Our top 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites
June 19, 2023
The vast majority of Egyptians live within a stone’s throw of the Nile River; many of Egypt’s prime historical sites are located along this fertile ribbon of land which has allowed humanity to inhabit this desert nation for millennia. All those centuries of history are still tangible today, especially in the monuments which stand unchanged since the time of the Pharaohs. There are so many ancient temples and mausoleums to visit, but the cities and rural regions are well worth exploring as well. We’ve put together this list of ten highlights to help you plan your Egyptian adventure.
From their humble beginnings as fishing villages, the Red Sea resorts that line Egypt’s coast have become sizeable resorts with all the facilities you could need and a great range of accommodation. What better way to round off your holiday in Egypt than with a few days relaxing at the beach? The Red Sea is one of the world’s best known dive destinations and you shouldn’t miss the chance to don your snorkel or dive gear and explore the underwater world of colourful fish darting among the coral gardens.
This ancient city was founded over 2,350 years ago where the Nile Delta fans out and meets the Mediterranean coast. This strategic location ensured Alexandria has always been a busy hub for travellers and today it is still Egypt’s major port. This is a city with an arty and intellectual vibe, reflected in the fact that some of its most important sights include the incredible modern library – built in honour of the ancient library which was said to have been the world’s finest – and the remarkable national museum which showcases fine artefacts from as far back as the Pharaohs.
Whether or not you are a believer, a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai is a popular activity to include on your Egypt holiday as the walking trails, the wonderful scenery and peaceful surroundings are a welcome contrast to the busy cities. Moses is said to have stood atop Mount Sinai and received God’s 10 commandments, and while these days many visitors come for the spectacular sunsets rather than the biblical connotations, the area retains a spiritual atmosphere, especially at the serene 6th century St Catherine’s monastery.
Far from urban Egypt near the Libyan border, Siwa oasis is a fascinating and off the beaten track destination to consider for your holiday in Egypt. It takes at least eight hours by road to reach Siwa from Cairo, and has a very different feel compared to much of the rest of Egypt, and in fact the majority of people are Berber. Surrounded by springs and turquoise salt lakes to swim in, this oasis supports hundreds of thousands of date palms and olive trees, and its ancient neighbourhoods are really atmospheric with their mud brick architecture and historic temples to explore.
A magnificent roll call of temples beckons you south to Luxor, where the most convenient temples are located just over the Nile from the city itself. The temple of Karnak is supposed to be the world’s largest, and it is certainly imposing. Carved stone pillars march through the huge site – much of which is intact – and the original paintwork is still bright and vibrant. The temple of Luxor is another fabulous example, especially evocative and beautiful when floodlit at night. Don’t miss the chance to drift in a hot air balloon above Luxor, an unforgettable view of the Nile and the temples below.
The beauty of a cruise on the Nile is watching the landscapes unfurl around you as you get used to the slower pace of life outside the urban areas of Egypt. It is abundantly clear that the Nile really is the lifeblood of this desert nation, and it’s a delight to watch rural life in action as you drift by. Farmers, fishermen, sailors and schoolchildren all going about their business with a backdrop of dense green fields, plantations and the desert beyond. A cruise is a fine way to get to know Egypt’s countryside and understand more about the mighty Nile river.
Not too far from Luxor, the tombs of Egypt’s royals are built into the steep valley walls, intentionally more difficult to find to avoid looting which stripped the more obvious pyramids of their riches. King Tutankhamen’s tomb is the most famous and was discovered a century ago complete with all its original treasures, many of which are now displayed in Cairo’s Egyptian museum. Descending into the tombs with their sumptuously decorated panels it can be hard to believe the sheer age and enduring beauty of the art.
Don’t miss the chance to put all you will see in Egypt into context and make time to visit the impressive Egyptian Museum, full of artefacts and treasures that demonstrate the amazing craftsmanship which has made Egypt so well known throughout the world. Cairo is also an amazing destination for anyone who loves to immerse themselves in local life, though you need to embrace the frenetic energy of the city to get the most from it. Resist and you will not enjoy it so much. Make time to explore the Khan el Khalili bazaars, the iconic mosques and the bustling Al Moez Street for starters.
Standing sentinel across the Nile from downtown Cairo, the awe-inspiring Pyramids of Giza and their Sphinx need no introduction. Immense structures built 4,500 years ago, these tombs are the only remaining ancient wonder of the world still standing. And wonder you will. Such feats of construction were undertaken with huge stone blocks transported hundreds of miles, and stacked up to make the tallest structure on Earth at the time and for thousands of years afterwards. Venture inside to see the burial chambers and imagine the treasures once held there.
From the Red Sea resorts or from the northern cities you can opt for a thrilling desert adventure and venture out into the dunes. Enjoy the peace and serenity of the desert on a camel ride or get the adrenaline pumping with dune buggy driving or 4×4 quad bike riding. Whichever way you decide to experience the desert, be sure to time it to coincide with sunset- and bring your camera. Round off your day at a Bedouin camp to experience authentic desert hospitality with hot tea around the fire and stargazing on a clear evening.
A holiday in Egypt is often inspired by amazing historic monuments from so long ago. But this is a country with much more to offer, and who better to help you plan your trip than our local partners, based in Egypt and always ready with up to the minute tips, inspiration and insider knowledge. Get in touch with them today to find out just how much difference our local partners can make.
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