The best times are spring and autumn. Summers are very hot, and winters can be bitterly cold. Hiking the transitional, switchover seasons avoids extremes. Differences in altitude give each part of the trail its own climate and mean that specific parts of the trail can still be done in relative comfort all year. The lowland deserts are warmer than the highlands of St Katherine. A winter’s day might be bitterly cold in St Katherine, but balmy in the lowlands; likewise, a summer’s day might be scorching in the lowlands, but pleasantly cool in the mountains. Apart from the weather, winter is famous for its camel races, whilst the end of summer sees traditional ziyarahs or Bedouin festivals. There are other events such as the Feast of St Katherine or natural wonders such as the annual bird migrations between Africa and Asia.
Seasons of the Sinai: when to go
Spring – The Sinai spring lasts from March to May. It’s the most popular time for hiking. Temperatures are manageable everywhere, from the coast to the high mountains, but they begin to warm up significantly in the lowland desert areas from April onwards, so beware! Generally, water is most abundant at this time, with the winter rains replenishing wells and springs. Seasonal creeks sometimes flow in mountain wadis. It’s one of the prettiest times too, with ephemeral flowers bursting into colour, the trees of the Bedouin orchards blooming, and Bedouin families taking their flocks of goats to graze.
Summer – The real summer arrives around June, running into mid September. Summers in the Sinai – like most of Egypt – are extremely hot. Temperatures can be searing in the lowlands and although hiking isn’t impossible starts have to be made at sunrise, with long, shady breaks through the afternoon. Hiking the cooler highlands of St Katherine is the best option, but even here, walking on the open trail, the ferocity of the sun should never be underestimated. The month-long Muslim festival of Ramadan will fall in summer until 2018; it is always hard to find guides at this time.
Winter The winter arrives around December, lasting to late February. It is the best time for hiking the lowland parts of the Sinai Trail. The highlands of St Katherine are very different; home to a climate unlike any other in Egypt. Some days might be warm; but generally, it’s cold. On the highest peaks temperatures can drop well below freezing, day or night. Rain may fall and some winters see heavy snowfalls in the mountains, although it doesn’t usually stay more than a few days. Weather is more unstable in winter and all hikers must take extra safety precautions and wear suitable clothing.
Autumn – Autumn falls around September. By late October temperatures feel pleasant in every part of the Sinai; not too hot, not too cold. One of best areas for hiking in autumn is St Katherine, whose mountains cradle hundreds of orchards that belong to the Bedouin. Leaves turn crimson and deep shades of yellow, as winter draws in. It begins to feel chilly a bit later autumn, and rain can fall too. It’s also a good time for birdwatching too, as huge populations of birds make their way between Asia and Africa (also in spring).