The Red Sea Riviera's coast is dotted with familiar place names to European divers: busy and bustling Sharm-El-Sheikh, the slower-paced Dahab, and the more remote Marsa Alam in the south, all of which offer superb Red Sea diving. But if you're looking for the best diving in Egypt, the northern town of Hurghada, just south of the Gulf of Suez, is an all-rounder that's hard to beat. Not only is the diving superb, especially for wreck heads, but the town's location makes it ideal for exploring Egypt's undeniably rich history when not beneath the Red Sea's calm waves. Luxor's Valley of the Kings, steam-ship cruises down the Nile and Cairo's Pyramids of Giza are all possible on a Hurghada itinerary that will also allow you to dive some of the Red Sea's most iconic wrecks - the SS Thistlegorm, SS Rosalie Moller and the Dunraven - and maybe also enjoy a pleasant afternoon reef dive in the company of a pod of friendly dolphins...

SS Thistlegorm

Long seen as the jewel in the crown of Red Sea diving and a Mecca for wreck enthusiasts the world over, the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm is one of the best wreck dives on the planet. Before being sunk by German bomber aircraft, the defensively equipped merchant ship had been used to transport steel, grain and rum from the Americas to aid the war effort.

On her final voyage in June 1941, the ship's cargo included Bedford trucks, armoured vehicles, Norton and BSA motorcycles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition and two steam locomotives, along with an assortment of rifles and radio equipment. The ship's final resting place was uncovered by Jacques Cousteau with the help of local fishermen, and remarkably, much of the ship's cargo can still be seen today.

Due to the sheer quantity of intact cargo still visible in the wreck's holds, the SS Thistlegorm wreck constantly finds itself on lists of not only the best wreck dives in the world but also of the best dive sites in the world. So if you're looking for the best diving in Egypt, a trip to the SS Thistlegorm should definitely be at the top of your list.

Shaab El Erg

Located to the north of Hurghada, Shaab El Erg is a large, horseshoe-shaped reef famed for its frequent visits by pods of friendly spinner dolphins. The little hideaway beneath the waves is a gentle dive, beginning over a shallow, sandy bottom strewn with healthy coral bommies. Following the slope down, through octopus' gardens bathed in sunlight and awash with the Red Sea's customary crystal-clear blue water, takes you down to where the dolphins like to hang out.

Blue-spotted rays, moray eels and Napoleon wrasse are also commonly encountered, but the star of the show here is, without doubt, the dolphins. The curious cetaceans love to play and interact with the divers, and witnessing their inquisitive behaviour will ensure you will always remember your dive at Shaab El Erg. It's a magical experience that ensures many remember the dive site as being among the best diving in Egypt.

Oberoi House Reef 

Aside from its proximity to the UK and its year-round endless visibility, another big plus of diving in Egypt is the fact that the dive sites begin where the beach ends. Staying in a hotel with a house reef accentuates this further, with the ability to enjoy a relaxing dive among turtles, octopuses, lionfish, trumpet fish and blue-spotted rays whenever you choose.

If the mid-afternoon desert sun gets a little too hot, and the pool's a little crowded, you can cool down by exploring your own peaceful oasis below the waves. Keep an eye on the sand for semi-submerged stonefish or a Red Sea walkman quite literally buried up to its eyeballs. While many may argue that the house reefs are no match for Ras Mohammed National Park or the Brothers, the variety of marine life to be seen is very impressive. Whether or not it's the best diving in Egypt may be open to debate, but choosing a hotel with a house reef is definitely one of the best ways to enjoy your Red Sea diving holiday.