After years of political upheaval and conflict, Egypt is on the upswing again. With tighter security and low prices, visitors are returning. Egypt’s most popular attractions are included in this 11-day visit: the extraordinary Egyptian Museum of Antiquities; the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx; the remarkable Dahshur Pyramids, located 25 miles southwest of Cairo; the Temple of Luxor; and the Valley of the Kings.
Your journey begins in chaotic Cairo, as virtually all Egyptian tours do. With a knowledgeable guide, the sprawling metropolis reveals a fascinating side. Here, you will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, to see restoration work being done on treasured antiquities. (Once it officially opens in 2020, this will be the largest archaeological museum in the world.)
In addition, your guide will take you into the colorful bazaars in Cairo’s medieval district, which is also home to many of the city’s most impressive mosques. Halfway through your trip, you will board the Oberoi Philae (22 cabins and suites) for a leisurely four-night Nile cruise. Between Aswan and Luxor, you will discover 5,000 years of Egyptian culture. From Luxor (ancient Thebes), you will visit the famed Valley of the Kings and the Tomb of Nefertari, the “Sistine Chapel of ancient Egypt,” in the Valley of the Queens. Your trip will end in the lush Faiyûm Oasis, to the south of Cairo, an area most tourists never see.
Good to know:
The best time for visiting Egypt is the cool season between December and March, when the evenings may require a light sweater.
A single-entry visa is available for U.S. citizens, but passports must be valid for at least six months from the day of arrival.
Read our editor’s full trip report from Egypt and Israel.
Our itineraries are for your inspiration. Please contact a travel advisor to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.
Arrive at Cairo International Airport, where a private guide will assist you with customs clearance, luggage and airport procedures. You will then transfer to the Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza Hotel, which rises above the riverside Corniche and offers commanding views of both the Nile and the Citadel.
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, spend the morning visiting the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, covering 7,000 years of Egyptian history. Go inside the Royal Mummies Hall, where the bodies of Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut (among others) are preserved. Afterward, drive to Giza to the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which open in 2021. It will contain more than 5,000 objects from the Tomb of Tutankhamen, many never on public display before. (Prior to opening, Andrew Harper Travel’s ground partner can arrange exclusive visits to the museum where guests can explore the different laboratories to see the restoration work in progress.)
In the afternoon, take a walking tour through the narrow streets of the Islamic Quarter. Begin at Bab al-Futuh, one of the last three remaining old gates of medieval Cairo. Walk down Al Moez Street until you reach the recently renovated Al-Suhaymi House, one of the most impressive homes of the Ottoman era.
Next, proceed to the Khan el-Khalili. Originally founded as a watering stop for caravansary in the 14th century, the bazaar has grown to vast proportions. As you wander through the labyrinth of narrow streets, you will find workshops and stalls selling all manner of goods, from woodwork, glassware and leather, to perfumes, fabrics and curiosities. After your tour, enjoy a dinner of traditional Middle Eastern dishes, at the Naguib Mahfouz restaurant in the heart of the bazaar.
Following breakfast at your hotel, your day will begin 25 miles from Cairo at the Dahshur Pyramids, an ancient necropolis. Here you will see the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid, among others.
Back in Giza, have lunch at the Mena House Hotel, which began life as a royal hunting lodge in 1869. It offers views over lush gardens to the Great Pyramids themselves.
Following lunch, go on an unforgettable tour of the Great Pyramids, the only one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World to survive.
Your tour will also include the incredible Solar Boat Museum. Beside the Pyramid of Khufu, it houses a 4,500-year-old vessel that is considered to be the single most important archaeological find in Egypt since the Tomb of Tutankhamen. Discovered in 1954, the entire boat has been meticulously reconstructed.
Later, visit the mysterious Sphinx.
Take a fascinating tour of the graceful Muhammad Ali Mosque and the Cairo Citadel, a spectacular medieval fortress perched on a hill above the city. Originally built in 1176 to fortify the city against the Crusaders, the Citadel was modified and enlarged over the centuries by
subsequent rulers. Today it is a complex of three mosques and four museums. Your tour will also include a visit to the mosques of Sultan Hassan and Al-Rifa’i.
Today lunch will be at the famous Al-Azhar Park, which has a memorable view of old Cairo.
After lunch, see the highlights of Coptic Cairo, which include the remains of the old Fortress of Babylon, the Church of St. Sergius and the “Hanging Church,” supported by only one column.
Next, visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue, from the time of the once-thriving Jewish community in Egypt. Inside were discovered the so-called Cairo Genizah, documents composed from about 870 A.D. that provide an unparalleled source of information about Jewish life in Egypt.
Transfer to the airport early this morning for your flight to Abu Simbel, via Aswan. Upon arrival, transfer to the site of your tour. The two temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel are each fronted by colossal statues up to 66 feet high and are among the most impressive monuments of ancient Egypt. After the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s and the flooding of Lake Nasser, the temples were relocated with the help of a UNESCO campaign.
Depart Abu Simbel for Aswan. Upon your arrival transfer to the Oberoi Philae cruise boat for embarkation. After lunch, visit the Nubian Museum. This is the only museum in the world dedicated to the artifacts and culture of the “Land of Gold,” as ancient Nubia was known to the Pharaohs. The museum contains many rare artifacts, unique statues and a Nubian-style house. Overnight on the 22-cabin Oberoi Philae.
After breakfast, your private guide will escort you to visit the Aswan High Dam.
From there, take a short motorboat ride to visit the romantic Philae Temple on the Island of Agilkia. Return to the boat and head down the Nile to the twin temple of Kom Ombo. One side of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek; the other to the falcon god Horus. Return to the boat for lunch and set sail to Edfu.
Today after breakfast, visit the Ptolemaic Temple of Edfu, one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt, dedicated to Horus. Sail to Luxor through the locks of Esna. In the evening visit the vast and majestic Luxor Temple.
After breakfast, set out to explore the West Bank of the Nile. Visit the Valley of the Kings, with its royal tombs, including those of King Tutankhamen and Ramses III.
Next is the Tomb of Nefertari (wife of the great Pharaoh Ramses II) in the Valley of the Queens. Long praised as the most beautiful of all Egyptian tombs, this masterpiece was restored by the Egyptian Antiquities Authority and the U.S. Getty Conservation. Specialists worked for six years to clean and stabilize the flaking plaster walls. It seems hardly conceivable that the vibrant hieroglyphs have not been retouched since they were first painted 3,275 years ago. (The tomb is open only to a limited number of visitors.)
Afterward, proceed to the huge Temple of Karnak, begun during the reign of Pharaoh Senusret I, who ruled from 1971 B.C. to 1926 B.C. The great hypostyle hall, located within the temple, is an incredible forest of giant pillars.
After breakfast, return to the Luxor Airport for your flight to Cairo.
On arrival, set out to see a side of Egyptian life rarely witnessed by tourists. Located 75 miles southwest of Cairo, the Faiyûm Oasis has been inhabited intermittently for thousands of years. The prehistoric people who lived here were originally nomadic hunters and gatherers but began harvesting plants near Lake Qarun. This later developed into one of the earliest agricultural areas in the world. Called the Garden of Egypt, Faiyûm is still known for its citrus fruits, nuts, olives and vegetables. Check in to Lazib Inn, a boutique hotel located at the heart of the oasis.
After breakfast at your hotel, you can set out for a horseback ride or a 4x4 safari to explore Wadi al-Hitan, known as the Valley of the Whales for its remarkable fossilized Archaeoceti whales. In the afternoon, a short ride will take you to the incredible desert valley of Wadi El Rayan, where the arid landscape is broken by beautiful waterfalls and tree-lined pools.
Following breakfast at your hotel, head back to Cairo for the flight home.
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