Siwa, or the unknown Egyptian paradise!
Is that picture acclaiming to you? I guess it is, in the eyes of many travelers and non-travelers. The Salty Lakes of Siwa, a place in Egypt in the border with Libya (only 150km) turns to be a paradise of turquoise natural waters filled with lots of Salt. A true paradise for your eyes because of its really unique beauty, but also a perfect spot to treat your skin while swimming into those salty waters!
Siwa, has become over the past years more popular due to its presence on Instagram. Every time, more and more Travel Influencers had head all the way to Siwa, and show the beauty of those unknown Salty Lakes to the world. Though, Siwa has more to offer besides this more ‘popular’ spot. Continue reading so you can discover!
But first, let’s talk about ‘How to get there’, as I believe it is important to know how can you reach Siwa, as it is not the best communicated spot in the country, in terms of means of transport.
How to reach Siwa?
You honestly, and really, have only two options:
I guess you can only reach Siwa whether it is from Cairo or Alexandria.
From Cairo, you have a direct bus that lasts around 12h with the bus company called ‘West Delta’ and that costs 230 pounds (12€). I am not sure of the place it departs of, but it drops you off in the ‘Go bus’ station placed in Tahrir Square.
From Alexandria, the whole entire journey changes a bit. Why? because it turns out that the bus is not direct, that it makes a stop that according to the guy who works at the bus station, it only takes 15mins. And some other travellers reported this to be its case, but I am afraid that the ride, is not always that smooth.
In my case, and in the case of the other travellers who who took the same bus from Alexandria to Siwa, what happened is that the bus stoped at ‘Marsa Matrouh’ but instead of doing so for 15 mins it was for almost 3 hours. A guy told us, that the bus 3h later may come full, so a spot was either granted. By the way, the journey from Alexandria costs 120 pounds (6€) the problem is if the bus will ever arrive there. In this point, is when option two had to be executed…
By private transport (whether is Taxi, or Car)
Rather this is your first option, or it is the only remaining choice you’ll had, taking a taxi (as long as you achieve enough people to share the taxi with) is always your last, and not the best, option. Why not the best? Because the ride is very overrated compared to the bus, and in order to make it ‘affordable’ (3times more expensive than the bus still) you’ll need to take at least 4 more people with you, which will make your journey considerably uncomfortable. But, I guess Siwa’s worth that effort.
Consider the ride should start in Marsa Matrouh, otherwise it will be out of budget to take a taxi. Also, negociate the price with them before you accept the price, because they’ll try to put it as high as possible.
For the car option, nothing to add. If you have a car and know the way, or you have at least the GPS, welcome to take it and go with it.
Main mean of transport in Siwa
Take all the time Tok Tok’s, it’s a three wheeled covered scooter used in areas where cars cannot be used. It is the main mean of transport in Siwa. I recommend you since now, that you take Tok Tok for all your tours in Siwa, really, you will save a lot of egyptian pounds. Don’t take the tours with the Hotels, because they will offer you nice Jeeps, and similar sportive cars with AC (that in some cases it won’t even work), but then they will charge you double just because ‘more comfort’. Toktoks are okay in comfort for the distances of Siwa. If you get tired they have a pillow in the seat behind the driver. Place yourself there and enjoy a more typical Siwi experience.
Where to stay in Siwa?
I stayed in a hotel called as of ‘Dream Lodge’, with a cozy and beautiful Siwi decoration, 10 minutes by ‘Tok Tok’ from the city centre. A bit inconvenient if you reach Siwa by night, which was my case, although the place is totally safe.
The hotel, its rooms, common areas beautifully decorated with pools and garden, and the breakfast are nice. Also the price is reasonable, specially in my case, that booking made me a good discount for being a frequent traveler. Otherwise it will be a bit more expensive.
But the negative point, was the staff.
Firstly, because none there spoke english in exception of one of the managers who happen not to be there very often, so I had to call him so he can translate me to his staff mates.
Secondly, because the check-in was inappropriately done. One of the manager didn’t even make us pass through reception, either he checked the booking. Only after I checked in, he realised it was the wrong room, when I already unpacked my stuff and of course declined his order to change room. Yes, order, he behave like that kind of frustrated boss I don’t have, and so imagine how much of tolerance I had to him giving orders to his costumers. I stand my ground. Stayed were I was full stay.
Thirdly, being Siwa a place you need to discover by some mean of transport that it is not your feet, and being you alone and new (my case) they put 0 effort on organise a warm welcome and to let you know where you have to go, what to visit, organise nice excursions for you. Nothing, zero interested on making the stay of the guest more pleasant and helpful. Indeed, I haven’t done or taken a single excursion around Siwa with them but with third tour guides and people in Siwa.
And I was there for over a week, and took all the excursions, so Imagine how bad they’ve done.
I paid 15€ for a double room with toilet inside per night.
What to do in Siwa?
1. VIsit the Salt Lakes
Visiting the Lakes is an absolute must whenever you go to Siwa. This natural Salty Lakes are also one of the main reasons Siwa had became popular on social media, because of that popular picture floating in the Lake. You’ll float, yes, because of the huge amount of Salt those water have (more than the Dead Sea, imagine) and also your body and skin will be glad you go there as that salt is used as of Treatment.
To go there, there will be Siwis who charge you 400 pounds(20€) if you go by car with AC, or 100 pounds (5€) if you take Tok Tok. It’s your choice.
2. Go to the 'Cleopatra Spring'
As I said, due to the high degree / amount of Salt of the Lakes, it is recommendable to visit right after being floating in the Lake, the well known ‘Cleopatra Spring’. There, you can take a swim in the ‘sweet/non salty’ water in order to remove all the remaining salt from your body and even from your swim suit. Very pleasant and recommendable. After the swim, there’s a nice bar to chill at that offers tasteful and healthy fresh juices by only 30 pounds.(1.5€)
3. Desert sunset and sandboarding tour
This excursion is a really amazing one. First of all, because you get the change to experience the dunes of the Sahara desert, so well known around the world as it covers 9.200.000 square kilometres around the African continent, passing through countries such: Egypt, Lbyia, Tunnisia and Morrocoo.
Going there for the sunset, with a bedouin siwi guide who will prepare some fresh juices and fruits and typical tea for you, and with a sand board table to give a try to this sport over the desert dunes, will feel magical and very fun altogether.
I had so much fun trying sand boarding for the first time. You fell down, but then you stand up again, that’s how you learn to manage new situations in life in general. By falling, you learn how to get your path where you want.
Excursion by tok tok only costs 100, shared
4. Go to 'Fatnass' Island for the sunset
Another spot to check for the sunset is ‘Fatnas Island’, a beautiful Island in the area of Siwa, from where the sunset can be observed with such a nice views.
The ride there and back with TokTok will cost you maximum 80 pounds.
You can seat to watch the sunset in a bar with views for which the owner will expect you to order at least a fresh juice that costs 30pounds, which actually is a fair price and you help him out with his small business.
I always support small/local business when I travel, because I believe any business deserves it chance to survive, and many of them depend exclusively of the tourism.
5. Visit the 'Al Whadi' Amun Temple
This is an interesting cultural visit. Placed in a mount in the surroundings of Siwa, the Al Whadi Temple also known as ‘Amun’ temple offers to the visitor the choice to see a Pharahonic temple and an Old Mosque building. The price of the entrance is 50 pounds but it gets as low as 25 whenever you are using your Egyptian Residence Card. Yes, I do have it! Want to know how? I’ll explain you soon.
Anyway, in the entrance of the Temple you’ll find a guide who will be willing to show you and explain you the history for no extra cost.
Be very aware in Egypt many non certified people want to show you things expecting tips in exchange. Run away from those profiles of people.
6. Climb to the top of the 'Shali Fortress'
Shali fortress, is a 13th century mud-brick made fortress place in the ‘Downtown’ of Siwa (if we can really consider Siwa to be a town, because it’s a tiny place, with a population of only 40k people).
As I said, Shali Fortress it’s a fortress made of mud and salt, and the houses around it were made with the same materials too. Nowadays none lives in it, and it became a tourist attraction, due to the amazing views it offers to all Siwa and for the sunset or sunrise time as well.
7. Visit the 'Mountain of the Dead'
You normally have to pay entrance to get into this mountain, but when I went with my Siwi guide the person who charges you in the entrance was out, and he told me to go for free. I followed his advice and no problem. I went for free, watch the views, and the tombs all around the place.
8. Do a salt meditation treatment
Have you ever heard about this way of meditation? Well, I haven’t until I get into Siwa, where a new world of treatments opens up to you. There I had the chance to go for my first ‘salt meditation’ ever, a practice in which you submerged your whole body inside of the salt, in a closed room with relaxing lights and mindful music, and that helps with respiratory illnesses in case you suffer from some of them.
The therapy last about 45mins to 1hour, and as you can see in the picture, that’s how the environment of the place looks like.
Price is 100 pounds = 5 €.
To end up with...
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