In the country with such a fascinating history, Soma Bay can’t claim much in the way of heritage. But this purpose-built resort has found itself one of the best spots on Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera and has the luxury accommodation to make the most of it.
In fact, if you go searching away from the resorts you’ll find a millennia’s worth of history, including the famous desert monasteries along with some of Egypt’s most well-known ancient sites.
It’s the timeless waters – and the reefs underneath them – that bring many visitors to the Red Sea Riviera these days. It’s one of the world’s best diving destinations, with plenty of other water sports on the side. Just up the road, an international clientele throng the clubs, shops and restaurants of Hurghada - the coast’s main resort.
With sunshine all-but guaranteed, Soma Bay is excellent value for your 2017 holiday, particularly if you’ve got a taste for unforgettable all-inclusive trips.
At a glance
- Language: English
- Time Zone: GMT +2
- Average flight time: 5h 35m
When to go
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You might not even see the area’s top attraction when you arrive on the coast for your Soma Bay holiday. The area’s extraordinary undersea life is now protected by an Underwater National Park, which helps protect the marine life that clusters around coral reefs and islands off-shore.
Alongside diving centres you’ll also find lots of water sports lessons and hire businesses, with boat trips to the nearby islands – some of them also internationally important wildlife sites – a popular diversion. The best beaches tend to be privately owned, so check out your hotel’s access to the sea before you travel.
You can go inland as well as out to sea, with some important Christian monasteries not far away in the desert, and the astounding sights of the ancient city of Luxor a popular day trip.
More earthly pleasures can be found to the north in Hurghada, the biggest resort on Soma Bay’s side of the Red sea. Alongside busy shopping, dining, and clubbing, there are a load of family attractions like water parks and a whole host of other trips and activities.
Wine and Dine
The big resort hotels in Soma Bay usually provide a fantastic array of foods for their guests. And, as well as the usual international cuisines, you should expect to find something with a genuine Egyptian or north African flavour with your accommodation. But to get a real taste of the country you might need to leave the hotel behind for a few hours.
Egyptian food is often vegetarian, relying on the superlative produce grown in the fertile Nile Delta. Rice, lentils, chickpeas, beans, aubergines and the like pop up in staple dishes that usually rely on oils, garlic and lemon for their fresh flavours and spices that have been used in local food since ancient times for their zing. Koshari, an international mixed bag of vegetables, rice, and pasta, is the simple national dish. Halawa, the sweet sesame paste, is one of the few Egyptian dishes to win a global fanbase, make sure you bring some home.
A holiday on Soma Bay could be paradise for youngsters. If your kids like spending time outside and are up for exploring the crystal clear, and very safe and warm, Red Sea waters then you’ve certainly brought them to the right place. For a change of watery scene, take the short drive up the coast to Hugharda for big water parks like Makadi Water World.
Check out what your hotel has to offer before you travel. While some have a very grown up feel, you’ll also find facilities like supervised kids’ clubs and child minding at others. A glass-bottomed semi-submarine offers reef excursions for those not old enough or confident enough to dive it. If your kids are up for more challenging activities, then the Finding Nemo-esque underwater world, or the astounding temples of Luxor or Karnak might be the start of life-long enthusiasms for them.
Action and Adventure
There are a ridiculous number of water sports opportunities during any Soma Bay holiday. All the resort hotels have their own facilities and specialities, and one or two are purpose-built diving resorts. The waters here are warm, clear and shallow and really do warrant their world-class reputation among diving enthusiasts, not just for their accessibility but also for the astounding underwater “scenery” and wildlife. Under the waves it’s very calm, but stiff breezes on the surface make kiteboarding a new and exciting addition to the Red Sea water sports menu.
A gentle workout can be had on a major golf course at one of the hotels. But for real sandy challenges, head out into the desert with off-roading, jeep tours, horse riding, and camel trips available from a large number of local excursion companies.
Life's a Beach
With a name like that you’ll expect a good beach when you book a holiday in Soma Bay. That will depend very much on the accommodation you pick. Most hotels boast private beaches – as well as major league pool and water features, and they’re usually excellent in this relatively unspoiled part of the Red Sea coast. And if somewhere else, like beautiful Sharm El Naga, for example, takes your fancy you can usually pay for day access.
The sea is as more of an attraction than the sands for a lot of visitors, and most hotels host their own diving clubs and water sports facilities. At Soma Bay there’s a big emphasis on wind-power as well as undersea exploration, but if you want to sit on the side-lines with a drink in your hand observing the action no-one will blame you!
The nights are long and hot on a Soma Bay holiday, but there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy lively evenings out as well as sunset walks on the peninsula. These big resort hotels aim to provide a dawn-to-dusk service, so you should expect to find plenty of drinking and dancing opportunities – usually of a quite mainstream variety – without passing reception.
Hurghada is a much livelier story! The resort is a sea of neon at night, with big clubs and bars, some of them making the most of the weather with outdoor dance floors. White Beach, Little Buddha, and Elements are among the most popular clubs, and you’ll find international brands like Ministry Of Sound, too.
There’s also a fair amount of less lively socialising to be done in the resort at a number of bars. There’s a strong eastern European flavour to Hurghada, and if you want to find something truly Egyptian then it might be worth booking an excursion that takes in some local entertainment.
Couples have the lovely shallow waters of the Red Sea to splash in or gaze out across on your Soma Bay holiday. And in the world-apart atmosphere of the peninsula it’s very easy to forget the boring routine and really focus on being together.
But you don’t have to limit your Egyptian experience to the sparkling blue waters and golden sands of the Red Sea. There’s a romance to the desert, too, and you can see the sun setting behind the mountains to the west if you turn away from the shore. Get a more in-depth taste of the magical life of the Bedouin on excursions that include trips to desert camps in landscapes like nowhere else on Earth.
The Red Sea coast itself is sometimes criticised for a lack of culture amid its newly developed resorts and luxury hotels. But this is Egypt, home to one of the great civilisations of the ancient world. And while there is still some lively local culture to be explored, it’s to the far distant past that most visitors will want to travel.
Luxor and Karnak can be reached for day trips from Soma Bay, and this astounding collection of ancient sites should definitely be on your itinerary while you’re in Soma Bay. The temples and tombs are so numerous and so stunning that a good local guide could be worth their weight in gold. Some of the tombs open only occasionally to preserve their contents, so check local websites for the latest in ancient history.
Away from the fertile Nile you can also visit some of the most ancient Christian sites in this literally Biblical land. The Monastery of St Anthony is the most famous of the Red Sea Monasteries, built less than 400 years after the birth of Christ it’s well worth a visit for just a small sample of this area’s fascinating history.