Although Egypt is a land of towering pyramids and important historical sites, nature is also an important aspect of the country. Learn more about the best places to visit and the preparations you should make before travelling, such as obtaining an Egypt visa.
Preparing for a trip to Egypt
Egypt is a popular destination for tourists interested in the culture and history of the Pharaohs. What many do not know is that the country also has impressive natural areas that attract many tourists. To visit these national parks and other places in Egypt, it is wise to bring a good dose of sunscreen and water, no matter what time of year you visit the country. June, July and August are particularly hot months and visiting these nature reserves can be a bit oppressive. It is therefore better to travel to Egypt outside this period if you want to avoid the extreme heat. However, those who prefer to combine a visit to Egyptʼs national parks with a beach and diving holiday can also do so during the summer months (with adequate protection from the sun).
Another very important preparation before departure is applying for the Egypt visa. There are two types of tourist visa for Egypt: a single-entry and a multiple-entry visa. The former allows you to travel to the country only once, while the latter allows unlimited travel to Egypt for as long as the visa is valid. The validity of the Egypt visa is 90 days. During this period, you may stay in the country for a maximum of 30 consecutive days. The multiple-entry visa allows you to travel to Egypt an unlimited number of times within the 90-day validity period, but each stay may not exceed 30 days. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy some of Egyptʼs most impressive natural sites.
Mountains in the east: the Saint Catherine Protectorate
This 4350 km² area south of Sinai was declared a national park in 1996. Here you will find Egyptʼs highest mountain, Mount Katharina (2641 metres), as well as Mount Sinai. Within this protectorate, an area of 640 km² was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. The Saint Catherine area has a unique desert ecosystem, consisting of a great variety of animal and plant species that only occur in this area. The area is also home to important historical and religious sites, such as the Monastery of St Catherine. All this makes this nature reserve ideal not only for walks, but also for historical and religious tourism.
Water in the north: the protected Qarun Lake
In the province of el-Fayoum, about 80 kilometres south-west of Cairo, this saltwater lake lies below sea level. The area, which lies in the middle of the desert, has become a unique ecosystem on the planet thanks to its fascinating biological diversity both in and outside the water. Apart from its biological importance, Qarun is also a place of archaeological interest due to the abundance of fossils of flora and fauna of the area. In the 40 million years of its existence, many people and animals have gathered around the lake. Today, enormous numbers of birds are found there, from flamingos, swans and parakeets to ducks, eagles and hawks.
Pure desert in the west: the oasis of Siwa
The Siwa Oasis, located in Egyptʼs western desert about 50 kilometres from the Libyan border, has several lakes and water sources. This water is very salty and therefore mainly olive and palm trees grow in this area. The Siwa Oasis can be reached by the road that connects the area with Marsa Matruh. However, Siwa has traditionally been one of the most isolated areas in Egypt. As a result of these conditions, over the years the population of about 33,000 has developed its own culture and language that differs from mainstream Egyptian culture. The inhabitants are also known for their craft skills, such as pottery, silver ornaments, basketry and unique traditional clothing. Other highlights of the area are the ruins of the ancient city of Shali.
Sea and mountains in the south: Gebel Elba Nature Reserve
This protectorate is located in the Halaib Triangle and lies about 250 kilometres south of Marsa Alam. As it is close to the Sudanese border, a permit is required to visit the area, which was declared a national park in 1986. This area of 35,600 km² contains coral reefs in the Red Sea, vast deserts and mountain peaks such as the 1435-metre-high Elba, after which it is named. The nature reserve is also famous for its biodiversity and ecological value. In particular, there are many species of reptiles to be found, as well as dugongs, the last surviving members of their species.