The best places to visit in Egypt
Visiting Egypt is an incredible experience. Reminders of the country’s ancient civilisation are everywhere, from the mighty pyramids at Giza to the sandstone tombs at Luxor to the island temples at Aswan. But working out which sights to visit, and in which order, can be mind-boggling.
In this guide to the best places to visit in Egypt, we’ve highlighted some of the key monuments that you’ll want to include on your itinerary (if you’d prefer to have everything sorted for you, an escorted tour is ideal – ours include everything from entry tickets to expert Egyptologist guides).
We've focused on three areas - Cairo, Luxor and Aswan - where you'll find the biggest concentration of sights. There's also a short section at the end on the best time to visit Egypt - definitely worth considering before you book your trip. Read on for the Titan guide to Egypt’s big hitters…
What to see in & around Cairo
Cairo might be on the crowded and chaotic side, but it’s an ideal place to start off your visit to Egypt. It’s here that you’ll find the only remaining Wonders of the Ancient World – the awe-inspiring Pyramids – as well as a museum that’s packed with all manner of artefacts from thousands of years ago. The perfect introduction to ancient Egypt.
Ancient wonders are likely to be the focus of your holiday, so why not get a greater understanding of the civilisation that built them at the Egyptian Museum? Exhibits here range from beautiful masks and jewellery to expertly carved statues, all offering an insight into the customs and traditions of ancient Egypt. The museum’s highlight is Tutankhamun’s room, where you’ll find the items Howard Carter found when he uncovered the tomb back in the ‘20s – the gleaming gold mask is particularly impressive.
Pyramids at Giza
Just a short drive from downtown Cairo are the mighty Pyramids at Giza. These phenomenal structures were built more than 4,000 years ago – a truly remarkable thought when you see the skill and precision that went into constructing them. A guide is essential to fully appreciate these wonders of the ancient world. A specialist in Egyptology can explain the theories and mysteries that surround the ‘Great Pyramid’ of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Khephren.
Sitting on the Giza plateau not far from the pyramids is the Great Sphinx. Carved from a single piece of limestone, it’s one of the largest sculptures in the world, at 240 feet long and 66 feet tall. There are a number of stories surrounding the Sphinx, its purpose and who it represents – its origins continue to baffle archaeologists to this day. As with the pyramids, an expert guide is vital to allow you to understand more about this incredible structure.
Places to visit in Luxor
Some 500 kilometres south of Cairo is Luxor, the site of the ancient city of Thebes. Described by Lonely Planet as an ‘open-air museum’, this area is a treasure trove of tombs, temples and monuments – it’s one of the most fascinating places to visit in Egypt. It sits on the banks of the River Nile (and is the starting point for most Nile cruises), with a beautiful promenade that takes you along the water’s edge right into the heart of the city.
The West Bank
On the West Bank of Luxor is the Valley of the Kings, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. For centuries, royals and pharaohs (including Tutankhamun) were buried here, and there are more than 60 tombs and mausoleums cut into the rock (though only a handful are open to the public). Some are small and simple, while others are labyrinths decorated with incredible hieroglyphics.
Also on the West Bank is the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful rulers. Spread across three terraces, it features beautifully symmetrical columns – it’s one of Luxor’s most interesting architectural gems. The various parts of the temple tells the story of Hatshepsut’s ‘divine’ creation, and of her expedition to the Land of Punt, from which she brought riches and treasures back to Egypt.
The Colossi of Memnon is another must-see on your visit to Egypt. They’re likely to be the first things you see when you arrive on the West Bank – two great seated statues, each carved from a single block of rock. Ask your guide to tell you the intriguing story of their ‘song’…
The East Bank
The city of Luxor itself sits on the East Bank of the Nile, but this is also where you’ll find two of our favourite places to visit in Egypt: Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.
Karnak is a breathtaking complex that sprawls across more than 100 hectares. Here, you’ll find immense pylons and obelisks, serene lakes and sanctuaries, honey-stone temples and hieroglyphic-covered walls. At the Hypostyle Hall, 134 huge columns (with diameters of more than 3 metres) stand in perfectly geometric rows – it’s quite a sight to behold. Luxor Temple is slightly smaller, but equally impressive. Visit after dark for added atmosphere, as the high walls, ancient reliefs and giant statues are dramatically illuminated.
Linking the two temple complexes is the 3km-long Avenue of Sphinxes, lined with sphinxes and ram-headed statues. Constructed more than 3,000 years ago, archaeologists spent decades excavating it, and it was finally opened to the public in late 2021.
Aswan is usually the southernmost stop on Nile river cruises. A lovely, laid-back city, it was once an important gateway town for ancient Egyptians travelling to and from Nubia. Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile at the Old Cataract Hotel, set on the palm-lined banks of the river. The terrace bar is a fantastic place for a coffee or a glass of wine.
Aswan High Dam
Egypt isn’t just ancient wonders – this huge dam is a staggering feat of modern engineering. Standing at 111 metres high and 3,600 metres long, it holds back the waters of the Nile to create a huge reservoir, Lake Nasser. The electricity generated by the dam is enough to provide power for the entire country.
First built around 280BC, this classical Egyptian temple was carefully transported, stone by stone (some 50,000 of them!) to Agilka island, when its original location was set to be submerged by water following the construction of Aswan High Dam. Dedicated to the goddess Isis, the walls depict a number of mythological scenes, including Isis giving birth to Horus and bringing Osiris back to life. An evening light show brings to life stories of ancient gods and goddesses.
When's the best time to visit Egypt?
Egypt’s summers can get incredibly hot and uncomfortable, with temperatures into the 40s. Spring and autumn are warm (often hot), but breezes on the river make these great times for a Nile cruise (particularly on a traditional dahabiya sailing boat). If you prefer cooler temperatures and don’t mind wrapping up for early mornings and evenings, then opt to visit Egypt in the winter months.
If you’d like to discover the wonders of the ancient world, take a look at our escorted tours to Egypt.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
Laura | About the author
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