With some of the oldest buildings in the world, to say that Egypt has a lot of history would be an understatement. Ancient artefacts, Egyptian paintings and impeccably preserved architecture make up the majority of Egyptian tours. Interestingly, this tourism that focuses on the splendour of all that was created in Ancient Egypt dates back to the Roman and Greek ages. When the pyramids were first built, noblemen would come to set eyes on the pyramids, and no doubt take notes on their structure and style.
Having flourished since prehistoric times, Egypt’s rulers were some of the greatest of all time; it was one of the first civilisations to establish global connections along with Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome and Greece.
No matter how often the borders were moved in Egypt, the Nile was always at the centre of activity. Stretching from the Sudanese border to the Mediterranean, the Nile still is today as the it paves the path to some of Egypt’s most impressive architecture and leads you to rural villages that will introduce you to the many different ancient cultures of Egypt.
While history buffs and bucket list tickers will go for a personal tour guide in Cairo, beachgoers will look for Egypt’s family tour packages that hit the coast of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Prime locations such as Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab welcome travellers looking for up-market resorts and strings of beaches that combine to make the perfect coastal escape.
With so much to see, do and learn, this rough guide to Egypt will introduce you to the essential attractions and off-the-beaten-path locations that boast some amazing historical references; in Egypt, you are never too far away from the Ancient World.
When to Go to Egypt
Whether you are looking for a Nile boat trip or a private tour of Cairo, you’ll find that the shoulder season between September and October and March and May is the best time to go to Egypt.
From May to September, you’ll experience Egyptian summer which is unbearably hot. Depending on the temperatures you are used to, you might find this is alleviated by the dry air and the saviour that is air conditioning, not to mention cheaper prices as few travellers come at this time of year. However, engaging in activities does not come highly recommended at this time.
Best Places to Visit in Egypt
The constant purr of Cairo is something that will either draw you in or hold you back. The city has an atmosphere that is electric, where you will quickly find yourself jogging to the pace of its 22 million inhabitants.
Cairo is primarily known for its museums, particularly the Egyptian Museum, where you have the chance to learn about its many civilisations while walking through thousands of Egyptian artefacts. Learning about Coptic Cairo will introduce you to the earliest traces of Christian history and Egypt’s sometimes forgotten placement in some of the most significant events in Christianity, which is only matched by pharaonic antiquity and all the rulers that came with it.
The city centre of Cairo has all that you need to see in a tight package as on this 14-day Egypt coast to coast trip. Stopping at the tourist souk, Khan El-Khalili is a shopping opportunity that you can’t miss. The largest souk in Cairo, you’ll go past stall after stall bursting with trinkets, clothes, coffee pots and just about anything!
All explorations of Cairo should either start or finish in a coffee shop. Sipping on an Arabic coffee while watching life bustle on by is the best way to get chatting to some locals while city life continues around you.
No tour in Cairo, Egypt is complete without visiting the pyramids. Standing proud as the last Ancient Wonder of the World, the most famous of Egypt’s pyramids are on the Giza plateau, sitting on the outskirts of Cairo.
The Giza Pyramid complex consists of three pyramids fronted by the Great Sphinx, that were built by three different rulers; Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. The pyramids are part of a royal mortuary complex of smaller pyramids arranged so that pharaohs have the highest and most central structures to ensure their regeneration as gods; the closer you were buried to a pharaoh, the better your seat in the afterlife.
The question around how the pyramids were built is one of life’s great mysteries, while archaeologists believe that the pyramids were a great success among failures, others believe that such a huge structure could only be the work of extraterrestrials. The pyramids remain some of the largest structures ever to be made and were created some 4,500 years ago.
Luxor and Aswan
While Luxor is famed across the world for being the largest open-air museum ever known, Aswan offers a smaller quieter escape where you can absorb the serene atmosphere of the Nile and the history that surrounds it.
Having welcomed western travellers since the end of the 18th century, Luxor lures curious people in with the riches that it was found on, sitting partially on the ruins of the Ancient Greek city of Thebes, Luxor was known in Egyptian as Waset; the capital from 1550BC to 1050BC – the New Kingdom period.
All of the best cruises on the Nile will stop in Luxor where you’ll step into the Valley of Kings, where most of Egypt’s rulers were buried. With the growth of Luxor as the capital of the era, the Luxor Temple, Karnak and the Valley of Queens soon followed, not forgetting Hatshepsut’s tomb, the second-ever female pharaoh that was not discovered until 2007.
Sitting at the top of Lake Nasser, Aswan is a quiet escape from cities like Cairo or Luxor yet remains popular as the last stop on a cruise on the Nile river for the treasures that it is home to. It is said among locals that you have not truly experienced a Nile boat trip if you haven’t stopped and relaxed in Aswan.
In antiquity, Aswan was regarded as the gateway to Africa, and the southern frontier for Ancient Egypt. Aswan also holds on tight to Nubian history, one of the earliest cradles of civilisation in this part of the world, where Nubian traditions are still present in everyday life.
Formerly known as Swenett, Aswan was synonymous with the life-giving Nile river that it sits on which led to the many temples and obelisks that were built here, the most famous of which is the Temple of Philae and the Unfinished Obelisk.
With a variety of different boats to choose from, cruises on the Nile river range from three days to 14 day and more, taking you to some of Egypt’s most impressive architectural and archaeological sites that are found along the river.
The best luxury Nile cruise ships will offer you a taste of the Middle East as you cruise between the essential sites of Luxor and Aswan, stopping only for in-depth tours from an Egyptologist guide. Along the way, you’ll see life evolve on the river as locals go about their everyday lives perhaps stopping in a Nubian village to learn about cultures that are some of the oldest in the world.
Sharm El Sheikh
As Egypt’s answer to a Mediterranean resort town, Sharm El Sheikh is surrounded by beautiful beaches and coral reefs and is in close proximity to the Sinai Desert ensuring hot temperatures year-round.
Originally established as a spa town, Sharm El Sheikh is home to more traditional wellness resorts than anywhere else in Egypt. Add in a backdrop of the Sinai Peninsula and you have the perfect environment for a relaxing beach holiday like this 6-day Sharm El Sheikh and Cairo tour.
Having once been a resort town focused on more local tourism, travel in Sharm El Sheikh has attracted a mixture of those looking for up-market clubs and the fancy hotels that come with them in recent years, transforming the resort-town into more of a luxurious destination.
The second-largest city of Egypt, Alexandria is perhaps the only city in the world to be known for monuments that have long-since been destroyed.
As the major industrial hub of Egypt, Alexandria has always played a significant role in the trading routes that the country is part of. Founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria was known for its lighthouse, Pharos, one of the wonders of the Ancient World – that’s right, Egypt was home to two! Alexandria was once one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the Ancient World, yet today, few people could pinpoint it on the map.
Another of Alexandria’s great monuments was the Library of Alexandria; during its creation in the rule of Ptolemy I & II, it would have been the greatest selection of books ever created. However, in 48 BC when Caesar was pursuing Alexandria and its ruler Ptolemy, he is thought to have set fire to his ships and in turn, the library, when he was outnumbered.
Today, Alexandria is a modern commercial hub that whispers of its legendary 2,500-year-old past and is explored in tours like this 6-day Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor trip.
Abu Simbel Temple
Two massive rock-hewn temples take the name of Abu Simbel, which is also the name of the town that they are found in. Dating back to the 13th century BC, during the reign of Ramses the II, the temples are part of the series of UNESCO World Heritage sites that are simply called ‘the Nubian Monuments’ visited on an Abu Simbel cruise from Aswan.
The temples were originally built to commemorate the marriage of Ramses the II and Nefertari, the first and most beloved of his wives, as well as the success of the Battle of Kadesh. Abu Simbel temples are dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, the deities of Egypt at the time as well as goddess Hathor.
The fame of the temples was heightened further when the greatest archaeological operation of all time took place: the temples were dismantled and reassembled at another location to save them from being destroyed by the predicted rising waters created by Aswan High Dam.
With the Sinai mountains for a backdrop and a quiet laid-back vibe, to many Dahab is the perfect resort town. Attracting many expats touring Egypt looking for a relaxing lifestyle and Tiki-bar atmosphere, within moments of arriving in Dahab, you’ll understand why so many people never leave here.
Dahab is within an hour of Sharm El Sheikh, yet it feels world’s away from the neighbouring town. As a former Bedouin fishing village, Dahab, despite becoming a top diving, windsurfing and yoga destination, has never lost its Bedouin roots. Promoting very much an international atmosphere, Dahab has charmed people from around the world that add to its character as a place for people together with a love for all things beach.
The Best Ways to Visit Egypt
Travelling by Car in Egypt
Travelling by car is one of the best ways to get around Egypt if you are going to locations close to the capital, such as Luxor, or if you are just seeing Cairo with a private tour guide. If you want to travel overnight to a destination further afield, you can hire a sleeper car which is called a wagon-lit, although you may find yourself paying the price of a domestic flight to do so.
Nile River Cruises in Egypt
Whether you choose a budget or luxury river Nile cruise, this is the best way to travel in Egypt, just as people have for millennia. There is an overwhelming number of Nile River cruises in Egypt that start at half-day tours to 4-day Nile cruises from Cairo and go up to 15- and 16-day cruises that take you deep into rural Nubian villages to show you the quiet side of this country.
If you wish to go further afield on following the Ancient World, you can even get a Greece to Egypt cruise.
Flying in Egypt
The most convenient way to get around Egypt is to fly. With airports in all major tourist destinations, Egyptian tours are made easier with cheap domestic flights that cut out hours of travelling. With several flights a day going from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh and even to Abu Simbel, travellers with a short amount of time will find comfort in the number of flights available. For the cheap tickets to Egypt, look for tickets around the shoulder seasons.
Where to Stay in Egypt
Egypt Nile Cruise Packages
Embrace the chance to live in luxury by taking a cruise on the river Nile, arguably one of the most famous rivers in the world. Waking up to a new location every day, stopping by ancient sites that were once the stronghold and symbolic of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Ancient World; staying on a cruise on the river Nile is like sailing through history.
The Nile cruises vary from boat to boat, some have pools and multiple restaurants, like the royal Viking Nile cruise others are simple yet elegant with furnishings that are reflective of your stunning surroundings.
As the capital, Cairo has a great mix of accommodation that is perfect for all budgets and travel styles. Whether you are looking to tick boxes with one of Cairo’s private tour guides and keep it cheap in the downtown area or want to live the high life with the rich expats and locals in Zamalek, Cairo is a city that will please everyone with its character and variety.
Sharm El Sheikh
As a popular resort-town for Europeans, Sharm El Sheikh follows the structure of your typical beach destination: high-end multinational resorts sit on beachfront locations, while smaller family-run hotels have beach views further back. Most of the hotels encourage all-inclusive packages, however, you’ll never be far from the restaurants that sit on the streets.
Places to Eat & Drink in Egypt
As a Middle Eastern country with several millennia of history, Egypt has its own spectacular twist on Arabic cuisine, here’s a breakdown of dishes that you have to try while you are here;
No matter where you go in the world, food starts on the street and koshary is Egypt’s go-to! Often referred to as the country’s national dish, you can pick up koshary anywhere.
Simple but delicious is what the dish aims for; satisfying all cravings with a hearty home-cooked feel that will make you think of your mum’s cooking. The dish combines basic vegetarian fridge ingredients of lentils, chickpeas, rice, onions and macaroni with a tomato sauce, perfect if you are missing cold evenings.
A must if you are on the river or the coast, fish Sayadiya is what all Egyptian dishes aspire to be; simple, hearty and delicious. Sitting on a bed of rice, fish Sayadiya is a whole pan-fried fish with a slight fragrant seasoning, topped with almonds to add a little crunch.
While vegetarians will never struggle to find good food in Egypt, you can’t ignore the meat-heavy focus in the cuisine. Whether it is lamb, beef or both, kofta is an essential dish in Egypt. The meat is ground and combined with onions and spices and grilled to perfection.
Trip to Egypt Cost
There are a few things that must be considered when planning an Egyptian tour, for example, the number of variables that are included in a Nile river cruise price is;
- Length of your trip
- Season or month you choose to travel in
- Accommodation class and type
- How many places you visit during your trip
- Number of activities or tours you take part in
- Expenditure on shopping and dining out
When combining all of these variables with the outstanding locations that are waiting for you on an Egyptian Nile tour, you might be put off by the idea of planning a trip. However, there is a way the stress can be taken out of this.
With Tripfuser, it’s as simple as specifying your budget, trip duration, activity preferences and how you like to travel to get the ball rolling on our design your own Egypt tour page, then connect directly with an in-destination Local Expert who will get planning based on your ideas.
Alternatively, browse our collection of fully-customisable Egypt tours and relax in the knowledge that every detail has been taken care of.
As an example of a Nile cruise from Aswan and land tour, take a look at this 9-day Egyptian cultural discovery tour that includes;
- 4-star and 3-star accommodation
- Thirteen guided activities
- Airport transfers and transport by private car
- Domestic flights
- Eight breakfasts and two dinner
However, changing the class of the hotel or the cruise could increase or decrease the trip to Egypt cost considerably.
When it comes to travelling, we all have different styles, requirements and even ideas! Whether you want to design your own trip or browse our fully-customisable tours, our Local Experts in Egypt will work to tailor your tour to match your travel requirements to get you on the road.
Festivals in Egypt
Ramadan and Eid Al Adha
Observed throughout the Islamic community, Ramadan is a festival of daytime fasting and evening feasting, where participants only eat when nightfalls. When travelling at this time, you’ll notice that the streets are quieter as people keep movement to a minimum to maintain their fast. Eating or drinking in public even if you are not fasting is strongly discouraged. As nightfalls, the streets buzz as people make their way to their local mosque to break the fast with a single date, followed by all the food you could possibly imagine.
Eid is a four-day festival where family and friends come together to enjoy food and party in celebration of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. Some communities may slaughter a sheep or a goat as their sacrifice.
The dates of both Eid and Ramadan change yearly, travelling at this time can be tricky as you have to be prepared for some places to be closed to celebrate.
Coptic Orthodox Christmas and Easter
Unlike your western Christmas or Easter, Coptic Orthodox celebrations start with over a month of fasting that almost acts as a form of preparation for the feasting that will ensue once it is over. Then, the celebrations begin.
Abu Simbel Sun Festival
One of the oldest celebrations in Egypt, the Sun Festival is a celebration of the antiquity of Abu Simbel and of the sun. On the 22nd of February and October, the sun god will be illuminated by a beam of sunlight. The festival includes lots of traditional Nubian dances and food.
Best Trips to Egypt
There are many different styles of Egyptian tours, here are some of our favourite trips that cover a variety of styles;
Cruises of the Nile in Egypt
Egypt Family Tour Packages
Solo Traveller Trips
Eager to Start Your Egyptian Tour?
With thousands of years of history, desert lands and beaches to match, there really is nowhere else like Egypt on the planet. To create your once in a lifetime Egyptian tour, connect with one of our Local Experts today to start putting together the details for your next trip.
No matter whether you are looking for adventure, history, beach time or a combination of all three, you’ll find it in Egypt. Browse our fully-customisable Egypt trips or select ‘design your own trip’ take your first steps towards Egypt!