Tour operator ‘Lupine Travel’ was the first in the United Kingdom to offer tours to Sudan as recently as 2017. It was even a news item at CNN! I think this gives a reasonable impression about the current state of tourism. Tourism in Sudan is still in its infancy. However, Sudan is -even though I’m not a big fan of this term- truly a hidden gem. It offers amazing pyramids, a beautiful desert, ancient temples and welcoming people. Sudan is also a safe destination!
This is my suggestion for a two-week backpacking itinerary for Sudan, which is crafted to give you a good grasp of the entire country in a relatively short amount of time! Since most backpackers in Sudan are overlanding from north to south or south to north, this itinerary starts in Egypt and ends in Ethiopia. Personally, I solo traveled 18 days through Sudan, but I easily could have stayed longer!
Of course, this itinerary is just to give an impression ;)! Personally, I never stick to an itinerary or plan. Backpacking is all about freedom and the unexpected, isn’t it?
Example of a two-week backpacking itinerary for Sudan!
Welcome to Sudan in Wadi Halfa
Welcome to Sudan! You survived the long bus journey from Aswan and will probably arrive just after dark in Wadi Halfa. Wadi Halfa consists of wide and sandy streets with a few restaurants and shops. There is not much to see, so I wouldn’t recommend to stay longer than one night.
- Wadi Halfa is perfect to get yourself sorted for your Sudan trip. You can easily register at the police station as required by the Sudanese government. Exchange some money on the blackmarket. Buy a sim card.
- Try your first Sudanese meal of ‘ful’!
Accommodation: Private room Hotel Cangan in Wadi Halfa: 70 SDG (2,7 USD). A perfectly fine lokanda.
Explore Abri, a beautiful Nubian town and the temple of Soleb.
Abri is a friendly and photogenic Nubian town. Even though quite a few travelers must be passing through these days, people in Abri still welcome you like you’re the first traveler they ever meet!
- Visit the small market, eat some delicious fish and walk around in the beautiful rural surroundings
- From Abri, you can visit the temple of Soleb. You could ask Magzoub to drive you in his old car, go by public transportation or in my case, hitch a ride with a fellow guest. You will also have to cross the Nile by boat. Magzoub has the boat man’s number.
- Tip: Save Magzoub’s number in your phone. If you need translation, you could try and ask if he can translate. I was once completely lost in translation and by just talking a few minutes on the phone, he helped me greatly!
Accomodation Abri: In Abri, I stayed at the Nubian guesthouse of Magzoub. Magzoub speaks excellent English and has loads of stories to tell. I was even invited to his home. I had a great stay in his beautiful guesthouse, but another traveler I met, had an argument about money with him. A private room Nubian Guesthouse in Abri costed me 200 SDG (7.7 USD). Magzoub normally charges 10-15 USD. His numbers are +249 911220984 or +249 122886586
Transportation Wadi Halfa to Abri: Plenty of minibuses leave in the morning from Wadi Halfa towards the south. You can easily get out at Abri (gasstation). If you call ahead to Magzoub, he can pick you up. 70 SDG (2.7 USD)
Do some shopping in Dongola
There is not much to see in Dongola, but it is a friendly and prosperous city with quite a few shops and restaurants. I stayed at my Sudanese friends’ (whom I met in Wadi Halfa) house in Dongola and my time mostly consisted of visiting their family and friends. Instead of Dongola, I would strongly consider to visit the archeological sites of Kerma! They are suppose to be amazing!
Accomodation Dongola: Stayed with Sudanese friends
Transportation from Abri to Dongola: Minibuses from Abri leave from the gasstation. They pass through Abri, so you can only get on the bus, if there is a spot available. Costs 100 SDG (3.9 USD)
Explore your first pyramids in Karima
Continue your route to Karima, an unattractive small town in the middle of the desert. However, Karima does have many cool sights to offer!
- Climb and admire Jebel Barkel, the famous holy mountain.
- At the foot of Jebel Barkel you will find the ruins of the temple of Amun.
- Near Jebel Barkel you will also find some well-preserved pyramids.
- The ruins of the pyramids of Nuri. You need to take two different minibuses to get to Nuri. Ask in Karima and they will tell you which ones. It’s easy! Don’t miss Nuri! The pyramids are in a bad shape, but that’s what makes it somehow a beautiful and pure sight. You’re probably the only visitor.
- El-Kurru tombs. I took two buses from Nuri to the tombs. If you get to El-Kurru, find the ‘man who keeps the key’ and you can enter one of the tombs to admire the paintings!
Accommodation Karima: Private room Al-Nassr hotel in Karima: 120 SDG (4.6 USD). Allright hotel.
Transportation Dongola to Karima: Bus Dongola to Karima: 70 SDG (2.7 USD)
Spent the night at the busy railway and market town Atbara
Atbara is a busy railway town with well-stocked shops and also a small Railway museum. I only spent the night in Atbara, so that I could easily visit the Meroë pyramids the next morning.
Accommodation Atbara: Private room Al-Bashra hotel in Atbara: 280 SDG (10.8 USD). The owner/manager speaks excellent English.
Transportation Karima to Atbara: 130 SDG (5 USD)
Explore the amazing Meroë pyramids!
This is Sudan’s most popular attraction and you will most likely meet a few other tourists here. In total there about 100 pyramids. You can also enter some tomb chambers.
Accommodation: You could camp in the desert! Bring enough water and food. There are no shops around. I did not stay here, because it was NYE and I wanted to be in Khartoum.
Transportation Karima to Meroë: Bus Atbara to Shendi (drop-off at Meroe): 50 SDG (1.9 USD). From Meroë, I hitched a ride to a nearby gasstation. From there, I found a big bus to take me to Khartoum. You can also visit Meroe as a day trip from Khartoum!
Relax and unwind in Khartoum
Welcome to the big city! I liked Khartoum and stayed almost an entire week. However, in general I would say 2 days should be enough to visit the most important sights. I would highly recommend to include a Friday for your Khartoum visit, so you can attend the Sufi dervishes ceremony.
- Visit the National Museum, the Ethnology Museum and the Palace Museum
- Wander around at the huge Omdurman Souk
- Experience village life at the Tuti island
- Get mesmerized at the Sufi dancing on Friday afternoon or as an alternative: visit the Nuba wrestling tournament on Friday afternoon
- Try Yemeni (two good restaurants in Khartoum 2 near Ozone), Syrian (two cafe’s in Khartoum 2 with snacks and a restaurant in Riyadh), Ethiopian and Indian food in one of the many excellent restaurants
- Universal cafe (haven’t been there myself) for good, but expensive Italian food in a nice garden
- Have a lunch at the Ethiopian embassy
- Go to Nile Street to play pool or drink a juice on the Nile boats
- See the White Nile and the Blue Nile merge
- Go to the Jazz Cafe (or Papa Costa) for some cool live music!
- Hang out at the Ozone cafe to meet the Sudanese ‘young and rich’ and expats
Accommodation Khartoum: Female dormitory Khartoum Youth Hostel: 70 SDG (2.7 USD). The Khartoum Youth Hostel can be a bit difficult to find, but it’s right next to the Netherlands embassy. Fun place to stay. Met many fellow travelers. They have a beautiful garden.
Private room KH2 hotel in Khartoum (same street at the Khartoum Youth Hostel): 250 SDG (9,6 USD). Also a good place to stay. You can still hang out at the youth hostel. The manager is friendly and speaks excellent English. Good value for money.
Transportation Meroë to Khartoum: 200 SDG (7.7 USD)
Explore the interesting markets of Kassala
Kassala was one of my favorite places. It is known for its lively souk, a famous Sufi mosque and the strangely shaped Taka mountains. It also has a mixed population of Beja, Rashaida and Eritrean refugees. You will see quite a few soldiers in Kassala, due to its proximity to the Eritrean border.
- Wander around in the vibrant and interesting souks of Kassala. Here you will find many people with facial scarring, traditional jewelry or men carrying a traditional sword or knife.
- Visit the Sufi Khatmiya mosque
- Walk around in the Taka mountains
Accommodation Kassala: Private room Hipton Hotel in Kassala: 300 SDG (11.9 USD). Beautiful room.
Transportation Khartoum to Kassala (make sure you go to the right busstation. It’s in the south): 260 SDG (10 USD)
Slowly make your way to Ethiopia through Gadaref
My final stop of this trip was in Gadaref, before moving on to the border town of Galabat the next morning. In Gadaref they also had a big market with delicious fried fish! Unfortunately, it’s now almost time to say goodbye to beautiful Sudan and make your way to Ethiopia!
Accommodation Gadaref: Private room Elmotwakil Hotel in Gadaref: 350 SDG (13.5 USD). Most expensive, but also the best room of this trip. Central location.
Transportation Kassala to Gadaref: 70 SDG (2.7 USD)
Transportation Gadaref to Gadalat: 45 SDG (1.7 USD)
Make sure you have your Ethiopian visa. Read more about getting an Ethiopian visa in Khartoum here.
Places to add to your itinerary!
Unfortunately, I did not have time to visit Kerma, Port Sudan and the Nuba mountains. From what I heard, Kerma and Port Sudan are both worth a visit. A friend went to the Nuba mountains with a travel permit, but was not actually allowed to go into the mountains, because it was still controlled by the rebels. He was only allowed to get into Kadugli, which was a friendly little town at the base of the hills.
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Any thoughts on this two-week backpacking itinerary for Sudan? Suggestions?
Sudan travel information:
My Ultimate Sudan Travel guide
How much does it cost to travel in Sudan
How to get an Ethiopian visa in Khartoum, Sudan
What to do in Khartoum?
Obtaining your Sudanese visa in Aswan, Egypt