El Gouna is an Egyptian holiday resort for those who want to enjoy sun and sea in a relaxed and beautiful environment. We offer tips on hotels, beaches, activities and excursions for your holiday.
El Gouna in Egypt
El Gouna is a tourist resort on the Red Sea in Egypt, about 27 kilometres north of Hurghada. When you arrive from the airport in Hurghada, you drive through a desolate desert landscape, where the only thing you see are half-finished houses. We almost wondered where we had ended up, but when we arrived, we were greeted by something completely different: a green and lush little town surrounded by canals and lagoons.
Artificial holiday resort with lagoons
Construction of El Gouna began in 1989 and the resort opened in 1997. The resort is owned by Samih Onsi Sawiris, a wealthy Egyptian, and now Montenegrin, businessman. However, Mr Sawiris seems to have built the resort not only to make money, but also because he obviously enjoys it himself. He has his own island where he lives.
What makes El Gouna so special is all the man-made lagoons and canals, which means that the water is always close at hand almost no matter where you live. When you walk, it's over one bridge after another. It may seem less "authentic" than other Egyptian holiday resorts, but if you're looking for peace and relaxation in a beautiful setting, this is the place to be.
Tamr Henna Square, Downtown
The centre of El Gouna is located around Tamr Henna Square. This is a fairly quiet centre where there are plenty of restaurants and outdoor cafes, but also some shops for shopping.
El Gouna Marina
Another area not to be missed is the marina. This is a modern and luxurious area with long rows of large luxury yachts, restaurants and shops. It's cosy to stroll around here, but be prepared for the prices to be a bit higher.
One afternoon we had a beer and some snacks at the Maritim restaurant in the marina, and when we looked up, a bird of prey was peering down at us through the tent roof.
The marina is also very charming in the evening, when all the lights are switched on. If you live a bit away from the marina, you can easily get here by tuktuk, which doesn't cost much.
Beaches in El Gouna
We sunbathed, swam and snorkelled on Zeytouna Beach Island. This lovely beach island has sunbeds, a long jetty for snorkelling, a restaurant, snorkelling equipment rental, small shops and a small spa with massages and other treatments. You can easily get here by shuttle boat from several of the nearby hotels. Here are some more beaches in El Gouna:
- Buzzha Beach
- Smokery Beach
- Bellevue Beach Hotel
- Marina Hotels Beach Club
One of the must-do activities during a holiday in Egypt is snorkelling in the Red Sea. The water is crystal clear and along the coral reefs you can see fish in every colour of the rainbow. You can snorkel directly from the beaches, or join a snorkelling excursion by boat. Of course, scuba diving is also available for those who want to.
More water sports
If you get tired of snorkelling and scuba diving, there are also many other water sports to enjoy, such as:
- Water skiing/wakeboarding
- Tramp boat
Golf and other land-based sports
Of course, you can also enjoy various sports on land. There are several golf courses and golf resorts, including the Steigenberger Golf Resort and the Ancient Sands Golf Resort. Here are some examples of sports you can do:
- Horse riding
- Beach volleyball
Excursions for adventure lovers
There are many different excursions available for those who like a bit of adventure, such as:
- Desert safari by quad bike or jeep
- Sailing by catamaran
- Fishing trip
- Glass bottom boat tour
Excursions for history lovers
If you like history and sights, there are also several excursions to choose from. Here are some suggestions. Approximate driving time from El Gouna is given in brackets.
- Monasteries of St Paul and St Anthony (3 hrs)
- Luxor (4 h)
- Cairo (4.5 hours)
- Aswan and Abu Simbel (7 hrs)
Excursion to Hurghada
If you're staying in El Gouna, be sure to check out Hurghada, which offers a more 'authentic' Egyptian feel. Here you can experience the bustling El Dahar market and see the grand Al Mina mosque. You can book a guided tour, or explore Hurghada on your own by bus or taxi.
More things to do in El Gouna
One of the first offers we got when we stepped outside the door of the hotel on the first day was a spa or massage. There are plenty of spas and if you want to, you can take the opportunity to try out a Turkish bathing ritual. El Gouna also has a large cinema, with a capacity of 649 people, called Sea Cinema.
El gouna for children
We saw very few children in El Gouna at all, in fact so few that we reflected on it. This is not at all because children are not welcome, but perhaps because many of the hotels that market themselves hardest with children's activities and playgrounds are located elsewhere around Hurghada. Perhaps the tranquil El Gouna is more appealing to couples without children. Activities for children include:
- Diving and golf courses for children
- Go-karting and mini-golf
- Pony riding
- El Gouna Aquarium
- Children's clubs in the hotels
- Cheeky Monkeys play centre in the marina
Restaurants in El Gouna
There are indeed lots of restaurants in El Gouna. We visited, among others Hydra Seafood Restaurant, which is located in the centre and which we can highly recommend. Several of the restaurants in the marina also have a good reputation, although you should be prepared to pay a little more there.
Hotels in El Gouna
During our holiday in El Gouna we stayed at the 4-star hotel Sultan Bey. This is a slightly smaller and very cosy hotel on the waterfront, with a pool and shuttle boat to Zeytouna Beach Island.
There are also many other hotels, such as Mövenpick Resort, Sheraton Miramar, Rihana Resort, Casa Cook, Bellevue Beach and Cook's Club.
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Facts about El Gouna in Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Location: On the Red Sea, about 2.7 miles north of Hurghada.
- Population: Around 24 000 (2017)
- Language: Arabic, but most people you meet in El Gouna also speak English.
- Tourist information: Read more on the resort's official website
Good to know
- Currency: Egyptian pounds (EGP), but Euros often work well too
- Price mode: Egypt is generally cheap (index 56 according to Forex, winter 2018/2019), but El Gouna is slightly more expensive than the rest of Egypt.
- Farting: It is normal to haggle in markets, bazaars and many shops.
- Tips: You can give some tips to cleaning staff, drivers, guides etc. who are often low paid.
- Electrical outlets: Usually the same plug as in Sweden, but some earthed plugs (e.g. computer cables) may have too thick pins, so an adapter is needed.
- Clothes: Western holiday clothing works well in El Gouna. If visiting Hurghada, for example, it may be appropriate/feel better for women to cover their shoulders and knees.
Getting around in El Gouna
- Go for a walk: There are many great walking routes.
- Tuktuk: A cheap and easy way to get around the area.
- Bus: Buses run to Hurghada.
- Taxi: Taxis can be used to get to Hurghada or the airport, for example.