Lunar landscapes of White Desert with wind-sculpted statues in the background

Things to do in  Western Desert

Lunar landscapes and old-time oases

Part of the Sahara, Egypt’s Western Desert rolls across almost two-thirds of the country, covering more than 260,000 square miles (680,000 square kilometers). For most travelers, however, the term “Western Desert” means the area between and around the Siwa, Bahariya, and Farafra oases. Ghostly wind-sculpted forms populate the White Desert’s eerie landscapes; lava remnants darken the Black Desert; and the Great Sand Sea rolls towards the Libyan border. From mummies to salt lakes, dune-bashing to sandboarding, you won’t run short of things to do in the Western Desert.

Top 2 attractions in Western Desert

Bahariya Oasis

The most accessible of the Western Desert oases, Bahariya Oasis, and its main town Bawiti offer a wealth of travel riches. Savor ancient Egyptian tombs, golden mummies, Bedouin culture, rolling dunes, the scorched-looking Black Desert, and the sculptural White Desert, or set out on an epic drive along a historic caravan route.More

Colossus of Ramses II at Memphis

The Colossus of Ramses II is the showpiece sight at the Memphis Museum, located in Mit Rahinah, just south of Cairo. The open-air museum stands on the site of Memphis, a onetime capital of ancient Egypt, and displays the enormous reclining statue of Ramses inside a 2-story hall, together with a large number of other sculptures throughout its grounds.More

Top activities in Western Desert

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All about Western Desert

When to visit

Western Desert summers can be scalding, with temperatures soaring as high as 118°F (48°C). However, cool winter nights can even fall below freezing, so can make camping uncomfortable and put lake dips off-limits. Fall (late September to mid-November) is the sweet spot for Western Desert adventures; sandstorms can be an issue in April, and sometimes also during March and May.

Getting around

The Western Desert’s two main travel hubs are the inland oases of Siwa, close to the Libyan border, and Bahariya, a 265-mile (425-kilometer) drive east of Siwa: you can take a public bus to both from Cairo. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll find the Western Desert is distinctly short on roads, so to explore you’ll need a 4WD driver who knows the landscapes. Bahariya is the best base for the Black Desert and White Desert; Siwa is better for the Great Sand Sea.

Traveler tips

Nothing compares to the silence and darkness of the desert by night and a camping trip is a must. Most Western Desert tours from Cairo and many Western Desert tours from Bahariya or Farafra include one or more nights’ camping: the White Desert rock formations can look spectacular as they glisten in the moonlight. Siwa also offers a range of desert camps, some with their own hot springs.


People Also Ask

Is it safe to visit the Western Desert in Egypt?

Yes and no. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth, & Development Office advises against travel to most of the Western Desert, but considers most top Western Desert travel destinations—Siwa, Bahariya, Farafra, the White Desert, and the Black Desert—safe. Legally, you need permits and a guide to explore, which is safer than self-driving.

Is the Western Desert worth visiting?

Yes, the Western Desert is worth visiting—its star attractions are as memorable as they are uncrowded. The White Desert boasts ghostly rock formations; Siwa offers hot springs, desert lakes, an ancient temple, and a medieval fortress; Bahariya Oasis has a wealth of history; and the Great Sand Sea delivers classical vistas of rolling dunes.

What is there to do in Farafra oasis?

About 120 miles (190 kilometers) south of Bahariya Oasis, the Farafra oasis is closer to the White Desert and the Agabat Valley than Bahariya is. However, there’s not much to do in the town itself. The main attraction is Badr’s Museum, which showcases the work of a passionate, self-taught local artist.

Is Bahariya Oasis worth visiting?

Yes, Bahariya Oasis is worth visiting. A classic oasis complete with palm trees, Bahariya is the top base for exploring Western Desert highlights such as the White Desert, the Black Desert, Agabat Valley, and Cristal Mountain. There’s also hot springs, a salt lake, the Bahariya Cemetery mummies, and a temple built by Alexander the Great.

Why is the White Desert special?

A protected area, the White Desert is, as the name would suggest, strikingly pale. Yet it’s most famous for its eerie chalk and limestone rock formations. Eroded over thousands of years by wind and sand, the pinnacles form bizarre shapes such as rabbits, minarets, alien heads, and mushroom clouds.

What do you wear to the White Desert in Egypt?

Temperatures vary widely across the year but the Western Desert oases are conservative areas. Women should wear loose clothes that cover arms, legs, belly, and cleavage; men should cover shoulders and upper limbs. If swimming in lakes or hot springs, a T-shirt and shorts will draw less attention than a bikini.

Frequently Asked Questions
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