The Siwa Oasis was the highlight of my trip to Egypt, despite it being 10-12 hours away (drive) from Cairo. Siwa allows you to take a step in the past and is best known for its dates, olives, and salt.
From being only a salt mine where you'd find locals working, to becoming a picturesque tourist spot (only a few years ago), the salt lakes of Siwa are a great reminder that beauty can be found even in the most unexpected places. The salt has healing properties, but don't let anything get in your eyes, as it burns.
When it comes to Egypt, I bet the Siwa Salt Lakes is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of booking a trip to Egypt. Perhaps it is the chaos of the bustling city of Cairo, or it's the Great Pyramid of Giza, or the world's greatest open-air museum in Luxor.
Below, you can find some of my travel tips if you decide to visit Siwa. While the Salt Lakes is the main attraction, there are also lots of other places you can visit on your trip, which makes the long 9+ hour journey from Cairo to Siwa worth the drive.
I will list them all below and you can decide for yourself if you wish to add it to your Egypt itinerary.
As Siwa is very close to the Libyan border, you will also be crossing through some military checkpoints (at least 3 of them) along the way. Personal items may be searched and you will also be asked for your passport.
1. SIWA SALT LAKES
Pack your swimsuit and get ready to float. It's a very relaxing experience and you won't want to come out once you're in. Since there is so much salt in the lakes, you don't have to worry if you don't know how to swim, because your body will float on the water's surface.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for your visit:
1. Bring water shoes. It hurts to walk on the salt. I cut myself when I went in for a swim as I was walking barefoot.
2. Bring fresh water with you so you can wash off the salt after.
3. Drive around to find the best spot for you, as the salt lakes are scattered around the salt mines. You will find that there are different shapes and sizes. Pick which one you want to go to.
4. Wear your swimsuit before you get there, as there is nowhere to change. The lakes aren't as a popular tourist destination as you would expect. We had to change inside the bus, as there were no facilities available.
5. Do not swallow the water.
2. CLEOPATRA'S BATH
Cleopatra's Bath is located in the Siwa Oasis. As Siwa has an abundance of salt, the freshwater of the natural springs has mixed with the salt to create salt lakes and pools. Legends say that Cleopatra has swam in this spring (hence the name). The water is very clear here and it is in the middle of the town. It is one of the most popular spots in the area! The cafes across the bath offer a changing facility if you wish to go for a dip.
3. THE WESTERN DESERT
An afternoon spent in the desert, sandboarding is one I would never say no to. The drive itself was fun, but the most memorable part of this stop was sandboarding. In the middle of the desert, we came across natural springs, where we enjoyed a refreshing swim, and even came across a small cafe, where we grabbed a bite.
4. MOUNTAIN OF THE DEAD (GEBEL AL MAWTA)
This mountain in Siwa holds great significance in history, as it is the place the Siwans hid during WWII. There is a lot more about this place, but note that you can also get a beautiful view of the date palms in the valley nearby. Here, you will also find tombs, such as that of Si Amun, which dates back to the 3rd century BC. The walls still have paintings and art all over which you can see today.
5. THE TEMPLE OF THE ORACLE OF AMUN
There are many myths that surround the reasoning behind building the Temple of Amun. However, it is believed that Alexander the Great visited here in 331 BC and came to find out whether or not he was the son of Zeus (Amun).
6. SHALI FORTRESS
In the small village of Shali, you will not only find the fortress but also one of the oldest mosques in the world!
The fortress was built in the 11th century. Its' purpose was to protect the people who lived in the area. To this day, you can still find the fortress standing and it is quite an amazing sight to experience. The fortress was constructed with salt and mudbrick.
7. TAZIRY ECOLODGE
Unlike other places I've traveled to, Siwa felt like the place that put a hold on my everyday routine and busy schedule. Though there are many things to see in Siwa, I felt like ultimately, it was an escape from reality. Yes, as much as it felt like a step back in time (since life feels like it's paused there and stuck in a specific time period), Siwa was also the perfect place to reconnect to nature and life. It was the place that forced me to reflect on my everyday life and the blessings that come with it.
We stayed at an ecolodge, the type of accommodations you will find around Siwa, and the experience was beautiful. It was also hard, as there was no electricity (sometimes it is only available for a few hours in the day), so getting up to go to the bathroom at night was possible if you took one of the lanterns with you or used your phone's flashlight. Additionally, we did not have hot water, but we still managed to get through.
It's an experience I would recommend everyone to try at least once. We stayed at Taziry Ecovillages, where we gazed at the stars lighting up the sky at night and had some of the best food (made the traditional way; in the ground). I also got the chance to walk around the property and explore the abandoned buildings, among which I found a simple (yet beautiful) mosque. There were horses, a breathtaking landscape, and the most peaceful environment.
Believe it or not, I did most of my shopping in Siwa! As I usually love buying food products when I travel, I knew I couldn't pass on the opportunity to buy fresh dates, salt, and olives here. This left me no choice, but to have checked luggage on my journey back, but it was worth it and the olive oil I bought lasted me more than a year.
Would you add Siwa to your itinerary if you go to Egypt? Let me know!