The Sinai Trail is over 200km long. It takes most hikers 14 days to finish, walking uphill from Bir Sweir, on the Gulf of Aqaba. Hikers who start near from Ras Shetan, at the more southerly of the two trailheads, take 12 days. You don’t have to walk the whole trail though! Hiking short parts of the trail over a few days is what most people do. Hikers can do pretty much anything, from half day hikes to weekends, and multi day hikes. Suggestions for different programmes, arranged by the territory of each Bedouin tribe, are below. Each area has its own particular kind of scenery and its own climate, depending on the time of the year, so it is a good idea to choose somewhere that will be comfortable hiking for the season.
The Tarabin Deserts
The Sinai Trail begins in the lowland deserts of a Bedouin tribe called the Tarabin. It’s a region of coastal mountains, high, table top plateaus, wide wadis and canyons. For many hikers, this is the most dramatic part of the whole Sinai Trail: home to a bigger mix of landscapes than any other region. There are several excellent hikes: some hard, others easy. Whatever the programme, hike here in the cooler times of the year. Summers are extremely hot in these lowland deserts.
El Gardood Plateau (3 days) – A huge tableland towering 1000m over the Gulf of Aqaba, looking out to the Hejaz of Arabia. Geologically, it is part of the same block of land that extends into the deserts of the Naqab, to the north. Of all parts of the Sinai Trail, this is the hardest and is for experienced, physically fit and strong hikers only: the trails are steep, loose and exposed in places, and too hard for camels, meaning all food and water for three days must be carried in a backpack. See Maps 1 & 2.
Coloured Canyon (1-2 days) – The Sinai’s most famous canyon. Hikers can reach this canyon in a day from the Gulf of Aqaba, starting at Ras Shetan. The trail cuts inland through Wadi el Melha, passing Wadi Wishwashi, where there is a deep waterpool. After this it runs past Moiyet el Melha – a supposedly haunted oasis – before crossing a high pass to the Coloured Canyon. It is a beautiful hike that can be split into two days, with a camp in Farsh Fureh. See Alternative Trailhead Map.
Wadi Melha Circuit (2-3 days) – A slightly longer trail, which follows the hike above to the Coloured Canyon, making it into a circular route, returning to the Gulf of Aqaba via Wadi Melha Atshana. It can be done in two days by fit, experienced hikers. See Alternative Trailhead Map.
Jebel Mileihis (1-2 days) – This rugged, flat-topped sandstone mountain is one of the desert’s best-loved hiking peaks, with views to the Hejaz mountains of Saudi Arabia and St Katherine highlands. It’s a tough hike on a steep, loose trail, but well worth it. It can be finished in half a day, but there are caves, hollows and overhangs on the top, so consider it as a one or two day trip, watching sunset and sunrise on the top. Taxis can be taken to Ras Ghazala, a 1-2 hour walk away; jeeps can also reach the mountain. See Map 5.
The Muzeina Deserts
The middle ground of the Sinai Trail, half way between the Gulf of Aqaba and the high mountains of St Katherine. They belong to a Bedouin tribe called the Muzeina. This region has a classic desert feel: there are wide plains, rugged sandstone peaks and oases; very different to the high plateaux and coastal mountains of the Tarabin region. The main hub of the Muzeina deserts is the oasis of Ein Hudera: several families live here and it’s the perfect base for hiking, easily reached by transport.
White Canyon (1 day) – A narrow sandstone chasm, filled with white powder puff sand, this begins on the doorstep of the Ein Hudera oasis. It can be done as a hike in itself in 1-2 hours or done as a circular route that begins and ends at the oasis, passing Hajar Maktoob – a rock covered in ancient graffiti – before crossing an old camel pass or taking a high cliff trail back to where it began. See Map 5.
Closed Canyon (1 day) – This canyon is so narrow that hikers have to squeeze through. It is a half day there-and-back hike from the Ein Hudera oasis. Hikers can also start from the road at Ras Ghazala, walking over the spectacular sandstone pass of Naqb el Hamedat, and ending at the oasis. Taxis can be taken to Ras Ghazala from any main town. See Map 5.
Wadi Rum (1 day) – Most people think Wadi Rum is in Jordan: but the Sinai has one too. This is a big, grand wadi between sandstone walls, and it can be done in a circular hike from the Ein Hudera oasis. A trail leads over a high pass from the oasis to Wadi Rum: hikers can then turn right, to follow Wadi Rum in an easterly direction, as it winds between narrow walls back to Wadi Hudera. See Map 5.
Jebel Mutamir (1 day) – A high, sandstone mountain that towers over a cluster of prehistoric tombs called the Nawamis. Several peaks can be climbed on Jebel Mutamir – all of them requiring scrambling – and most give views out to the highlands of St Katherine, with Mount Sinai and Jebel Katherina visible. The hike starts from the Nawamis village, which is a short way from the main road. See Map 6.
St Katherine Highlands
Sometimes called the Roof of Egypt, the highlands of St Katherine are the final part of the Sinai Trail. Most of the area stands over 1500m; the highest peaks tower over 2500m. This area is home to the most famous and holy peaks in the Sinai, and it has long been the most popular hiking hub of the peninsula. This area is the territory of a Bedouin tribe called the Jebeleya – the Mountain People – and it also home to an ancient Christian culture that has existed continuously here for almost 2000 years.
Mount Sinai (1 day) – The holiest, most famous mountain in the Sinai; perhaps even the world. Legend has it this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God himself. Out of all the places to hike in the Sinai, this is the busiest, but the Sinai Trail route goes well beyond the classic tourist routes, allowing hikers to escape the crowds. The Sinai Trail traverses little-trodden parts of the mountain, taking hikers on an enchanting walk past forgotten chapels, orchards, hermit cells and wells. See Maps 10 & 11.
Jebel Katherina (1-2 days) – Egypt’s highest peak at 2642m. This is another holy spot, where it’s said angels laid St Katherine to rest after she was martyred in Alexandria. The summit is crowned with a small chapel, from which both Africa and Asia are visible on a good day. There is a small hut where hikers can shelter for the night too. The Sinai Trail ascends from Deir el Arbain, an ancient monastery, on the classic route, and descends via a lesser trodden trail on the west side of the mountain. See Maps 11 & 12.
The Blue Mountain (1-2 days) – A huge desert plain where boulders and outcrops are painted blue, this is one of the most spectacular, surreal parts of the Sinai Trail, well worth a hike. Hikers can walk in from Wadi Sebaiya and Wadi Sudood, crossing the high pass of Naqb el Thirwa. One of the best things to do in the Blue Desert is simply to wander across the plain, scrambling up the small outcrops. There are no set hiking routes here, so it has the feel of an adventure. See Maps 9 & 10.