Egypt is an endlessly fascinating country filled with a rich ancient history and culture. Egypt is so much more than just the Pyramids of Giza – it is a country filled with ancient archaeological treasures, and fantastic beaches and diving spots. There are so many places to visit in Egypt, you just need time to explore this fascinating country… 1 week won’t cut it; give yourself at least two weeks.
My family lived in Egypt for just over 6 years so I spent a good deal of time exploring this vast country. Here are the top 8 places I recommend to visit in Egypt.
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and is apparently the largest metropolitan city in the Middle East, with a population of over 16 million people. Amongst the chaotic traffic that fills the streets of Cairo, you’ll find beautiful people, an amazing culture and a truly fascinating history.
There is actually quite a bit to do in Cairo, so I would aim to set aside about 2-3 days to explore the sights and sounds of the city. It is worth visiting the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel of Cairo, the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, the Hanging Church, and the Khan el-Khalili bazaar.
And of course no visit to Egypt is complete without a visit to the Pyramids of Giza, which is about a 30-40 minutes drive from Cairo.
Luxor is filled with history, being the home of the ancient city of Thebes. If you are an ancient history buff, Luxor is the city for you. The most popular sites to visit include the Karnak and Luxor Temples, the Valley of the Kings, and the Valley of the Queens.
I love the Karnak Temple. I have visited this temple many times now and every single time I am just in absolute awe by its history. It is also worthwhile making a visit to the Karnak Temple at night.
Luxor is set on the east bank of the Nile River; so for many tours, Luxor is the start of the Nile Cruise. If you do have time, it is worth doing is a sunset cruise along the Nile in a felucca. Oh! And of course the sunset Hot Air Balloon over the Valley of the Kings is worthwhile too.
The Nile Cruise is great, because there are many ancient temples to visit along the Nile, such as Kom Ombo and Edfu. The view as you are travelling along the Nile is also fascinating – a mix of greenery and dessert.
The best time of the year to do the cruise is during the spring and autumn months when the weather is at a perfect temperature. One year I made the mistake of doing the cruise during summer – it was literally like a hair dryer blowing your face.
If you are starting the Nile Cruise from Luxor, you will end the cruise in the Nubian city of Aswan in the southern end of Egypt.
While in Aswan, venture down the Nile to the island of Philae to visit the Temple of Philae, dedicated to the goddess Isis. Also worth visiting is the Aswan High Dam, Nubian Village and the Unfinished Obelisk.
Abu Simbel is a fascinating site consisting of two massive temples built into the mountain. The main temple is the Temple of Ramessess II and the smaller temple is the Temple of Nefertari.
In the 1906’s, the site of Abu Simbel was relocated as part of a huge rescue mission sponsored by UNESCO. Today, the area of Abu Simbel has been protected by the UNESCO World Heritage site.
The best and fastest way to travel to Abu Simbel is a day tour by plane (EgyptAir) from Aswan. It is possible to travel by bus to Abu Simbel and can take about 3-4 hours one way.
It is also worth considering visiting Abu Simbel on either October 21 or February 21 to witness the Sun Festival. The temple was built with exceptional precision so that twice a year, the sun’s rays would illuminate inside the temple to mark the date of King Ramses’ ascension to the throne.
Hurghada / El Quesir
Hurghada is a resort town located at the Red Sea, best known for its snorkeling and scuba diving. El Quesir is located about 130 kms away from Hurghada and is much more laid back.
I prefer El Quesir, because it is a bit away from the crowd of holidaymakers in Hurghada. El Quesir is much quieter than Hurghada, so if you are looking to get away for some peace and quiet, than El Quesir is your place. I find the marine life to be much more beautiful here than in Hurghada. In fact, this is where I chose to do my scuba diving license.
And if you are looking for a break from the water, there is an array of activities to do in the desert, including quad biking and horseback riding.
Sharm el-Sheikh is bustling resort town with miles of beaches, lots of restaurants and bars, and plenty of activities. It also has a very active party scene if you are keen.
The diving and snorkelling is quite good here too, although I would recommend Hurghada and El Quesir if diving is your primary focus. But in terms of things to do, there is plenty to keep you busy at all hours of the day.
Alexandria is the port city of Egypt located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, just a little over 200km from Cairo.
Alexandria was an important part of Egypt’s ancient history, having been founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It housed the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World, but was unfortunately this was destroyed by an earthquake. Today, it is best known for its famous Great Library of Alexandria.
There are various interesting sites to visit in Alexandria, including the Great Library of Alexandria, Qaitbay Citadel, Monument of the Unknown Soldier, and Montaza Palace… just to name a few places.
And stay for lunch! There are plenty of excellent seafood restaurants.
The Sinai Peninsula is best known for Mount Sinai, also know as Jebel Musa and Mount Horeb. Mount Sinai is sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike, because it is known as the location where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Located at the foot of Mount Sinai is St Catherine’s Monastery, which has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. St Catherine’s Monastery was built in the 6th century and is the oldest Christian monastery that is still in use today. It is also believed that the alleged site of the burning bush is located in the area of St Catherine’s Monastery.
About 2.5-3 hours from St Catherine’s Monastery is the small town of Taba. Here you can cross the border into Israel or take the ferry across to Jordan to access sites such as Petra and Wadi Rum.
Worth visiting in Taba is Salah El-Din’s fortress on Pharaoh’s Island. Plus, the snorkeling is great in this area.