The best things to do in Egypt
It includes the most popular, but also unusual activities that is not found much in other travel guides. I made this article after 3 stays in the land of the pharaohs, about 3 months and a half of travel in total.
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- Visit the pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza
- Visit the Valley of the Kings
- Visit the temples of Abu Simbel
- Discover Elephantine Island
- Discover Isis Temple in Philae
- Discover the Nubian villages of Aswan
- Visit Daraw
- Discover the Daraw camel market
- Discover the monastery of St. Simeon
- Diving or snorkeling in Egypt
- Hiking in the Sahara Desert
- Hiking in the White Desert
- Visit Siwa Oasis
- Visit Siwa
- Visit Wadi el-Gemal
- Visit the Cairo Museum
- Take a cruise on the Nile
- Visit Cairo off the beaten track
- Visit El Quseir away from mass tourism
- Discover the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
- Visit the Temple of Ramses III
- Visit Karnak Temple
- Visit Luxor Temple
- Visit the necropolis of Zawyet el-Maiyitin
- Visit the Petrified Forest
- Explore the Valley of the Whales
- Admire the Colossi of Memnon
- Approaching Muzuwaka's mummies
- Visit the city of dovecotes of Mit Ghamr
- Visit the stone circle of Nabta Playa
- Visit the villages of Kurna
- Visit the Temple of Horus
- Hot air ballooning in Luxor
Visit the pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza
Egypt has 118 pyramids identified to date, but the best known and most emblematic are obviously those of the Giza plateau: Cheops, Khephren and Mykerinos. Find out how to visit the pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza in this article:
Visit the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a funerary complex located near Luxor. It houses the tomb of ThutmoseI, Akhenaten and other pharaohs of the period between -1539 and -1075. It is one of the most famous tourist activities in Egypt: a must-see place.
Where is the Valley of the Kings in Egypt?
It is located in Luxor, in the desert on the west bank of the Nile.
Visit the temples of Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel is a city that is home to 2 temples built by Ramses II for his own worship and that of other Egyptian gods. This impressive archaeological site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Faced with rising waters caused by the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1968, the temple was moved 64 meters.
Where is the Abu Simbel temple?
The temples of Ramses II are located in Abu Simbel, on the peninsula which is located south of the city.
Discover Elephantine Island
Elephantine Island is an island in the Nile inhabited by the Nubians of Egypt. It’s quite funny because in a few minutes by boat, you go from the city to complete rurality. The island has several types of accommodation for accommodation. It also has many places to bathe and even includes an archaeological site with the remains of an ancient pyramid.
How to get to Elephantine Island?
You can reach the island by boarding a boat. The crossing is from a small port located 300 meters after the KFC which is on the corniche on the banks of the Nile. The crossing costs 5 EGP.
Discover Isis Temple in Philae
The Temple of Isis, located behind the Aswan Dam, is just one of many that lie on the Philae Islands. The site was moved to a nearby island because the construction of it immersed the original.
Where are the temples of the Philae complex?
The temples are located behind the dam, south of Aswan. That is, they are at the beginning of Lake Nasser.
Discover the Nubian villages of Aswan
Nubians are an ethnic group shared between northern Sudan and southern Egypt. They speak Arabic and Nubian. In Aswan, there are several villages of this ethnic group. The most visited, Gharb Soheil, is known for its colorful traditional houses and handicrafts. It is to visit but very touristy, so I advise you to also see those that tourists abandon for a more authentic experience.
Where is the Nubian village in Aswan?
Gharb Soheil (Nagaa Suhayl Gharb) lies south of Aswan. You have to go through the dam and then directly turn right and continue to the village. You will probably be stopped by the military if you are on foot because it is forbidden. They will make you cross for free with them or another vehicle that they will stop for you.
Daraw is known for its camel market and Kom Ombo temple. But having spent time in the city itself, I found there a different atmosphere from the rest of Egypt, it is also one of my favorite places in Egypt. Daraw is a medium-sized but very undeveloped and very traditional city. It gives the impression of having gone back a few years. In addition, many Sudanese immigrants live there, which makes the local culture interesting.
How to get to Daraw?
From Cairo or Aswan, the easiest and fastest way is to take the train. You will easily find some that will stop in Daraw. The city is about 40 km north of Aswan.
Discover the Daraw camel market
The famous Daraw camel market is a must-see. It takes place every Tuesday for camelids and every Thursday for all types of livestock, so it is this last day that it is most important. Business starts early in the morning, as early as 6am. I advise you not to delay because at the end of the morning all the animals have already left.
Where is the camel market?
To go to Daraw, please refer to the previous section. The market itself is a few minutes’ walk away from the city.
Discover the monastery of St. Simeon
I stumbled upon this monastery while trying to walk in the desert in front of Aswan. It was empty and I was able to visit it alone, a slap. This huge monument with a thousand pieces and labyrinths fascinated me. It happens to be one of the most important monuments of the Christian era in Egypt. Strangely, it is never reported in travel guides but I strongly recommend it if you stay in Aswan.
Where is the monastery of St. Simeon?
The monastery is located in the Aswan Desert on the west bank of the Nile. The best option is to find someone with a felucca to cross the river to the monastery level. He can then wait for you to return to the city. This is what I did several times to visit the monastery and the desert.
Otherwise, most tourists go by camel from Gharb Soheil (see Nubian villages section).
Diving or snorkeling in Egypt
Egypt’s Red Sea has some of the best diving (and snorkeling) spots in the world. A great diversity of remarkable marine species live there such as the dugong, the spotted eagle ray, the manta ray, the lionfish, dolphins, the giant moray eel, the puffer fish (…) I made a post about it:
Hiking in the Sahara Desert
Traveling to Egypt and not going for a ride in the desert, what idea? The Sahara is sumptuous. For having spent a lot of time losing myself in order to find myself, in absolute silence if not the sound of emptiness and wind blowing on the dunes, in this merciless heat and its mirages, its colors of ochre sand …
For me the most accessible and beautiful part is at Aswan taking into account the beauty of the banks of the Nile. I often went there negotiating with the feluccas. You can also walk through the dam, but the military will stop a vehicle to take you across the bridge.
Hiking in the White Desert
This lunar landscape is well in the Sahara, in Egypt! Its color is due to limestone. And although it suggests a cold place because of its color, it is a very arid and particularly hostile place. Sandstorms are not uncommon here, as evidenced by the many natural sculptures shaped by erosion.
How to visit the White Desert?
The White Desert is located in western Egypt, at the gateway to the Libyan Desert.
You can reach it easily if you have a rental car but it is very secluded and far away. You can also reach it by taking several local transport but it is very long. Most tourists opt for a 4×4 rental or an organized tour.
Visit Siwa Oasis
Probably the best known oasis of Egypt. For good reason, its incredible beauty and salt water that allows you to swim while floating! It is located very close to the Libyan border. Other less touristic oases exist in Egypt, such as Faiyum (Madīnat al-Fayyūm) near the white desert, the oasis of Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra or the oasis of Al-Bahariya.
Where is the Siwa Oasis?
It is set back from the town of Siwa, a few kilometres away. In fact, there are many saltwater points with turquoise waters all around Siwa.
Besides its fabulous oasis, the historic town of Siwa is incredibly beautiful. Located near Libya and inhabited by the Berbers (an ethnic group totally different from the Arabs), the city surrounded by palm groves is a unique place compared to others in Egypt. You can do 2 interesting activities like the mountain of the dead and the temple of Oracle.
Where is Siwa?
Siwa is located in the north of Egypt, in the far west a few kilometers from the Libyan border.
Visit Wadi el-Gemal
Wadi el Gemal National Park is located 45 km south of Marsa Alam. The landscapes and biodiversity of the site have no equal elsewhere in Egypt. It is a unique place where you can see wild animals and especially camelids, as evidenced by the translation of its name, the “Valley of the Dromedaries”!
If that were not enough, the coastline here is heavenly and the valley hides some ruins from Roman times. Wadi el Gemal is now inhabited by Bedoins ababdas.
How to visit Wadi el-Gemal National Park?
It is located on the edge of the Red Sea, the far east of Egypt to the south, near Berenice.
You can get there from Marsa Alam with a vehicle (motorcycle, 4×4, …) that you can rent in the same city. However, you will need to obtain a permit that you will obtain at the police station. Alternatively, you can arrange with any hotel in the city to organize the tour and be quiet.
Visit the Cairo Museum
For a trip to Egypt, visiting the National Museum of Cairo is obviously a must. Visiting temples is good, but seeing their contents is even better to complete the experience of cultural visits. An activity not to be missed during your stay.
How to get to the Cairo Museum?
Easily accessible with Cairo’s many transport such as bus, metro or taxis, you can reach the Cairo Museum in Downtown Cairo, Sadat. If you take the metro, stop at this place (Sadat).
Take a cruise on the Nile
The majority of Egypt’s cities are all along the Nile, so choosing to travel by cruise makes sense to stop step by step.
Visit Cairo off the beaten track
Cairo has a lot of popular things to do. In the attached article, I have selected a dozen lesser-known but very interesting activities to discover in the capital such as: visit the city of the dead – discover a borderline souk – visit a slum and more!
Visit El Quseir away from mass tourism
Having visited a few towns on the coast, I must admit that I am not attracted to seaside resorts because of the obvious contrast between the western sphere and the local culture. Off the beaten track, I found a very old city (5000 years old you realize!) of fishermen, peaceful and without tourists.
It is an interesting place to discover to see the real local life by the sea without the denaturing caused by mass tourism. But obviously, this is changing given the tourism development that I have seen in 2 years of difference.
How to get to El Quseer?
El Quseir is perfectly between Port Ghalib and Port Safaga. It is very easy to get there by stopping a taxi (many shared taxis pass on this road, they are kind of spaces).
Discover the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Located near Luxor (Thebes), the Temple of Hatshepsut in which his tomb was located, is the largest building in the Valley of the Queens (the funerary complex of the wives of pharaohs). Although the entire contents of the Queen’s Temple were destroyed by Tuthmosis III, the structure of the archaeological site carved into the limestone cliffs is an activity not to be missed in the land of pyramids!
Where is the Temple of Hatshepsut?
It is located in the Valley of the Queens, on the west bank of Luxor, at the gates of the desert.
Visit the Temple of Ramses III
The temple of Ramses III is the last of the largest funerary buildings built in Thebes (Luxor) and its state of conservation is remarkable. It is also known as the “Temple of Millions of Years”.
Where is the temple of Ramses III?
The temple is located at Medinet Habu, on the west bank of the Nile, at the gates of the desert. Another temple is located next door: that of Toth.
Visit Karnak Temple
Karnak is a very important place of worship in Egypt, it is the largest religious building built in antiquity. The complex, dedicated to the deities Amun, Mut and Khonsu, was developed over a period of 2,000 years! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the huge Karnak site is one of the most visited places in the country and should be on your list of things to do in Egypt.
Where is Karnak?
Karnak is located north of Luxor, in the city itself. A nice thing to do is to go there following the alley of the sphinxes. It starts from the temple of Luxor in the city center and goes all the way to Karnak. It’s just oversized and really impressive. You will notice it on the map.
Visit Luxor Temple
The Luxor Temple is a place of worship dedicated to the deity Amun. You will notice that one of the 2 obelisks at the entrance of the complex is missing, but maybe you have already seen it elsewhere? Offered by Egypt in 1830, it is now in Paris on the Place de la Concorde. In thanks, the France offered a copper clock but it never worked.
Where is the Temple of Amon?
It is located in the heart of the city, on the banks of the Nile on the east bank. You will find it very easily.
Visit the necropolis of Zawyet el-Maiyitin
The necropolis is a huge cemetery of rock-cut tombs that dates from the end of the Old Kingdom (age of pyramid builders). Not far from it are the remains of a pyramid, the only one built on a bank of the Nile.
Where is the necropolis?
The necropolis of Zawyet el-Maiyitin is located in the town of El Minya, halfway between Beni Suef and Asyut.
Visit the Petrified Forest
Petrified forest is a geological site of 35 million years. The term ‘petrified’ refers to the fossilized trees found at the site.
Where is the petrified forest?
It is located not far from Cairo, in Fayoum.
Explore the Valley of the Whales
Still in the field of fossils and still in Fayoum, there is the witness of an ancient maritime life since there are gigantic fossilized bones of whales, in a perfect state of conservation. But that’s not all: the skeletons of these cetaceans have 2 hind legs, which demonstrates their previous terrestrial activity, so we have here the ancestor of the whale.
Where is the Valley of the Whales?
It is located at Fayoum, further than the previous site.
Admire the Colossi of Memnon
Near Luxor, stand 2 stone sculptures of 17 meters. The colossi represent Amenhotep III. Erected at the entrance of the huge funerary temple of the same pharaoh, their function was to protect him from the dark forces. Destroyed following an earthquake, nothing remains of the complex but the monoliths alone have managed to cross the centuries without falling.
The colossi are located in Kôm el-Hettan, near Luxor. They are located very close to the million-year-old temple of Ramses III and the Valley of the Kings (and Queens).
Approaching Muzuwaka’s mummies
contain the only mummies from Egypt that can be approached very closely. Ethically, I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but this place exists.
Where is it?
The tombs are close to the oasis of Dakhla, in a secluded place called “Qaret al-Muzawaka” which you can reach from El Qalamun village.
Visit the city of dovecotes of Mit Ghamr
Mit Ghamr is a city filled with hundreds of huge dovecotes. If you have traveled a little in Egyptian villages, you must have seen some, but probably not as many as this city. Pigeons are important in Egypt, it is also common to see them as pets roaming free in homes.
Where is Mit Ghamr located?
The city of dovecotes is located 100 km north of Cairo towards Mansourah.
Visit the stone circle of Nabta Playa
You certainly knew about the astronomical and monolithic observatory of Stonehenge, but have you heard of the Egyptian monolithic complex? If not, know that it is the oldest known to date on Earth.
Where is Nabta Playa located?
The circle is located in the extreme south of Egypt, at Abu Simbel. It is located in the middle of the desert, which is particularly curious.
Visit the villages of Kurna
The villages of Kurna (or Gourna) were created by architect Hassan Fathy in Luxor between 1942 and 1956 to house disadvantaged people, but following traditional methods and style in the face of growing architectural modernism.
Visit the Temple of Horus
The temple dedicated to the God Horus is much younger than other monuments of Ancient Egypt, and its state of conservation testifies to this. This is a beautiful temple to visit in Egypt.
Where is the Temple of Horus?
The temple is located in Edfu, halfway between the city of Aswan and Luxor.
Hot air ballooning in Luxor
What better way to have a complete view of all the archaeological sites of Luxor during your stay in the city? Hot air ballooning can therefore be an interesting activity for this reason!