Luxurious retreats, sizzling beaches and fabulous night life... what's not to love about Sharm El Sheikh? Danielle Wilkins discovers the romantic side of this Egyptian hotspot
Images courtesy of Egyptian Tourism Authority
Sharm El Sheikh is, without a doubt, well-known as a popular tourist destination, and with its sun-drenched beaches and lively nightlife, it's easy to see why. Right now though, it's having a renaissance as a honeymoon hotspot, where newlyweds are guaranteed nothing less than great weather, a fabulous selection of food choices and a whole host of activities to heighten their holidaying experience.
The city is situated along the coastal strip of the Red Sea, on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. Divided into different neighbourhoods, Naama Bay was the first to open a resort especially for tourists and, together with Sharks Bay, has since become the most modern, developed and popular area in the city. With breathtaking views of the coast and a huge stretch of natural beaches, there's a real buzz about the town. This carries on into the evening, and if you head out after dark you'll find lively open-air bars and restaurants overlooking the deep turquoise bays, as well as cushion-filled coffee houses decked out with shisha pipes and, more than likely, quite a few locals.
Ras Mohammed National Park
What to see, what to do
It's no surprise Sharm El Sheikh is renowned for its diving; the Red Sea provides some of the most extraordinary tropical fish and coral reefs in the world. And, if exploring the water is on your to-do list, a must-visit is the Ras Mohammed National Park. Easily accessible by car, excursions can be organised to offer diving and snorkelling courses at all levels. The park includes both marine and terrestrial areas of Tiran Island and coastlines from the main Sharm El Sheikh harbour, and even if exploring the underwater world isn't your thing, the chance to top up your tan on the boat while watching the beautiful scenery go by is too hard to resist. Consider yourself more of a land mammal? Adrenalin junkies will love the idea of quad biking in the desert. I for one couldn't get enough of racing through the sand, past the roaming camels and taking in the stunning surroundings. Couples can also embark on a night drive or, better still, an early morning ride at 4am to watch the sunrise. It might seem like a huge effort, but watching the sun come up over the rocky hills while biking out in the open is a breathtaking experience and well worth the early start.
For those who really want to get to grips with Egyptian culture, there is also the option to go sunset camel riding in the desert, shop for handicrafts and souvenirs in Old Sharm (look out for great leather pieces like belts and bags) and even enjoy a Bedouin feast in the heart of the desert with traditional Egyptian fare and entertainment such as belly dancing and whirling dervishes. Locals often attend these too, so it's a great opportunity to mingle with the people and try your hand at some traditional Egyptian dancing under the stars.
Watching the sun come up over the rocky hills while quad biking out in the open is a breathtaking experience
A whirling dervish in action
There is a private beach area exclusive to Royal Savoy residents
Honeymoon suite, Royal Savoy
Hot honeymoon retreat
During my stay I resided at the Royal Savoy, an exclusive club wing of the Savoy Hotel Sharm located in the cosy coves of White Knight Beach, Sharks Bay. Despite its popularity with tourists, many residents still describe Sharks Bay as having the laid-back and relaxed feel it had before the tourism boom, which is why I found it such an idyllic setting for honeymooners.
The Savoy is great for couples who want a relaxed retreat with lots of activities, but still yearn for privacy. Each of the rooms have style and comfort, and the opulent honeymoon suites are ideal for newlyweds who want nothing less than pure luxury. With a four-poster bed, jacuzzi, private balcony and marbled bathroom complete with all the essentials, I almost found it difficult leaving the comfort of those four walls every morning. Nevertheless, the sun was calling and after an amazing night's sleep, I'd emerge feeling refreshed and looking forward to the day's activities.
Set in more than 220,000 square metres of land, the Savoy is quite literally a paradise in the middle of the desert. There are acres of lush greenery, pools that meander down to the private beaches and amazing views across Tiran Island and the marina. Couples can hop on a boat with a guide to take a dive or snorkel and explore the coral reefs below the water, chill out on the beach (there's a private area exclusive to Royal Savoy residents) or even visit the Aqua Spa & Wellness Centre, a temple of pleasure that offers a number of rejuvenating treatments including massage and reflexology. There is also a wonderful selection of eateries, including Seafood Island, an outdoor restaurant with stunning views of the ocean. Serving a Mediterranean-style menu, the chefs only use the finest selection of fish and seafood caught that morning and cooked on an open charcoal grill.
And if you run out of things to do at the hotel? Well, that's what nearby Soho Square is for. This entertainment hub is located on the doorstep of the Savoy and comes complete with shops, cafés, bars and restaurants, as well as a bowling alley, ice skating rink and the Culturama centre which gives you an opportunity to learn all about Egyptian history and traditions.