The Lunar Landscape of Egypt’s White Desert

Written By: The Planet D

Two weeks before visiting Egypt we read an article about the White Desert in Egypt and decided we had to go there! I am glad we did because it was one of the most fascinating destinations we’ve ever visited!

Located in the Farafra depression in western Egypt, the White Desert tour takes you through the Baharia Oasis and Black Desert before spending the night among massive chalky white rock formations.

White Desert Adventure

egypt's white desert at sunset

We were staying at the Dahab Hostel in Cairo expecting to pay a lot for a tour to the White Desert, but they offered us a trip for a great deal. The Three day trip took us from Cairo to the White desert and included transportation, meals and camping Bedouin Style in the desert. There was also a visit to the hot springs and a 4X4 ride in the sand dunes that we won’t soon forget. It turned out to be a great trip.

The White Desert National Park is a protected area that spans 300 square kilometers. Located just 5 hours from Cairo, this is an amazing trip to add to any Egypt itinerary. Read more: 20 Exciting Things to do in Egypt – Plus A Few Fun Facts

Driving to the Bahariya Oasis

dave inside jeep of desert tour
Inside our ride

It was an early morning wake up call, and we hopped on our coach for the 5-hour ride into the desert. The White Desert is located about 500 km west of Cairo, taking us far off the beaten path.

I knew that Egypt was a dry country, but I didn’t realize just how much of it is desert. The entire country is sand, sand and more sand. After a long and bumpy drive, we made it to the Bahariya Oasis by 2:30 in the afternoon.

Bahariya Oasis

sand dunes of egypt

The Bahariya Oasis is one of the most accessible Oasis in Egypt. And it was the very first Oasis we had ever visited in our lives.

Our driver took us on a tour where we tasted some olives and bought some dates for the road. Our lunch was a traditional Bedouin meal of red sauce and potato, with rice, pita, and sweet tea. That gave us the energy needed to set off for our White Desert Tour at sunset. There was still a big day ahead.

dave at crystal mountain

Our drive was one beautiful scene after another as we took in the views of sand dunes and high cliffs of layered sedimentary rocks. We stopped at a salt lake where we looked at crystal formations. This area was once a sea bed and the crystals are fossils eroding over thousands of years.

Black Desert Egypt

black desert egypt

Before reaching the White Desert, we had a stop at the Black Desert. Sahra al-Suda, consists of mounds of black mountains are a stark contrast from the light and sandy deserts we are used to.

During our trip, we climbed a high peak overlooking the amazing desert vista. Black pebbles blanket the mounds caused by an ancient volcanic eruption and erosion in the mountains covered the sand. The entire desert was turned into an ominous dark shade.

On to the White Desert

white desert lunar formations
The White Desert, Egypt

The views were astounding, giving us some of our best pictures of Egypt, but it was time to move forward. We carried on through a couple of security checkpoints and after a few more bumps and a final checkpoint gate, we entered the white terrain that looked as if a blanket of snow had landed on the ground.

white desert looks like snow
Looks like snow on the ground

White monoliths jutted out of the landscape, but nothing compared to our final destination.

deb standing under massive white desert formation

Our campsite was surrounded by the most amazing rock formations I have ever seen resembling mushrooms, camels and hawks. These pure white and smooth shapes were scattered throughout the area.

our camp in the middle of the desert

The White Desert was formed by erosion over hundreds of years. Much like the hoodoos of Drumheller in Alberta, they are tall formations with caps on top.

white desert tour egypt

The calcium boulders have been shaped into peculiar formations thanks to sandstorms. We were surprised to see that when we touched the rock, it was actually chalk.

Sunset over the White Desert

sunset over white desert
Dave Bouskill’s White Desert

We climbed atop of one of the Twin Peaks formations and watched the sun go down. The sunsets in the desert truly are some of the most breathtaking on earth.

All this time, our guides were preparing dinner and putting our camp together. We didn’t have to lift a finger. It was our time to enjoy the views and appreciate the beautiful landscape surrounding us.

white desert tour guide in egypt

Once the sun had set we made our way back to camp, and it was nice to have a warm fire to sit beside until dinner was served.

Bedouin Dinner

We ate red sauce and potato with rice plus the added bonus of a delicious fire-roasted chicken and hot tea. At this point, I did wish that we brought some whiskey to keep us warm.

eating a bedouin dinner in the white desert
Bedouine Camp in the White Desert

Once dinner was served, it seemed that our guides were done with us. Their work was done and we were on our own. But that gave us some time to explore and admire the views. It was an early night as we were chilled to the bone.

I’m glad we packed our down jackets and Dave’s headscarf that he bought at the Bahariya Oasis came in handy that night.

dave and deb at a bedouin camp in egypt
Down Jackets Saved our Lives in the Deserts of Africa

Surprisingly, it wasn’t a bad sleep in the middle of the freezing desert. Heavy blankets and sleeping bags kept us fairly warm until a nose, ear or hand popped out from underneath the covers. We now know why though head scarfs are so important!

camping in the white desert

But to fall asleep under a clear desert sky while being entertained by shooting stars made it all worthwhile.

Sunrise in the White Desert

sunrise at white desert
White Desert, Egypt

We all awoke cold and achy in the dark to witness the sun rise over the white stones. We didn’t spend too much time in the desert after the sun came up so after a bit more exploring, a quick breakfast, and one last view of the breathtaking site, we were back in the 4X4s for our drive back to Bahariya.

Drive Back to Bahariya

jeep tour of egypt desert

Our driver was insane, but a lot of fun. He had a brilliant smile and kind eyes and gave us a thrill as we raced through the dunes. At one point we became stuck on a steep incline and I was sure that we were going to roll. After what seemed like forever, he finally figured out his path, and we went tearing off again.

The ride was long and full of excitement as people were tossed about and sometimes hitting their heads on the roof. I thought Peru was scary and we were strapped into a dune buggy, this was crazy sitting in the back of a 4X4 with no seat belts.

Hot Springs

local food vendor in oasis

We made it safe and sound though, laughing from the adrenaline rush and ready to relax in the springs. The Bahariya Oasis has several hot springs and the spring that you visit depends on the tour you take.

We didn’t love our hot springs stop, so instead we joined some locals for fresh dates. The Oasis is a lush land good for cultivating olives, grapes and mangoes. There’s no shortage of food to purchase from local vendors.

After some tea with the gatekeeper and ate some fresh dates, while one of the drivers fixed his front tire. Then it was back to the 4X4 stopping to climb a mountain, seeing some more sights and then back to Cairo in time for dinner.

Travel Planning Resources

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Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

19 thoughts on “The Lunar Landscape of Egypt’s White Desert”

  1. Hi, great article! I’m planing the white desert trip and I’m looking for a tour with decent price. Your trip was great price and I was wondering if you could give me the contact of the company you book this tour? I love your blog..keep up the great work.

  2. Really Cool Experience in White Desert. It make me curious to visit White Desert as soon Possible. You guys are really cool in sharing such great stuff.

  3. Hello 🙂 Thank you for your informative blogpost! Do you by any chance still rememeber with which tour company you booked this? Was it perhaps the dahab hostel? Also did you join a shared group? I’m travelling solo in egpyt in january and am looking to join a group and not do a private tour. Also did you share the tent with everyone or did everyone have individual tents/sleeping places?

    Kind regards from Switzerland!

  4. It looks amazing. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and will have to do something about it this year. The white desert is certainly something different to see after the Pyramids etc.

    • Yes, we Highly recommend the white desert. The town that is the staging point for the trip is even interesting. We did a dunebuggy excursion through the sand dunes and drove up to the top of a large canyon to overlook the desert. It was incredible.

  5. Glad to hear from you guys, considering what I’ve read on your blog, I’d say you are doing fine. I’m sure Corbeil is hard to keep up to Dave… just bear down a bit… isn’t it great having friends to tease you? Especially for such a noble and heart filling cause.

    Europe Travel

  6. I have never even heard of the White Desert! It looks amazing, almost like a land of snow but with the Egyptian heat. You do seem to have the best times traveling around, I wish I could be part of that.
    .-= Prince Hotels´s last blog ..Prince Hotels =-.

  7. I am so jealous! Traveling to Egypt (and many other places in Africa) is one of the few dream vacations I have yet to make. I’m sure I’ll get there one day, but I appreciate the wonderful descriptions and photos of the trip that you have shared. I can at least live vicariously through you for now…:-)

    Thanks again.
    .-= Darvin @ Discount Comforter Set´s last blog ..Clearance Bed in a Bag =-.

  8. Great post, Egypt is a beautiful place but you know that now, well if you were not a fan of sand before i am sure you are now. There are still hundreds of places to explore in and around Egypt, Sharm El Sheikh is a great starting point.

  9. Glad to hear from you guys, considering what I’ve read on your blog, I’d say you are doing fine. I’m sure Corbeil is hard to keep up to Dave… just bear down a bit… isn’t it great having friends to tease you? Especially for such a noble and heart filling cause.

    be safe,

    :o) SammyB

  10. Yo!
    Im new here so just wanted to introduce myself.
    My name is Francis and im from Boston and… umm i love to smoke hookah and blow os.
    lol anyways.. Nice to meet you guys.

  11. Hey Guys,
    Loved reading this post and remembering that spectacular trip we had with you. I am back in Switzerland starting classes. I look forward to keeping up with your progress and hope all is well. Good Luck!

  12. Dad and I are watching your adventure through your pictures and writtings. You and Dave are doing a great job. We are very proud of you both. Love Mom and Dad

  13. Wow wow wow – I think I speak for everyone back home when I say how envious I am at your incredibly journey which has barely begun! Drink it all in and good luck with the cycling.

  14. sounds amazing D’n’D! I gotta get out there and do more and see more. Thanks for being such an inspiration! Looking forward to more updates….

  15. You two are incredible! Sounds like you saw a nicer part of Cairo than I did- don’t forget to try some of that sheesha while you there- hell, it is culture!

  16. Hi kids: your pics are incredible – Dave you could be a Bedouin – no problem. Sounds like a great ‘rush’ on the 4×4 – what an incredible experience you both are on – enjoy – looking forward to your pics from Plan Canada project.
    Love Mom & Dad
    (p.s. Dad is doing great)

  17. This all looks absolutely incredible guys! Mike and I are busting at the seams with jealousy!!!!!!! We can’t wait to see more gorgeous pictures and hear how the Plan project visits go!