Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh? We know, it’s a tough call, right? On paper, these two purpose-built resort towns couldn’t be more similar if they tried. Sandy beaches, stellar diving, desert skies that twinkle with stars to be smitten by – and proximity to one of the seven wonders of the world. Let’s not forget the near-year-round sunshine too. We’ve gone deep into some essential Egypt holiday categories to sort the sands of Hurghada from the sea life of Sharm to help you decide where to book your next stay.
Getting to Giza and Luxor
Couples, families and explorers nip over to Egypt for many reasons. But, if you’re flying in to Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh hoping for a peek at a pharaoh’s tomb, you’re in for a fair old journey. Expect bus rides of 5 hours to Giza from Hurghada and a 6 hour trek from Sharm El-Sheikh. Both do-able as day trips, especially if you’ve perfected your bus-napping technique. Luxor’s Valley of the Kings is a little closer to Hurghada, clocking in at just under 4 hours away. Not great news if you’re in Sharm El-Sheik though. Travel times – including a ferry crossing, rack up to 6 hours, 40 minutes. The solution to saving your seat bones from inevitable numbness? Hopping on an internal flight. You can be in Luxor in an hour from Sharm El-Sheik.
Forget about flying in from Hurghada though. With no direct flight, it’s quicker to hop on the bus.
Winner: Hurghada. Overall, travel times to Egypt’s top sites are cheaper and quicker.
Beaches and bays
Whether you’re in Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh you’ll notice rather a lot of sand. Hotel resorts have shipped in the softest, smallest grains they can find for you to wriggle your toes in. Which obviously isn’t a bad thing. But it does make it trickier to sort one golden stretch from another. If you’re in the market for a spot to park a sun lounger on, both resorts roll out sun loungers, parasols and beach bar service. Looking to snorkel from the shore? You might want to lean towards Hurghada. In Sharm El Sheik, the rough corals close to the shoreline aren’t the friendliest to bare feet. So you’re looking at a long walk along a wooden jetty before you can slink into the sea. Which all seems rather straightforward – unless you’ve got little ones in tow. Paddling – on some Sharm beaches, is strictly off limits.
In Hurghada, you can often snorkel straight from the shore. As for the sea life you’ll find? We’ve taken a deeper dive into that in our scuba section.
Winner: Hurghada. This area’s family friendly beaches and bays just clinch the top spot.
Another category, and it’s another close one in the Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh showdown. Both resort towns have their fair share of international eats that cover just about every continent. And, as you’d expect, the big hotel chains lay on plenty of eating options to keep you – and your Egyptian pounds, within the resort boundaries. Expect sushi, Italian and Asian eats to outweigh any local fare – particularly in your hotel. In the central towns? Much like other tourist-centric resorts the world over, both Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh cater to in bound travellers – rather than local residents. That said, Sharm’s El Masrien Grill provides a wallet friendly intro to Egyptian cuisine. And, if you can find your way to Hurghada’s Om Yassin, you’ll be treated to dishes that could be straight from an Egyptian family kitchen.
Whether you’re looking for 5-star fine dining or budget eats, there’s certainly no shortage of choice in either resort. Which could, ultimately, be neither here nor there if you’ve plumped for an all-inclusive package.
Winner: Sharm El Sheikh. There’s little to separate both town’s food offering. Where Sharm El Sheikh wins? The fine dining food scene is a little larger here.
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
The world’s most popular wreck dive lies within reach of either Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh. Though, the boat ride to the 4,900 ton, SS Thistlegorm is decidedly shorter from Sharm. Which puts Sharm at the top of the diving category straight out the gate. But, if you’re in Egypt for a peek at the Red Sea’s marine life, either resort has much to offer every diver. From the newbies donning a wetsuit for the first time, to divers with 300+ dives under their weight belt, these waters have plenty to wow. There are more wrecks reachable from Hurghada and shorter dive trips – leaving you time to notch up a few dives a day – or chill out back at your hotel.
But Sharm El Sheikh does still have a couple of dive must-haves up its sleeves. Water quality – and coral health is a little better on Sharm’s shores.
Winner: Hurghada. Sharm’s proximity to the SS Thistlegorm, water quality and corals almost edged out Hurghada. But, the number of in-resort dive shops in Hurghada – and the proximity of the gorgeous Soma Bay added extra bonus points.
Things to do
The focus for both purpose-built resorts is firmly on the Red Sea and its stellar diving scene. And with Hurghada’s range of diving options, nearby wrecks and dive shops just taking first place Sharm on the convenience front. There’s also the proximity to stellar watersport bays to consider too. Soma Bay sits just south of Hurghada and is a must for surfers, windsurfers, and water sports fans. And, while we’re on the water, island hopping just so happens to be that bit easier from Hurghada. As for the land-based action, well, we’ve already mentioned that Hurghada wins hands down for proximity to Luxor and Giza. But there’s more on this side of the Red Sea than pyramids and pharaoh tombs. There are a few quirky attractions to add to your things to do in Hurghada list – not least the ever-so-slightly wonky sand sculptures at Sand City.
Heading out of either resort, you can gambol over desert sands to take tea with Bedouins or shimmy down a water slide in the local water parks. You can also have a crack at 18 holes of golf in a lush green desert oasis in Hurghada or Sharm El Sheik – but Hurghada wins for having a few more courses to offer.
Winner: Hurghada – The diversity of the local attractions – and the earlier gains made in the diving and Luxor category gave this resort the edge.
Conclusion: Overall, it’s almost a landslide victory for Hurghada. It’s worth noting though that Sharm El Sheikh is no slouch on the stellar resort front. A worthy contender in every category, but ultimately Hurghada won with convenient access to golf courses, dive sites, feet-friendly beaches and shores and – best of all, the shorter travel times to Egypt’s top attractions. Those extra minutes shaved off the bus journeys, add precious time to the day to explore the pyramids, tombs and museums.