Getting lost in temple corridors, descending into tombs, and witnessing the crossing of historical and religious timelines in structures and scripture carvings, deciding where to go and the best places to visit in Egypt can be quite a list to narrow down.
But on a route that uses Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan as the main bases, you can cover a lot of ground combining city visits, day trips to sites tucked away in deserts, and on coastlines by cruising on the Nile.
You will want to see as many as possible since every site is unique. From Ancient Egyptian sites to ones with a multi-layered history over the ages, you will never stop marvelling at how people built these colossal structures or how such carvings and paintings have survived to the point that they look like they were added just a few years ago. You will stare endlessly at the murals, as you try to piece together the historical timeline they are telling you.
- 1 What Are the Best Places to Visit in Egypt?
- 2 Cairo – Home of the Last Remaining Wonder of the World
- 3 Alexandria – European Character and Mystery
- 4 Aswan – Nubian Egypt
- 5 Take a Nile Cruise Between Aswan and Luxor
- 6 Luxor – Land of the Greatest Pharaohs
- 7 Egypt Tours to See More
What Are the Best Places to Visit in Egypt?
It’s hard to put an exact number on exactly how many sites there are to visit in Egypt. Aside from the dozens already on show, many others are open but too far away to reach easily or are currently being excavated. Plus, with new sites constantly being discovered, even under peoples’ houses, Egypt will never be a one-visit destination. And who knows what different perspective you will have when you return to a site you once stood in before.
So where to begin with all this archaeological excitement?
In a 12-day round trip from Cairo with G Adventures, I not only got to realise a childhood dream to visit Egypt (I had my heart set on being an Egyptologist) but I was also able to see more sights in 10 full trip days on a small group tour than I would have in trying to organise each area independently. Which is also possible but requires more time and on-the-ground hassle than it may be worth.
Here’s where to go in Egypt and what to see to explore the very best of Ancient Egypt and beyond.
Cairo – Home of the Last Remaining Wonder of the World
Cairo is where you come to tour the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. It’s a rite of passage to traverse this highlight of Egypt in the once remote desert area of Giza that sits on the western side of the Nile River across from Cairo city in the East, before exploring the old city.
Giza Pyramids Necropolis
How does it feel to stand before the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence? Unimaginable. Nothing can describe the feeling of seeing the only remaining wonder of the world that you once marvelled at in history books and pictures.
They estimate that up to 2.5 million stone blocks were used to build the Great Pyramid of Giza by hand. And when you realise just how tiny you are in comparison to just ONE of those stones, you understand what a magnificent feat of architecture this was for the time.
Visiting the most iconic landmark of Egypt was the first major stop on the G Adventures trip. It’s on everyone’s list, and they will make sure you are one of the first there to avoid major crowds. Coupled with the insights of our Egyptologist CEO, you learn so much more about the historical structures when they are looming in front of your very eyes.
- Giza Pyramids Ticket Price:
- Giza Pyramids: 160 EGP
- Entry to inside the Great Pyramid: 360 EGP
- Entry to inside the 2nd or the 3rd Pyramid: 100 EGP
- Entry to the Solar Boat Museum: 100 EGP
- Giza Necropolis Opening Hours: 06:00 – 22:00
Egyptian Museum Visit and Egyptian Museum Mummy Room
The Egyptian Museum contains over 120,000 artefacts documenting every period of Egyptian history. The main highlight is seeing all the treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun and the Egyptian Mummy Room where you can gaze upon some of Egypt’s greatest rulers, like Ramesses II.
Our G CEO, Said was not only present to facilitate our trip and get us from A to B easily, but also a local with expert knowledge and qualifications in Egyptian history and archaeology. Egyptians are so proud of their history, and people like Said impart the facts and stories with great passion.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 19:00, on Fridays 09:00- 11:00 and 1:30- 19:00
- Egyptian Museum Ticket Price: 60 EGP (regular); 30 EGP (student)
- Mummies Room entrance price: 100 EGP (regular); 60 EGP (student)
- Photography ticket cost: 50 EGPtravel
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar Visit
The stalls of bustling Khan El Khalili Bazaar, which are mainly catering to tourists, didn’t overwhelm me but as the main bazaar of Cairo, it is good to wander around and see it as part of the overall makeup of the city. For more local goods such as gold, silver, copper, perfumes and antiques it is famous for, venture off into the narrow side streets where you can try your luck with some haggling.
Islamic and Coptic Cairo Tour
Before I started my big Egypt tour I made sure to arrive early to make the most of my time in Cairo and view the city aside from its Ancient Egyptian fame. Hearing that Cairo was dirty and uninteresting I wanted to take a Cairo walking tour with a local to try and understand a city that has a rich history but a negative reputation.
A city where different faiths stand side by side and where history is layered from the church foundations to the high reaches of Mosque minarets.
It’s a huge city, where the Coptic and Islamic sites are spread out and so I enlisted the help of a female guide from a local walking tour company who was able to introduce me to the city in a half-day exploration taking in the Hanging Church, Church of St.George, Saint Sergius and Bacchus Church (where the Holy Family came to rest after their journey into Egypt from Israel), routing through Garbage City on the way to Saint Samaan the Tanner Monastery built into the rock and ending in the Islamic part of Cairo.
One highlight was the Sultan Hassan Mosque – a remarkable great of architecture completed in the 1300s after three years of construction. It is one of the largest mosques in the world whose walls stand at nearly 40m tall and the minaret soaring at 68m. You’ll often find yourself alone in its corridors filled with delicate carving and detailed paint patterns, before emerging into brightly lit courtyards.
- Cairo Walking Tours Cost: 650 EGP for the 4-hour walk. Tours run daily and group size is limited to six people. Modest clothing is required for religious sites.
- Sultan Hassan Mosque Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Saqqara and Memphis
On a day trip, we were able to see Memphis and Saqqara, around 2.5 hours drive south of Giza.
Memphis is the ancient capital – where more artefacts have been found and put on display, like the huge statue of Rameses II, and where many more are still being discovered.
Saqqara is the site of Egypt’s first Pyramid, the famous Step Pyramid (The Pyramid of Djoser), and a huge archaeological site that is only starting to be extensively uncovered. Like the noble family tombs, which have only been open to the public for the last six months. Who knows what will be here in two years as the work continues to find and understand the history of Ancient Egypt.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Saqqara and Memphis trip cost: 650 EGP for up to five hours, including site entry costs, guiding and transport. This trip was undertaken with our G Adventures CEO as part of the overall Egypt tour.
- Saqqara Ticket Price: 150 EGP
- Saqqara New Tombs Ticket Price: 60 EGP
- Memphis Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Monasteries of Wadi Natrun
On the way to Alexandria, we stopped for a tour with a local monk at the Monasteries of Wadi Natrun. If the Coptic sights in Cairo are not enough, this is the chance to delve deeper into the history and importance of Wadi to Coptic Christians. Dating back to the 4th century AD, these sites are some of the earliest Christian monasteries in the world, tucked away in a relatively desolated desert land.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00, on Fridays 09:00- 11:00 and 1:30- 19:00.
- Monasteries of Wadi Natrun Ticket Price: 60 EGP
- Tour time: One hour
- Getting there: Accessible only by car or by bus. Hourly West Delta Buses leave Heliopolis station. Our visit was included in our tour
Alexandria – European Character and Mystery
I always wanted to visit Alexandria, the home of Anthony and Cleopatra whose tombs are yet to be found, and my trip included a loop there and back from Cairo. But it doesn’t make a visit to the northern city on the Mediterranean coast any less interesting. Founded by Alexander the Great around 331BC there are still many archaeological treasures to see and a chance to wind down in the streets tinged with a cooling seaside breeze.
The site as it stands today might be small, hugged by modern apartment complexes, but Pompey’s Pillar stands proud. It is a Roman 20-metre tall victory column from 297 AD that was once part of a large Roman temple complex. Erected in 293 for Emperor Diocletian, it stands as one of the largest monolithic columns ever created.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Pompey’s Pillar Ticket Price: 60 EGP
Catacomb of Kom ash-Shuqqafa
We were told than a donkey falling down a shaft from the ground surface, uncovered these hidden tombs of Catacomb of Kom ash-Shuqqafa, carved into the bedrock deep below Alexandria. Accessible via a winding stairwell, they were built in the 2nd Century AD in the age of the Antonine Emperors – the resting place for one wealthy family who was still practising the ancient religion of Egypt with a fusion of Greek and Roman religion, as suggested by the carvings.
- Opening hours: 08:00 – 16:00
- Catacomb of Kom ash-Shuqqafa Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria was one of the greatest and most famous libraries of the ancient world. A master collection of knowledge that expanded during Greek rule. Destroyed by a fire in the 1st Century BC, what stands in Alexandria now is a new library that is just metres away from the perceived site of the ancient one. It stands with the same ethos – a centrepiece of scholarship and knowledge, available to all.
- Opening hours: 10:00 – 19:00 (Monday-Thursday and Sunday), 14:00 – 19:00 (Friday), 14:00 – 16:00 (Saturday),
- Library of Alexandria Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Aswan – Nubian Egypt
From Cairo we caught an early flight south to Aswan, giving up optimal time to explore the city nestled on the banks of the Nile and the boardwalk Corniche and get to the surrounding highlights without rushing since they take some hours to get to.
A visit to Abu Simbel is a must-see and ended up being one of my favourite sites of all. The site is comprised of two rock temples carved out of the mountainside in Southern Egypt, built by the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses Il between 1274-1244 BC. One for himself, and one for his wife, Queen Nefertari.
Both temples are symbolic of love and pride with colossal statues at the entrance over 20 metres high. Ramesses II dedicated the temple to himself in the godlike form alongside the sun gods Amun and Ra and Ptah of creation. Past the main entrance hall lined with colossal statues, each room continues to play out stories of battles and victories and scenes of offerings to the gods. Ramesses II had a reputation for being a great warrior.
Considered one of Egypt’s most beautiful temples, it would now be submerged under Lake Nassar if it weren’t for modern engineering working to preserve history.
Both temples were dismantled and relocated in 1964 to a higher elevation to prevent being submerged by the waters of the Nile after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. To think this all could have been lost and be able to stand before it is a privilege.
It takes over three hours to drive from Aswan to the site, close to the Sudan border. It’s remote and worth the journey.
- Opening hours: 08:00 – 16:00
- Abu Simbel Ticket Price: 200 EGP (includes entrance to the Documentation Centre)
Visit a Nubian Village
Boarding a felucca to take a trip along the Nile was more than just viewing Aswan city from the water or spotting the ruins of the Aga Khan Mausoleum on the hillside, but about supporting local initiatives that would otherwise be overshadowed by main tourism drives.
Our transport also was a means to get to spend some time with local people from one of the Nile islands before visiting their Nubian village home for a walking tour and a delicious traditional dinner.
The Nubian culture, described as having a distinctively African feel it, is one of the oldest in Egypt (mainly found in Aswan and Southern Egypt) and considered one of the earliest civilisations found in ancient Africa.
The host family (on a rotation basis using more than one household) can use this ‘local living moment’ on our G Adventures Egypt trip as a regular source of income, while travellers learn about the Nubian people and culture in modern-day Egypt. It’s all a part of travelling for good and making sure your tourism dollars are spent directly in local communities.
Sailing across another part of the Nile in Aswan brings you to Philae Temple, which once sat on the southernmost border of Egypt. As it is on an island, the only way to reach it is by boat, which adds a little anticipation to the exploration.
This is a monument where Greek-Roman history sits alongside Ancient Egyptian. Where Greco-Roman columns line the exterior entranceways and the last use of Egyptian hieroglyphs adorn the inner walls. Where Roman ruins sit side-by-side with temple complexes dedicated to deities like Isis, worshipped by the Pharaohs.
Following painstaking reconstruction to ensure its original appearance, the temple is now on nearby Aglika Island as part of a UNESCO protection project. It was moved from Philae Island after it was at threat from being submerged by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. How mind-blowing is that?
- Opening hours: 07:00 – 16:00
- Philae Temple Ticket Price: 80 EGP
The Unfinished Obelisk
I took an extra excursion to one of the ancient quarries to see the Unfinished Obelisk. Ordered by the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (1508-1458 BC) it was to be the tallest Egyptian obelisk ever erected. Until that crack happened while being carved out of the quarry.
- Opening hours: 07:00 – 16:00
- Unfinished Obelisk Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Aswan Sharia el Souk
The sounds of vendors hawking their wares, the bright colours of textiles and the heady smell of spices – wandering the souk in Aswan is a chance to mingle with the locals, support them and experience this distinct part of Egyptian culture.
A Trip to Aswan’s Sharia el Souk Aswan is especially known for its black pepper, and I was determined to find some to take home for Egyptian inspired dishes. Always shopping local where I can, I met Mr Abed who owns a super spice shop.
Take a Nile Cruise Between Aswan and Luxor
Aswan is where we also started our Nile Cruise to Luxor. Heading upriver on a two-day three-night adventure, passing the sandy banks and villages and pockets of an oasis.
Kom Ombo Temple
Viewing a temple in Egypt at sunset is a must. Just like how we explored Kom Ombo in its golden glow as one of the excursion stops on our Nile River Cruise.
On the banks on the Nile, Kom Ombo is a ‘double temple’ with two sides and two entrances, built during the Graeco-Roman period (332 BC-AD 395) and dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek and the falcon god Horus.
The crocodile, in particular, was important to the people of Ombos; so much so that in excavation mummified crocs were found in catacombs and are now on display in an adjacent viewing area.
There are some interesting carvings here including the ancient calendar system, the first representation of medical instruments for surgery that we still use today (such as scalpels, forceps and scissors) and one of the guards on-site took us on a treasure hunt to find the tiny carving of an elephant.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Kom Ombo Temple Ticket Price: 100 EGP
Luxor – Land of the Greatest Pharaohs
Like Cairo, Luxor is firmly on the tourism agenda as people flock here to get lost within the sandy, stone enclaves of the Valley of the Kings.
Valley of the Kings
No trip to Egypt is complete without visiting the vast archaeological site of the Valley of the Kings for a day.
Located on the ancient site of Thebes in Luxor’s West Bank, across the Nile and past vast farming fields, this site is a network of tombs and tunnels – an ancient burial ground and the final resting place for Egypt’s New Kingdom rulers.
It is hard to imagine the intricate network of tunnels and tombs that lay underneath you as you wander this rocky basin, as well as knowing you could even be walking amongst dozens more yet to be discovered. In the tombs uncovered, the treasures have been removed (either looted or on show in the Egyptian Museum).
However, each wall painting tells a life story, of triumph and struggle, power and love.
The ticket for the Valley of the Kings grants you entrance to three tombs out of the 63 on-site and our G Adventures CEO was on hand to tell us the best three to visit that were open that day. The wonders of local knowledge.
The most impressive for me was the tomb of Ramses IV which looks almost like a film set (much of ancient Egypt looking so surreal), and of course Tutankhamen’s tomb which is worth the extra ticket cost.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Valley of the Kings Ticket Prices:
- General Entry (access to three tombs): 160 EGP
- Tomb of Ramses VI: 100 EGP
- Tomb of Tutankhamun: 250 EGP
- Photography Costs: There is an additional 300 EGP fee to take photos in the Valley Of Kings, but it is worth the extra cost to keep these memories.
Tomb of Tutankhamun
Likely the Pharaoh who dominated your school time Egypt history lessons, Tutankhamun is the most famous of them all. Therefore the option to descend into his tomb is a dream come true for most who travel to Egypt and the Valley of the Kings. His treasures may be on show at the Egyptian Museum, but his mummified body is the first thing you see when you enter, before taking a few moments to take in the surroundings and realize what a momentous moment it must have been when this space was first discovered.
Temple of Hatshepsut
The classic architectural style of the Temple of Hatshepsut stands more as a symbol of the power of female rulers to the throne of Egypt and the means they had to go to hold onto it. This tiered mortuary temple sits majestically like a castle complex in the limestone rocks and while much of the carvings and statues have been destroyed (or stolen), the vision of Queen Hatshepsut shows the disguising of herself as a man, which is why you will still see images of the typical Pharaoh figure.
The restoration that you see is down to the work of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who have painstakingly reconstructed three levels of the temple.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Temple of Hatshepsut Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Colossi of Memnon
Behold the two 18 metre high mammoth statues of Amenhotep II at the Colossi of Memnon site. Now protruding from a small, grassy, roadside oasis, they once used to stand at the front of a grand temple that no longer exists in the city of Thebes.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Colossi of Memnon Ticket Price: 80 EGP
Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple
Karnak Temple was once the centre of all religious life in Egypt and the largest religious structure ever constructed – built and extended by generations of Pharoahs for over 1,500 years. This house of the gods is Luxor’s grandest temple and is a site so large that it requires a few hours to stroll the columned corridors of the temples and maze-like chapel side rooms. It is split into separate temple sections such as The Temple of Ptah and The Temple of Mut. Most notable of them all is The Great Temple of Amun – the main area marked with the mighty passageway of the Hypostyle Hall, comprised of 134 towering sandstone columns in 16 rows.
Luxor Temple may look small, but like many others in Egypt, it is big on details and design layers. Most notably in that Ancient Egyptian, Coptic Christianity and Islamic architecture are intertwined throughout the temple showing its evolution to worship over the thousands of years since it was constructed in 1390BC. Some parts of the temple were built by Amenhotep II, Tutankhamun and Rameses II.
We visited the Temple of Luxor after a morning visit to Karnak Temple to better picture how the recently uncovered two-mile Sphinx Alley connected the two temples. This Alley is currently being uncovered in its entirety – a restoration that will bring back the original pathway to these two sits of worship.
- Karnak Temple Opening hours: 06:00 – 17:30
- Karnak Temple Ticket Price: 150 EGP
- Luxor Temple Opening hours: 06:00 – 22:00
- Luxor Temple Ticket Price: 140 EGP
Egypt Tours to See More
Access the Best Places to Visit in Egypt on a Tour
My G Adventures Egypt Upgraded tour covered all of the listed sites above, including the Nile Cruise and Abu Simbel excursion and is a tour designed with a little more comfort in mind. I travelled here as one of the G Adventures Wanderers ambassadors, travelling to destinations responsibly and with purpose. Philae Temple, alongside the Saqqara and Memphis day trip on our return to Cairo, were optional extras, but worth the investment for the historical excursions.
There are seven tours altogether to choose from, all including some of the best places to visit in Egypt in different measure, including:
- Egypt on a Shoestring for those wanting the ease of organisation with minimal costs, Overlanding using public transport and floating down the Nile on a felucca
- Shorter trips like Best of Egypt, which covers Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, including sailing the Nile on a traditional felucca and the Luxor to Cairo flight
- A chance to visit the Red Sea area on the Highlights of Egypt trip which includes time in coastal Hurghada an overnight train to Aswan and a felucca sail between Aswan and Luxor