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Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt: What You Need to Know in 2024

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt: What You Need to Know in 2024

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

A complete hiking guide to climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt. Also known as Jebel Musa, or the holy Moses Mountain. Many believe this is the Biblical Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

For many, climbing to the summit of Mount Sinai in Egypt is a bucket list item trumping all other notable landmarks in the country. That’s because Mount Sinai, or the holy Moses Mountain, is considered to be the most religiously significant peak in the Middle East, and even the entire world.

In this guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about hiking to the top of this biblical mountain from various parts of Egypt. I’ll also include photos and a few highlights from my trek to inspire your visit.

Hiker on mount sinai summit
Standing at the top of Mount Sinai for sunrise

Overview

Below are the most important things you need to know about hiking to the summit of Mount Sinai.

  • Location: Mount Sinai is located in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, near Saint Catherine, approximately 440 km from Cairo, 200 km from Sharm el Sheikh, and 130 km from Dahab.
  • Difficulty: The hike is considered easy to moderate, taking about 1.5-2 hours to ascend. The path is well-graded, with a gentle incline.
  • Routes: Two main paths lead to the summit - the Camel Path, a gentler route, and the steeper Steps of Repentance. The final stretch to the summit consists of 750 steps.
  • Guide: It's mandatory to have a guide due to local regulations. You can hire a local guide at the entrance or arrange the climb with a tour in advance. I recommend booking the hiking trip from Dahab to catch the sunrise.
  • Monastery: Along the hike, you'll also tour Saint Catherine Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world's oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery.
  • Safety: The Sinai Peninsula has safety concerns, especially in northern areas. Independent travel to Saint Catherine is not advised; group or private tours are preferable.
Mount sinai sunris

How to Get to Mount Sinai

To climb Mount Sinai, it is compulsory to have a guide. This does not reflect the difficulty of the walk but is required by local authorities for security reasons. Also, this supports the local economy and ensures hikers have an informed and respectful experience in this culturally and religiously significant area.

Therefore, the easiest (and cheapest) way to get to Mount Sinai is to join a group tour from either Sharm el-Sheikh or Dahab.

The best trips are sunrise hikes, which is definitely the best way to hike up to Mount Sinai summit. While the view for sunrise is spectacular and infinitely better, the main reason is that it is usually much too hot to hike during the day.

These trips also always include a tour of the Saint Catherine Monastery, which is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery in the world (built between 548 and 565 A.D) and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hiker on mount sinai

Where is Mount Sinai?

Mount Sinai is located in the southern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the city of Saint Catherine.

This is an inland high mountain region in the South Sinai Desert, approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Red Sea. The closest tourist cities are Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Mount Sinai is one of the most prominent peaks in this range, sitting beside Mount Catherine (2,629 m), the highest mountain in Egypt.

Google Maps Pin: "Jabal Mousa"

Map of mount sinai in egypt
Mount catherine
Mount Catherine from the Mount Sinai summit

Getting to Saint Catherine Independently

While South Sinai is generally safe, the truth is that the entire Sinai Peninsula is still on most countries' Do Not Travel lists, due to the ongoing terrorist activity in the north. As a result, it's probably not a good idea to rent a car and drive through the remote mountain regions to Saint Catherine independently.

However, if you're in a large group and don't want to join in on the group tour above, then it is possible to pay a taxi driver for a private tour. I can't comment on the cost, since I haven't taken this option.

Note that you will also need to pay a professional Bedouin guide to take you up the mountain. I can't see this option being worth the extra effort or money.

Tip: If you stay at the very popular and epic backpacker hostel My Hostel in Dahab, my friend Medhat can arrange this transport for you very cheaply!

Bedouin man in saint catherine

Is Mount Sinai Really the Mountain Moses Climbed?

Mount Sinai, the 2,285-meter (7,497-foot) granite peak between Egypt and Israel is the most famous and the most agreed upon location for the biblical Mount Sinai (Mount Horeb).

The majority of followers from the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam accept this Egyptian mountain as the Mountain of Moses (Mount Moussa), where according to the Bible and Quran, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

In fact, this has been the case for thousands of years. The mountain became a significant pilgrimage site for Hermits quite early on, with the earliest recorded pilgrimage taking place around 381 AD.

Other significant sites include the burning bush in the Saint Catherine Monastery, the supposed cave of Prophet Elijah, and the rock that Devouts consider to be the source for the biblical Tablets of Stone.

Religious people also call the plateau beneath Mount Sinai Elijah's Basin, where they say he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to speak with god.

Note: I am not a religious person but trying to summarize the information from various sources across the web.

Chapel on mount sinai

How High is Mount Sinai in Egypt?

Mount Sinai is the second-highest mountain in Egypt, with a height of 2,285 meters (7,497 feet) above sea level.

How Long Does it Take to Climb Mt Sinai?

For most active travelers, climbing Mount Sinai is quite easy, only taking around 1.5-2 hours to reach the summit. That's because the track is very well-graded, wide, and with a gentle incline for most of the climb.

Sunrise over the south sinai desert

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt: Complete Guide

  • Hiking Distance: 11.5 km (7.15 mi) return
  • Duration: 3-4 hours return
  • Elevation: 700 m (2,296 ft) total elevation gain |
    2,285 m (7,497 ft) max elevation
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate
  • Route info: My Strava

The climb up Mount Sinai in Egypt is one of the best easy hikes in the country, if not in the Middle East! While the difficulty is a hard metric gauge objectively, this hike is accessible to anybody with a general level of fitness.

Let me tell you, the amazing views over the South Sinai mountains are incredible for sunrise.

Most trips depart from Dahab or Sharm el-Sheikh at around 10:00 pm, arriving at Saint Catherine in the middle of the night. This means you will have more than enough time to make it to the summit by sunrise.

Below I'll give you a rough recap of my Mount Sinai hike to help you better prepare for this incredible experience.

Mount sinai hike, egypt

The Two Routes to The Summit

It's important to know that there are two main routes to the summit. These are the Steps of Repentance and the Camel Path. Most tours will take the camel path, which is a gentle, winding track leading up to the summit.

The Steps of Repentance is a steeper route of 3750 steps carved out by monks.

Both of these routes meet at a small site with the name Elijah's Hollow, or the Seven Elders of Israel. From here, it's a steep 750 steps to the summit of Mount Sinai.

We took the Camel Path (which yes, you will share with camels), so this is what I will cover in this guide.

Blue hour in saint catherine province of egypt

Don't miss my comprehensive guide to the Dahab Blue Hole for information on how to get here and what to expect.

1. Arriving at Saint Catherine

Tours from Dahab and Sharm will usually carry passengers to the base of the mountain in a shuttle van. The trip from Dahab takes roughly two hours and roughly 2.5-3 hours from Sharm.

However, there are several military checkpoints along the high mountain region. As a result, this trip can take longer.

We arrived at roughly midnight, where we were greeted by lots of enthusiastic Bedouin kids who were eager to sell us their wares.

If you want a torch or warm clothes and don't yet have any, it's a good idea to buy them once you arrive, since these kids really appreciate the money.

Shortly after arriving and taking a quick toilet break, our driver introduced us to our local Bedouin guide. Next, he escorted us through a very thorough military screening area, where a soldier turned our bags inside out.

After a rather lengthy process, we were finally off on the path of Moses to the summit of Mount Sinai!

Start of the camel trail to the summit of mount sinai

2. Saint Catherine's Monastery

The first section of the dark trail follows a wide road to the base of Saint Catherine's Monastery. This is a 6th-century monastery built by Roman Emperor Justinian (Justinian the Great) and is said to house the biblical burning bush.

If you're hiking Mount Sinai for sunrise, then you'll likely visit the monastery after the summit.

Tip: Saint Catherine's Monastery operates at limited hours on Fridays and Sundays. It's best to check with your guide if you want to see this Orthodox monastery as part of the tour.

Saint catherine church at night

3. Hiking the Camel Path to Mount Sinai Summit

Soon after passing the monastery, you'll arrive at the start of the camel trail to the summit. This track is wide with a gentle incline and features a series of switchbacks as you make your way up the mountain.

Also, once you start gaining altitude, you'll notice large stacked rocks on the edge of the track, forming a safety barrier.

Furthermore, you'll likely pass local Bedouins offering to take you on a camel ride to Elijah's Hollow. This is the easier option but you will have to still hike the final 750 steps to the summit by yourself.

Along the way, hikers will pass several Bedouin tents where they can sit and rest. All of these tents offer hot drinks like warm tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, as well as snacks. However, we chose to push on so that we could enjoy a longer rest while waiting for the sunrise at the peak.

Camel on the hiking trail to mount sinai

4. 750 Steps to the Top of Mount Sinai

After passing a large cut-out section of the mountain, you'll arrive at the final ascent point. This is marked by a very dated sign indicating the 750 steps to the top of Sinai Mountain.

Similarly to the other sections of this hike, the final ascent covers easy, leveled steps but is much steeper than the Camel Path.

Final steps up to mount sinai summit

We arrived at the top of the mountain approximately 1.5 hours after departing from the base of Mount Sinai. As a result, it was still very early (around 2:30 am). So, our local guide pointed us towards one of four small teahouses near the peak.

Top of mount sinai at night time

Since we had a while to wait, we bought a delicious hot chocolate and a couple of snacks, as well as an old pillowed mattress to sit on. This was a little expensive but we were happy to pay a little more considering the remote location.

Bedouin man selling tea at mount moses
Bedouin tent in egypt

5. Sunrise at the Summit of Mount Sinai

At the first sign of light, we quickly climbed up the last few steps to the very peak of Mount Sinai. Here at the Holy Summit, there are a couple of significant landmarks, including a Greek Orthodox Chapel (beside a large rock they call the Rock of Moses), the ruins of the Justinian Basilica (16th-century church), and a small mosque still used by Muslims.

Greek orthodox chapel and moses rock on the top of mount sinai
Chapel beside the Rock of Moses where he was said to rest

We climbed one of the large, slippery rocks beside the small chapel and watched the sunrise to the east.

South sinai mountains

While I'm not religious, it was still a very powerful moment and one of the best sunrises I experienced in Egypt.

Sunrise at the summit of mount sinai in egypt

6. The Descent

After spending roughly an hour and a half at the summit, we started making our way back down. The track down is much easier, due to the fact that a number of rather obvious shortcuts start to appear on the camel trail.

Bedouin kids riding a donkey
Bedouin kids riding a donkey
Bedouin kids riding a donkey in sinai peninsula in egypt
Camel on the mount sinai hike

7. Exploring Saint Catherine Monastery

Unfortunately, we decided to visit on a Friday and therefore a guided tour of the old monastery was not available. However, after convincing our guide, we could still explore this significant site on our own.

If you're forced to do the same, here are a few highlights from the monastery at Mount Sinai in Egypt.

  • Church of the Transfiguration - the dominant church tower and main focal point of the monastery.
  • The Sacred Sacristy - an open museum containing many treasures and collections including the Ladder of Divine Ascent and pages from the Codex Sinaiticus, said to be the oldest bible in the world.
  • Monastery Mosque - an 11th-century mosque built during the Fatimid period.
  • The Burning Bush - legend says this is a descendant of the Old Testament's burning bush.
Saint catherine monastery in egypt
Saint catherine monastery in egypt

8. Returning Back to Sharm El Sheikh or Dahab

After exploring the monastery, it was finally time to return back to our hostel in Dahab for a well-earned and hearty Egyptian breakfast. We met our driver (who was still sleeping in the van) in the large parking lot where he dropped us off earlier that morning.

Summit of mount sinai, egypt

What to Pack for the Mount Sinai Hike

Due to the elevation, the weather in the mountain region of Saint Catherine gets much cooler during the night than in coastal areas like Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh.

So, if you're hiking up for sunrise (highly recommend), then it's a good idea to prepare accordingly. Here are a few things you'll want to bring on your ascent to the Mount Sinai summit in Egypt.

  • Sturdy shoes - runners or hiking boots.
  • Warm clothes - this is a must.
  • Water - you can purchase water at the tea houses but it's always a good idea to bring your own.
  • Snacks - as above.
  • Sleeping bag - useful while waiting for the sunrise (optional).
  • Camera - trust me, you'll want to bring it. Read my guide to the best camera gear for travel here.
  • Sunscreen - for the harsh morning rays on the descent.
  • Head torch - you'll likely be hiking up in the dark.
Exploring karnak temple in luxor, egypt

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More Photos from My Hike to Mount Sinai

Sunrise in south sinai mountains
Sunrise from mount sinai summit
Hikers watching the sunrise at mount sinai
Bell at the chapel on mount sinai
Bedouin camel guides
Tents on the of mount sinai at night time
Kids on a donkey in egypt
Hikers climbing mount sinai in egypt
Sunrise on mount sinai in egypt
Saint catherine monastery
Sunrise in south sinai, egypt
Hiker standing on the summit of mount sinai
South sinai mountains at sunrise

I hope that you've enjoyed this comprehensive hiking guide to climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt!

While you're here, make sure to check out some of my other articles below.

Exploring karnak temple in luxor, egypt

Plan Your Egypt Accommodation

Still in the planning stages of your trip? Perhaps you're booking on the fly. The below accommodation guides will help you plan where to stay in Egypt.

Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Emma

Wednesday 21st of February 2024

thanks for the super detailed hiking guide! definitely inspired to add this on my list. did you do the tour with a group or just with the hostel people? cheers!

Olly Gaspar

Wednesday 21st of February 2024

Hi Emma, it was the organized tour that I linked above from Dahab. But I went on a few trips with the hostel and I'm sure that would also be a great bet if you stay there.

Olly

Reef

Monday 25th of December 2023

Great!!! Thank you

Christian

Thursday 22nd of June 2023

Hello Olly,

Thank you very much for such a great tips. I am currently planning my trip to Egypt where I will spend three weeks in July and The Mount of Sinai is definitely on my list !!! What insane pics you took while you were in the Mount of Sinai, they are absolutely stunning !

Best, Christian

Jeanette Glasson

Sunday 16th of April 2023

Yes I went via camel, the last odd 700 steps were murder you have vision of steps “no way” they are not steps but rocks, stones and pebble pathway going up a steep climb. I looked at it and promptly paid 2 guides one each holding an arm helping me up there. It was ok coming down because it was daylight and I could see where I was stepping; still being careful. Ladies if your coming back down via camel beware of the pummel my poor %$& got a beating camel walking down a steep descent naturally your body moves forward ( wrap your coat around the pummel or something) Was it worth it.? Absolutely of course the sunrise but even spectacular in the morning dark look over your shoulder you see a trail of lights, winding through the hills like a snake, the silence except for distance murmurs of camels, guides voices softly shooing the camels along and people talking in hushed voices as if in reverence as to what we will see. I still get a lump in my throat writing this. I still feel, see, smell and hear like it was yesterday. April 2005 I went on Harvest Pilgrimages Tour from Australia. We were the first lot of Australians allowed back on tours.

Josue D'Santos

Thursday 20th of October 2022

Hello Olly,  I am getting ready to be there in about two weeks. I really enjoyed your tips, advice, comments rich in details, photos, and links. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and knowledge. Best Josue D'Santos