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Sharm el-Sheikh: Egypt's Red Sea Riviera

The five-hour-plus flight to Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera on a budget or charter airline may have put you off, but come September, there’s an alternative when British Airways returns to Sharm el-Sheikh.


BA’s reappearance after a four-year absence provides the perfect opportunity to redeem those frequent flier points and treat yourself to an upgrade in the airline’s Club Europe cabin. When it comes to accommodation, this part of the Red Sea has a reputation for fly n’flop mid-range properties, but the big upmarket hotel brands are also present and offer a more exclusive bolt hole once the UK nights turn cooler.


The area lacks the cultural attractions of Cairo or Luxor, but Sharm was never really about this - instead, what you get is one of the few places within easy reach that offers guaranteed year-round sunshine and high temperatures plus some spectacular underwater scenery.


First let’s deal with the weather. Places like the Canaries and Malta will boast that they have year-round appeal, but they simply can’t match the temperatures in Egypt, particularly the waters of the Red Sea, which rarely dips below 22C. It’s the water that wins it for Sharm, whether snorkelling over a shallow coral reef or venturing only a few metres further from shore to where the seabed drops sharply away, revealing even more tropical marine life.  Sharm’s calm sea must be one of the world’s best places to learn to dive and once you’re certified, there are many World War II wrecks and coral walls to explore.


Being in the desert, a camel is never far away, but quad biking, a jeep safari or horse riding are other ways to see the vast and craggy landscape that is dotted with Bedouin villages and glows red at sunrise and sunset. If you do yearn for culture and don’t mind an early start, head off to St Catherine’s Monastery, at the base of the mountain where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments. Stretching the day trip concept even further, some ground operators offer Luxor, the site of the Valley of the Kings’ burial ground, which is do-able in a day with a scheduled flight from Sharm.


Many people however, really do just come to relax and given the nature of some of the hotels, that’s understandable. The five-star Radisson Blu is typical in having its own beach that permits snorkelling straight off the shore and is set in 30 acres of gardens that spring from the desert. The better properties like these - ones that will match your upgraded flight experience - have grounds and facilities so extensive you really don’t have to leave them if chilling out is all you’re about.


BA’s return to Sharm is the perfect reason to visit. It begins flying from Gatwick on September 14 on Mondays and Thursdays. A Saturday flight will be added on October 26.