One of many cradles of civilization, Egypt has a bounty of historical monuments that’s unparalleled anyplace else on this planet.

The names of Egypt’s big-hitters – the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, King Tut and the Valley of the Kings – are recognized by hundreds of thousands across the globe who may by no means even set foot within the nation.

As a result of these historic locations have lured overseas vacationers to Egypt for literal millennia – historical Greek and Roman vacationers carved graffiti into the partitions of tombs within the Valley of the Kings – the well-trodden path to see them is hardly a secret, and also you’ll not often end up alone on a go to.

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First-time visitors to Egypt are likely to comply with an ordinary route from Cairo to Luxor and finish their journey in Aswan. Whereas we’re actually not advocating skipping any of the best places to visit in Egypt, returning vacationers who wish to dig deeper and have distinctive experiences will discover this unimaginable nation has lots extra to find past the scripted itinerary. 

Many stunning and lesser-visited areas of Egypt, akin to Siwa Oasis within the far Western Desert and components of the Sinai Peninsula, are open to and warmly welcome vacationers, however some western governments, together with the US Department of State, advise in opposition to journey in these areas. Examine your authorities’s journey recommendation earlier than your journey, in addition to along with your lodging and native tour operators while you arrive.

Right here’s learn how to get off the crushed observe in your journey to Egypt.

Camels sit in a sandy landscape at the Step Pyramid, Sakkara, Egypt
Saqqara is south of the Pyramids of Giza and is Egypt’s largest and most fruitful archaeological web site © iStockphoto / Getty Photographs

1. In the event you just like the Pyramids of Giza, strive Saqqara

It’s unimaginable to not be awestruck while you see the enduring Pyramids of Giza with your personal eyes for the primary time. 

You’ll doubtless even be struck by the sheer spectacle of humanity right here: passengers emptying out of outsized buses, would-be tour guides touting their companies, camel- and horse-drivers able to take you for a journey (financially and in any other case), the surprisingly sticky inside of the pyramids glistening with the sweat and humid breath of those that dare enter.

However the Pyramids of Giza are removed from the one buildings of their type on this part of the Nile’s west financial institution. Barely to the south is Saqqara, the necropolis of historical Egypt’s first capital of Memphis and an lively burial floor for greater than 3500 years. 

Saqqara is Egypt’s largest and most fruitful archaeological web site, and groundbreaking discoveries are still being made here, from wood coffins, mummies and bronze statues to pots of cheese from the twenty sixth Dynasty. 

The Step Pyramid of Djoser is the oldest pyramid in Egypt and probably the most historical stone construction in the whole world, and its interior reopened in 2020 after 14 years of renovations.

Regardless of the brief drive from Giza, Saqqara sees fewer guests, and the numbers drop even additional for the close by Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid. Seeing all of them paints a transparent image of the traditional Egyptians’ architectural progress as they moved from stepped sides to clean.

Lavish wood-panelled interior of an ornate room at Manial Palace
Manial Palace is considered one of Cairo’s best-kept secrets and techniques © Khaled ElAdawy / Shutterstock

2. In the event you like Khan Al Khalili, strive Manial Palace

Cairo’s chaotic market of Khan Al Khalili is a medieval maze of outlets that line dozens of slim cobbled alleyways and spill via keyhole arches. You should purchase absolutely anything right here: clothes, rugs, tea units, gold jewellery, cheesy souvenirs, steel lanterns and even hookahs formed like beloved Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum.

In the event you’ve picked up a haul of homewares and need some inside design inspo, go to Manial Palace to seek out one of many capital’s best-kept secrets and techniques and see Cairo off the crushed path.

Constructed by Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik beginning in 1899, this once-royal residence is a mashup of Ottoman, Persian, Andalusian and European rococo that’s left each floor dripping with colour, gilt and texture.

The partitions are coated in beautiful tiles, and a number of the ceilings are constituted of intricately carved wooden and muqarnas (stalactite vaulting). The solar glints via panes of vividly hued window glass, spilling colourful constellations on the large Turkish carpets. Manial Palace is definitely one of the vital stunning and weird issues to do in Cairo.

Detailed relief hieroglyps on a temple wall as a person walks by
Abydos is a captivating web site with a fraction of the vacationers at Karnak © akimov konstantin / Shutterstock

3. In the event you like Karnak, strive Abydos 

Luxor’s temple complicated of Karnak is without doubt one of the world’s largest spiritual websites, and clocking in at 81 hectares (200 acres), it’s even greater than Vatican City and maybe simply as visited. Whereas the temple at Abydos is nowhere close to as massive of a web site as Karnak, a go to may be simply as religious with a fraction of the vacationers.

Abydos is carefully related to Osiris, god of the afterlife, as a result of historical Egyptian fantasy says this spot is the place the deity’s head landed after Osiris was chopped up and scattered throughout Egypt by his jealous brother Seth. It was a spot of pilgrimage and burial, and a few nonetheless consider that this space holds mysterious powers. 

The Temple of Seti I is a formidable, well-preserved construction, with a superb variety of painted bas-reliefs overlaying the partitions and ceiling and a fascinating hypostyle corridor darkened by the temple’s in-situ ceiling. 

Karnak’s Nice Hypostyle Corridor was an addition by Seti I, and you may attain the pharaoh’s temple in Abydos on a day journey from Luxor with an organization akin to Magic Carpet Travel.

4. In the event you just like the Valley of the Kings, strive the “premium” valley tombs or Deir El Medina

Seeing the raids of their predecessors’ tombs, the New Kingdom pharaohs (1550 BCE to 1069 BCE) elected to enter the afterlife from a brand new, top-secret location: under the pyramid-shaped peak of Al Qurn on the west financial institution of Thebes (modern-day Luxor). 

However when gold, treasured items and a lifetime of treasures are concerned, a spot doesn’t keep hidden for lengthy. Tomb robberies within the Valley of the Kings began not lengthy after the pharaoh’s demise, and a number of the tombs stood large open in antiquity, inviting in guests of all types.

A rotating choice of tombs stays open to vacationers at the moment, however a tiered pricing construction retains a number of the most stunning burial chambers almost empty.

The 2 “premium” tombs, these of Seti I within the Valley of the Kings and Nefertari within the Valley of the Queens, command the best ticket costs of any vacationer attraction in Egypt (LE1000 for Seti I, about US$51, and LE1400 for Nefertari, about USD$72), however seeing the bas reliefs of gods, goddesses, pharaohs and hieroglyphic textual content from the E book of the Lifeless and different spiritual spells painted in seemingly contemporary strikingly vibrant colours is priceless.

Exploring Luxor off the crushed path may appear troublesome given its focus of must-see monuments, however this glorious open-air museum of a metropolis has loads of hidden corners ignored by most guests. 

The artisans and builders who constructed and embellished the royal tombs lived within the as soon as bustling village of Deir El Medina and used their unimaginable abilities to create and paint their very own tombs in a extremely elaborate vogue, but it surely hardly sees any exercise now.

Painted and carved columns at Dendera Temple
Admire the restored ceiling paintings at Dendera’s Temple of Hathor © Cortyn / Shutterstock

5. In the event you like Edfu, strive Dendera

The Temple of Horus at Edfu is without doubt one of the most intact temples in Egypt, its sanctuaries and facet chambers forged in atmospheric shadows due to the preserved ceiling. This grand construction is devoted to Horus, the falcon-headed protector god, whose spouse was Hathor, the goddess of motherhood and pleasure. 

Through the historical annual Pageant of the Lovely Reunion, a statue of Hathor was loaded onto a ship and carried alongside the Nile to Edfu to be reunited with Horus.

Whereas Edfu is an ordinary cease on Nile cruises, the Temple of Hathor at Dendera is commonly left off regardless of its shut proximity to Luxor. 

Just a few cruise corporations, akin to Viking, do embrace a go to to this beautiful temple, the place you may see how the fastidiously painted ceilings have been introduced again to life after a latest renovation – look out for the black sooty sq. to see its earlier state. In a chamber on the roof is the well-known Dendera Zodiac (sadly a reproduction; the unique is within the Louvre in Paris).

A dahabiya, traditional sailing boat, on the Nile
Head out on a dahabiya for the final word Nile cruise expertise © Shehab Khaled / Shutterstock

6. In the event you like cruising on the Nile, strive occurring a dahabiya

With as much as 5 flooring, a number of eating places and bars, a top-deck pool, and typically a gymnasium and spa, it’s no shock that Nile cruisers are referred to as “floating resorts.”

However these hulking vessels aren’t the one approach to get out on the river, and for a extra intimate expertise, join a dahabiya cruise with an clothes shop like Nour El Nil

Dahabiyas are boats designed in a conventional model, fabricated from wooden and set in movement by unfurling elegant double lateen sails as an alternative of switching on an engine. 

Due to their smaller measurement and their smaller passenger rely (often not more than 15), dahabiyas can cease at historical websites that bigger vessels bypass, such because the Temple of Khnum at Esna and the off-the-beaten-track painted tombs at El Kab, in addition to provide you with a extra private expertise of the Nile, from scheduled swimming stops to assembly residents of rural villages.

7. In the event you like Abu Simbel, strive a cruise on Lake Nasser

Many guests to Egypt say that the Great Temple at Abu Simbel, fronted by gigantic statues of the seated pharaoh, is their favourite, due to its over-the-top structure (a signature of Ramses II), its serene lakeside location and unimaginable story of rescue from the rising waters attributable to the development of the Aswan High Dam.

The results of the dam was Lake Nasser, one of many largest synthetic our bodies of water on this planet. Only a few corporations function cruises on the lake, which ship you to little-seen monuments, most of that are in any other case unvisitable, in addition to permitting you to bask within the glory of Abu Simbel lengthy in any case the opposite guests have needed to begin the journey again to Aswan.

8. In the event you like crusing on the Nile at sundown, strive an in a single day felucca

Going crusing at sundown on a felucca, a small conventional sailboat, is a pleasant approach to see out the day in Nile-side cities akin to Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, and if you wish to have much more up-close experiences on the legendary river, you may go on a one-night or multi-night felucca journey. 

It’s an journey akin to tenting, with fundamental meals cooked on board. You sleep beneath blankets behind the boat, and the space that you just journey is completely wind-dependent. It’s one of the vital stunning types of sluggish journey, reminiscent of a long-gone period. 

Journeys like this are finest organized via a good firm, akin to Aswan Individual, which makes use of dependable and skilled Nubian captains.

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