How to Explore El Gouna, Hurghada & Luxor, Egypt… Sustainably
Egypt is an incredible country, which is why my husband and I made the decision to take a week-long mini-moon shortly after our wedding to El Gouna, Egypt for some rest and relaxation. After planning an outdoor cottage wedding for 150 people while living halfway across the world, I’d say we were definitely due for some R&R.
The thing about Egypt is that as stunning as the country is, many people take the easy road when it comes to planning their visit. I’m talking about all-inclusive packages. And many of them stink.
Since our full intention on our mini-moon was to kick back and relax for once, we spent a decent amount of time researching all-inclusive packages online that offered sustainable options for accommodations. Despite our hotel (Lebranda Club Paradisio) being 4-star Green Star Hotel certified, there were still a number of things we should have considered when booking an all-inclusive package.
- How can we support the destination if we are staying at the resort all day?
- How can we know if the employees are local and are getting paid enough?
- How can we reduce our energy and waste usage?
- How can we ensure the produce we eat is local?
At the end of the day, we realized that by booking an all-inclusive package, there are a lot of things that you’re left in the dark about, and finding the right person to answer your questions does not come easy. While it’s easy enough to limit our water usage and waste consumption, there’s a lot that is out of your control when you’re booking all-inclusive packages. Not to mention, many hotel operators who are part of the all-inclusive packages are owned abroad and often leave very little of your money to support the local destination who is hosting you.
My tip to a more sustainable stay in Egypt?
Instead of booking an all-inclusive package, I would suggest finding a locally owned hotel in the area, support local restaurants and hire local guides to take you around on your Egypt adventures and pay the entry fees to visit the local cultural heritage sites.
Here’s just a few of the things that you can do while visiting El Gouna, Hurghada and Luxor.
El Gouna, Egypt
El Gouna is a beautiful little town along the coast of the Red Sea, and this is where we decided to spend our romantic mini-moon away. It is also the first destination in all of Africa and the Arab region to receive the Global Green Award presented by the United Nations Environment Program.
Despite the downtown core of El Gouna being rather touristic, the harbour is a popular place for locals to explore. You’ll notice that a lot of the locals and other Egyptian visitors favour the harbour over the downtown core. It is a beautiful place to roam around, enjoy a meal in style and is also a popular spot for nightlife in Egypt.
Just a 30-minute drive down the road (and easily accessed using the local bus system from El Gouna) is the city of Hurghada.
Hurghada is quite a popular beach resort town in Egypt for European’s. It stretches across 40 kilometers of the Red Sea coast and is a hot spot for diving. However, if you can avoid the entire tourist strip, I’d say do it. There are two popular shopping districts in Hurghada – Sekalla and El Dahar – both which are very, very different from one another. Sekalla is where all the travelers go to buy their local souvenirs, and El Dahar is a more traditional Arabic area where you’ll find many of the locals out and about doing their daily grocery shop.
When we arrived in Hurghada, all I knew was that I wanted to check out the unique Eldahar Market which is filled with fresh fruits, veggies, and fish for sale. With no map or plans afterward, we left it up to the locals to help us find our way around. It didn’t take much more than a few minutes to be offered a full day tour by a local.
Note: It’s important to be careful when doing this as many of them are involved in schemes where they’ll bring you in for tea and to their friend’s shops while forcing you to purchase overpriced herbs and spices.
However, it’s great to hire a local to show you around as they’re also quite familiar with the transportation system in the city (which still makes absolutely no sense to me) and can find you the best rates to explore the entire city.
We decided that after roaming the markets and the shops, we wanted to go on an adventure to find a local antique shop where we could find a souvenir to bring back home. The local we had hired for the day took us to a beautiful little, hidden shop called “Tito Karkabah” where we found the perfect vintage tin Coca-Cola bucket for our plants back at home.
If you’re ready to head to Luxor from Hurghada, popular agencies like TUI may convince you to book a 20-minute flight to Luxor instead so that you can enjoy the entire city in a day, while still making it back to El Gouna or Hurghada by the end of the night. I would advise against this option. Luxor is a gorgeous city, and definitely deserves a few days of your time to really get to know the place.
Instead, hire a private van and chat with some other hotel guests to see if they’re willing to take the 4,5-hour drive with you while splitting the cost of the rental van. It’s much more affordable, it supports the local tour operators and it’ll allow you a lot more flexibility when you arrive in the city to get around and see all there is to see.
If you’re looking for that authentic Egypt experience, Luxor is the place to be. It is an amazing and ancient city located along the east bank of the Nile River.
There are a number of cultural heritage sites worth visiting and while I can’t really decide on one or two, I’m going to suggest you stay for 2-3 days and explore them all. Here were my favorites:
- Luxor Temple
- Karnak Temple
- Valley of the Kings
- Valley of the Queens
- Colossi of Memnon
- Temple of Hatshepsut
Looking for another unique African experience?
Why not check out 5 Amazing Adventures You Have to Experience in South Africa!