with us and just our hand luggage. There is a locked room at the Bahariya Oasis where we could safely store our luggage.
The Black Desert
First stop on the itinerary was the “Black desert”: an area of black volcanic hills and dolerite deposits. We stopped next to an enormous hill and had enough time to explore and even climb all the way up! It was the perfect location to take some amazing photos!
We took so many photos of this beautiful hidden gem in Egypt that at one point our guides got worried and came to check if we were still all right.
Afterwards we headed towards “Crystal Mountain”, where you can literally pick up the crystals from the ground. My friend even brought two of them into a jewellery shop in Aswan and they made her two beautiful, one-of-a-kind necklaces!
The White Desert
After Crystal Mountain it was time for the moment we had all been waiting for! Our last stop of the day was the White Desert National Park. Here you’ll find massive chalk-formations coloured from snow-white to cream that truly make you feel like you’ve left planet earth.
A few million years ago this desert used to be under water. That’s why if you go searching you’ll find little seashells and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a shark tooth!
When you look around you’ll see all kinds of rock formations: a mushroom, a chicken, a sphinx, just to name a few. They came to exist because of the wind erosion against the chalk and take on the most crazy and impressive shapes!
Overnight in the White Desert
In the evening, our guides set up camp in the middle of the White Desert and we had a delicious Egyptian dinner by a bonfire.
Breakfast was served the next morning in the middle of the desert. Afterwards we had some more time to explore this hidden gem a little more during sunrise. The White Desert is so beautiful and photogenic that we were at it again for a couple of hours.
Afterwards, we explored the desert some more and then we got to test out our sand boarding skills. We spent a half hour running up a giant sand dune (not an easy thing to do haha) and then sliding down it at, what to me felt like, “hyperspace” speed. It was such a fun and thrilling experience that my friend and I even did it together one 1 board! I remember us being exhausted and so sweaty from running up the sandy dunes, but we had so much fun going down it, and it was so exciting that every time we got to the bottom we couldn’t wait to go back up for more!
Lunch at the Oasis
Unfortunately, after that it was time to end the tour and head back to the Oasis. Once we arrived back, we had time to shower and change before enjoying another delicious freshly made Egyptian lunch (and playing with all the cute newborn kittens). When it was time to leave back to Cairo, neither of us wanted to go!
I cannot stress this enough, my friend and I both agree that we should have booked a longer tour. We just weren’t expecting it to be one of our favourite experiences in all of Egypt. If you only have time for one night, absolutely book it… But I recommend making time for at least two nights.
I hope you’ll have as much fun as I did exploring this wonderful place and if you have any questions just write them down in the comment section!
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Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.