Egypt map & highlights

Police escorted convoys for travel between certain cities are no longer necessary, but most operators continue to use flights and trains instead of going by road. And it makes perfect sense.

A classic Egypt loop (Cairo - Aswan - Luxor - Cairo) involves a 13-hour sleeper train from Cairo to Aswan, a two to three days felucca boat trip along the Nile between Aswan and Luxor and then either a nine-hour train or a short flight back to Cairo; a varied and interesting way to see the country and definitely preferable to days spent on a bus.
The Nile by Felucca

1. 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 6-8 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

2. 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

3. 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

4. The Sphinx

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.

5. Aswan

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.

6. Cairo

One city, three parts: Downtown Cairo houses the Egyptian Museum – a crumbling and chaotic affair, but with a priceless collection of pharaonic antiquities (to be relocated from 2021). 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

7. 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.
Dolphin watching

8. Dolphin watching

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 holidays 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

9. 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.

10. Hurghada

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.

11. Luxor

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

12. 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.
Travel Team
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Egypt itineraries

9 day cultural holiday:
Cairo > Pyramids at Giza > Aswan > Felucca Nile Cruise > Kom Ombo and Edfu Temples > Luxor > Valley of the Kings > Cairo

10 day family holiday:
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
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: Mr Seb] [The Nile by Felucca: RonPorter] [Valley of the Kings: zolakoma] [The Pyramids, Giza: Ricardo Liberato] [The Sphinx: MusikAnimal] [Aswan: cattan2011] [Cairo: Wael El Sisi] [Dahab & Red Sea: Peggy Anke] [Dolphin watching : Roel van Deursen - Spijkeni] [Abu Simbel Temples: Pepaserbio] [Hurghada: Rinaldo Vadi] [Luxor: Marc Ryckaert] [Kom Ombo & Edfu: DEZALB] [Travel times in Egypt: Marcos Leal]