The Magical Siwa Oasis, Egypt
Near the border of Libya lies Egypt’s hidden gem – Siwa Oasis. It’s hard to explain the magic of Siwa Oasis to someone who has never been. Siwa is a place that you must experience for yourself. It is a place unlike anywhere else we’ve seen in the world and these are the places we always feel the most drawn to. In Siwa you can find natural salt pools, sand dunes, tons of palm trees, stunning lakes, hot and cold springs, history, and loads of adventures. Although it is quite the trek to get there, we felt it was 100% worth it!
This was the part that almost deterred us from making the journey to Siwa. It is a 12-13 hour trip (by bus), but it was a bucket list experience and we decided to do what it takes to get there.
From Cairo: The trip from Cairo to Siwa Oasis is around 800 km. Although we recommend Go Bus for all other bus travel through Egypt, unfortunately they do not have a route to Siwa. We took a bus company called West & Mid Delta. There are 2 or 3 different bus stations you can go to buy the tickets, but we went to the one by the airport called “”.
The one-way ticket cost 225 LE (equivalent to $14). The bus leaves at approximately 10 pm each night, but sometimes it can be cancelled or late. We didn’t have any issues with this though. It is a night bus and the buses are very old and uncomfortable, so be prepared with a blanket and pillow if you want to try and sleep. The bus does make 3 or 4 WC and snack stops throughout the journey.
Around 9 am, we finally made it to Siwa and we didn’t get much sleep, but we were so excited to get started on our adventure! When we got off the bus in the city there were a few tuk-tuks waiting to take people to their final destination.
- It is possible to catch the bus in Alexandria, which would make the trip a bit shorter.
- You can also rent a private car from Cairo, which from what we heard costs around $300.
- Unfortunately, there are no commercial airlines that fly to Siwa Oasis, but it is possible to fly into Marsa Matrouh which is about 4 hours away from Siwa. You can then take a bus or private car from there.
Where to Stay in Siwa Oasis –
There is no shortage of beautiful places to stay in Siwa Oasis. Many different price ranges as well as different levels of comfort. You can find a hotel on any budget. It’s important to look at the location on a map, because some of the hotels are in the city center (which is much more convenient) as there are mainly tuk-tuks to get around, but it depends what kind of experience you’re going for.
We booked last minute and ended up staying at Siwa Shali Resort ($$). It is about 3 km outside of the city center so any time we needed anything we had to text our tuk-tuk driver Abdul to come and get us. The hotel is mid-range price. We paid around $45 a night, which is higher than the average hotel/hostel cost.
The property is pretty big, with a couple of pools and a restaurant. The room was basic and comfortable, with a TV that plays movies in English. The only issue we ran into was the smell of the water. I think this is due to being in the middle of the desert with really old rusty pipes, but it was almost as though you smelt worse after getting out of the shower than before you got in haha. The food at this resort is also not great, but the breakfast buffet does have a few options.
Some other hotel options:
- Taziry Eco Villages ($$$)
- Adrere Amellal ($$$$) – This luxury desert eco-lodge is so beautiful. They offer candle lit dining, open fires, a swimming pool, organic food, and excursions as well.
Taking a dip in the river at Siwa Shali Resort
Enjoying a soak at Ali Khaled Mountain Camp
Siwa is one of those places you visit and it reminds you of why you love to travel in the first place.
What to do in Siwa –
Natural Salt Pools & Lakes – A MUST DO, BUCKET LIST ITEM. This is the #1 reason we decided to visit Siwa Oasis and it was really a once in a lifetime experience. There is no exact address to search for when looking for these salt lakes, because there are new ones being created everyday due to the digging for salt. To visit these lakes, we recommend going in a car (it’s possible in a tuk-tuk, but quite uncomfortable). We paid $25 for 3 hours with a guide and his SUV. We drove around until we found the kind of pool we were searching for. There are all different sizes of pools as well as large salt lakes.
The water is very similar to the Dead Sea. You will effortlessly float. Be careful when entering the smaller pools as the salt can cut you and it will burn. Also – DO NOT PUT YOUR HEAD UNDERWATER OR GET ANY WATER IN YOUR EYES. This may ruin your day and it will be painful. I recommend not shaving for a couple days before this trip and also bring some water shoes to save your feet. We didn’t have them, but we wished we did.
This was not only the highlight of our time in Siwa, but one of the highlights of our entire Egypt trip!
Other things to do in Siwa Oasis:
Hot Springs – There are many hot springs in Siwa. We recommend heading to one of these after the salt pools/lake to clean the salt off of you and get rid of the biting feeling on your skin from the salt water. We only had time to visit 2 hot springs. The most famous one – Cleopatra’s pool and another one at Camp Ali Khaled (also known as Mountain Camp).
Great Sand Sea (Sand Dunes) – Although we did not get the chance to visit these dunes, we have heard they are beautiful. They are the world’s third largest dune field! Here you can find activities such as: sand boarding, sunset fires, 4X4 riding, and even camping.
The Fortress at Shali – This mosque is over 800 years old. Made out of a unique material called karshif (consisting of salt, sand, and clay). It is a symbol of the history and people of Siwa.
Fatnas Island at Sunset – Literally means Fantasy Island. This is a must see at sunset! An epic view with a lake reflection. Super quiet and peaceful. Drink a fresh juice and make sure to bring your camera because this is one of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see.
Gorgeous Sunset at Fatnas Island
How to Get Around –
Since it’s impossible to rent a car and drive yourself in Siwa Oasis, the options for getting around are a bit limited. We chose to go everywhere (aside from the salt pools) in a tuk-tuk. We had one driver the whole time who we just sent a WhatsApp any time we were ready to be on the move. *see below to get our driver’s information*.
You can rent a private car or 4X4 with a driver through your hotel. It’s also possible to rent a bike to get around the city center (although it’s not that big and you can totally walk).
Once again, just keep in mind that most of the restaurants, convenience stores, and ATM’s are in the city center.
**Send us a DM on Instagram to get the contact for our driver Abdul: www.instagram.com/TheDaydreamDrifters
Where To Eat in Siwa –
To be honest, out of our 3 full days in Siwa Oasis, we only ate at 2 other places aside from our hotel. All of the food was very reasonably priced.
- Abdo Restaurant – This place is in the city center and seems to be the most popular place in all of Siwa with locals and tourists. They serve a variety of different foods (traditional food and even pizza). They also have WiFi.
- Camp Ali Khaled – This mountain camp is the same one that we mentioned above with the hot spring. It is a camp/hotel and hot spring retreat. They serve all meals. We tried the breakfast and dinner. Both were pretty good. There was no menu, they just brought an assortment of different traditional plates (that you can see pictured to the right).
Phone Reception, ATMs, Credit Cards, and WiFi in Siwa –
- Phone Reception – We bought a SIM Card in Cairo with Etisalat and we had great phone reception in the city center. At our hotel, we had almost no reception and we were barely able to send a text message to our tuk-tuk driver Abdul.
- ATMs – online it said that there was an ATM at our hotel, but when we arrived to the hotel, there were no ATMs so we had to head back to the city center in the tuk-tuk. We highly recommend getting cash at the ATM in the city center if your hotel is in a different part of Siwa.
- Credit Cards – we were not able to use a credit card at our hotel, any restaurant, or any of our excursions. It is best to take out cash at the ATM for everything you do in Siwa.
- WiFi – is spotty at best in certain places, but don’t count on having strong enough connection to do serious work if you’re a digital nomad.