White desert

The White Desert National Park in Egypt

The White Desert (Sahara el-Beida) extends between the two oases Farafra and Bahariyya. This desert is one of Africa’s most miraculous sights. Wind and rain have worked together to cut the limestone, which is rich in fossils and glows white in the sun, into an array of forms. Some are like giant mushrooms in the sunlit desert, others like mighty rock castles or other bizarre shapes. The White Desert is at its most impressive in the hours of the rising and setting sun, but particularly in the light of the full moon.

The White Desert in Egypt is said to be one of the most visited popular attractions for adventure tourism due to the sheer unusual and diverse rock formations in its bright white surroundings. The White Desert is justifiably the most well-known desert destination in Egypt – and for a good reason. The quantity of unearthly and beautiful wind-carved rock formations shaped in the form of giant mushrooms or pebbles is unequalled in any desert in the world. Farafra is nearer than Bahariya to this 300 kilometres protectorate, yet it offers a more limited choice of tours and safaris. However, it is still the perfect starting point for an overnight journey into the infinite whiteness.

The majority of people who visit the national park are taken back by the white sands and the white sand rock formations which are unique compared to the more traditional shades of red and orange sands blanketed across the rest of the Sahara Desert.

Note: The White Desert is very cold. Temperatures can drop up to 30 degrees at night and a proper jacket would be necessary to spend the night comfortably.

This article contains information about The White Desert National park and how to visit it including:

Where is the White Desert in Egypt?

The White Desert stretches for 50 km between Bawati and Farafra, or 70-120 km from Bawati / Bawiti.
Just north of the Farafra Oasis town in the Western desert region and very accessible for all guided tours into this region. Nature has created giant, blindingly white limestone formations which, with a little imagination, can be seen as bizarre figures that populate the desert. The White Desert is part of the Farafra depression in the Sahara Desert.  It also features the Farafra Oasis, the Ain El Maqfi Oasis, and the Ain El Wadi Oasis. The park is renowned for the white sands, white sand rock formations, and the introduction to the Great Sand Sea.

The larger Farafra depression covers an area of 380 square miles (980 sq km) creating the second-largest depression in Egypt. However, it features the lowest number of inhabitants.

The most photographed area is the southern end closest to Farafra. As most tourists stay in Bawati they arrive to the White Desert in the late afternoon as witnessed by the photos. The calcite formations look slightly yellow in the low sunshine, which is attractive. However for giving the real white image you should arrive not later than 3 p.m. and stay or wander around in the desert until sunset around 5 p.m. depending on the month of the year. Many want to stay overnight in a tent freezing and looking at the stars. Certainly an experience. But you will not be alone as it is very popular. What you miss is having sufficient time for the likewise impressive Black Desert and Crystal Mountain. So, if you are more interested in the landscapes than the overnight experience my advise is to take a full day in the deserts leaving at 9-10 a.m. and returning at 7.30 p.m. (still with ample time for marvelling the million of stars).
The white sands manifest as piles and rows of white piles scattered across orange sandy base landscapes, as rock spires, and as other unusual white rock formations. The white sand and white rocks are comprised of either white calcium, quartz crystals, or limestone.

The elevation of the park varies from 104.99 feet (32 m) to 1,158.14 feet (353 m) above sea level. The tallest point occurs at El Qess Abu Said. Some of the landscapes feature pultruding orange-colored rock formations with white desert facets surrounding the base of each of these rugged rock features.

Visiting the White desert and what to see

A hike through this unusual scenery offers complete solitude. On the way to the Bahariyya oasis, about 20km/12mi north-east of Qasr elFarafra, the route crosses part of the White Desert. However, the experience is much more impressive if you leave the road. This absolutely requires an experienced driver and a vehicle with four-wheel drive, which can be easily organized from Farafra and Bahariyya.

To see the desert at its whitestone must drive some distance from the main road. The weathered chalk mounds are dotted like pavlova cakes, ice-cream cones, and pools of icing. One might skim over a snow-swept glacier or thread one’s way through a maze of peppermint drops. The fantastic shapes of Farafra’s the White Desert are the result of millions of years of erosion of this chalk by wind and by sand blown in from the Great Sand Sea.

Encounter the Khoman chalk ridges created from the sediment of marine creatures deposited in the bed of a vast ancient sea. A similar but rather white, chalky limestone is the source of the ice-white bricks used all over the Western Desert, north to south, as a building material for structures that will last only a tiny fraction of the aeons the stone took to form. A layer of harder limestone dating from the later Eocene period forms a pink crust over the surface of the chalk At sunset and dawn you see a dramatic theatre left by an antique ocean and is the best way to appreciate the White Desert. Whether seen by jeep or camel, the marvelous contours of this pale landscape, which at times resemble a field of snow and at others gives the impression of a giant ice-cream parlour, are an unforgettable vision in one of the most spectacular of all deserts.

In many places, the collection of white sand appears like snow that has frosted the desert. These white quartz crystals have created several unique picturesque rock shapes. The pinnacle white rock formation is known as Crystal Mountain. It is completely made out of crystal and features a hole through the middle of it.

Along with protecting the unique white sands and rock formations of the Sahara Desert, the park also protects an array of wildlife. Some of the more popular species include barbary sheep, fennec fox, Dorcas gazelle, jackal, red fox, Rhmim gazelle, Ruppell’s fox, and Sand cats.

Note: Some tours offer single day trips to the White Desert. However, take into consideration that a day trip to this part of the Sahara means covering more than 700 km in a single day. You will end up spending most of the time inside a vehicle and the journey to this magical spot will not be the same. Besides, the highlight of the visit to the White Desert is staying overnight and sleeping under the stars. One day is not enough.

The Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain is also called Crystal Rock. This is the most iconic rock formation in the national park. Although not as tall or big as Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, it gives you a similar type of sensation.
The good news is that this featured attraction is easily accessible right off the side of the main road. It is about 15 miles (24 km) north of Naqb As Sillim.

Great Sand Sea

The Great Sand Sea is a portion of the Sahara Desert that lies between Egypt and Libya. This portion of the desert covers an area of 27,799.36 square miles (72,000 sq km). It is renowned for the abundant rolling sea of sand dunes that cover approximately three-quarters of the area.
The Great Sand Sea extends well beyond the national park boundaries which only serve as an introduction into this magnificent presentation of nature. However, there are opportunities to discover and explore the White Desert as part of an explorative adventure that travels deeper into the Great Sand Sea providing a more thorough discovery of the splendor of the Sarah Desert.

Bahariya Oasis

The Bahariyya oasis, a roughly oval depression, covers an area about 94km/58mi long and 40km/25mi wide, but only about one fifth is used for agriculture. Small hamlets lie among orchards and groves of date palms and olives, which are the main source of income for the population.

The northernmost of the four large oases in the so-called New Valley lies about 330km/205mi south-west of Cairo and is easily reached from there by an asphalt road. The other connections are to the south, to an oasis named Farafra 180km/110mi away, and for some time also to the oasis of Siwa.

The largest settlement is Bawiti, which – together with the neighbouring settlement El-Qasr – has about 25,000 residents.

Farafra Oasis

A fantastic sea of bright limestone rocks surrounds Farafra, the smallest of the four oases of the New Valley in the Libyan desert. In the old core region of the oasis, concentrated on the main settlement Qasr el-Farafra, about 2,000 people live by growing dates and citrus fruits. The olives and the oil which is obtained from them are world famous.

Farafra lies about 180km/110mi south-west of the Bahariyya oasis and 210km/130mi north-west of Dakhla oasis. Even though Farafra was visited by nomadic tribes as early as Palaeolithic times and was also an important stopping place on the caravan route between the oases in pharaonic times, there are no ancient remains except for undecorated rock tombs. However, walks in the oasis gardens offer rest and pleasure.

Recommended Trips to the White Desert from Cairo:



What to bring on a Trip to the White and Black Desert in Egypt?

• Hiking shoes
• Long hiking pants
• Warm clothes (Jacket, beanie, gloves)
• Sleeping bag (In case your tour operator does not provide it)
• Headlamp
• Toilet Paper
• Power bank (there is not a single spot with electricity during the whole tour)
• Water … lots of water
• Snacks (Energy bars, fruits, chocolates)

Frequently asked questions about visiting Egypt and the white desert

Is the white desert safe?

Is the white desert safe?

The desert is about as safe as the rest of Egypt. Incidents can occur at any moment but generally are rare exceptions. So nothing that should reasonably hold you back from a trip.

Where is the white desert?

Where is the white desert?

White Desert National Park is a national park in Egypt, first established as a protected area in 2002. It is located in the Farafra depression, 45 km north of the town of Farafra. Part of the park is in the Farafra Oasis (New Valley Governorate).

Is there anything in the white desert?

Is there anything in the white desert?

Like the Great Sand Sea region, there are no actual locations in the White Desert. There’s actually even less to see here, as that region at least had a handful of bandits in it. There is absolutely no reason to come here unless you’re trying to defog the entire map.

Is it safe to travel to Egypt

Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

Egypt is nearly crime-free; as Lonely Planet notes, “The incidence of crime, violent or otherwise, in Egypt is negligible compared with many Western countries, and you’re generally safe walking around day or night.”

Is Egypt Safe for Americans to Travel to

Is Egypt Safe for Americans to Travel to?

We get this question a lot at Bastet Travel In short, Americans and other visitors can rest easy: yes, Egypt is a safe country for tourists. And the rest of the world seems to agree — after years of middling numbers, tourism in Egypt is steadily rising towards its former highs, hosting over 9 million sightseers in 2018. The longer answer is worth exploring, though, and we have some assurances to offer all our clients who join us on all of our Egypt Travel Packages.

Is Cairo worth visiting?

Is Cairo worth visiting?

In my opinion, Cairo is much more worth it than Sharm. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be your favorite place, take it as an authentic experience (unlike Sharm). You certainly will get some hassle, but don’t take it as harassment, it’s just people trying to make a living and not meant as aggression.

Is Cairo safe to visit?

Is Cairo safe to visit?

Generally speaking, Egypt is a safe country to visit, especially if you’re going to the cities most frequented by tourists, such as Cairo, Alexandria, or the resort towns around the Red Sea.

Is Alexandria worth visiting?

Is Alexandria worth visiting?

If you happen to find yourself in Cairo and have one more day to spare, Alexandria in Egypt is worth a visit. Unlike Giza, it does not have momentous monuments like the Pyramids to show for, but it does have a great waterfront view and is a refuge from the chaos of downtown Cairo.

Is it safe to travel to Alexandria?

Is it safe to travel to Alexandria?

Alexandria is somewhat safe and although there is some crime in this city, it’s mostly petty crime and rarely violent. Pickpockets are a problem in Egypt’s major cities, like Alexandria. When it comes to violent crime, it is rare, and you shouldn’t worry too much about being mugged or robbed.

How far is the white desert from Cairo?

How far is the white desert from Cairo?

about 370 km
Located in the Farafra depression, a small section of Egypt’s vast the Western Desert, the White Desert is located about 370 km south-west of Cairo

How many days do you need in Alexandria?

How many days do you need in Alexandria?

3 days
Most people will be able to cover all the major sites, and some minor ones, by spending 3 days in Alexandria. If you just want to visit a few of the major highlights, you can do this on a day trip from Cairo or by spending a full day and overnighting in Alexandria.

Is a day trip to Alexandria worth it?

Is a day trip to Alexandria worth it?

Alexandria is definitely worth taking a day away from Cairo and from my recent trip, Alexandria was a breath of fresh air after spending 3 days in Cairo. If you do visit Alexandria, make sure to go to the hidden restaurant across the street from Library; it’s hidden along the water, behind massive modern sculptures.

What are the best tours and activities in Alexandria?

How do you spend a day trip in Fayoum?

How do you spend a day trip in Fayoum?

Make a move from Cairo at 8 am. Via: Al Ahram – Daytrip to Fayoum. …
Have a traditional Egyptian breakfast. Via: Egypt Journeys – Day Trip to Fayoum. …
Dune bashing. Via: Trip Advisor – Fayoum Travel. …
Visit the Magic Lake. …
Sandboarding. …
Bird watching. …
Visit a UNESCO world heritage site at Wadi El Hitan. …
Tunis Village.

How do you get from Cairo to Fayoum?

How do you get from Cairo to Fayoum?

Fayoum is approximately 100 kilometers from Cairo and can be reached by car (1 hour), bus (2 hours), taxi (1 to 2 hours) or train (3 to 4 hours). Booking a car through a travel agent or renting your own vehicle, and driving to Fayoum from Cairo on the Fayoum Desert Road is recommended.

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