10 of the best things to do in Egypt
22nd September 2021
Pope Shenouda III
Long known as 'the gift of the Nile,' Egypt is historically mesmerising, culturally rich and famous for excellent hospitality. The jewel in Egypt's ancient crown is undoubtedly the Pyramids of Giza, which have rendered visitors awestruck for many centuries. Their impressive size and longevity is still widening eyes today. Bustling Cairo is one of the Arabic world's great cities, tempting travellers to linger with its tangible history, vibrant street life, bazaars piled with exotic goods, and fabulous food scene. Get to know Egypt's diversity with a Nile cruise to visit Luxor's beautiful temples, a desert experience or a revitalising stay on the Red Sea coast.
Take a look at our partners' trip ideas here, but in the meantime here are some of our top things to do in Egypt.
Get a feel for the culture in Cairo
Egypt's exciting capital is a masterclass in sensory overload. Home to around 20 million residents and giving an impression of constantly teetering on the edge of chaos, somehow the metropolis exudes enough soul and charm to make it one of Egypt's finest destinations. Seek deeper understanding of the nation at the Grand Egyptian Museum, a great prelude to visiting Egypt's historic treasures, or delve for souvenirs at the many bazaars and souks, the best known of which is Khan al-Khalili. Islamic Cairo reveals some exquisite monuments and the serene Al-Azhar mosque, while Coptic Cairo is home to the famous Hanging Church.
Be Mesmerised by the Pyramids
Just across the Nile from downtown Cairo stand a group of incredible structures, the only one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still standing. Three Great Pyramids mark the edge of the desert, overlooked by the Sphinx. These tombs date back more than 4,500 years, and though they were repeatedly looted over the centuries, the mystique, grandeur and architectural prowess echo loudly across the millennia.
Pure relaxation is easy along the balmy Red Sea coast, and whether you are looking for a dive holiday in Egypt or you just want to round off your Egyptian adventure with some sun and sea, the resorts of the Red Sea can oblige. With warm, clear waters surrounding stunning underwater landscapes and coral reefs, this is an ideal destination for learning to scuba dive. A technicolour mix of marine species populates the reefs, and many luxurious resorts line the shore.
Cruise the Nile in style
A deeper appreciation of Egypt's precarious environment is established as you cruise the country's lifeline, the Nile. The stark boundary between the irrigated Nile Valley and the barren desert beyond drives home the significance of this mighty river to Egyptian communities. Not only can you relax and enjoy the scenery as you cruise, but you can also reach some of Egypt's most important historical sites.
Ancient Thebes was the precursor of modern Luxor, and today it is an important destination for the culturally curious due to its magnificent historical monuments at the Karnak temples, the ancient city and the necropolis complex of the Valley of the Kings. The sprawling temple complex at Karnak was an important place of worship for the Thebans, while the Valley of the Kings showcases some of the finest ancient Egyptian tombs.
Leave the frenetic city behind and find serenity, peace and beauty in the endless deserts of Egypt. Bedouin communities have long made their homes in the desert, and many welcome tourists to stay at their desert camps, giving you an authentic glimpse into desert life and traditions. Enjoy a camel ride through the dunes, try your hand at driving a 4x4 in the sand, then settle down to watch the night sky.
Experience arty Alexandria
This is a city with ancient roots, standing at the western boundary of the Nile Delta on the Mediterranean coast. Founded over 2,300 years ago by Alexander the Great, the city enjoyed an entire millennia as capital of Egypt and an important seat of learning and the arts. In modern times this creative and intellectual reputation persists, and it is home to fine museums, a fabulous library and a breezy waterside corniche.
Abu Simbel is a remarkably well preserved temple complex which lies in the far south of the country, three hours by road from Aswan and located close to the shore of Lake Nasser. The towering rock-hewn structures were dug into the cliff face under the direction of Rameses II, taking around 20 years to construct. One temple is dedicated Ra, the sun god and the other to his wife Nefertari. These structures escaped the ravages of the elements for centuries as they were covered with sand until the 19th century.
Oases and Wadis
Some of Egypt's most delightful natural attractions can be found where water flows. The Nile corridor and Delta cut a green swathe through the landscape, and smaller water sources punctuate the desert and bring bursts of life to the barren territory. The remote Siwa oasis is a total contrast to Egypt's cities, offering a peaceful rural experience surrounded by wondrous scenery. El Fayoum is a similarly mesmerising oasis experience complete with waterfalls, hot springs, fishing and sailing to enjoy.
Deciding when to visit Egypt depends on what you wish to do while on holiday. Weather wise, it's best to aim for the period from October to April when the heat is less intense than the rest of the year. Most classic holidays in Egypt will involve a lot of sightseeing in open air historical sites, so under the intense sun from May to September this can become hard work, though it's still possible first thing in the morning and in the evening when the heat subsides. Sun and blue skies are the norm in much of Egypt for most of the year, though some grey days and rainfall are possible over the winter months from December to February. Peak season is December and January, so for the best chance of combining pleasant temperatures and lower footfall at the major sites, aim for the shoulder seasons of October - November and March - April.
Egypt is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top five facts about it?
1. There are more than 700 hieroglyphs in the Egyptian alphabet
2. Egypt has no less than seven UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites
3. Ancient Egyptians used to kick back and relax by playing board games - there are paintings depicting Queen Nefertari playing, and board games were even found to be buried in Tutankhamen’s tomb
4. Ancient Egyptian men and women both used to wear makeup, for its magical healing powers and protection from the Gods Horus and Ra
5. After uncovering 4000-year-old burial plots, Egypt's leading archaeologist has concluded that contrary to popular belief, the Pyramids were not built by slaves.
Do you already have an idea of what your dream holiday in Egypt entails? Whether you're ready to book or would like your ideas to be fined-tuned into something more, send an enquiry and our trusted local experts will design your perfect tailor-made holiday.