The best road trips in Egypt

For those driven by nature, landscapes and the open road, Egypt is the perfect road trip circuit. Beyond the inner city traffic of Cairo, Egypt’s roads take you along winding coastlines and deep into the majestic mountains. 

With your own vehicle, or a chartered car or 4WD, Egypt offers some excellent adventures by road. So, pack light, prep your favorite playlist and get ready for a cross-country adventure – or five.

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Discover Sinai, from the mountains to the coast

Cairo–Nuweiba; 647km/402 miles; allow five days for the entire route

The Sinai is a must-visit on every Egypt itinerary, and it makes for a scenic road trip destination too. This route takes you from the crowded cityscape onto highways carved through majestic mountains, with the Red Sea coast in the periphery of your vision. The route is long and cell service cuts out here and there, so it’s best to head out from Cairo at daybreak to start the trip.

Once you’ve driven out of the city and passed through the tunnel leading to the Sinai, a single-lane road takes you to the seaside. Drive by the beach towns of Ras Sudr and Ras Matarma and make pit stops in Abu Zenima and Ras Abu Rudeis to snap stunning photos of the coast.

Five hours into the drive and you’ll reach St Katherine’s Protectorate and the famous St Catherine’s Monastery, a Unesco world heritage site and your first stop along the road. Avid hikers should plan ahead and dedicate a day to hiking up Egypt’s highest peak – Gebel Katharina (Mount Catherine). If you can, begin your hike before daybreak so you can catch the sunrise from the 2629m (8625ft) summit and then tour the biblical sites surrounding the peak during the day.

Back on the road, it’s another 90 minutes through the mountains before you reach Dahab, your first overnight beachside stop. Plan to spend at least two or three days in Dahab to make the most of this boho beach town. Dive into the Blue Hole, kitesurf on the Blue Lagoon and enjoy great food and drinks on the beach promenade.

Once you’ve had your beach fix, hop back in the car and double back for an hour up north until you hit Nuweiba. This is the last stop on this trip – the perfect place to disconnect from the world and connect with nature. All the desert camps here are right by the sea, with endless crystal blue waters and mountaintops filling the horizon. There’s no better way to wind down from your trip than a night of stargazing and waking up by the beach.

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A hiker in a bright yellow coat with a black rucksack stands at the top of a mountain in Sinai, Egypt
You’ll want to get an early start when trekking in the Sinai to beat the desert heat © Anton Petrus / Getty Images

Day trip through Sinai’s natural beauty

Sharm El Sheikh–Ras Mohammed; 88 km/55 miles; one day

The roads around Sharm El Sheikh promise scenic drives along the vibrant Red Sea coast. Since you’re already in Sharm, start your trip with a 20km (12 miles) drive north to Nabq Protectorate, a coastal desert landscape that serves up a triptych of sand dunes, crystal blue waters and lush greenery. This area is one of Egypt’s most protected wilderness sites, and you can snorkel, book hiking and cycling trips or go birdwatching.

Turn back and head south along the coast and into the mountains, pointed straight toward Ras Mohammed National Park. This 480 sq km (185 sq mi) park is home to glorious beaches teeming with marine life and a mangrove forest by a saltwater lake. More than 50,000 people visit annually, drawn in by what some call the crowning jewel of the Red Sea. 

If you’re looking for a picture-perfect location to finish the drive, stop at the Shark Observatory Cliff on the southern edge of Ras Mohammed to get a sweeping view of this wondrous landscape.

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A female snorkeler swims above a coral reef near Hurghada
When driving Egypt’s Red Sea coast, allow plenty of time to dive and snorkel © Westend61 / Getty Images

Drive and dive along the Red Sea Coast

Hurghada–Marsa Alam; 300km/186 miles; allow 5–7 days for the entire route

Nestled between the mountains and the sea, this 300km (186 miles) road trip along the Red Sea coast is a sequence of gorgeous beaches and dive sites that are accessible year-round. Begin your Red Sea coast trip with a stay at one of the resorts and water parks at Makadi Bay, and take a boat out to Giftun Island to enjoy its breathtaking reefs.

Once you’re ready to hit the road, make your first stop at El Quseir – a small coastal city with a rich ancient history, located 120km (75 miles) to the south. This quiet destination will hit the spot if you’re looking for serene, secluded diving options in some of the world’s clearest waters – and plenty of marine life! Also take time to explore the ancient ruins scattered throughout El Quseir. To make the most of this stop, spend a night or two at one of the city’s resorts.

Your final driving destination, Marsa Alam, is 68km (42 miles) south along the beautiful Red Sea coast. Dubbed the “Egyptian Maldives,” Marsa Alam is known for its year-round sunshine, crystal clear waters and world-class snorkeling and diving opportunities.

There’s loads to fill your time. Go on a desert safari. Snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Sharm El Luli. Swim with the dolphins at Sataya Reef. Wrap up with a short drive through Wadi El Gemal National Park to see camels in their natural habitat.

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Visitors admire the facade of the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor
Ancient Egyptian history spills out of the ground near Luxor, from the Valley of the Kings to the Temple of Hatshepsut © Copycat37 / Shutterstock

Hop through history along the Nile River 

Luxor–Aswan; 250km/156 miles; allow 7 days for the entire route

Skip the Nile cruise and take the scenic route by road from Luxor to Aswan, with stunning temple stops along the way. The actual drive time is a total of four hours, but give yourself 2–3 days in Luxor, 3–4 days in Aswan, and one day of adventure on the road. This road trip is best reserved for fall or winter so you don’t melt in the desert sun.

Start your road trip as early in the day as possible, since you’ll be making multiple stops on the journey. You have two choices for routes as you head out of Luxor – an agricultural route that takes you through green fields and palm trees,  and a desert route that traverses, well, the desert, which is dotted with sporadic towns.

Just an hour south of Luxor you’ll pass through the city of Esna, where you can stop to check out the colorfully carved walls of the Temple of Khnum and chat with locals. Another hour’s drive along the Nile takes you to Edfu, where you can visit the enormous Temple of Horus – the largest temple dedicated to this ancient god of kingship and the sky. From there, drive 70km (43 miles) south to explore the stunning Temple of Kom Ombo.

The final leg of your trip from Kom Ombo to Aswan only takes an hour, and the drive is best done before the sun sets. Once you hit Aswan, wind down with a peaceful dinner along the banks of the Nile. If you still have it in you, the iconic Abu Simbel Temple is another 290km (180 miles) south – we suggest you join a tour for this one, though!

Woman looking at scenic view of Siwa oasis at sunset
Tucked against the Libyan border, Siwa is the vision of a desert oasis © Oleh_Slobodeniuk / Getty

Sea to sand, from the Mediterranean to an oasis at sunset

Alexandria–Siwa; 598km/372 miles; allow 5 days for the entire route

Tucked away in the Western Desert, 300km (186 miles) away from the nearest city, the oasis at Siwa is a hidden gem that remains one of the most underrated destinations in Egypt. This road trip captures the best of Egypt’s varied landscapes, from sea to sand, so we suggest making this trip in the spring or fall to get the best of both worlds.

The first leg of your trip from Alexandria to Marsa Matrouh is beautiful, blue and breezy. Get an early morning start for this five-hour ride along Egypt’s scenic Mediterranean coast. If you’re making the trip in the summer, spend a night at any of the North Coast’s high-end resorts and enjoy a day of swimming in the Mediterranean.

Plan to arrive in Marsa Matrouh in time for dinner and wander through the renowned Souq Libya before calling it a night. Marsa Matrouh is fairly conservative, so keep this in mind as you make your way around town and behave respectfully.

Start the next day with a seaside breakfast before the final leg of your drive, which covers around 300km (186 miles) from Marsa Matrouh, entering the vast Western Desert. You’ll want to make this drive during daylight hours – the road to Siwa is paved, but the closer you get, the bumpier the road surface becomes. 

Once you arrive in the secluded oasis of Siwa, lose yourself in the incredible salt lakes, take a quick dip in the hot springs or enjoy the magical sunsets on Fatnas Island or Taghaghein Island. And – if you’ve got the appetite for even more sand – go on a daytime safari adventure through the Great Sand Sea.

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