Egypt has more treasures than ever imaginable. With the opening of the new Giza Museum soon, plus new discoveries and tombs unearthed constantly, Egypt will always boast something new and exciting. Whether you’re drawn to Giza’s mythical pyramids, the peace of the exotic Nile River or the Red Sea’s underwater marine life, Egypt should hold a firm spot on your bucket list.
This 10+ day Egypt itinerary is best for history enthusiasts who want to see all the sights but then chill out on the shores of the Red Sea afterward. While the itinerary we discuss below can be navigated in a self-guided fashion, we mention a number of tours operated by locals. Separately, you can book an all-inclusive trip (yes, it also includes the flight) ahead of time which includes many of the highlights discussed below. The Red Sea portion can always be swapped out with a Nile River cruise.
IN THIS GUIDE:
Travel Tips & Practicalities
Fly Egyptair from hubs like New York (JFK) and Washington D.C. (IAD) nonstop to Cairo. Or, combine your trip with a visit to Europe and fly nonstop on a European air carrier to a European city. Once in Egypt, Egyptair offers short-haul flights to other destinations in the country.
Make sure to have local Egyptian pounds as well as US $1 bills for tipping, which is expected there. Egypt does require U.S. citizens to purchase a visa, though you can do this upon arrival. Have $25 in USD cash ready for the visa.
Visiting in summer will ensure you’ll have to get up super early to see the attractions to avoid the heat; winter offers sunny and more pleasant temps — but expect more crowds and higher prices.
WINE LOVERS BE AWARE
If you’re coming to Egypt expecting wine in abundance, you will be disappointed. Egypt officially does not allow the sale or consumption of alcohol in public places. While this may be a much needed reprieve for some of us that we should take advantage of for health’s sake, wine lovers should note that while many restaurants won’t serve booze, some more touristy spots will serve to foreigners and almost all hotels offer alcoholic beverage options, approved by the Minister of Tourism.
Stop 1: Cairo | 3-4 Days
Cairo has one of the largest urban populations in Africa with over 20 million people. The crazy traffic and crowded markets may seem overwhelming at first, but hold some measure of intrigue for visitors wanting to experience the Egyptian capital’s frenetic energy.
The best way to explore the city is with a local, and Winetraveler recommends using Alber with Egypt by Locals. Private tours often come with a driver, although Uber is available in Cairo.
The city has many upscale yet affordable hotels, with big-name brands like the Conrad, Ritz-Carlton or Marriott — sometimes for as little as $100 per night (depending on the season).
Day 1: Guided Tour of Giza and Cairo
It’s complicated to do this solo, though it is doable. We suggest you do this in a guided fashion and hire a private guide for the day through Tours Around Egypt.
Start with the Giza pyramids before the heat sets in, and don’t miss the Great Sphinx of Giza. Take note if you choose to go inside the pyramid, it can get crowded, hot and you may have to hunch over during certain moments. Remember, Giza and Cairo are about an hour’s drive from one another, and traffic is typically heavy.
Next, head to Coptic Cairo and the Jewish Quarter Haret El-Yahud to see the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church and the Greek Church of St. George.
Then, switch gears to discover Islamic Cairo, starting with the impressive hilltop Citadel and Mohammed Ali Mosque, which is reminiscent of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque — except it’s green.
Finish out the day at the Khan El-Khalili Bazaar, a lively market where you can barter for Egyptian perfume, ceramics, rugs and much more.
Day 2: Visit the Egyptian Museum
This museum is already open and holds many mummies as well as other treasures found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Until the larger Giza Museum opens, this is where you’ll find the bounty of Egypt’s best artifacts.
Day 3: Explore Saqqara
If you didn’t already explore it with your guide on day one, Saqqara is worth a stop. While it is isn’t as recognizable as Giza, this ancient capital of Memphis is actually one of Egypt’s largest archaeological sites. Make sure to see the pyramids of Teti, the underground burial chambers of Serapeum and the pyramids of Dashur.
Day 4: Head to Luxor
The quickest way to arrive in Luxor from Cairo is by plane. An alternative to the one-hour flight is a nine-hour train ride if you’d like to devote the time to admire the vast Egyptian desert by rail.
Stop 2: Luxor | 3-4 Days
Once in Luxor, the Hilton Luxor is located on the Nile River and one of the best places to stay.
Similar to Cairo, you’ll need to move around a lot in Luxor if you want to see the best sites. Guided tours may be the easiest option. Emo Tours Egypt can help arrange all guided tours, river cruises and other activities.
Day 5: Guided Tour of the West Bank
Because these attractions are further away from one another, this tour may be best done guided. Why not leverage a local and legitimate Egyptologist to take you around? Book a guided day trip ahead of time with AlHassany Travel and start with the famous Valley of the Kings, where you can explore the tombs of Ramses, Tutankhamen and other ancient rulers.
Then visit the Temple of Hatshepsut, a famous feminist queen and the Temple of Habu. Before heading back to enjoy the sunset over the Nile, visit the Statues of Memnon, imposing statues of Egyptian royalty.
Day 6: Hot Air Balloon Ride and Nile River Cruise
Wake up extra early to enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon tour, flying high over the Nile River and the Valley of the Kings.
Nap or relax during the hottest part of the day; then take a sunset felucca (this is an Egyptian sailboat) ride along the Nile River.
Day 7: East Bank Tour
The East Bank of the Nile offers wonders such as the massive Karnak Temple, the Luxor Temple and the Museum of Mummification. Companies like Egypt Tours Online allow you to plan and customize a day trip per your travel preferences.
If you’d prefer to do this tour without a guide, you can. Start at the Karnak Temple, then barter with a taxi or walk along the Nile about 30 minutes to the Museum. The last stop should be the Luxor Temple just slightly further away.
Day 8: Off to the Red Sea
Hire a driver to take you to Hurghada or El Gouna, which are resort areas along the Red Sea. The drive typically takes 3-4 hours. If you’d like to wake up early and squeeze in one last temple visit, head to the Dendera first, one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt and on the way to Hurghada.
Alternative: Take a Nile Cruise
If you’d prefer to skip the beach and do a Nile Cruise, many leave from Luxor down to Aswan. Once you arrive in Aswan, you can fly back to Cairo before heading home.
Stop 3: Hurghada or El Gouna (Red Sea)
This is the laid-back part of your trip. You can choose an all-inclusive resort or not, but the days can be more flexible, without specific attractions to see. Hurghada has a little more culture and nightlife, whereas El Gouna is more of a resort town for visitors. You can take a look at current El Gouna luxury hotel prices here.
Days 9-12: Dive, Swim and Relax on the Beach
For those wanting to learn to dive, do a PADI course. Certified divers can enjoy the incredible reefs, plethora of shipwrecks and diverse marine life — including whale, whitetip and hammerhead sharks found underwater. If you’re not already certified, you can still explore the stunning underwater world of the Red Sea from Hurghada on a guided diving tour with Crazy Dolphin.
Other activities include desert quad adventures or simply relaxing on the beach after a busy week of touring Cairo and Luxor. As mentioned above, this portion of the trip can always be skipped in lieu of a Nile River Cruise depending on your interests.
You can hop on a one-hour flight from Hurghada to Cairo to catch your flight home.
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This itinerary reads like a dream. Hope to follow in these footsteps before too long and will contact the recommended guides whenever that hopefully happens.
The post reminded me of the trip I did to Egypt… would love to do your suggested itinerary too. By the way, I like your blog’s name. I have “wine” in mine too as I am a wine snob. 😀
So glad you see you dive into this Lori! Egypt has been high on my list for many years being an archaeologically-intrigued traveler. This route sounds like a great place to start =D.
Thank you Lenore. I hope you get to visit Egypt very soon!
Greig, you will love it! I was pinching myself the whole time, thinking I was really seeing all the things I’d read about in books as a child up close and personal.
Ella, isn’t Egypt amazing? I hope you get to test out this itinerary! And any blog with the word “wine” in it is a good one! 🙂