In this article you find the important places to visit during your trip to Egypt.
To take a trip to Egypt is to travel through history and the past. It is undoubtedly a magical land full of mysticism and legend, full of the best places of antiquity. Cradle of the pharaohs and structured around one of the principal rivers of the world, the Nile, Egypt is one of those countries that you must visit at least once in your life.
If you are thinking of traveling to Egypt and are still unsure what you can see in this great country, in this article, we will leave you some of its most famous places so that you can organize your journey through Egyptian lands. Simply, taking advantage of the time in what is essential.
Cairo, the busy Egyptian capital
It will be your gateway to the country, so spend at least a day or even two in this chaotic city.
Its main attraction is the Egyptian Museum which is about to be moved to a modern building facing the esplanade of the pyramids. For the moment, it is still in the city center, a few steps from the Nile, in the mythical pink building erected 160 years ago.
He has a minimum of two hours to briefly see the best of his 120,000 pieces, among which those corresponding to Tutankhamun’s treasure stand out. In the end, you spend more time amazed by the degree of preservation of mummies, utensils of all kinds, and statues of all sizes.
The Citadel has several mosques that can be visited, a belvedere over the city, a significant parade ground, a military museum, and vestiges of towers and walls, which deserve, yes, to be better preserved. Keep in mind that it closes at 5 p.m. most of the year.
Old Cairo has become a vast open-air souk where guilds follow with shops adjoining one another. It takes as a reference the Al-Azhar mosque, next to the avenue to which it gives its name. If you cross it, you will find the famous Khan el-Jalili bazaar, while on the side of the temple and just a few meters from its walls begins Al Motaz Street, covered with a beautiful wooden roof in its first meters and dotted with old palaces. And several wall doors.
The Coptic quarter is a pleasant surprise for the senses. According to the Bible, the Holy Family took refuge during their flight to Egypt, where the Church of San Sergio and San Bacco is now located. You will see a good handful of churches, among which the so-called “Hanging Church” stands out for having been built on the remains of the first city walls. This can be seen through a small glass floor in the room to the right of the altar. There is also a synagogue named Ben Ezra and an interesting Coptic museum dedicated to works of art.
To stay, we recommend the Hotel Osiris, in the center of Cairo. The manager speaks Spanish; it’s clean, has a huge roof terrace that overlooks the city, and is a short walk from the Egyptian museum, the souk, and the train station. The breakfast, at a symbolic price, is worth it.
The Pyramids of Giza, an emblem of Egypt
Once settled in Cairo, you can no longer delay your visit to the nation’s true icon, the silhouette of the 3 pyramids on the Giza Esplanade, located approximately 45 minutes by taxi from the city center.
It is a set of three large pyramids, some smaller ones, and the famous Sphinx.
We advise you to go there as soon as it opens, at 8 a.m., to avoid queues and street vendors who are less early risers.
The largest of them all, the Great Pyramid of Giza or Cheops, is about to be 4,600 years old.
When you stand in front of it, bewilderment keeps you from knowing what impresses you the most: its 140 meters of mass of stone, the knowledge that it was covered with a layer of polished white stone that made it shine enormous distances, which was for almost four millennia the tallest building on the planet or which is the only wonder of the ancient world still standing. Not to say that we still don’t know how it was built.
The picture is completed by the pyramids of Khafré (son of Cheops), who made a pyramid of similar proportions, even more inclined, but much simpler inside, and that of Micerino, the smallest but 66 meters high.
From the highest part of the valley, you can photograph the whole complex with the vast city of Cairo in the background. Another unforgettable panorama is that of the Sphinx, carved out of a limestone mound, as you can immortalize it with the three pyramids in the background.
The lesser-known pyramids of Egypt
Incredibly, many tourists leave Egypt without seeing the other two sets of pyramids, located just half an hour by car from Giza.
At Saqqara, 20 kilometers south, is the necropolis of Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom. It seemed to us that the interest is focused on the small museum dedicated to the architect Imhotep, but especially on the step pyramid of Djoser and the various burials which surround it. The latest archaeological finds, such as dozens of wooden coffins.
At Dahshur, another 20 kilometers up the Nile, two pyramids will impress you enormously. First because of its loneliness, especially if you arrive early in the morning, and then because it is possible to enter inside the Red Pyramid. You will reach the burial chamber if you can descend about 80 meters by crouching on a steep ramp. What better way to feel in ancient Egypt?
The set is completed by the Bent Pyramid, the quick prototype of the pyramids with triangular sides.
The Egyptian Desert
It constitutes the vast majority of Egypt, although its population throughout civilizations has logically always populated the banks of the Nile. Only in the western part of the river does the Sahara occupy a larger area of the country.
The easiest option to go into the desert for two days is to hire an ATV tour in Cairo that will take you to the so-called White Desert. It is located 4 hours from the city and offers curious rock formations resulting from millions of years of erosion. You can sleep in a “khaima” and enjoy a typical Berber dinner under the sand.
The oasis of Siwa is undoubtedly the most beautiful of all and the most remote, 9 hours from Cairo, next to the border with Libya. The ruins of the citadel, its fortress, and its temples form a magnificent picture, which you will want to walk through and photograph again and again. As if that were not enough, in its surroundings, you have an oasis and one of the largest dune fields in the whole Sahara. The two places compete to offer us the most beautiful sunset.
In the Sinai Peninsula, the landscape is also desert, with the advantage of being surrounded by a transparent sea full of corals and many marine species of interest. It also has the Santa Catalina Monastery, declared a World Heritage Site, and the biblical site of Mount Sinai.
Cairo is intermediate to the distance from Siwa and the “nearby” White Desert, although it has an airport in Sharm el-Sheikh, making it easy to get to.
Luxor and Karnak temples
In what was the city of Thebes, the capital of Egypt for over a thousand years and the most revered city in the kingdom for its enormous temples?
We recommend visiting Karnak during the day and Luxor at sunset as its lighting and inside the Abu Simbel temples are the best in the country.
The bad thing is that everyone knows about it and it’s the busiest time, taking advantage of the fact that it doesn’t close until 9 pm.
The dimensions of its entrance, columns, capitals, and statues stand out from the temple of Amón-Ra in Karnak. There remain some vestiges of polychromy, and what was the immense sacred basin has been recovered. From the imposing entrance, surrounded by sphinxes, you can see the old canal that allowed you to arrive by boat from the Nile.
The temple of Luxor imposes its facade with several gigantic sculptures, all original except one and the forest of columns inside. Above all, the details with which most of its walls are carved from top to bottom. You can spend hours admiring the details of the hieroglyphs.
The Valley of the Kings
The west bank of Luxor was known as the bank of the dead because its inhabitants had died apart from artisans.
To cross it, there is a ferry service every 30 minutes.
Today it is a fairly lively neighborhood but much friendlier than its neighbor across the street. Bicycles can be rented to tour the valley and admire its tomato and palm plantations.
Fame goes to the Valley of the Kings, where access is more expensive, and you can only see three tombs of your choice. Also, some, like Tutankhamun, have an extra and use a camera or video.
We didn’t like how they exploited it, with so many limitations and the guards trying to make you lose a few pounds for any unsolicited explanation.
In the background are the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Nobles and, at the same level of fame and crowd, the spectacular temple of Al Deir Al Bahari of Hatshepsut, recommended sooner or later to enjoy solitude or sunset.
Tip: Avoid the tourist train you will see at both places as it only travels about 250m. And it doesn’t come out until it’s finished, and it’s gone; you arrive before you walk.
Apart from the more touristic itinerary, we recommend the city and the tombs of the artisans, known as Deir el-Medina; you can see some small tombs with an exceptional degree of preservation and the ruins of hundreds of houses and buildings.
The only thing you can see for free is the Colossi of Memnon.
Important: tickets are sold at a ticket office next to the road junction between the Colossi and the temple of Ramses III or Habu. You must return if you go to a temple or tomb without them. The ticketing system is confusing because they are not withdrawn at the place of visit but at the one-stop shop. Second, you won’t know which tombs to choose in the Valley of the Kings, and some have exorbitant fees.
You can still buy the Standard Luxor 3-Day Pass (which includes everything except the tombs of Nefertari and Seti I) or the 5-Day Premium Pass, which is the only one with no fine print. The difference is more significant than the days because the tomb of Seti is more spectacular than the valley.
You can still buy the Standard Luxor 3-day pass (which includes everything except the tombs of Nefertari and Seti I) or the Premium 5-day pass, which is the only one with no fine print. The difference is greater than the days because the tomb of Seti is more spectacular than the valley.
Aswan and Southern Egypt
Nearly 900 kilometers from Cairo, the waters of the Nile become crystal clear and dotted with islands and granite rocks. The descendants of the Nubians, dark-skinned and dressed in traditional clothing, constantly cross it with their feluccas.
On the shore that rises in front of the city, the dunes reach the river itself. You can negotiate a felucca to walk to the ruins of San Simeon Monastery in the middle of the desert. You can climb up to the Ebo Elhawa lookout and descend to the tombs of the nobles. Entrances are avoidable because the beauty of the monastery and the tombs is due to their integration into the landscape.
A highly recommended excursion is the Temple of Philae, raised about 20 meters in the 70s from its original location so that the waters of the dam would not swallow it up. It is dedicated to Isis and occupies a small island in the Nile.
It is therefore advisable to look for fellow travelers and not succumb to the rush of boatmen to leave.
First, negotiate the transport, then buy the ticket because if you do the opposite, the negotiation will be tough. They will know you have access to spend but not how to get to the island.
Crossing by ferry to Sehel Island and searching for the Hunger Stele among the many heliographs spread across dozens of massive stones is less stressful. You have to pay an entrance fee, and there are no signs, but as soon as you enter, take the path to the left instead of going straight.
We recommend staying on Elephantine Island, inhabited by Nubians, where you won’t see a single motorized vehicle.
Getting lost in the unpaved streets of its two small towns, each with its pier but united by the school and the teahouse is like stepping back into another era.
It’s hard to get there, but it’s worth it. In Aswan, all the accommodations, taxi drivers, and spontaneous people who attack you on the street will want to sell you this excursion. Abu Simbel is world-famous for having the spectacular temples of Ramses II and his wife Nefertari, saved from the waters in the 1960s when they were moved 65 meters above their original site.
Its preservation is exquisite, and the interior lighting is unbeatable. You will only need two hours to visit them serenely.
Keep in mind that Abu Simbel is 300 kilometers from Aswan (more than a 3-hour drive), and there is nothing else to see there.
It can be reached by plane at an exorbitant price or a lower cost in a 9-seater van shared by a person.
For security reasons, since it is a step away from the border with Sudan, they will ask you to rent it with your passport the day before to register you on the list of visitors for the day.
Of course, you’ll have to spend the night in Abu Simbel, although if it’s not a weekend when hotels raise prices, it might be worth it for many reasons.
Firstly because you save on transport; Secondly because you avoid making the 600 km round trip on the same day. And thirdly, you can go to the temples in the morning when there is no one since the first convoy from Aswan arrives at 8 am at the earliest, and the ticket offices open at 5 am.
From Aswan, there are buses at 9 am and 12 pm, which take four hours. You can come back the next day at 1:00 pm.
The Red Sea
There are several tourist places to enjoy its corals and transparent waters. The best known is Sharm el-Sheikh, in the Sinai Peninsula, and it has an international airport and all the services considered the Benidorm of the Red Sea.
Quieter is the city of Dahab, about 90 kilometers to the north, very close to the famous Blue Hole, one of the best places for snorkeling and diving. The best backpacker accommodation in town is the Gina Motel, which is reasonable, friendly, and cheap.
On the western shore of the Gulf of Suez, Hurghada stands out, surrounded by seaside resorts. Further south, there are fewer tourists and more transparent waters in Quseer, especially Marsa Alam. The clean Rayhana guesthouse with a terrace overlooking the sea can be a good base of operations where you can meet other travelers.
Although in winter, rarely does the day not reach 20 degrees, the wind and the water temperature do not make the region enjoyable from December to March inclusive.
The Dendera Temple in Qena
And finally, a lesser-known place that we discovered on our last trip.
A regular stop for Nile cruises, with the boats docked, we barely saw three other people throughout the tour.
The train from Luxor to Quena takes about an hour, and you will need a taxi to travel the 10 km to the station. Don’t be surprised if the police escort the cab both out and back; they are not used to tourists who do not arrive by boat. Remember that if you don’t get up early and do everything early in the morning, you will have to wait for the only afternoon train to return to Luxor (5:30 PM).
You can also go to the minibus station, where they leave as they fill up; you can return to Luxor by road for more than an hour.
It is a large temple but, above all, in an exceptional state of preservation, with its polychromes and its reliefs as they were made by the Egyptians 2,380 years ago. The blue of the ceilings stands out, imitating the sky, studded with stars in comfort. The ramped passages leading to the roof, intact throughout the structure, are the only ones we have seen in all of Egypt.
We hope you found our selection of the best places to see in Egypt applicable.