Dreaming of escaping overseas now that Australia’s travel ban is lifted? Here’s why your first stop should be the White Desert National Park in Egypt.
The Pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings, the Nile – Egypt is home to some of the world’s most incredible wonders. Every year, the ancient sites are packed with visitors from dawn to dusk. If you’re not up for sharing one view with thousands of other tourists, book a trip to see the White Desert National Park.
The desert, 550 kilometres south-west of Cairo, is of Egypt’s best-kept secrets. The otherworldly landscape is filled with white-chalk formations, sculpted by the wind over centuries. Then there’s towering sand dunes and lush oases. Leave the modern world behind as you discover cultural heritage sites, natural springs and Saharan floral and fauna.
Whatever your schedule is – book a guided tour to see the White Desert.
Military security is tight along the roads to Bahariya Oasis and Farafra. If you decide to rent your own car, chances are you will be turned back at a checkpoint. And the desert is unforgiving if you don’t know what you’re doing. So leave it to the experts. Local tour guides know the area well and can supply everything you need to enjoy your trip, stress-free.
You can choose anything from a day trip to a two-week-long desert expedition. Most tour operators offer the whole package: hotel pick-ups from Cairo, transport to the White Desert and 4×4 explorer vehicles.
Where to stay
The best way to see the desert is to fully immerse yourself in the landscape.
Camping is the most popular choice. With no light pollution, stargazing is at a premium. Sleep under the stars or stay in your very own Bedouin-style tent.
If camping is not to your taste, why not enjoy the desert vistas on a day trip from either the Farafra or Bahariya Oases. Expect the basics and a warm welcome from your hosts.
What to see and do
Be sure to add these highlights to your list:
- Wonder at the fantastical mushroom-like chalk structures called ventifacts, which are rocks shaped by wind-driven sand. You can find replicas of these in almost every desert in the world and even on Mars
- Experience the magic of Crystal Mountain, a tower of white quartz
- Explore Pyramid mountain that’s full of fossils
- Sandboard down towering dunes in the sand dune ocean
- The Black Desert
- Relax in the hot and cold springs in Bahariya Oasis
- Marvel at stalactites and stalagmites in the Gara Cave
- Visit two 26th-dynasty tombs at Qarat Qasr Salim and the Valley of the Golden Mummies
What to bring
Here’s your (non-exhaustive) list of essentials for the White Desert National Park:
- Long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing for breathability and sun protection
- Winter layers for cool desert nights
- Light headscarf, sunglasses and a hat for sun and sand protection
- Comfortable hiking boots (without Gore-Tex for breathability)
- Ziplock bags for your electronics (the sand gets everywhere)
- Insect repellent
- Battery packs
- Biodegradable wet wipes and antibacterial hand wash for staying clean.
- Moisturiser and chapstick (trust us on this one – the desert air is DRY)
Before visiting the White Desert National Park, check the current COVID-19 and security restrictions in the protectorate and surrounding areas.
According to Smart Traveller, authorities have banned safaris and camping in the area near Bahariya Oasis until further notice. This does not include the White Desert. However, the restrictions may disrupt access to it. Visitor rules within the park are also subject to change.
Also, check that your travel insurance covers the activities and area you will be visiting before setting off.
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