Egypt map & highlights
Make the most of your time
Egyptian rule states that you must travel in a police escorted convoy if you’re traveling between certain cities by road, and though the system is well run and perfectly safe, it can double if not triple your travel time on a tour, so most operators use flights and trains.
A classic Egypt loop (Cairo – Aswan – Luxor – Cairo) involves a 13hr sleeper train from Cairo to Aswan, a 2-3 days felucca boat trip along the Nile between Aswan and Luxor and then either a 9hr train or a short flight back to Cairo; a varied and interesting way to see the country and definitely preferable to days spent in a bus.
The Nile by Felucca
With a reach that stretches over 6,590km, the world-famous River Nile is as enigmatic as it is enormous and a felucca boat trip offers an experience very different and much more Egyptian than those on huge, packed vessels. Carrying only 6-12 passengers, feluccas sail so low on the river’s still waters that the Nile appears to roll away into the horizon like a magnificent infinity pool.
Valley of the Kings
A labyrinth of underground hidden tombs and vivid ancient illustrations – not least King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber – is all part of the otherworldly mystique of the Valley of the Kings. Every archaeologist that’s struck lucky there has claimed there’s nothing left to find and yet amazing discoveries keep happening; rumour has it, Queen Nefertiti’s resting place is next to be uncovered.
The Pyramids, Giza
Show us someone who doesn’t instantly recognise the pyramids and we’ll show you who built them – they are the epitome of Ancient Egypt and have baffled us mere mortals for millennia. Absolutely transfixing, there are over 100 pyramids spread across Egypt, but the trio at Giza have withstood the ravages of time and are a powerful sight to behold as the moody light at dusk descends.
The Sphinx, an imposing half-man, half-lion limestone carving that sits a literal stone’s thrown from the pyramids and looms at over 20metres high, is a much more impressive monument than photos belie. Adding that extra air of intrigue mandatory to Egypt’s greats, it has three tunnels leading into it, but that lead nowhere – rumour has it ancient chancers created those while looking for loot.
Aswan is a compelling and underrated city that sits right down south on the wide, slow-flowing banks of the Nile. Unlike lively Luxor, Aswan’s allure lies in its laid-back vibe. Its colourful markets, unique and historically important Nubian villages, an excellent souk, and the tropical-fringed Elephantine Island are all fascinating, as is the natural splendour of a burnt orange sunset over the Nile.
One city, three parts: Downtown Cairo houses incredible Egyptian Museum – a crumbling and chaotic affair, but with a priceless collection of pharaonic antiquities with over 136,000 exhibits. Old Cairo is the Coptic centre with an array of medieval churches; and Islamic Cairo is a maze of narrow walkways, artisan bazaars and shisha. Khan al-Khalili market area is shopping heaven for some, hell for others.
Dahab & Red Sea
If you like the idea of giving scuba diving a go just a short walk from the water’s edge then Dahab is spot on. Diving here is mainly shore-based as the Red Sea drops down quickly to great depths, making it an ideal destination for beginners. With over 1,000 species of fish, 150 species of coral, and curious dolphins the Red Sea is known for its unbelievable underwater scenes and excellent visibility.
Between March and Nov dolphins deign to delight, following the line of the Red Sea’s coral reef which is zoned to protect them from boats. Our dolphin watching vacations in Egypt adhere to strict conservation principles, which also support swimming with dolphins in a stringent way. None of your jump in and kiss a dolphin malarkey. But strictly let dolphins be dolphins style. And a beautiful style it is too.
Abu Simbel Temples
Thanks to UNESCO these magnificent temples, built by Ramses II in 13th century BCE, were rescued from the flooding of the lands that took place to build the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser in 1960s. They relocated them to Abu Simbel, and placed them on the rock face by tunnelling into the hillside. As you do. They are spectacular. Come for the Stonehenge-like sun effect at dawn 22nd Oct and 22nd Feb.
Popular with families, this Red Sea waterfront town is a top spot for snorkelling, diving and all round seaside fun. Once a small fishing village it has been developed into hotel land, but it still beats Sharm El Sheikh. There are plenty of other things to do nearby too, from visiting St. Paul and Anthony’s monasteries to camel trekking in the desert.
A modern metropolis merged with an ancient arcadia, it is divided by the Nile into two sections. The East Bank is the modern but French influenced town, also home to Luxor and colossal Karnak temples, plus Luxor’s museum. Take a boat to the West Bank to explore the Valley of the Kings. You can take a sleeper train from Cairo, and hire a bike to explore the West Bank when you are there.
Kom Ombo & Edfu
Kom Ombo and Edfu are Ptomelaic (late Egyptian) temples, which were dedicated to Horus, the falcon headed god, and Sobek the crocodile god, which you still see symbols of everywhere, especially in Nubian homes. A popular site at Kon Ombo is the Nilometer, which measured the height of the annual flood, but also measured how high taxes were going to be. More water, more tax.
9 day cultural vacation:
Cairo ► Pyramids at Giza ► Aswan ► Felucca Nile Cruise ► Kom Ombo and Edfu Temples ► Luxor ► Valley of the Kings ► Cairo
10 day family vacation:
Cairo ► Pyramids, Sphinx and Egyptian Museum ► Sleeper train to Aswan ► Camel trek ► St Simeon’s Monastery ► Nubian village visit ► Abu Simbel ► Felucca trip on Nile ► Kom Ombo ► Luxor ► Valley of the Kings ► Safaga ► Red Sea boat trip
Travel times in Egypt
The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Egypt.
- Cairo – Aswan: 14hrs by overnight train
- Cairo – Aswan : 1.5hrs by air
- Cairo – Luxor: 10hrs 30 mins by overnight train
- Marsa Alam Airport – Luxor: 4.5hrs by car
- Giza Metro station – Pyramids at Giza: 15-20 mins by car