10-12 Day Egypt Itinerary: Cairo, Giza, Luxor and the Red Sea

Egypt has more treasures than ever imaginable. With the upcoming opening of the new Giza Museum (slated for 2021) 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 10-12 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. The Red Sea portion can always be swapped out with a Nile River cruise.

Image courtesy Lori Zaino.

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 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; winter offers sunny and springlike, more pleasant temps — but more crowds and higher prices.

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.

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 Rasha from Egypt Daily Tours. 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

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

Although Saqqara 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.

Itinerary for Visiting Luxor in Egypt

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. Ahmed from Luxor For You Tours 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. 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
Image courtesy Lori Zaino.

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.

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 Hurgada or El Gouna, 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 Hurgada.

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 Hurgada or El Gouna (Red Sea) | Egypt Itinerary from Winetraveler.com
Image courtesy Lori Zaino.

Stop 3: Hurgada 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. Hurgada has a little more culture and nightlife, whereas El Gouna is more of a resort town for visitors.

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.

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 Hurgada to Cairo to catch your flight home.

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Comments ( 6 )

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 😀

  3. 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.

  4. 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.


Lori Zaino is a travel expert that's lived in Madrid, Spain for over a decade. A self-taught oenophile and culinary connoisseur, she's just as comfortable backpacking through Latin America's wine country as she is demurely sipping Champagne in French castles.

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