I would call Egypt a place where there is lots to see and lots to do. A complete value for money destination. This is the ultimate guide listing the best places in Egypt and the most fun things to do in Egypt. Whether you have just a week in hand , or you have a month or two to explore, this list will give you a fair idea of what all things that Egypt has to offer!
Must do things in Egypt
Depending on your interest and time at hand, you can select and prioritize.
Pyramids in Giza by Travel Jaunts
First thing Pyramids of course given that from times immemorial Egypt has been synonymous with Pyramids.There are approx 120 known pyramids in Egypt however the most impressive ones are in Giza. The largest Pyramid is Pyramid of King Cheops. The other two big size pyramids in Giza are Chephren and Menkaure respectively which are guarded by the rock cut statue, the Sphinx.
The Great Pyramid of King Cheops is the only wonder of the seven wonders of the ancient world that is still standing today, although it is 2,000 years older than any other wonder on the list.However it is not the Giza pyramids but the step pyramid in Saqqara which belongs to King Zoser which is considered the oldest one.
The idea of Step pyramid was that the king would ascend to the top to the heaven using steps. Or you could also say that step pyramid wasn’t the oldest but an unsuccessful imitation of the pyramids at Giza. Not sure since there is so much mystery involved around pyramids that till date we don’t even know how those huge blocks of stones were collected at the site and then used to built huge pyramids at the time when there were no advanced machinery or cranes. Besides, the fact that they are so mathematically aligned.
Some say, the pyramids are energy centers, some say they were built as tombs for kings and some say they are markers of Orion and some even say that they were built by aliens around 10,000 BC.You can make your own theory by visiting Pyramids of Giza yourself.
What you should do there- Take a camel ride or horse carriage ride or simply walk during the day and in the evening attend pyramids sound and light show which brings the sphinx and the pharaohs to life again by telling us about their history and great civilization .
Luxor-Soak up in the history
Luxor is the most beautiful place in Egypt when it comes to historical and ancient monuments.It is now a modern city that sits atop the ancient city of Thebes, which was once the capital of ancient Egypt and hence this place has witnessed many pharaohs over time.Two most famous temples in Luxor are Karnak temple complex and Luxor temple. Here the stones literally speak. The historical stories and messages are all over in hieroglyphics.
Karnak Temple Complex comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings.It’s construction took place over many centuries, and at the command of many different Egyptian kings. It’s a vast open-air museum, and the second largest ancient religious site in the world. It is dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu.
Temple of Luxor was another beautiful monument standing the test of times which we entered during the evening. You will find Ramses, Tutankhamen, Merenpetah, Seti, King Thutmosis III and Alexander all in the same place.
Since many kings lived in and ruled from Luxor , Luxor is also the site to nearly 140 known tombs built far underground .These tombs have rooms within to keep all the possessions that the kings and Queens would need in the afterlife. The walls have stories in Hieroglyphs from entrance to the main chamber. Not all the tombs are open to public but five including the two with additional ticket. You won’t find either mummies or treasure here, they are all in the museum (whatever was discovered)
Hot air balloon ride at Luxor
The thrill doesn’t end at Luxor temples only, Luxor has more to offer for less- hot air balloon ride. What say?? Safe, sound and thrilling at the same time. Its a 40 min ride over Luxor early in the morning during sunrise and 24 people sit at the same time so you are not alone. Mia Mia 🙂
Western desert tour
Here comes my favorite part, the western desert tour. There are 5 Oasis near Cairo namely Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, and Kharga—, the secluded Siwa Oasis. Depending on the time at hand, you can choose the number of days for camping in the Western desert and decide where all you would like to travel to. Camping, I would say is a must.We couldn’t afford many days holiday time hence we chose to do Al bahariya oasis and Farafra.
It was a two day trip from Cairo- black desert, white desert, crystal mountain and the camping for one night at the white desert.Interestingly, this white desert was once the seabed of the Mediterranean sea. This place now is full of naturally sculpted wind-carved limestone structures.It’s a national park and is a protected area in Egypt. Permissions are not easy.Infact western desert tours are restricted post turmoils in Egypt and the killings of Mexican tourists but then we took the risk even with our child to be here and it was 100% safe.
The night camping amidst the limestone sculptures is an experience beyond words. The fact that we were camping in December cold in white desert, part of Sahara, the biggest desert in the world made it so thrilling.
Can’t forget that night when we sat in an open air pavilion around a fire circle watching the magnificent sky full of stars, observing the shooting stars and the constellations while our Bedouin guide prepared the barbecue dinner. To our joy, our son who is a fussy eater loved and relished the barbecued chicken made by Mohammed (local Bedouin driver cum cook cum guide)
Love to relax during the holiday and not take the trouble of camping in extreme weather then this is for you. Sightseeing over Nile cruise. These cruise boats either run from Aswan to Luxor or Luxor to Aswan. Some longer trips are at Lake Nasser.
You have the option of Nile cruise from 3 days 4 nights to even up to 7 nights or more. There are many companies which operate these cruises and there are various options from 5 star to deluxe 5 stars to supreme luxury. They are on full board basis with excursions included. Cruise ships stop at the sightseeing points even for a day or half for you to finish doing main sights in a city. We took the cruise from Aswan to Luxor for 3 nights and it was truly a pleasure. People who are skeptic about sea cruises must try this river cruise.
I had assumed it to an adventurous experience but it was quite a peaceful sail. You get feluccas in Aswan as well as Luxor and while you would be staying on your cruise ship, you can take one of the evening excursions to the botanical garden or Numbain village by Felucca as the big cruise boat halts for the night at Aswan.
For some Felucca ride could be like any other boat ride, for some this could be very peaceful and for some, it could be romantic. I was overwhelmed with the fact I was sailing on river Nile that too in a traditional style. River Nile, about which I had only read in books- the north flowing longest river that originates from Lake Victoria, passes through 11 countries and gave life to ancient Egyptian civilization. The Nile is majestic to look at in reality too.
So I would suggest spending some time sailing the Nile around Aswan in a felucca before boarding the modern cruising ship to visit Kom Ombo, Edfu and then Luxor.
Temple of Abu Simbel
This sun temple is an incredible monument not only because of Ramses and his wife Nefertari but also because it was restored and relocated on a higher site after it was submerged like other temples mainly Nubian by the rising waters of the reservoir at Aswan high dam. It took more than 6 years of efforts by UNESCO to save this heritage.
Made up of two enormous and elaborately carved rock structures, Abu Simbel was originally built by Ramesses II (one of the most important pharaohs in Egyptian history) in the 13th century BC to show his stature and greatness following his victory in the battle against his enemies.
The most intriguing parts of the temple is the way it was positioned in relation to the sun.The axis of the temple is positioned in such a way by ancient Egyptians that it is on October 22 and February 22, the rays of the sunshine into the building and illuminate the three sculptures of Rameses with the Gods Amun and Horus that are seated along the back wall (with the exception for the fourth statue of Ptah, a god of the Underworld). These dates are allegedly the king’s birthday and coronation day.
Till our visit to Egypt, we used to find Egyptian antiques in top city museums around the world.There were sections dedicated only to Egypt. This time finally we saw the treasure trove of Egyptian antiquities in their very own Egyptian museum. In fact, a new much bigger and much better museum is being built very near to the present one in Cairo, which will be the largest in Asia.
The present museum has two floors full of exhibits (exceeding 12,0000 masterpieces) dating back to the ancient Egyptian period and Greco-Roman period.The interesting part is that it is only in the museum that you will see the royal mummies too that have been discovered till now.
If you have heard of Child king Tutankhamen whose tomb was discovered intact with the precious possessions, then this is the place to be. There is huge display on Tutankhamen, containing numerous artifacts from his tomb and burial dress, most impressive of which is his 24-pound gold death mask.
Interested in doing things far off the beaten path? Explore villages in South Senai. Must have heard of Sharma El Sheikh. World class beaches, diving, snorkeling, sun and sand- it is the Red sea in the south Senai peninsula where else?
Had met someone from Dahab before we could actually board our flight to Cairo. She was German and is permanently settled in Dahab, out of her love for the Egypt and its culture. That’s when we got to know the best part of south Senai.
From Dahab, you can easily get to Mount Sinai where it is said Moses received the Ten Commandments. Dahab is from where you could explore villages in south Senai to have more secluded, far from madding crowd trips. This is possible only if you have more number of days at hand.
Hurghada is a beach resort town stretching some 20km along Egypt’s Red Sea coast. It’s renowned for scuba diving, and has numerous dive shops and schools. Mostly frequented by Italian, German and Russian divers Hurghada becomes one of the most important places to visit in Egypt for many who love beach holidays and like to enjoy beach activities and sports.
Visiting all other Unesco heritage sites
Historic Cairo, Temple of Philae, Wadi Al-Hitan, Sites of Edfu and Kom ombu temples, and the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut which is called “the Holy of Holies”, one the best architecture buildings.
Historic Cairo includes Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo
In Coptic area, there is a “Hanging Church” dating back to the 3rd Century AD and “Saint Sergius and Bacchus Church” which is believed to have been built on the spot where the holy family rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. Islamic Cairo is 1000 years old “El Moez” street which is considered as an open air museum for Islamic Buildings
Experience local market and drink national drink, tea at one of the famous tea houses
Our last part of the trip was Khan El khalili market. Khan el Khalili was originally a mausoleum called “el Zaafran” for the burial of Fatimid Caliphs, after that it became a district for the Turkish community during the Ottoman period and now it is a bazzar.
If interested in souvenirs then this is a must. The cost will depend on your bargaining talent. Egypt is good for buying Egyptian cotton clothes, Egyptian perfumes, Papyrus artworks and statues. After we have had number of rounds around the alleys of Khan El Khalili, we seated ourselves in the most popular, and one of the oldest cafes in Cairo, El fishawy.
This cafe is now the most renowned café in the Arab world, frequented by celebrities and a monument to the traditional Egyptian social style of relaxing with friends, colleagues and the occasional stranger over coffee, tea and tobacco. We had the famous mint tea and anise tea here before heading to the airport for departure.
Now if you are still thinking is it safe to go to Egypt? Is it safe to do western desert tour and what are dos and don’t in Egypt, Check out my blog here – Is it safe to travel to Egypt