Egypt is one of the most magical destinations I’ve ever visited. As a child, I think Egypt was probably the first place I put on my travel bucket list. Ancient Egyptian history has always fascinated me. And, I can now confirm that after traveling here it’s more amazing than I could have ever imagined.
While the pyramids are incredible, there is so much more to Egypt!
You can easily visit the Great Pyramid on a short stopover in Egypt, but I suggest traveling to Egypt with at least 10 to 12 days available to experience it to the fullest.
Before planning your first trip to Egypt, make sure you are considering the best time to travel to Egypt. It gets HOT here, and with holiday observances like Ramadan and peak tourism seasons, you want to ensure you’re visiting at the best possible time.
This is the best Egypt itinerary, in my humble option, that will take you from Cairo to some of the best ancient Egyptian sites and beyond!
Here’s my 10-day Egypt itinerary!
Arrive in Cairo
Use the first day in Cairo, Egypt to relax and get used to the time difference. After settling into your accommodations, you can head out and grab something to eat.
Saqqara, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Great Sphinx
At the start of your second day, head to Saqqara to visit the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which is the oldest pyramid in Egypt!
Traffic can be insane, so plan accordingly. My advice? Get over to Giza early in the day (as close to the time it opens) to avoid the crowds.
The Giza complex closes at 2:00 pm at certain times of the year, so make sure that you get there with plenty of time to get pictures and see everything. At the Giza Plateau, you’ll see the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure.
If you are all about getting the perfect shot of the pyramids, be sure to read my guide How to Get Amazing Photos at the Pyramids of Giza.
I recommend grabbing lunch at 9 Pyramids Lounge for great views of the pyramids.
Then, finish your day of sightseeing at the Great Sphinx. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was created by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during 2558–2532 BC!
Spend the rest of the day relaxing at your accommodation, then return to Giza for a camel ride at sunset!
MUSEUM OF EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES
Museums and Mosque of Muhammad Ali
Start the day by either visiting The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. The Grand Egyptian Museum is slated to open in November of 2022 and will replace the smaller Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.
This museum houses many Egyptian antiques and treasures, including those from King Tutankhamun.
Helpful Tip: As of right now, all of the mummies that used to be at The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities have moved to The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and will eventually move to the Grand Egyptian Museum.
If you are arriving before November 2022, you can easily visit both The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in one day.
After getting your fill of history at the museum, enjoy lunch in Al Hazar Park before going to the Citadel of Salah El-Din. Al Hazar Park is one of the best spots in the city for a panoramic view of Cairo. If you have time in the evening, try to get back to this area for an amazing sunset.
While visiting the Citadel of Salah El-Din, be sure to check out the Mosque of Muhammad Ali which is inside the Citadel complex.
Enjoy the rest of the day exploring Cairo before heading back to your Cairo accommodations.
Abu Simbel and Aswan
Check out of your Cairo hotel very early in the morning and catch a flight to Aswan.
If you would like to visit Abu Simbel, one of the most picturesque complexes in all of Egypt, you can fly there by connecting in Aswan. I would highly recommend opting for the flight, but keep in mind flights are limited, so be sure to book well in advance. If you drive to Abu Simbel, keep in mind it’s a 2.5-3 hour drive from Aswan (in both directions).
Visitors can tour the magnificent Abu Simbel complex and learn about how the temple was moved to higher ground. I’d recommend watching this fascinating Abu Simbel documentary by UNESCO on how it was moved!
Once you get back to Aswan, I recommend staying at the Old Cataract Sofitel hotel. This hotel is historic, very beautiful, and has amazing views of feluccas sailing the Nile.
Board a Nile Cruise
Before you board your Nile cruise, go on a felucca ride in Aswan. Feluccas are ancient Egyptian boats that are normally made from wood and have a canvas sail.
There are a lot of Nile Cruises, so explore what works for your budget and the number of nights you want to sail. I will discuss a typical itinerary for a 3-night cruise!
(If your budget and time allow, they also have 4-night cruises and 7-night cruises.
Typically, the first activity on a 3-night Nile Cruise is to visit Phile Temple and the Unfinished Obelisk.
Visitors will take a short motorboat ride to visit the romantic and majestic Philae Temple on the Island of Agilika. This complex was created for the goddess Isis and includes Egyptian, Greek, and Roman aspects.
After, you will visit the Granite Quarries, which supplied the ancient Egyptians with most of the hard stone used in pyramids and temples and still hold a huge unfinished obelisk.
End the day on board your Nile Cruise.
Visit Kom Ombo and Edfu Temple
On the second day of your Nile Cruise, you will disembark and explore the Kom Ombo temple, which was dedicated to the gods Sobek, the crocodile god, and Haroeris, the sun god.
This unique historical site features a crocodile museum where you can see mummified crocodiles!
After Kom Ombo, board the cruise to head sail the 2 hours to Edfu. Once there, visitors can explore the Temple of Edfu. Edfu is one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt and is dedicated to the god Horus.
End the evening back on the Nile Cruise for dinner.
Karnak Temple, Luxor
Luxor’s East and West Bank
Luxor’s West Bank is where you’ll visit mortuary temples dedicated to the dead (where the sun sets) whereas the East bank is where ancient Egyptians lived (where the sun rises).
You’ll typically start your day visiting the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
There are a number of tombs in the Valley of the Kings—some tombs you can pay extra to see like King Tut’s tomb.
In the Valley of the Queens, you definitely will want to visit the Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut.
There is also an additional tomb, the Queen of Nefertari, that is known for being one of the most incredible ones to visit. It’s about $100 to go in, but I’ve heard it’s worth it. You will definitely want to budget and plan time for whatever you want to see on the West Bank in your itinerary as it can easily become a full day!
On your drive back to the Nile, visit the Colossi of Memnon.
In the afternoon, you’ll visit the Temple of Karnak, the largest temple complex in Egypt. This was one of my favorite sites during all of our travels through Egypt! The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak features 134 inscribed columns—it’s truly something to marvel at!
I’d recommend waiting to visit the final site, Luxor Temple, until after the sun goes down. It’s a unique experience to see it after dark and all lit up!
Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride over Luxor
Rise early and start your morning with a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Luxor. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one I highly recommend. Make sure that you book this well in advance.
Head back to the Nile Cruise to check out.
At this point, you can either return to Cairo or you can drive to El Gouna for a seaside escape to the Red Sea for snorkeling and scuba diving.
If you’re opting for the latter, drive to El Gouna by bus to your Red Sea resort. Luxor to El Gouna is about a 3.5-hour drive.
El Gouna is known for its amazing kitesurfing. That said, expect windy weather! El Gouna is a very unique part of Egypt and will feel very different from everywhere you’ve visited until this point.
It’s essentially a gated resort town where Tuk Tuk is the main mode of transport. You’ll find more “Western” restaurants here and the entire town is very safe and easy to navigate.
El Gouna sits on the Red Sea where some of the best underwater sites are—snorkeling or scuba diving is a must! Head to the beach, lounge by your hotel pool, or try your luck at kitesurfing.
El Gouna to Cairo
Check out early to depart for your flight back to Cairo.
The closest airport to El Gouna is in Hurghada (approximately a 30-minute drive). Spend your last day in Cairo wandering around the captivating Khan El-Khalili Bazaar, which is said to be the largest bazaar in the Middle East.
Then fly home!
Optional Add-On Trips:
Siwa Oasis is an Egyptian oasis in the Western Desert. It is known for its crystal clear salt lakes and olive trees. It’s a pretty massive journey to get there.
You can either drive the full length from Cairo to Siwa, which is about a 9-hour drive each way, or you can fly. But, it’s still another 3-4 hour drive from the airport closest to Siwa.
I’d recommend adding at least 3 days to the end of your trip in order to visit and make it worth it.
I’d highly recommend hiring a guide while in Egypt and having someone help with the logistics of the itinerary. It’s a lot of moving parts with planning transportation and sightseeing.
If you’re interested in experiencing Egypt on a tour, check out my all-female tours with TBA Escapes!