My name’s Austin Divine and welcome to my guide on the epic Siwa Oasis of Egypt. I’m a photographer and filmmaker based in Bangkok, Thailand.
I grew up in Crested Butte, Colorado – a small ski town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. I started traveling at a young age. The earliest trip I can remember was at age 10 when we moved to and lived in Mexico for a year. From this young age, I discovered my love of travel and other cultures.
When my friend Brendan Donohue (@brendonohue) and I were on our way to Europe from Thailand we decided to spend some time in Egypt on the way. We have both been to Egypt twice. We wanted to experience more of this amazing country, especially new places like Siwa Oasis.
Getting to Siwa Oasis, Egypt
If you are leaving from Cairo, there is only one bus that leaves every evening. From Alexandria, there are two options. One day bus and one night bus. It’s a good idea to book ahead as these trips can easily sell out.
The bus takes 9-12 hours each way. A large portion of this journey takes you through bumpy roads. You will also stop at multiple military checkpoints along the way so make sure that you keep your passport handy for the ride.
If the bus is not your style, I totally understand. Hiring a private driver could be a good option, but keep in mind you will need to pay for their food, accommodation and services. The costs can add up for this option.
You can also rent a car if you are comfortable driving in Egypt. Make sure you bring your international driving permit/licence along for the journey.
Unfortunately, the closest airport to Siwa is in Marsa Matruh which is still about four hours away. You could fly to Marsa Matruh and then arrange ground transportation from there. It all depends on your travel preferences.
First Impressions of Siwa Oasis, Egypt
Siwa Oasis is a very small community in Egypt near the border of Libya. The best way I can describe it is mysterious yet beautiful. If you are looking for high luxury travel experiences this is most likely not the destination for you. This is definitely a place for people who seek adventure.
My first impression when I arrived in Siwa Oasis was a bit weird to be honest. I arrived early in the morning after a long and bumpy 10 hour bus ride. The town was extremely quiet and dead when I arrived. It threw me off a bit because I had imagined Siwa to be a larger, thriving community.
Nevertheless, Siwa turned out to be unique and interesting. So much so that it would be difficult for me to pick a favourite destination. If I had to pick just one, I would recommend the Salt Pools. Floating in these pools in the middle of the desert was a once in a lifetime experience.
Mesmerising Salt Pools of Siwa Oasis
There are hundreds of salt pools/salt lakes spread throughout the Siwa Oasis region of Egypt. The pools are actually part of a salt mine right outside of the town. If you want to know the location for your visit, then you can find it for free in a travel guide that I made on my Instagram.
Both hot and cold salt pools can be found in Siwa, as well as salty and fresh water springs. Each of these pools has their own health benefits and unique pleasures. The salt pools are particularly good for your sinuses, skin and eye infections. You can float in them just like in the dead sea!
6 Awesome Things To Do at Siwa Oasis
Regrettably, we did not learn much about the history in our short time at Siwa. We didn’t have tour guides and so we explored the area on our own with the help of a local tuk tuk driver. As content creators we spent 99% of our time focused on finding and capturing unique places.
And there was no shortage of these. Below are my recommendations:
1. Take a Dip in Cleopatra’s Pool
Cleopatra’s Pool is located on the path that leads to the Oracle Temple. This stone pool is fed by natural spring water and makes for a lovely dip. Although the name refers to Queen Cleopatra VII, there is no evidence that Cleopatra ever bathed here or had anything to do with the pool.
2. Visit the Salt Lakes and Moon Pools
Under the earth’s salted crust lies the healing moon pools of Siwa. It’s such an unusual yet incredible experience to witness this landscape. The textures and layers of salt are just awesome. After visiting this destination we started to wonder if any of the salt would end up on our dinner tables!
3. Discover the Ancient Shali Fortress
The old ancient Shali Fortress, located in the middle of town, is what originally drew me to visit Siwa. Built from kershif (chunks of salt mixed with rock, brick and clay), this 13th-century fortress is a spectacular sight to wander around. Shali Fortress is an important historical and religious symbol of Siwa.
4. Explore the Surrounding Sand Dunes of Siwa
The Sand Dunes of Siwa are a great place to explore in jeeps, on sand boards or by foot. Pristine sand dunes can be found near the oasis and many berbers still roam these deserts as they have for hundreds if not thousands of years. One of the most popular activities is sandboarding making for a fun day out!
5. Shoot Photos at the Mountain of the Dead
The Mountain of the Dead is a wonderful place to shoot photos. This mountain is home to thousands of graves which are cut into the bedrock giving it the name ‘Mountain of the Dead’. According to the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt, burials continued here until the late Roman era.
6. Taste the Delicious Food of Siwa Oasis, Egypt
The food and cuisine of Siwa Oasis was some of the best I’ve tried anywhere in Egypt and the world. There was one main restaurant in town called Adbu Restaurant. We ate there for every meal, everyday. Yeah – it was that good! Not only was the food outrageously good but it was cheap too.
How to Book Accommodation at Siwa Oasis
Since we were making our way to Europe, Brendan and I went on high budget travel mode in Siwa. Therefore our accomodation was not necessarily top of the line. I would recommend looking on Booking.com to find a place that is up to your standards/price range. Hopefully you’ll find a good option.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
Before traveling to Egypt, make sure you apply for an Egypt tourist eVisa online. Getting to Siwa is not going to be for everybody. Just to get to Siwa is a process, with super long bus rides and numerous military checkpoints. However, the journey is definitely worth it once you arrive.
The road connecting Cairo to Siwa Oasis is currently closed. No cars can drive down here. To get to Siwa you have to take a different route (see my Instagram guide for details). If you sort yourself a private driver or hop on the bus then you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the route.
There’s a great bus app you can download called GoBus. It’s a different bus company in Egypt and while it doesn’t go directly to Siwa Oasis, it does have other fantastic routes available around the country. You can book seats straight from the app and sort your transport out in one place.
Once you arrive in Siwa it can be difficult to find taxis or tuk tuks to get around. What I suggest is arranging a driver with your hotel. Don’t expect to just walk outside and see taxis looking for customers.
Another essential tip is to stock up on cash before you come. There’s only one ATM in all of Siwa and if you have problems with this ATM it can leave you stranded without any money. Of course, you should always keep some reserve cash and currency with you no matter where you travel in Egypt.
Lastly, make sure you wake up early in the morning when it’s still chilly outside to go to the hot springs. They are amazing first thing in the morning. A perfect way to start the day in a relaxing manner!
I hope you found this travel guide to Siwa Oasis in Egypt inspiring and informing. If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to get in touch with me – I’m always happy to help my fellow travelers. You can also check out my Siwa Oasis YouTube video below which goes into even more detail about this incredible Egyptian destination!