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6 Ecotourism Destinations Where You Can Explore Egypt’s Beauty

August 17, 2023
Coral reefs photographed in the Red Sea. Photo credit: SEJanssen.
Coral reefs photographed in the Red Sea. Photo credit: SEJanssen.

Beyond Egypt’s iconic pyramids and ancient temples exists an undiscovered world of ecological marvels. The country has recently gained attention as an attractive destination for ecotourism owing to its increased emphasis on sustainable travel.

Ecotourism represents a responsible approach to travel, specifically to natural areas, where the environment is safeguarded and local communities are supported.

This form of tourism serves multiple purposes, including educating travelers, contributing funds to conserve ecosystems, promoting local economic growth, empowering communities, and fostering appreciation for diverse cultures.

A world of remarkable ecotourism destinations awaits exploration in Egypt. Here are six must-visit ecological marvels that offer unique experiences for the environmentally-conscious traveler.

Gabal Elba

Gabal Elba protectorate. Photo credit: Reham Abobakr.

Part of the Red Sea Mountains range, Gabal Elba lies around 250 kilometers south of Marsa Alam in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, near the border with Sudan in the Red Sea governorate.

At a height of almost 1,435 meters above sea level, The Gabal Elba Nature Reserve encloses an expansive area of around 35,600 square kilometers, encompassing a network of interconnected natural parks.

One of its lesser-known attractions, Wadi Al-Abaq contains several valleys and natural hot springs. The area is also of great historical significance as it features ancient Egyptian wall inscriptions and artifacts.

The biological diversity found in Gabal Elba is unmatched within Egypt. The relatively abundant moisture from seasonal rainfall sustains several plants, with approximately 458 plant species, nearly a quarter of all plant species documented in Egypt. As for its animal species, it boasts several rare faunas, including the Barbary sheep, the aardwolf, the genet, the striped polecat, and the rock hyrax.


Underwater marine life photographed at Al-Qoseir. Photo credit: J. Hutsch.

Situated 73 kilometers north of Marsa Alam International Airport in the Red Sea governorate, Al-Quseir is one of Egypt’s underrated destinations. The city is a cultural stronghold that has stood the test of time for over 5,000 years.

It was from Al-Quseir that Queen Hatshepsut embarked on her legendary expedition to the land of Punt. In the centuries that followed, Coptic, Greek, Roman, and Islamic influences left elements in the port city’s architecture, edifices, and landmarks, which are still present to this day.

Amidst its crystal-clear waters, Al-Quseir reveals yet another aspect of its charm: its remarkable marine biodiversity. Below the Red Sea’s warm waters, divers can expect to encounter colorful coral reefs and unique marine life. From the dugong to turtles and even the blacktip reef sharks patrolling the reef, the city offers a chance for ecotourists to experience wildlife like never before.

Wadi Al-Gemal

Wadi Al-Gemal natural protectorate. Photo credit: Youssef Alam.

Nestled between an unforgiving desert and azure-blue seawater, Wadi Al-Gemal covers a 5,000-square-kilometer protected area in the south east of Egypt, emerging as a prominent hub for ecotourism.

The region hosts privately owned eco-lodges and facilitates eco-friendly sightseeing and birdwatching expeditions through various operators.

One standout is the renowned Al-Fustat ecolodge, established in 2005 using traditional materials and architecture. Its staff is dedicated to educating visitors about the valley’s ecology, geology, and history, complemented by a mini cinema showcasing wildlife, native inhabitants, and historical documentaries.

A unique ecosystem teeming with distinctive wildlife can be seen along the protected area’s mangrove-laden coastlines. On land, camels, ibex, and gazelles are often spotted feeding on Acacia tree leaves. Diving into the waters reveals a mesmerizing underwater world with over 450 coral species and 1,200 fish species to marvel at.

The region is home to the Ababda Bedouin tribe, custodians of an authentic cultural heritage. Historically nomadic, these people sustain themselves by herding goats and are renowned for their exceptional traditional cooking and sweet tea.

Eco Nubia, Aswan

Camels photographed at Nubia. Photo credit: COSV.

From the famed Abu Simbel temple to the tranquil waters of Lake Nasser, Nubia offers a fusion of cultural heritage and natural marvels that visitors can experience at one of its biggest ecotourism attractions, Eco Nubia.

With a mission to rekindle the Nubian culture, the founders of the Eco Nubia project revitalized the deserted island of Bigeh in Aswan in 2018. By harnessing the potential of the region’s local community, Eco Nubia became Nubia’s inaugural eco-lodge, attracting visitors from all over the world.

The eco-lodge, featuring nine granite and mud rooms, provides diverse amenities like kayaking, swimming, sightseeing, and Nubian craft markets.

The establishment’s global attraction has garnered praise from the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, celebrating its exceptional achievements in sustainable development, including local economic benefits, cultural revitalization, environmental conservation, carbon emission reduction, and environmental awareness.

Wadi Degla

Limestone canyons of Wadi Degla. Photo credit: Wael Fouda.

Located on the outskirts of Zahraa Al-Maadi, Wadi Degla is famous for its majestic landscape of intricate canyons formed by the ancient Nile River flooding in the Eocene Epoch about 50 million years ago.

The valley, spanning over 30 kilometers, is home to a fascinating array of fauna, including deer, mountain rabbits, red foxes, feather-tailed rats, barbed rats, and little-tailed bats. It is not uncommon for campers to cross paths with curious mammals or rare birds; such encounters with wildlife could foster a deep appreciation for biodiversity and its protection.

Although not far from the capital’s center, Wadi Degla’s night sky has been designated the de facto stargazing hotspot for Cairenes because of its proximity and lower levels of light pollution.

Camping is another activity that invites a chance to embrace nature’s serenity, giving a sustainable break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Al-Mut Village, Dakhla Oasis

Dakhla oasis. Photo credit: Vyacheslav Argenberg.

At the heart of the New Valley governorate, 350 kilometers from the Nile River, Dakhla oasis has numerous villages, countless monuments, and a rich history. Al-Mut, the oasis’s most prominent village, derives its name from the ancient Egyptian goddess of balance and harmony.

Bir Talata spa, one of the area’s biggest attractions, includes high concentrations of sulfur and iron, which are sought-after for their innate ability to alleviate a series of ailments.

The village also hosts Dir Al-Hagar temple featuring well-preserved inscriptions and carvings dedicated to the god Amun.

A wide range of artisanal crafts can be found in the vicinity, including ceramics, jewelry making, woodwork decorations, and rug-making. One of the main goals of ecotourism is to help locals in their efforts to protect their cultural traditions, which can be achieved by supporting these small businesses.

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