You find quite a few canyons in the Sinai, both in the desert and mountains, but they are quite small as compared to other well-known canyons in the world. Nevertheless, they are beautiful places, and also quite adventurous as they often involve a little scrambling. Some of the canyons are popular safari destinations easy to reach by an off-road vehicle, others are lesser known and can only be reached on foot. Taking a Bedouin guide is compulsory either case; you can find good ones in all the tourist towns and sometimes right on the spot. Below is a list of the Top 10 canyons in Sinai, plus a few more! Clicking on the links you can see photos of that place, and a new album titled ‘Canyons’ has been added to the Photo Archive.
A canyon is defined as a deep valley between hills or mountains, typically with steep rocky walls and a stream running through it. Based on this you could claim there are hundreds of canyons in South Sinai, as you find narrow valleys all over the region. Water, however, only flows seasonally in most of them after rains, for a longer or shorter time. Underground streams might be running for several months, resurfacing at bottlenecks, filling up pools. In fact, you find a few places with permanent waterpools or streams, and according to locals and maps, in the past there used to be many more. Unfortunately the Sinai endured a decades-long drought, although the last few years were better than average – let’s hope the trend continues.
White Canyon: Located next to the oasis of Ein Khudra, the White Canyon is one of the better known attractions in the interior of Sinai. Usually visited as part of a Jeep safari (4×4 safari), it can also be reached easily on foot from the St. Katherine-Dahab-Nuweiba road. The canyon is carved in the soft rock of a plain, starting as a crack with a sudden deep drop. A ladder and rope are there to help visitors climb down (or up), and despite the dramatic look it is easy for anyone reasonably fit. The canyon starts between extremely narrow walls, then opens up a bit before coming to another deep drop. A little scrambling is involved up over a hill and down in a crack, and you reach the lower part of the canyon which connects to the oasis.
Arada Canyon (Double Canyon): Another canyon in the desert near the St. Katherine-Dahab-Nuweiba road, Arada Canyon can be reached from the road-side settlement of Wadi Arada. Also called Double Canyon, it is carved in the base of the Guna Plateau, consisting, as this name suggests, of two canyons that can be connected making a circuit. It involves some scrambling, and at one point many people need a little help from their tour guide. But with that little help the hike is easily doable, and a lot of fun.
Coloured Canyon: Pprobably the best known site in the Sinai after the Monastery of St Katherine and Mt Sinai, the Coloured Canyon is relatively near the town of Nuweiba – a couple of hours drive or a day’s walk away. The canyon is below an open plain from which several wadis start. It runs between very tall and very narrow rock walls, and at one point a little scrambling is involved. A big rock used to be here, as seen on the photos, and people had to climb through a whole under it. However, the rock is no longer there, the strong floods of 2013 washed it away like a pebble.
Kharaza: Located in the High Mountains near the town of St Katherine, Kharaza consists of a few interconnected waterpools in a short but very pretty granite canyon. Usually there is a little water here, and after rains getting through – never mind staying dry – is a challenge. The smooth and steep granite surfaces are tricky, you have to trust the grip of your shoes. The canyon is just off a big open wadi known as Wadi Mathar, at the base of the Mt. Katharina range. You find another little canyon nearby, more of a gap cutting through a granite hill, connecting the area to Wadi Umm Serdi.
Wadi Sagar: Located further in the High Mountains, Wadi Sagar is a short wadi that literally cuts through a granite mountain range. It connects the higher Abu Tuweita area to Wadi Tinya, which is at the base of Jebel Abbas Basha. Wadi Sagar could be visited in a full day’s trek, but since the area offers other attractions as well, at least a two-day trek is recommended. In the narrow canyon running between vertical walls, you find a little fountain that collects water dripping from a crack. Also there is a fig tree, grafted on a local tree. It is one of the most attractive sights in the mountains, well worth a visit.
Ubugiya: Located next to the Bedouin settlement of Abu Seila, and draining the area to Wadi Itlah which starts at the town St. Katherine, the little canyon known as Ubugiya can be visited in an easy 1-day hike. Often water is flowing in the canyon which starts at a cliff then continues in a narrow and remarkably straight stretch. There is one tricky point where the path leads over a smooth and steep rock surface a few metres above the canyon’s floor, but a few rocks have been cemented on the rock as steps to make it safer. There is also a smaller concrete water tank in this narrow part that collects water, and a little garden at a wider and sandy spot and a few trees.
Wadi Isla Gorge: Wadi Isla is part of the traditional caravan route that connects the town of St Katherine to the coastal city of El Tur. The Bedouin, until fairly recently, used to take their produce – almond, apricot, other fruits – along this route, and bring back products and supplies. It was also a place where they could get bamboo from, used for buildings, as there is a stream in the narrow part of the wadi supporting dense vegetation. The long meandering wadi is quite narrow all the way, but towards the end it gets very narrow, leading between very tall vertical granite walls. Wadi Isla is in a remote part of the broader high mountain ranges, it is a longer and more demanding trek.
Closed Canyon: It is a little cul-de-sac located in a branch of the sandy Wadi Khudra, between the oasis of Ein Kudra and Wadi Ghazala. It starts in a small crack in a sandstone range, running between steep vertical walls. At points the canyon is extremely narrow, you can just squeeze through. The path leads under big boulders towards the end, before reaching a little open area encircled by an inaccessible wall. From here you have to go back the same way you came in. The Closed Canyon sometimes is visited by 4×4 safari groups, although they usually focus on better known attractions. On foot it can be visited en-route from Ein Kudra oasis to Jebel Mileihis.
Wishwashi Canyon: It’s a little wadi off Wadi Milha, along the walking route to the Coloured Canyon. The wadi gets very narrow just a little up from the mouth, with big boulders blocking the way. There are a piece of rope and ladder at tricky parts, and water might be present in pools. The canyon is inaccessible further up, you have to return the same way you came in. It’s a pretty place, but after rains when a pool forms, it is simply amazing. The canyon can be visited from the Ras Shaitan area on the Red Sea coast as a 1-day walk, or as part of a longer trek.
Salama Canyon: Sometimes called the “Little Coloured Canyon”, it is a cute place that starts as a crack in a rocky area of otherwise sandy Wadi Ghazala. It gets deeper a little down, and the hike involves a bit of scrambling. The lower part of the short canyon is wider, and it connects to the bigger Wadi Disco where there is a tiny Bedouin settlement. Either on foot or by 4×4, this is the route to Jebel Mileihis, and if you visit the Wadi Ghazala area, it’s worth to see both the mountain and the canyon. Ras Ghazala, also known as El Taor, is on the St. Katherine-Dahab-Nuweiba road, easily recognisable from the rusty truck on a hill with a smiley face. It is where the treks and safaris usually start from and possibly you might get a guide, camel or jeep on the spot.