Winter Wonderland White Desert Safari

8 days, 7 nights – £1849 (based on 2 sharing)
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When you hear of a ‘winter wonderland’ most people think of snow. For those of us in Egypt, a winter wonderland is the lush and green oasis of Fayoum, the waterfalls of Wadi Al-Hitan and the Valley of the Whales. Days spent camping under a thousand stars in White Desert National Park, bathing in the natural hot springs of Bahariya and enjoying the intoxicating freedom that comes with wonderful riding, authentic accommodation, amazing food and welcoming guides and hosts. Welcome to Ride Egypt’s winter wonderland adventure!

Don’t just take our word for it – see the BBC Travel report about Bahariya and Farafra: “…some of the rarest landscapes in Egypt, making one forget, for a moment, that the Pyramids are the country’s biggest attraction”.

This multi adventure trip starts in Cairo, the ultimate destination for Egyptology and the history of the Pharaohs. You’ll ride beautiful Arabian horses famed for both their beauty and endurance. From there it’s on to Fayoum Oasis for more riding and a 4 x 4 safari to visit giant whale fossils and waterfalls. From Fayoum we continue on to the ‘Black and White’ – this marvel of nature is made up of calcium rock formations, shaped by hundreds of years of sandstorms. Some refer to this as an “outdoor museum of contemporary art”. The final stop before your return to Cairo is a visit to Bahariya and its hot springs, famed for their healing qualities.

Cairo: Giza, Abu Sir and the Red Pyramid of Dashur

A place that need very little introduction and where else would we begin an epic Egyptian adventure than with the 7th Wonder of the World – Giza, along with wide open spaces of the deserts surrounding Abu Sir and Dashur Pyramids

Wadi Al-Hitan: The Valley of the Whales

Thirty-seven million years ago, in the waters of the prehistoric Tethys Ocean, a sinuous, 50-foot-long beast with gaping jaws and jagged teeth died and sank to the seafloor. Over thousands of millennia a mantle of sediment built up over its bones. The sea receded and as the former seabed became a desert, the wind began to plane away the sandstone and shale above the bones.

Slowly the world changed. The pharaohs built their pyramids. Rome rose, Rome fell. And all the while the wind continued its patient excavation. Imagine this dry expanse underwater, with whales hunting and diving. Today visitors to Wadi Al-Hitan walk a stone-lined path to see rocks that hold the fossils of the long-gone sea creatures.

White Desert National Park

Upon first glimpse of the 300-sq-km national park of the White Desert, you’ll feel like Alice through the looking-glass. 20km northeast of Farafra, on the east side of the road, blinding-white chalk rock spires sprout almost supernaturally from the ground, each a frost-coloured lollipop. White Desert, an “outdoor museum of contemporary art”. Walking around the White Desert feels like visiting an art museum. The desert was recognised as a Natural Protectorate by the Egyptian government in 2002 so as to keep the area as pristine as possible. You are really in the middle of nature!

Black Desert : Crystal Mountain : Agabat Valley

Visiting the Black Desert is like stepping onto a different planet – postcard-perfect golden dunes surrounded by fully black powder-covered hills. A start contrast. Crystal Mountain: This is a large rock made entirely of quartz! It’s a special moment to climb to the top of a mountain made of crystal to enjoy panoramic views. Agabat Valley: A spectacular vision of white and gold limestone boulders that decorate an otherwise flat landscape.

Bahariya Oasis & Hot Springs

During the Middle Kingdom and especially during Roman times, this oasis was a centre of agriculture, producing wine sold in the Nile Valley and as far away as Rome. Its strategic location on the Libya–Nile Valley caravan route ensured it prospered into later ages. In recent years, stunning archaeological finds (such as that of the Golden Mummies) and easy access to the hot springs are one of the main attractions in this verdant area filled with palm trees and fresh fruits. The over 40°C sulphur-scented waters are perceived by many locals and visitors to hold healing properties, as well as offer a pleasurable way to end a long day.

Trip Highlights

White Desert camping · Riding in Cairo · Black Desert · Agabat Valley
Cookery lessons · Sandboarding · Riding in Fayoum
Crystal Mountain · Bedouin villages
Sunset Camel ride in the White Desert · Bathing in the Hot springs of Bahariya
Mixed accommodation, from guest houses to sleeping under the stars

Itinerary

A printer friendly version of this itinerary is available here
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Day 1: Arrive in Cairo

Transfer from the airport for dinner (depending on times) and overnight.

Day 2: Cairo Riding

Our winter wonderland adventure starts in the shadows of the Great Pyramids of Giza with a morning trail ride to introduce you to our history and the beauty of our horses.

You ride right up to the pyramids and explore the Great Sphinx by foot. From there it’s a short mini bus ride to our Abu Sir facilities, arriving in time for a local-style lunch and some down time. An afternoon trail ride of a few hours takes you to the Sun Temple of Niuserre, the largest and best-preserved solar temple, and the solar temple of Userkaf. Both were built in the 25th century BCE.

After your first day of adventure you will dine on authentic Egyptian cuisine at the guesthouse.

Day 3: Dashur Bent Pyramids Trail and Fayoum Transfer

Today we have the luxury of a longer trail ride to The “Bent” Pyramids, built for Fourth Dynasty founding pharaoh Sneferu in Dahshur, at the southern end of the Memphis necropolis, and now a Unesco World Heritage Site. This trail is wonderful for riders as it offers open ground in every direction, perfect for ‘flying’ with the horses. The ride is around 4-5 hours depending on paces.

On return we’ll have lunch at the stables before heading back to our hotel to shower, change and check out. The transfer from Cairo to Fayoum by road is just 1.5 hours and we’ll arrive in time for dinner and overnight at our quaint guesthouse.

Day 4: Fayoum Riding and 4×4 Safari

Rise and shine, it’s the perfect time to ride and explore Fayoum Oasis and Lake Quaron by horseback!

After an early breakfast we head out on our ride through this lush and fertile basin onto Lake Quaron, an expansive lake on the edge of the desert. An important site for migratory birds, chances are you’ll spot countless varieties. Through the year it welcomes a large colony of flamingos, grey herons, spoonbills and many duck species.

After a great morning in the saddle we will pop back to the guesthouse to shower, change and have lunch before setting off on our first 4×4 safari to the ‘Valley of the Whales’. First we will visit the waterfalls in the desert at Wadi El-Rayan, designated as a protected Area in 1989. From there we will move to Wadi Al-Hitan, designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005 thanks to its 40 million year-old whale skeletons.

Our last stop is in Qusur al Arab, surrounded by sand dunes, where you can try sand boarding and catch a beautiful sunset. Dinner and overnight at the guesthouse.

Day 5: Black and White Desert Camping

Working with a local family-run business, we offer a unique experience and go the extra mile to ensure you will have memories of the desert that will last a life time. The people of the oasis, or the Waḥātī people (meaning “of the oasis” in Arabic), are the descendants of the ancient people who inhabited the oasis, ancient tribes with connections to western Egypt and eastern Libya. These people keep have kept the secrets of the desert for generations.

Ride EgyptAfter breakfast we will set off for the highlight of this trip, the Black Desert! This is one of the strangest desert landscapes on earth and a place that leaves you with your mouth open. The dunes were originally like regular sand dunes but millions of years ago they were covered by the remnants of volcanic eruptions. Most of the hills are easy to climb and perfect to get a panoramic view of this vast surreal landscape. We continue onto Crystal Mountain, a small and rocky hill built out of colourless crystals and giant stalagmites.

You’ll be able to enjoy some downtime at the nearby village before we set off again for the White Desert, aiming to arrive pre-sunset. When it comes to riding locations, this one is incredibly unique and offers once-in-a-lifetimes views. You will be riding camels, the most amazing way to travel through this area (even if you’ve not previously been a fan of them!). Giant mushroom-shaped rock formations decorate the landscapes.

The team will prepare tents whilst you enjoy the sunset. As the sky turns pink and then a deep, fiery orange, the rock-shapes fade and silence is all around. Sitting around a small fire and enjoying the simplest meal of chicken, rice and vegetables, you will feel like nothing has ever tasted so good.

PLEASE NOTE: The White Desert is undeveloped for tourism and there are no tourist facilities, vendors trying to sell you something you do not need or even bathrooms to use. There is not a single ticket control to the park and we only have one rule: everything we take to the desert, we must take back to Cairo.

Day 6: Bahariya Oasis and Hot Springs

Just a few hours drive away lies the exquisite Bahariya Oasis. Much of the oasis floor is covered by sprawling shady date palms and speckled with dozens of natural springs which beg to be plunged into.

Our lunch location is really something very special – stopping at a Bedouin vilage you can slip into the hot springs and soothe your muscles whilst the locals prepare lunch for you. Bathing in hot springs in a desert is definitely something for the bucketlist and is perfect after a night in the desert.

Overnight at a guesthouse or private camp.

Day 7: Bahariya Oasis Tour and Cairo Transfer

Our morning starts with a breakfast bread-making lesson with the locals. After a relaxed few hours we will continue on with the tour, stopping at some key places of interest on our drive back to Cairo: Bahariya Old Oasis, Salt Lake, Pyramids Mountain and the English Mountains. Dinner overnight at our guesthouse.

Day 8: Cairo Riding and Departure

We end our adventure in the same way we started, through the eyes of the Pharoahs, with our final ride at Giza Plateau. This last, fast-paced ride sees you flying to the top of the plateau with the pyramids as a backdrop. A BBQ lunch will be served before we ride back in time to shower before check out and departure.

Optional Extensions:

  • Red Sea:  3 days / 2 nights
  • Luxor: 3 days / 2 nights.
  • Aswan & Abu Simble: 3 days / 2 nights.
  • Cruises: Luxor to Aswan –  Aswan to Luxor: 4 days / 5 nights.

Accommodation

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  • Cairo & Fayoum: Guesthouse
  • White Desert: Camping
  • Bahariya Oasis and Hot Springs: Guesthouse OR private camp

Information

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  • Price & Duration: £1849 per person based on 2 sharing accommodation for 8 days / 7 nights. Single person supplement: £400 (limited availability).
  • Group Size: Maximum of 8.
  • Paces: Varied.
  • Equipment/Tack: English.

Our information page has more details on what is and isn’t included as well as useful general advice.

Other Riding Holidays at Ride Egypt

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