Spending almost a month in Egypt allowed us to see the best of Egypt’s tourist attractions and historic sites at a more relaxed pace that our first 1-week tour of Egypt 20 years ago. It’s a fabulous country to explore boasting some of the world’s greatest treasures. Prices are low for foreign tourists but travelling around Egypt independently can be a little challenging. Know that, maybe read more of our Egypt posts to help you get the most out of your Egypt trip. Here are some of the best places to visit in Egypt, checked out during our trip along with a brief mention of where to stay and how to get to them.
Incredible Places to Visit in Egypt
The Cairo Museum
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is vast, I’ve already given it a post of its own if you’d like to click-through. Briefly, it’s incredible, take a guide or you will miss some of its less-obvious highlights. It’s in downtown Cairo, on Tahir Square and is a short walk from the Nile. There are plenty of cheap hotels, hostels and guest houses nearby, or, on the river, luxury hotels like the 5 star InterContinental hotel, we flew by for a superb dinner in their top-rated Middle-Eastern restaurant. Take a look at top end hotels in Egypt even if it’s not your usual style, prices are amazingly low.
The Great Pyramid
The Seven Wonders of the World hold strong appeal in our family and The Great Pyramid, the biggest and oldest of the three huge pyramids at Giza, is the most intact today. The whole pyramid and sphinx mortuary complex is covered by one modest admission fee, but specifics within the complex, such as going inside the Great Pyramid, require an extra ticket. What a thrill for the kids. What an amazing place. Look at the size of those stone blocks, they were floated to the construction site from quarries on the other side of the Nile, it defies imagination. Every morning we woke up to our view of the pyramids, every evening we watched the sound and light show and heard the sphinx talk, it never got old.
The Great Pyramid belonged to the Pharoah Kufu or Cheops, he ruled Egypt some four and a half thousand years ago.
The Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khefren
Khefren’s pyramid is the one in the middle. It’s smaller that his father, Cheops’s tomb and its guardian, The Great Sphinx rests before it. The Sphinx was given Khefren’s face, but the original statue possibly pre-dates the pyramids. The owner of our hotel and his father before him, worked on the excavations and as an 8-year-old clambered all over the mighty sphinx. He remembers an archeologist discovering a secret tunnel near the great beast’s tail, now hidden, but it’s there. Old photos of the site, with the Nile’s flood waters lapping at the complex, are incredible, this area is far from the Nile’s modern banks as the flood waters are now controlled at Aswan. The village we stayed in has been there forever and Gouda grew up with the pyramids as his playground. It was a real pleasure staying with him at The Spinx Guest House and being shown around by his friend, now our friend, Abdulla, above.
Ancient Memphis is a taxi ride south of Giza and near the older pyramids mentioned below. There’s not a whole lot to see there but the Memphis sphinx and giant Rameses statues are great to see. Don’t make a special trip, but visit if you go to Saqqara.
The Saqqara Step Pyramid
The Saqqara step pyramid is part of the mortuary site of Ancient Memphis, south of Giza, it, and the two pyramids mentioned below, represent early designs in pyramid construction, almost prototypes before the triumph of Cheops. The Saqqara complex is fascinating and almost devoid of tourists, visitors can enter tombs freely, and the wall paintings are magnificent and almost intact. You’ll find yourself almost tripping over antiquity here as the site is largely unexcavated. This was my personal favourite of all the sites we visited, don’t skip it. It’s also known as the pyramid of Djoser as it was the Pharaoh Djoser’s tomb.
The Red Pyramid
The Red Pyramid is the largest pyramid at Dahshur, south of Giza and was built for Pharaoh Snefru. He also built the Broken or Bent Pyramid, which is nearby. Visitors can enter the Red Pyramid, there are some great wall decorations to see inside but it’s quite a climb.
Arriving in Cairo just days after the Coptic Church bombings, we assumed Coptic Cairo would have to be scratched from our list. Once we were on the ground surrounded by Egyptian families it seemed ridiculous to worry so we grabbed the chance to explore. Security was good and let’s just say that we all learned a lot. Be it fact or fiction, the story of Jesus staying in Cairo as an infant is a compelling one. This complex of churches, winding streets, synagogues and secret cellars is hugely popular with Christian tourists.
The Old Bazaar in Cairo
You have to see the Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo. It’s on the far side of downtown, towards the airport, so a fair hike from Giza. This site had a shooting a few years ago. Visiting in 2017 this seemed unthinkable as we mingled with mothers and children buying fabrics, merchants manufacturing their wares, fez makers, bread stalls and coffee shops. The area is architecturally fascinating and of great historic significance. This bazaar does not feel in any way like a tourist souk and the hassle factor was almost zero. Maybe because tourists just don’t come here any more. You can pay a small fee to climb the original walls and into the high minarets.
The Mosque and Tomb of Mohammed Ali Inside Cairo’s Citadel
The Valley of the Kings
No photography is allowed inside The Valley of The Kings. Visitors are asked to leave their cameras at the gate, although this rule wasn’t inforced. I took this photo, my only one, from the gate. The valley is on the west side of the Nile at Luxor, near Hatshepsut’s Temple and The Colossi. As you can see it is what it says, a valley filled with tombs. It’s an incredible site. Get their early before the heat builds up, we arrived around 6am and skipped the crowds. People with mobility issues could struggle here and not find anything to see, all tomb entrances are fairly steep.
Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple
The Colossi of Memnon
The Avenue of Sphinxes
I must share more about Luxor’s Avenue of Sphinxes because it blew me away. Not the excavated parts, but the sphinxes that are still semi buried at the roadside, the heads that emerge from dust sidewalks and the crumbling faces emerging from wasteland. Luxor’s people have history beneath their feet, children grow up clambering on antiquity. I find it amazing.
The Unfinished Obelisk
The Old Cataract Hotel Aswan
Smetimes it’s worth splurging on a special place and this hotel is well worth the price tag. Check out the Old Cataract Hotel here. This beautiful hotel also has the best rated restaurant in Aswan, we checked out the #2 restaurant, that was superb and hugely affordable.
Philae Temple Aswan
A neat temple to the Goddess Isis. It’s great, it’s on an island,you get there by boat, go!
High Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser
I’m not the sort to be impressed by modern man-made structures and I was very “meh” about visiting the low and High Aswan Dams, but once we read up on them and watched the video my boys shared on their page about what they learned in Egypt, it took on a whole new appeal. We all found it really interesting and Lake Nasser, is HUGE! It’s full of crocodiles and you can board a boat right there that in 3 days will take you to Sudan. How I longed to get on that boat!
I’m not wearing a turban, my hair was blowing in my eyes so I tied my scarf round my head.. whatever!
I’ll bet you all know what Abu Simbel looks like and that the great temple was moved to higher ground to escpe the rising waters of Lake Nasser, so a more interesting shot. Ancient graffiti is common on all of Egypt’s monuments, be it Coptic, Roman or relatively modern, but who was Salvatore Pace and how did he come to be standing at Abu Simbel in 1878? What did he see? Did he travel there along the Nile and come accross these vast statues standing on its banks? Was the temple half buried in sand? Why did he leave his name on the huge ankle of Ramses the great. I’d love to step back in time and find out.
It’s quite a trek to Abu Simbel, we got there by minibus on race treack roads accross endless desert, from Aswan. It’s an 8 hour round trip, but very worth it. Find our post on how to get to Abu Simbel here.
The Red Sea
As seas go, it’s a good one, popular with scuba divers and snorkellers. Expect modern resort hotels, good standards and purpose-built tourist facilities. We stayed at The Hurghda Marriott Beach Resort which was insanely cheap and we highly recommend it. The marina, above, was pleasant and we enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip at The Nubian Restaurant, ordering well-prepared local speciality dishes to taste and photograph for our post on Egyptian food while building Chef’s professional knowledge. We take our food very seriously.
We caught a luxury bus from Luxor to reach Hurghada, a long drive at about 8 hours, but pleasant.
By the time we got to Alexandria, I was done. We drove past the new, modern Great Library and the ancient Roman ruins, we saw the corniche, The Mediterranean and the hellish traffic. We dined in a restaurant once visited by Omar Sheriff. I took no photos, I got no sleep in a clean, but noise-filled hotel, and just wanted to get back to Cairo and our village beneath the pyramids. It was one heck of a trip but it took it’s toll on me.
We have a whole bunch of Egypt Pinterest pins for you, if you visit our Egypt Board, you’ll find more there, for now, pin this one and dream of your turn visiting the Pharaohs.
So that’s it, our big round up on the highlights of Egypt and I hope I’ve given you some ideas for things to see and do during your trip. It was incredible, magnificent and absolutely a global must-do, the kids learned so much and got to see some of the most spectacular places on the planet. What do you think, is Egypt for you? It’s very different, nothing like travelling in most parts of the world. Did I tell you that we are soon to return to the comfortable familiarity of Asia? Not a new country, but one that we haven’t yet featured on the website. I’m excited about what’s coming next for us in terms of travel and business. I love how everything is coming together. I love our life, sign up to follow in the side bar.
Back to our main Egypt Travel Page.