For those who follow travel trends, you may have seen that travel to Egypt is on the rise, and now ranks among the leading must-visit destinations for 2019-2020. There are many reasons why. As one of the cradles of civilization, Egypt is a living, open-air museum with so many archaeological sites, that a typical 7-day itinerary you can only reveal a glimpse of its magnificent cultural heritage. The delicious Mediterranean cuisine, the exotic bazaars, and the lesser known for the American traveller Red Sea coast with world-class resorts in Sharm El Sheikh & Hurghada are even more reasons to put Egypt on your travel list. Here are a few suggestions on what to see and do in Egypt and how you can get there:
You can visit Egypt either by an organized, tailor-made private journey or a pre-packaged group tour. Having a local guide, preferably and an Egyptologist and a driver is a must. For full immersion, consider a 10-12 day itinerary.
Travel Tip: If you are travelling in a group, before you reserve, ask what is the maximum number of travellers allowed. Small groups (under 15 travellers) benefit from more time sightseeing, personalized attention an connecting with like-minded travellers, rather than the traditional 40-50 people in motor coach tour.
Every itinerary begins and ends in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Three days in this metropolitan city is a perfect start of your journey. A classical itinerary will include a visit to the Pyramids, Memphis (the ancient religious capital of Egypt), the Step Pyramid & visit of the Cairo Museum. If an option, consider a visit to the Red Pyramid, built by Sneferu (the father of Cheops). It is the first true pyramid that inspired Cheops to master the construction of his own. Getting inside of the Great Pyramid & the Solar Boat Museum will be a bonus.
Travel Tip: The traffic in Cairo is quite challenging. I recommend selecting a hotel in Giza vs downtown Cairo. The pyramids are located in Giza plateau and a majority of accommodations are just outside of the pyramid complex and offer "Pyramid views". Sitting on your hotel balcony with a glass of wine and watching the sunset over the Pyramids is quite spectacular (check out Mena house hotel by Marriott). In addition, the brand new Cairo museum, scheduled to open in 2020, is located in the near proximity to the Pyramids.
Travel Tip: Since all Egypt Itineraries start and end in Cairo, a good idea is to spend the last day visiting the Coptic Cairo (the Christian Neighbouhood of Cairo), and Khan Al Khalili bazaar -- one of the oldest functioning bazaars in the world. A shopper's paradise, this exotic place becomes alive after sunset, when the temperatures cool down.
"Egypt is the gift of the Nile," said the Greek historian Herodotus more than 2,000 years ago. Your journey to Egypt won't be complete unless you embark on a river cruise. The majority of river cruises begin in Luxor or Aswan. The best preserved Egyptian Temples (Philae Temple in Aswan, The Horus temple in Edfu, Kom Ombo Temple & the Temple of Goddess Hathor in Dendera) date back to the Ptolemaic Period (3-1 Century BCE) and are located mostly along the banks of the river. There is a wide choice of local and international riverboats that run 3-4 days and longer itineraries, offering an all-inclusive experience accommodating any type of budget. Sailing on the Nile feels peaceful, relaxing and you can almost imagine yourself 4,000 years ago when the banks of the river were brimming with all kinds of local activities: fishing, harvesting, and children playing.
Millennia ago, the religious and administrative capital of Egypt was Memphis, located just outside of Cairo, and ancient Thebes was only chosen by the Pharaoh's of 18th Dynasty (1500 BCE) to be their eternal home. Today, Luxor (the Greek name of Thebes) is a busy tourist town, a gateway to Valley of the Kings. If you are embarking on a river cruise, visit Luxor & Karnak Temples, both dedicated to the God Amun, as it is included in the cruise itinerary, as well as a visit of Valley of the Kings where a general entrance ticket will include an entrance to few of the sons of Ramses II. The sight of Queen Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple is truly a marvel.
Travel Tip: If you like to journey in depth, visit the best-preserved tomb in Valley of the King -- the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I or queen Nefertari in Valley of the Queens (father and wife of Ramses II). If you like to venture further, the lesser visited tombs in Valley of the Nobles will leave you in awe with their colours so bright 3500 years, later on, that one might think they were painted yesterday.
If you opt in to spend a night in Aswan, consider a stay at the Old Cataract Hotel, a heritage property, where during the beginning of the 20th Century, Agatha Christie wrote "Murder on the Orient Express". Aswan is also a getaway to visit Abu Simbel Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Ramses II and his beloved wife Nefertari.
Back in Cairo, you can extend your journey with a day trip to Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea and explore archaeological remains dating to the Ptolemaic & Roman Rules or decide on a quick Red Sea tropical escape. Sharm El Shaikh Resort complex on the Red Sea will allure you with its crystal water, world-class diving, and high-end accommodations.
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