Egypt is an iconic destination that is in bucket list of every traveler. It has the world’s most enduring and preserved monuments which continue to baffle historians. The Land of Pharaohs, Pyramids, and Mummies transport you in a bygone era where you are surrounded by intrigue, adventure and unsolved mysteries. New revelations about its mysterious past are unfolding even today, keeping the hype alive.
After years of political turbulence, tourists are coming back to Egypt. It is heartening to see the popular spots abuzz with tourists clicking pictures, bargaining with the hawkers, soaking in the beauty, and trying to decipher the Egyptian history. Parking lots are jammed, the bazaars are bustling, hotels are full – Egypt is back into the business.
Places to see In Egypt
Great Pyramids and Great Sphinx, Giza – Pyramids are the reason majority of the tourists land in Cairo – the capital of Egypt. The last of the seven wonders of the world, the Pyramids are built in a complex in Giza plateau, near Cairo. No picture or movie can replicate the experience of standing in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza. According to popular belief, the three gigantic monuments were built 4500 years ago as tombs for the three Pharaohs – Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure.
The tombs were considered to be a stairway to reach the Heavens and were filled with all the worldly goods the dead may need in the course of their journey. The theory is being challenged in recent times, as no Mummies have yet been discovered in Pyramids. Historians are still contemplating how the monument comprising of two million blocks with a height of 481.4 feet was built in those ancient times. The Pyramids are guarded by the mysterious Sphinx, which has the body of a lion and head of a human.
You can enter the Great Pyramids burial chamber by paying $20 extra. But the chambers are very bare and the tunnel is extremely cramped. The air is humid and you have to walk in a bent position, so enter only if you are fit and not claustrophobic.
Entrance Tickets – $10 Summer Timings – 7am – 7pm Winter Timings 8am – 5pm .
Egyptian Museum – The Museum contains the largest collection of artifacts of Ancient Egypt. There are over 1,20,000 antiquities including the treasures found in Tutankhamen’s tomb and the numerous mummies unearthed since the 19th century. The museum is full of pottery, jewelry, stones, food bowls and coffins giving us a glimpse of luxurious life of the Pharaohs. The whole experience can be a bit overwhelming. All the artifacts are being shifted to the Grand Egyptian Museum, slated to open in 2020.
Entrance Tickets – $10 Working Hours – 9am – 5pm
Alexandria – The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria was founded by Alexandra the Great. The city is famous for the Royal Library, Pompey’s Pillar and the Catacombs of Kom El Shokafa. The Catacombs, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, is the largest known burial site discovered in Egypt yet. Located 100 feet underground, Catacombs are one of the best-preserved ruins in Egypt. It consists of three levels and has about 300 graves and a feasting chamber. The walls of Catacomb display a unique fusion of Greek, Egyptian and Roman Iconography.
Catacombs : Entrance Tickets – $5 Working Hours – 9am to 5 pm
Abu Simbel – Prepared to be awe-struck by the grandeur of the Abu Simbel temples overlooking Lake Naseer in the town of Abu Simbel. The two majestic temples were carved out of the mountains by Pharaoh Ramesses II – one for himself and one for his favorite wife Nefertiti. The front of the temple is guarded by four colossal statues of Ramesses and the walls inside the temples are inscribed with hieroglyphics from ceiling to floor.
The happenings in 1960 have increased the inflow of tourists to the Abu Simbel temple. The temple was in danger of being submerged due to the construction of Aswan High Dam. Over a period of five years, the two temples were completely dismantled, moved and recreated on a cliff 60 meters above their previous site. In total around 16000 blocks were relocated. Twice a year, the morning sun pierces the entire length of the temple and illuminates the statues of the deities sitting at the end of the temple. Abu Simbel is not the easiest place to reach, but well worth the effort if you have an extra day.
Entrance Tickets – $13 Working Hours – 6am – 5pm
Aswan – Sitting on the banks of river Nile, Aswan has always been in the shadow of Giza and Luxor. Aswan is more of a place to start or end the Nile cruise, but it has its share of distinguished monuments. Philae temple is located on an island in River Nile and can only be reached by boat. This temple of Goddess Isis was also cut down block by block (around 75000 blocks) and moved to another island so that it would not be submerged in dam overflow. The symmetry, colourful inscriptions, stone windows and intricate designs of Philae temple will leave you mesmerised. The High dam and Unfinished Obelisk are other attractions in Aswan
Philae Temple – Entrance Ticket – $9 Working Hours 7am – 4pm
Luxor – Luxor has more intriguing ruins, tombs, and temples than Giza and has become very popular in recent times. The town boasting of numerous temples and tombs is the perfect place to experience and imbibe the wonders of the ancient world. The famed Valley of Kings in Luxor has 63 rock-cut tombs and was the burial place for the rulers of Egypt’s New Kingdom. The tombs are decorated with colourful and exquisite cave paintings and hieroglyphs. Tomb of King Tutankhamun discovered in 1922, is spectacularly preserved.
Karnak temple complex is the largest ruin discovered in Egypt and is to leave you awe-struck by its magnitude and beauty. Temple was constructed over a period of 2000 years and gives us a glimpse of the evolving lifestyles of Egyptian royalty. Luxor Temple, Valley of Queens, Hatshepsut Temple, Colossi of Memnon are some other sites that are worth visiting. Luxor is the place to enjoy a hot-air balloon ride. As you rise over the city, you realize why Luxor is called the “world’s greatest open-air museum”. It is an exhilarating experience to see the sprawling temples, gigantic statues, humble houses, and sugarcane fields in the early morning light as you float in the sky.
Valley of Kings – Ticket to see any three tombs – $15 Ticket for Tutankhamun Tomb (can’t be combined) – $15 Working Hours – 6am to 5pm
Karnak Temple – Entrance Ticket -$10 Working Hours – 6am to 6pm
The best landmarks in Egypt are widely spread out but can be easily managed. The itinerary suggested here is the one which is followed by most of the tour companies. However, you can easily mix and match the itinerary and explore it on your own.
Day 1 – Land in Cairo and spend the evening watching the Light and Sound Show at the Pyramids.
Day 2 – Visit the the Pyramids and Egyptian Museum. Shop at the vibrant and colourful Khan-El-Khalili market for some souvenirs, Egyptian jewellery, and papyrus products.
Day 3 – Take a day trip to Alexandria and visit the Catacombs and other popular sites. It is a three hour drive one way.
Day 4 – Board a flight to Aswan and proceed to Abu Simbel temples straight from the airport. It is again a three- hour drive from Aswan to Abu Simbel. Come back in the evening to Aswan and board the cruise liner for the Nile River Cruise.
Day 5 – It is morning and ship is still docked in Aswan. You disembark to visit Temple Philae, High Dam and other spots. Later in the day, visit Kom Ombo temple, dedicated to two crocodile Gods – Sobek and Haroeris.
Day 6 – The ship reaches Edfu and you proceed to Edfu temple. The temple dedicated to Lord Horus, is another splendid monument with a perfect blend of Greek and Pharaonic architecture. Relax on the cruise and watch the spectacular sunset on the Nile River from the deck.
Day 7 – The Cruise ends at Luxor. The day is jam-packed as there is so much to see in Luxor -Valley of Kings, Karnak Temple, Luxor temple and the other historical monuments.
Day 8 – Wake up in the wee hours of morning to take the balloon ride over wonders of the ancient Egypt. If you have time, explore Luxor further. Take a flight to Cairo from Luxor. It is time to go back.
Not interested in taking a cruise? Don’t stress, as you can reach Luxor by road from Aswan. The journey takes four hours and you can stop to see Edfu Temple and Kom Ombo Temple en route. This gives you some extra time in Luxor. Traveling by trains and buses is also an option in Egypt. If you are really pressed for time, I would suggest you spend two days in Cairo, travel to Luxor via flight and spend a couple of days there. You cannot miss Giza and Luxor.
- The Egyptian currency is Egyptian pound written as LE. 1 dollar is equal to around 16LE
- The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken.
- Taxi fares are metered. There is Uber in Cairo and it is quite affordable.
- Egypt gets hot even in winter. Come prepared with sunblock, hats, and umbrellas. Early mornings and late evenings can be cold in winter, and you need sweaters and jackets.
- Bargaining is a way of life here especially while shopping in bazaars and at tourist spots.
- You have to pay to take your camera inside most monuments, museums and tombs. Flash photography is prohibited.
- Weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. It is best to avoid popular tourist spots those days.
- It is not safe to drink tap water.
- An Egyptian visa is required for most of the travellers including Britishers and Americans. Citizens of about 40 countries can obtain visa on arrival at Cairo airport for $25. For online visa, click here.
- Be prepared for extra charges at most landmarks – Photography permit, Royal Mummy exhibit, Burial chambers of Pyramids, etc.
- You will get a lot of fake products, so check before you buy.
- All popular cuisines can be found, though vegetarians have to do with limited options especially during the cruise.
- For more tips check, Twelve Interesting Facts about Egypt
It is better to visit Egypt on an organized group tour. Reaching destinations in Egypt is not easy, and there is safety in numbers. The traffic can be chaotic and you will be thankful to be driven by experienced drivers. You will definitely need a guide to understand the intriguing Egyptian history.
Credit cards are widely used in Egypt. It is easy to withdraw money from banks and ATM’s. However, keep some cash handy for tipping and other eventualities
Egypt can be visited from October to April. Their summers months are sweltering hot. June to August are the worst as the temperatures sky rocket. December and January are peak months and crowd can be daunting at times.
Despite being an Islamic country, Egypt is quite modern. There are no specific dress codes but it is better to dress in a conservative way to be respectful to the local culture.
From basic hostels to world-class luxury, Egypt has accommodations to suit everyone. And they are well maintained and adhere to western standards. Prices start from around $15 for guesthouses. Five-star hotels can be booked within $150
You can travel in Egypt on any kind of budget. Food and attraction tickets are not expensive. And you can use the train, bus, taxi or planes to travel to different destinations depending on how much you want to spend.
You are expected to tip literally everywhere, even though you don’t have to shell out much. You need some petty cash for tipping. In restaurants, it is good to tip between 5% to 10%
Officially you do not need any vaccination. Following vaccinations are recommended – typhoid, hepatitis A and B, rabies, cholera and Yellow fever.