The White Desert is justifiably one of the most well-known desert destinations in Egypt. The unearthly beauty of the wind-carved rock formations is unparalleled and it is an extremely photogenic place. It is also a remote location tucked away in the middle of the controversial Western Desert and check with the security restrictions before embarking on your White Desert trip. I have been there twice and not once did I feel unsafe or afraid, but then it always makes sense to follow the customs of the country. Though the far-flung Farafra Oasis is closer to the White Desert than Bahariya Oasis, most travellers chose to base themselves in the latter due to its better accommodation and safari options. I used both Farafra and Bahariya oasis as bases for my two trips to the White Desert and have to admit that the latter was a more convenient option. Anyway, whichever place you choose as your starting point of the White Desert trip, there are some things you must bear in mind before going on an overnight journey into the infinite whiteness.

Glimpse of the Black Desert on the White Desert trip

A glimpse of the Black Desert just beyond Bahariya Oasis

White Desert trip description

A White Desert trip is provided by many travel operators in Egypt and you can either buy them online or in Cairo. These tours, in general, provide comfortable transfers to and from Cairo, a 4WD for the desert, all meals (expect delicious local food), beverages (water, tea/coffee, juices), overnight hotel in Bahariya, camping in the White Desert, all camping equipment, and amazing tours to the above-mentioned places. Some stops in the itinerary include Bahariya’s palm groves and dunes, camel farms, the Crystal Mountain, ash-topped hills of the Black Desert, and the white, ghostly White Desert.

Camping in White Desert trip

Imagine waking up to this


White Desert trip in details

A White Desert trip can be either of one night one day or two nights three days. These usually start and end in Cairo. The 2N/3D is the more comfortable one and includes an overnight stay in a hotel in Bahariya Oasis. In the 2N/3D tour, travellers leave Cairo around 11 am and reach Bahariya at about 3 pm. They have a relaxed evening at Bahariya, enjoy sunset at Lake Marun, local dinner, and rest at a hotel. The next morning after breakfast, they proceed towards the White Desert crossing Black Desert, Crystal Mountain, and Agabat on the way. On the second night, they sleep under the stars in the White Desert and return to Cairo the next day in the evening. I am providing a day by day breakup of the shorter and more hectic 1N/2D tour.

Day 1: Cairo – Bahariya – White Desert – El Haize

The trip begins with leaving Cairo in the morning and reaching Bahariya in around 4 hours. Lunch is provided at a local restaurant en route before reaching Bawiti, the biggest village in Bahariya Oasis. In Bahariya, there is a transfer to a 4WD driven by a local Bedouin driver. There is some local sightseeing done in Bahariya and the sights include the hot springs at Bir Al Matar and Bir El Ghaba, the ‘English Mountain’ and the Salt Lake Marun. The black basalt topped volcanic hills of the Black Desert are on the route and most tours stop awhile at the hot spring in the Valley of El Haize. The next stop is the glittering Crystal Mountain before driving through the huge, rounded rocks of the Agabat Valley. The White Desert National Park starts soon after Agabat and a region of spectacular, brilliant-white rock formations eroded by wind into spires, mushrooms, animals, and other bizarre shapes take over. Either you can return to El Haize after sunset at the White Desert or camp overnight in the White Desert. Irrespective of the place, you will enjoy a barbecue dinner, sleeping under the stars, and lots of Bedouin tea. Day 1 includes lunch and dinner.

Day 2: White Desert/El Haize – Bahariya – Cairo

After breakfast, most tours slowly start heading towards Bahariya where they reconvene with their original transfer to return to Cairo.

The 4WD transfers for the White Desert trip

The 4WD transfers for the White Desert trip


What to expect on your White Desert trip

  • Bahariya Oasis is around 4 hours from Cairo, so if you prefer the shorter trip make sure that you start early.
  • There won’t be any phone signal once you start heading into the desert. Plan and inform accordingly.
  • Carry enough music to get you through the 3 hours between Bahariya and the White Desert (and reverse on the next day).
  • Carry a power bank if necessary.
  • Bring warm clothing. Even though it’s warm during the day, at night the temperature drops.
  • Expect clean, comfortable, and basic camping arrangements. So bring your own toilet paper, wet wipes, etc.
  • Bring some snacks if you like midnight snacks and to munch on the way.
  • Get extra camera batteries (optional), a sun hat, sunglasses, swimsuit (if you wish to swim in the natural springs) and your sense of adventure.

    The volcanic rock topped hills of the Black Desert

I recommend Treehouse Egypt for its professional service. They offer many interesting itineraries for adventure lovers. For more reviews check out the amazing blog posts by TheplanetD and Arielleabroad.

The famous lookout or Agbat

Olive gardens surrounding the hotel in Bawiti

4WD drive on the White Desert trip

4WD drive through the White Desert

Sambusa snacks served during my White Desert trip

Sambusa snacks served during my White Desert trip

The lush gardens of Farafra Oasis

Lazing in one of the natural pools near Bahariya Oasis

Lazing in one of the natural pools near Bahariya Oasis

Looking for more offbeat Egypt destinations?

P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cairo Chronicles. Every week, Maverickbird will try to focus on a new theme, emotion, and beauty of the expat life in the exciting, maddening city of Cairo.