Itineraries: The Best of Egypt

14 to 16 Days

No visit to Egypt is complete without taking in some or all of the ancient sites in itinerary one, but you can certainly add a few important attractions to those already listed should you have a few more days in the country. More important, you can linger in each major destination for another day and experience some of the secondary sights and still have time to make a swing through the Sinai Peninsula.


3 Days. After spending your first two days exploring ancient Cairo (as described on the 7-day itinerary), it's time to immerse yourself in the post-Pharaonic era. On Day 3 explore the Islamic city and the attractions leading off Shar‘a al-Mu'iz; the streets and alleys all still brim with life. Browse in Khan al-Khalili or the Tent Maker's bazaar for souvenirs, and stop for some tea or even lunch at El Fishawy or the Naguib Mahfouz Café. Later, take a taxi to the Citadel to explore the mosques and museums here, and for wonderful views over the city. One night, have dinner in one of Cairo's floating restaurants or in one of the top hotels along the Nile.

Alexandria (optional)

2 Days. If you have the time, take a side-trip to Egypt’s second city, Alexandria. The Turbini or Espani trains from Cairo’s main station are the fastest, taking 2½ hours to get to Alex. If you take a morning train, you can spend your first afternoon visiting the picture-perfect Fort Qait Bay in the Eastern Harbor, followed by a delicious fish dinner. The following morning, visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and in the afternoon head out to Pompey’s Pillar and descend into the eerie Kom al-Shoqafa catacombs, and you can fly directly to your next destination, Aswan.

Aswan and Abu Simbel

2 Days. A visit to Abu Simbel requires a half day, assuming you fly; spend the afternoon of Day 1 visiting the Philae Temple, and, if you have the time and energy, stop by the Nubian Museum for at least an hour or two either before or after your visit to Philae. On Day 2, cross to the West Bank for the Tombs of the Nobles and the Tomb of the Aga Khan. If you still have time after your tour of the major sights, make for Kitchener's Island in the center of the river to explore the Botanical Gardens, then take a felucca ride in the late afternoon to enjoy the boulder-strewn cataracts of the Nile. Don't forget to leave some time for shopping; the souks of Aswan are less frenetic than those in Luxor or Cairo.

Edfu and Kom Ombo

2 Days. Don't forget these important temples between Aswan and Luxor. If you don't take a cruise, then Edfu is more easily seen on a full-day excursion from Luxor, and Kom Ombo on a half-day excursion from Aswan.

Luxor, Dendera, and Abydos

4 Days. Spend two days seeing the highlights of Luxor. Spend a third day visiting Dendera. On your fourth day, book a trip to the Temple of Seti I at Abydos (150 km [93 mi] north of Luxor), which is dedicated to the god Osiris. Cruises rarely stop here, and relatively few tourists make this trip, but the carvings on this temple are magnificent. After visiting the Osiris Temple, you can walk over to the Temple of Ramses; though not as well preserved as Seti I's temple, the remaining walls still have some of their vibrant color. If you are traveling by land, because of the convoy system, you'll be allowed two hours at the site before you return to Luxor for an evening stroll or carriage ride along the riverside Corniche.

Sharm El-Sheikh

2 Days. Early on Day 1, fly into Sharm El-Sheikh. Take an afternoon tour into the Sinai by camel or quad and then cool off in your hotel's pool or at the beach. Spend Day 2 at Ras Mohammed National Park. Divers should book a dive on one of the famed sites offshore—perhaps Thistlegorm—while nondivers can take a snorkeling trip or glass-bottom boat ride. Nonswimmers can enjoy an overland tour of the terrestrial elements of the park with some beach time. If you plan to spend the night at the base of Mount Sinai, head there in the afternoon so you arrive before dark.

Saint Catherine's Monastery and Jabal Moussa

1 Day. Stay overnight close to Saint Catherine's Monastery, which is deep in the Sinai Mountains. Wake before dawn to climb Jabal Moussa (Mount Sinai), reaching the summit just as dawn breaks. Retrace your steps and explore the monastery in the early morning. After returning to Sharm, you can fly back to Cairo that evening.

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