Oh Egypt! Full of ancient wonders like the Sphinx, the Pyramids and the Nile. I think Egypt is the original bucket-list destination. Since it’s home to the oldest man-made structure currently in existence on our planet, I doubt anywhere else can even think about arguing this claim! The perfect DIY Egypt Itinerary obviously includes the pyramids, but there’s much, much more!

If one overlooks the fact that Egypt isn’t the most politically stable country in a somewhat unstable region, I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who didn’t want to see the pyramids in Egypt. I mean, what sane person wouldn’t want to stand next to these 5000 year old stone structures that nobody knows how, or really even when, exactly they were built?

My fascination with Egypt started before I even knew what wanderlust was. And I was pretty young when I developed an incurable case of wanderlust! I don’t even remember learning about the pyramids. In my mind I’ve always known about them. Even the girl’s early-reading books include pyramids, pharaohs and mummies. These are the things every kid’s dreams (or nightmares…mummies…ahhh!!) are made of.

Egypt was one of the stops during our family gap year that I was most excited about. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the Middle East we were 8 months into our year-long trip and I was getting seriously travel-tired. Even the incredible views of the Treasury at Petra weren’t enough to completely shake me out of my travel funk.

The pyramids though?
They did it!
Thank goodness!

Had I stood beside the pyramids and not felt a jolt of amazingness wash over me, I was prepared to pack my bags, head home, and not travel again (at least for a month or two!).

Although the pyramids are the major draw in Egypt, there’s a whole big country, beyond Cairo, to explore. Try to think bigger than just the pyramids, if that’s even possible!

You can easily mix and match this itinerary, and you can definitely do it on your own. It’s possible to travel independently in Egypt, and if you have even a little bit of travel experience, you don’t need to be apprehensive!

What You Need To Know Before Traveling In Egypt

(or you can just skip to the start of the itinerary!)

Is It Safe To Travel In Egypt?

I can really only give personal experience, but we always felt safe in Egypt. Of course, there were the pesky hawkers and salesmen trying to sell anything and everything, but they were always harmless. In general we found the people friendly and welcoming, and had no concerns at all about our safety.

If you’re interested in reading about it further, you’ll want to read this post about safety in Egypt. It pretty much sums up my feelings exactly! It talks about bringing kids, and I figure if it’s safe to take kids to Egypt, it’s safe for anyone to travel to Egypt!

Money In Egypt

Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound, abbreviated LE (left over from French colonization), which is divided into 100 piastres. There are coins and bank notes, with the bank notes being FAR more common. Coins are found in 25p, 50p and 1LE, all of which are also available in bank notes. Bank notes are further available in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200LE denominations. We never had an issue changing larger notes as vendors were always able to find us change (unlike our experience in Burkina Faso), although if you’re wanting to bargain hard in the market you’ll want to have correct change!

Credit cards are becoming increasingly more widely accepted, but this is still mainly restricted to higher end accommodation, stores and restaurants. During the entire 10 days we were in Egypt, I only used my credit card to pay for a few hotel rooms, and for food and SIM cards at the airport. Cash is definitely still king, especially if you’re a budget or mid-range traveler.

*expert tip – many accommodation prices are listed in USD and the exchange rate is slightly better if you pay with the currency in which the rate is posted. Make sure you have either USD or Euros on hand, ideally enough to cover all of your anticipated accommodation costs.

ATM’s are widely available, especially in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor. Cirrus and Plus were the most commonly accepted cards, which should work for everyone from the Western Hemisphere. Many of the bank machines have a 4-digit pin limit (although this is slowly changing). If you have a 5- or 6- digit pin you may want to change it to a 4-digit pin before leaving home so you’re not limited to the ATM’s you can use.

Many of the ATMs have a per-transaction limit of 1000LE or 2000LE. This can get annoying, and costly, especially if your bank is charging a $5 fee per transaction (darn Plus fees!). Try to find the ATM with the highest limit, and always take out the max if possible.

Although we found Egypt safe, it might be worth carrying around an anti-theft bag for your money and valuables. These are one of my favourite things because I don’t have to worry about my things in a crowded area. I also think it makes me look more confident which may deter thieves more (hopefully!).

Cell Phone/SIM Cards In Egypt

SIM cards are cheap and easy to find in Egypt. It’s cheapest to buy them in town, but it’s easiest to just pick one up at the airport. I went with Vodafone, and the coverage was great everywhere listed in this itinerary! I paid 134 LE ($22 CAD) for a SIM card and 6GB of data. All our accommodations had wifi, so the 6GB of data was more than enough.

The other option is a Skyroam. If you travel a lot or are visiting multiple countries, this is a great option. It’s a global wifi hotspot that works in 130+ countries. The device is $149 US, then $9/mo for 1GB of data (with additional 1GB available for purchase as needed for $9/GB). It’s obviously more expensive than paying for a local SIM, but if you’re only in Egypt for 5 days this might be more cost effective and easier in the long run!

Drinking Water In Egypt

The tap water in Egypt isn’t safe to drink, so you’ll need to ensure you’re always drinking filtered or bottled water. Bottled water is readily available, and many of our accommodations had either bottled water or filtered water that was easily accessible. We try to say NO to plastic whenever we can, so rather than purchasing a gazillion plastic water bottles, we brought along our incredible Grayl water filter system.

If you want to do a bit of research and reading on your own, read about all the best filter water bottles for travel. It also includes our favourite insulated water bottles, which you’ll definitely want because it’s HOT in Egypt and your drinking water will get nice and warm quickly!

Travel Insurance

I tend to dislike insurance in general, however I never go anywhere without proper travel insurance. The risk is just too great and I’ve heard too many horror stories of people injured abroad without travel insurance. During our family gap year we used WorldNomads. The pricing was reasonable (for Canadians) and although I never had to use it, I’ve heard great reports from other travelers who have. The other insurance company that may offer better pricing for Americans is Allianz. We didn’t use this personally, but our friends are currently insured with Allianz and have had nothing but great things to say!

You might also be interested in these other posts from Egypt:

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the ITINERARY!!!

The Perfect DIY Egypt Vacation Overview

5 Day Egypt Itinerary

Let’s start with a 5 day Egypt Itinerary. With 5 days in Egypt you can visit Cairo and Luxor, knocking off the major attractions and filling your mind with incredible ancient Egyptian wonders. Most international flights come in and out of Cairo, so I suggest starting your Egypt 5 day itinerary in the capital city.

Day 1 – 2: Cairo
  • Visit the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and Khan El-Khalili market.
  • Stay in Giza so you can see the pyramids illuminated at night, or drink your morning coffee/tea overlooking the mighty pyramids.
Day 3 – 5: Luxor
  • Explore Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple and the Luxor Museum. Take a hot air balloon ride over the wonders of Ancient Egypt.
  • Stay on the West Bank of the Nile to get away from the tourist crowds but remain close enough to the sites.

7 Day Egypt Itinerary

If you have a week in Egypt, I’d suggest adding Aswan to your 7 day Egypt Itinerary. This will give you the ability to get off the beaten path and see a few sights that are less commonly visited by tourists. During your Egypt 7 Day Itinerary I recommend you start with 2 days in Cairo, head to Aswan for 2 days, and then end with 3 days in Luxor.

Day 1 – 2: Cairo
  • As with the 5 day itinerary, you’ll see the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and Khan El-Khalili market.
  • Stay in Giza so you can see the pyramids illuminated at night, or drink your morning coffee/tea overlooking the mighty pyramids.
Day 3 – 4: Aswan
  • Explore the lesser-visited Philae and Kalabsha Temples and take a day trip to Abu Simbel.
  • Stay in a Nubian guest house on the West Bank and take a ferry across the Nile with the locals.
Day 5 – 7: Luxor
  • Similar to the 5 day itinerary, spend your time in Luxor exploring Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple and the Luxor Museum. Take a hot air balloon ride over the wonders of Ancient Egypt.
  • Stay on the West Bank of the Nile to get away from the tourist crowds but remain close enough to the sites.

10 Day Egypt Itinerary

If you have 10 days in Egypt, leisurely making your way from Aswan to Luxor on a Nile cruise or a Felucca. This will allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Nile during your 10 day Egypt Itinerary, and see a bit of everyday life along the river banks. During your Egypt 10 Day Itinerary start with 2 days in Cairo, head South to Aswan for 2 days, spend 3 days on your Nile cruise, and end with 3 days in Luxor.

Day 1 – 2: Cairo
  • See the main sites of the city; the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and Khan El-Khalili market.
  • Stay in Giza so you can see the pyramids illuminated at night, or drink your morning coffee/tea overlooking the mighty pyramids.
Day 3 – 4: Aswan
  • Explore the lesser-visited Philae and Kalabsha Temples and take a day trip to Abu Simbel.
  • Stay in a Nubian guest house on the West Bank and take a ferry across the Nile with the locals.
Day 5 – 7: Nile Cruise
  • Whether you choose to ride in a basic felucca or aboard a luxury cruise ship, a journey down the Nile is sure to be the highlight of your time in Egypt.
Day 8 – 10: Luxor
  • Similar to the 5 day itinerary, spend your time in Luxor exploring Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple and the Luxor Museum. Take a hot air balloon ride over the wonders of Ancient Egypt.
  • Stay on the West Bank of the Nile to get away from the tourist crowds but remain close enough to the sites.

Just a big ‘ole synchronously timed group jump in front of the pyramids! There IS more to Egypt than the pyramids, but they’re still pretty darn cool!

2 Days In Cairo

Cairo is the ideal starting point for any Egypt itinerary because it’s the most likely place you’ll fly into. Now, just because I’m limiting Cairo to 2 days (because it’s a noisy, busy, dirty city that wasn’t my favourite!) doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself too! There’s a lot to do in Cairo, but 2 days is enough to hit the highlights and get the heck out (in my opinion)!

The obvious highlight in Cairo is the Great Pyramids of Giza. Now, I could write a whole post about visiting the pyramids (which I did, and you can find it here!!), but for the sake of this post, here’s the highlights!

How To Get To Cairo

Egypt is surrounded by a number of countries that are not the safest for travellers, so the chances of you crossing an overland border are pretty low. Instead, most people will arrive into Egypt on an airplane via the Cairo airport. The airport is easily connected to town via taxis, buses and Uber (yes, Uber is very active in Cairo!). If you pre-booked accommodation there’s also a good chance they’ll offer to pick you up (for a fee). This is usually what I do because it eliminates the hassle of dealing with taxis or waiting for an Uber after a potentially long flight.

If Cairo is your entry point into Egypt, make sure to get your stamp ($25 USD) from one of the kiosks before the immigration counter, then pack your patience while you stand in line to go through customs. Be prepared to stand your ground, puff up your chest and stick out your elbows. There was a bit of attempted cutting in line that needed to be managed, consider yourself warned!

The Best Things To Do In Cairo In 2 Days

Visit The Pyramids

It would be such a shame to visit Cairo and not at least SEE the pyramids, but you’d be remiss to not spend at least half a day exploring these ancient wonders. In my opinion though, it’s worth setting aside an entire day for the Pyramids. You’ve come all the way to Egypt for this and you want to be able to take your time and enjoy it.

*expert tip – it gets HOT in Cairo, so consider starting your day as early as possible to avoid both the crowds and mid-day heat.

The pyramid complex includes the 3 pyramids, the Sphinx, Khufu’s boat and a few smaller Queen’s pyramids. It’s worth wandering around all of the above, but take your time to linger at the smaller two as they’re not as busy as the “Great Pyramid”.

If you aren’t claustrophobic, I suggest going inside at least one of the pyramids. They’re same but different, although I think you’re okay to only go inside one. My personal favourite was the smallest (Menkaure) because it was the least busy and still had some interesting detail on the walls. You can also opt to go on a camel ride around the pyramids (I suggest doing this from Menkaure’s pyramid as well) for the quintessential camel at the pyramids pic!

It’s possible to walk between the three pyramids, but you also have the option of hiring a camel, horse & carriage, or booking a van and driver for the day. You can also join a day-tour and you get your transportation and guide all in one!

If you didn’t get your fill of the pyramids during the day head to the Light and Sound show in the evening. Alternatively, if you’re staying in Giza (which I recommend), you might be able to watch from the roof of your accommodation. Grab some take-out, make yourself comfy and enjoy the multicoloured pyramids from a distance without having to deal with the crowds!

Hours: 8am-4pm (Great pyramid closed 12-1pm)
Cost: 120LE ($9 CAD) adult/60LE ($4.50CAD) students
– Area, Great Pyramid & Khufu Boat 400LE ($30 CAD) adult/200LE ($15CAD) student
– Add-on Khafre (Medium) Pyramid: 60LE ($4.60 CAD) adult/30LE ($2.30 CAD) student
– Add-on Menkaure (Small) Pyramid: 60LE ($4.60 CAD) adult/30LE ($2.30 CAD) student

Explore The Egyptian Museum

While the biggest draw in Cairo is definitely the Pyramids, there’s a lot more to this city! When we visited, we made the silly mistake of rushing in and out of Cairo and spending more time in Luxor. While Luxor is fantastic, I wish we would’ve spent a second day exploring Cairo. We saw Tutankhamun’s tomb and sarcophagus in Luxor, but the incredible treasures he was buried with almost all live in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

If you’re staying in Giza by the pyramids, you’ll be about an hour drive from the museum…a great reason to start your second day early! You could likely spend days exploring the museum but if you only have 2 days in Cairo you’ll have to get by with a morning at the museum. This is enough time to ensure you hit the highlights and feel like you’ve seen enough to be satisfied. The only must-do here is visiting the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb. Just ensure they’re in house during your visit as they occasionally go on tour! There’s plenty more besides the Boy-King’s treasures, but they’re definitely the highlight.

*expert tip – You’ll get a lot more out of your experience visiting the museum with a guide!

Get Lost In Khan El-Khalili 

After a morning at the museum, grab an Uber for the 15min drive to the main souk in Cairo, Khal El-Khalili. You’ll find plenty of options for food (street-food included!) to fill your belly before wandering into the craziness of the Souk.

If you’re never visited a Souk in the Middle East, brace yourself! The vendors can be aggressive, and haggling is definitely required, but this is all part of the experience. There’s an incredible selection of everything from hand-made artisan items, to knock-off tourist souvenirs and antiques. It’s a great place to pick up some souvenirs for home, just make sure you’re picky with what you buy and where you buy from, and make sure to haggle hard! The Souk is massive, so ensure you give yourself a few hours to get lost within the streets and alleyways.

*expert tip – download an offline google map of Cairo so you can easily get lost in the Souk and still find our way out when you’re ready. To download the offline google map: pull up the map of Cairo on your phone. Type “ok maps” in the search bar, and press “search”. Zoom in or out depending on how large of an area you’d like to download, and click “download”. Once completed it will be available for you offline whenever you need it!

Know Before You Go To Cairo

Where To Stay In Cairo

In Cairo we stayed at a fantastic AirBnB with a roof-top view of the pyramids, and I highly recommend it. It was a comfortable 3-bedroom apartment with a fantastically friendly and helpful owner, Walid. Walid and his brother picked us up from the airport and were also our tour guides for the day at the Pyramids. He haggled for souvenirs for the girls and paid a fraction of the initial asking price. He told us that he wants his guests to enjoy Egypt, not feel taken advantage of, want to return and tell their friends to visit.

Find the latest pricing for our great apartment on AirBnB.

Or search other Cairo Hotels:

Where To Eat Near The Pyramids

Koshary Hekaya
There are lots of choices for food near the Pyramids, but this cute little restaurant offers traditional Egyptian food (I highly recommend the Koshary) in a very local setting, at a great price. You’ll feel miles away from the tourist hoardes of the Pyramids!
Cost: around 35LE ($2.70 CAD) for a medium bowl of Koshary.

How To Get Around Cairo

Uber is the easiest way to get around Cairo. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. You’ll want to make sure you have an Egyptian SIM (which you can easily pick up at the airport when you arrive) to track your trip. Beware though, the drivers in Cairo are fast and a bit scary. During our Uber ride to the airport I watched the “estimated time of arrival” constantly decrease because we were driving quite fast on the highway. Remember that you do have the option to tell your driver to slow down if you feel uncomfortable!
Cost: Uber from Giza to the Cairo airport – approximately 100LE ($7.70 CAD)

If you only have 5 days in Egypt, jump to Luxor. You’ll have to save Aswan and the Nile for another trip!

2 Days In Aswan

After your two incredible days in Cairo exploring the Pyramids and the Cairo museum, fly South to Aswan. Aswan was the gateway city to Ancient Egypt and also important because of the surrounding stone quarries. Many of the stones used in pyramid and temple construction came from the area around Aswan then were shipped up the Nile.

*expert tip – the temples and ruins in Aswan are incredible, but aren’t as colourful or well preserved as the Valley of the Kings. I recommend exploring Aswan BEFORE Luxor to ensure you’re properly amazed by everything you see. My fear is that by visiting Luxor first, Aswan won’t be as impressive as it could be.

The 2 days in Aswan is actually one day in Aswan and one day in Abu Simbel. Obviously you could spend a LOT more than a day in Aswan, but if you hustle this is all you’ll need.

How To Get From Cairo To Aswan

“Luxury” Sleeper Train – The overnight train from Cairo to Aswan takes 12 hours and has only 1 stop in Luxor (9 hours into the trip). This allows for a decent night’s sleep although you won’t see any of the countryside out the window! If you want to avoid flying, or combine accommodation with transportation to save a bit of money, this is a great way to travel across the country.
Cost: Sleeper cabin – $100 US/adult in a double cabin, including dinner and breakfast. $90 US/child 4-9yo. Kids 3 and under are free.
Reclining Seat – $40US per seat, also includes dinner and breakfast.

Flight – Egypt Air offers 3 non-stop flights from Cairo to Aswan each day, taking 1hr25min. The flight costs $100-150 CAD (one way) depending on which flight you take and how far in advance you book. Both airports are easy to navigate and it saves a lot of time compared to the 12 hour train journey!
Cost: $100-150 CAD one-way

Bus – Taking the bus is the cheapest way to get from Cairo to Aswan although it’s also the longest and the least predictable. We didn’t travel on the bus, and don’t know anyone who’s done this, but I do know it’s a possibility. If you choose to take the bus, do your research first! When I was looking into it I found Alternative Egypt to be very helpful.
Cost: approximately 47LE ($3.60 CAD)

The Best Things To Do In Aswan In 2 Days

Philae Temple

Philae Temple is a great introduction to Egyptian temples and is a must-do for any Aswan itinerary. It’s boat-access only meaning you have to put in a bit of effort to visit, but it’s worth it! The temple was originally located on Philae Island, said to be the resting place of Osiris.

When the Aswan High Dam was built in 1960, the temple was partially submerged under water for a portion of the year. With each passing year the flood levels rose during the rainy season submerging more and more of the temple, until Unesco decided to step in and move it. Sadly, some of the colourful facades were washed away during the flood years, prior to it being moved. It’s such a shame. Luckily it was rescued and moved to it’s current location, and many of the incredible hieroglyphics remain.

In order to visit Philae Temple you have to get a water taxi from the Marina Philae Temple. If you’re traveling on your own prepare yourself to haggle hard because you have to pay for your temple ticket BEFORE finding a boat taxi. You’re basically at the mercy of the boat captains as they know they have you between a rock and a hard place. One way to avoid this is to book a tour for the day and have your guide haggle over the price of the boat ride!

Hours: Oct-May 7am-4pm, June-Sept 7am-5pm

Cost: 60LE ($4.60 CAD) for a full day, if you visit at night this will include the light show. Expect to pay 40LE ($3 CAD)  per person for the return boat trip.

*expert tip – All our activities in Aswan were coordinated by Waleed at Aswan Individual. He picked us up from the airport, arranged our day touring Philae Temple, the Aswan Dam & Kalabsha, organized our day-trip to Abu Simbel AND coordinated a Felucca from Aswan to Luxor. He went over and above for us, and his service was prompt, professional. I highly recommend him to anyone visiting Aswan (or Egypt). (None of our activities were sponsored, we paid full price for everything. In fact, Waleed didn’t even know I have a travel blog. We just received such amazing service that I have to pass it along!) 

Aswan High Dam

The Aswan High Dam was built between 1960 and 1970 to help Egypt better control and harness the power of the Nile. It’s an impressive 4000m (13,000ft) long and 980m (3220ft) wide at the base. It’s possible to take a tour of the Dam, however I think you need to be really interested in dams to make it worthwhile. Instead, stop for a few minutes and look out over both sides of the dam. My favourite view was out towards Lake Nassar!

The dam has had a number of effects, both positive and negative, on the economy and environment of Egypt. The girl’s favourite effect was about the now almost non-existent presence of Nile crocodiles downstream (North) of the dam. Only small crocodiles are able to make it through the dam’s turbines, while the larger ones get chewed up and killed. These smaller crocodiles are caught before they become large enough to cause a problem. This simple fact made it much easier for everyone to enjoy swimming in the Nile!

Cost: 30LE ($2.30 CAD) for a foreigner to cross the dam (kids 5 & under free).

Kalabsha Temple

Kalabsha was my favourite temple in all of Egypt. This isn’t necessary anything to do with the temple itself, more the isolation and lack of tourists. It’s located on a small island just south of the Aswan High Dam, and you have to pay one of the fishermen at the dock to take you over and back again. When we visited we were the ONLY people on the island, and the ticket man came back on the boat with us because he didn’t think he’d have another opportunity that day!

The temple is smaller than the main temple at Philae, but every bit as impressive. You can wander unobstructed by others in the courtyard, then slowly made our way through the rooms, “reading” the hieroglyphics and admiring the intricate details. The lack of other tourists decreases the need to rush through it as there’s no one before you to keep up with, and no one behind you to stall.

Once you’re done in Kalabsha, make your way up the path to the right to Beit El-Wali, built by Ramses II between 1279 and 1213BC. It’s a small temple, with one outer room and one inner room, and was buried under the sand for millennium, preserving the colour on the wall. This is really the first time you’ll see colourful drawings in Egypt (there are more in Luxor), and the fact that they’ve been on these walls for thousands of years just blew my mind!

Hours: I couldn’t find any posted hours, however when we left at 3:30pm the guard came with us, so I wouldn’t show up much later than early afternoon!

Cost: 40LE ($3 CAD) (kids 5 & under free). If you’re traveling independently you’ll also have to negotiate one of the fishermen to bring you to & from the temple in his boat. Expect the boat to cost 100-150LE ($7.70-11.50 CAD) round trip with waiting.

A Day Trip To Abu Simbel

The twin temples at Abu Simbel take the most effort to visit of any famous structure in Egypt, but it’s well worth it. Built by Ramses II for himself and his wife Nefartari, these two giant temples were cut from the mountainside and moved out of harm’s way when the building of the Aswan High Dam threatened their existence. Not only are the temples beautiful, but they’re an engineering marvel!

Getting to Abu Simbel from Aswan

Plane – Egypt Air flies from Aswan to Abu Simbel up to 4 times a day however at the time of writing the last flight returned at 1:10pm meaning you have to catch the first flight out of Aswan in order to have enough time to visit the temples. This can get quite expensive, and honestly doesn’t end up saving much time versus just renting a private van.
Cost: Between $200-300CAD round trip

Minibus – This is the cheapest way to get to the temples, but also the most restrictive. It’s easiest to have your guesthouse book you a seat on the bus, and it will likely pick you up and drop you off at the end of the trip. These tend to leave very early (4:30am is what I was told) and give you around 2hrs at the temples. I’ve heard these can drive quite fast making passengers often feel uncomfortable.
Cost: $15-20US per person round trip.

Private Van – We chose this route, but there were also 7 of us traveling together so it was an easy option, and the cheapest. We were able to leave a bit later (we chose to leave at 5:30am) and could spend as much time at the temples as we wanted. The van also drove a bit slower than the minibus so we felt safer as well.
Cost: $120US round trip with hotel pick up and drop off.

Book a Day Tour – This is the easiest option and will often include a guided tour at the Temples. Similar to the minibus you can book with your guesthouse, or you can book in advance if you don’t want to have to worry about it once you get there!

Visiting Abu Simbel

The twin temples at Abu Simbel were built by Ramses II, and were completed around 1244BC. The main temple is dedicated to Ramses himself, whereas the second temple is dedicated to his queen, Nefertari. It was only the second temple in Egyptian history to be built for a queen!

Construction of the Aswan High Dam threatened the existence of these temples, and in 1968 they were moved by UNESCO to higher ground to avoid destruction. You’ll start your visit here by learning about the colossal process of moving these temples, and exactly how it was done. It was quite an engineering feat!

The first temple you’ll encounter is the Great Temple, that of Ramses II. If it’s not too busy, start here! There are 4 gigantic statues of Ramses guarding the entrance, three of which are in good condition. The walk-way up to the temple is the quintessential photo-op from Abu Simbel, and rightfully so! It’s incredibly impressive, and gives an idea of how powerful Ramses II must have been during his reign.

The second temple, that of Nefertari, is smaller but no less impressive. The doors of this temple are flanked by 6 statues, 2 of Ramses II and 4 of Nefertari. Inside, it’s very similar to the Great Temple, other than the images centre around Nefertari and the goddess Hathor.

If you choose to spend the night in Abu Simbel and avoid the day trippers, consider heading back for the Light Show. This offers a great opportunity to see the temples at sunset (although I imagine they’d be nicer at sunrise). There’s commentary provided during the show, but it may or may not be in English during your visit!

As Abu Simbel is so far from Aswan, it tends to get quite busy in the morning between 8-11am. I was also told that it can be busy right when it opens, at 5am, because that’s when the cruise ship passengers usually arrive! The best time to visit is between 7-8am (after the cruise ship passengers leave and before the day-trippers arrive), or after 11am once most of the day trippers have left.

Hours: 5am – 6pm, light show at 6pm in the winter and 7pm in the summer

Cost: 215 LE ($16.80 CAD) per adult, half price for kids and students. The light show is 250 LE ($19.60 CAD) for adults, also half price for kids and students.

Know Before You Go To Aswan

Where To Stay In Aswan

We stayed at Bet El Kerem Guesthouse on the West Bank of the Nile. There are family rooms available as well as cheap double rooms with a shared bathroom. Our stay included a delicious, homemade, filling breakfast on the lovely roof-top terrace overlooking the Nile and the Temple of the Nobles. There was always fruit and drinks available on the terrace and their incredible chef could prepare other meals for a nominal fee. We were even able to have laundry done! As it’s located on the West Bank, we had to take the small ferry across the Nile to get to the main sites of Aswan, but this was also part of the charm. The only thing that annoyed me was the hyper-inflated tourist fee for the ferry. We paid 10LE ($0.75CAD) each person one way, with the kids being free. The locals, however, only paid 1-2LE so I felt a bit ripped off! The hotel was a very short walk from the ferry stop though, making it very easily accessible.

Find the latest pricing for Bet El Kerem Guesthouse.

Or find other great hotel options in Aswan:


How To Get Around Aswan

As with the rest of Egypt, taxi is the easiest way to get around. When we visited, Uber wasn’t yet available in Aswan. It’s a relatively small city, so the center of town is easily accessible by walking. Many of the main sites (Philae Temple, Aswan High Dam) are a few km out of town, so it makes more sense to hire a taxi or book a day tour.

If you only have 7 days in Egypt, jump to Luxor. You’ll have to save the Nile cruise for another visit!

3 Day Nile Cruise

There are 2 options for sightseeing along the Nile, a luxury cruise or a basic felucca. Which one you choose depends on your travel style, and the presence of wind (hear me out!).

We tend to be pretty adventurous travellers, so opted for the felucca as it seemed like the more budget-friendly, most adventurous option. The unaccounted for hiccup to our decision was the absence of wind. And when I say absence, I mean there was absolutely NO wind whatsoever. Not even the slightest breeze. We spent 2 days spinning in circles down the Nile barely making our way past Aswan (you can read more about our disastrous felucca trip here!). In hindsight, the cruise would’ve been a better option as we would’ve at least made it from Aswan to Luxor on the Nile. However, this wasn’t to be the case for us. Hopefully we’ll save you from the same mistake!

Since we didn’t actually go on a Nile Cruise, I asked Keri for an overview of their cruise. These go both directions (from Aswan to Luxor and vice-versa), so although they cruised from Luxor to Aswan, the experience would be the same from Aswan to Luxor just in reverse! Many of the cruises are described as 5day/4night, however these include days exploring Luxor and Aswan. If you’re wanting to do some of that exploration on your own, you can opt for a 3 day/2night cruise (or anything in between!

Find your best Nile Cruise option!

What To Expect On A Nile Cruise

A Nile Cruise is the perfect way to cover a great deal of distance in Egypt with the luxury and comfort of your own air conditioned room to retreat to.  We took a 5-star service from Luxor to Aswan which although described as 5 day / 4 night, you actually only “cruise” for about 1.5 days. You are based on the boat as somewhere to sleep and take meals, but make many day excursions, normally in small organised tour groups.

Our first night saw us docked in Luxor which gave us a full day to explore Karnak and Luxor Temples, and a morning to explore Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple. The second afternoon you then cruise south after lunch and through the lock at Esna, waking docked at Edfu.

An early morning start day 3 sees you transfer to horse and cart in order to explore Edfu Temple, before continuing to chug along in convoy down the Nile.  There’s a brief stop at Temple of Kom Ombo before you arrive overnight in Aswan.  In Aswan, groups aboard the boat all split up with some departing Day 4, while others will wake early for a flight or bus to Abu Simbel. We chose to explore around Aswan itself, the High Dam and Philae Temple, as well as taking a Feluca around Elephantine Island before spending a final night on board.

If you wanted longer to explore in Aswan or Luxor, you could transfer to a hotel to extent your trip. Transfer back to Cairo is then by flight or train.

It’s important to note if taking the Nile Cruise option how often you are actually docked, and when docked, the boats tend to be parked 4 to 5 deep meaning the only view you are getting from your room is in to the cabins of neighbouring ships. That said, we loved the convenience of only having to unpack once and not needing to plan meals. The international buffet on board was varied enough to suit most of our fussy eaters!

We had 2 cabins on either side of the ship so got to take advantage of both views (but top tip, West facing cabins by far had the better views!).  The hours that we were actually cruising, relaxing aboard the roofs sun deck and watching the sunset with the call to prayer filing the Nile Valley were one of our top highlights from Egypt.

You can learn more about Nile Cruising on Keri’s blog Our Globetrotters: https://www.ourglobetrotters.com/egypt-nile-cruise/

3 Days in Luxor

Luxor was once the ancient city of Thebes, and the city of the God Amun. It was the capital of Upper Egypt for many dynasties until political control was eventually moved to Alexandria. Due to the presence of Karnak Temple, the city remained the spiritual epicenter of Ancient Egypt until it’s collapse into the Roman Empire. Luxor is often described as an open-air museum because there’s a staggering amount of ancient artifacts and temples scattered throughout the area. I love the juxtaposition of the old and the new, coexisting in (relative) harmony.

How To Get From Cairo To Luxor

There are lots of options for getting from Cairo to Luxor; everything from a flight, boat, train and bus. If you’re short on time, I suggest you fly!

Airplane – The flight from Cairo to Luxor is only about an hour, and it’s easy. EgyptAir is safe and reliable, and both airports are modern and clean. If you book a few months in advance, flights are often under $100CAD a person, essentially the same price as the night train but much faster and more convenient.

Cost: Around $100 CAD one way if booked well in advance.

Train – The train takes 9 hours and there are two options, the day train and the night train. From what I’ve heard, it’s not possible to book the day-train at the station as a tourist, but it is possible to book online. The day train is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than the night train, coming in at around 200LE per seat, and comes with the added benefit of actually being able to SEE the countryside on your journey. The downside is that it uses up a WHOLE day, so if you’re short on time this is not the way to go.

“Luxury” Sleeper Train – The night train is the most popular with tourists, although in my opinion 9 hours isn’t quite long enough to get a proper sleep on the train (assuming it’s even possible to get a proper sleep on a train!). We didn’t take the train, but my mother-in-law describes her Cairo to Luxor train experience as feeling like she was always going to roll off the bunk as the train was swaying so much. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as the sleeping train we rode in Uzbekistan, but I’m sure it was worse than sleeping in a stationary bed! The upside is that you get to combine accommodation and transportation, the downside is that you probably won’t get a great sleep and will arrive in Luxor a bit tired.

How To Get From Aswan To Luxor

Airplane – Although it’s possible to fly from Aswan to Luxor, there’s no direct flight so you have to transit through Cairo. This makes it as long (or longer) than taking a bus or train, so I don’t recommend it.

Train – There’s no luxury sleeper train option from Aswan to Luxor as the distance is too short, but you can sit in the A/C cabin for a comfortable ride. The journey takes 3-4hours, depending on which train you’ve booked, and stops in Kom Ombo, Edfu and Isna (you technically can’t buy tickets to depart at any of these stations as a tourist).

Cost: 94 LE (A/C first class), 63 LE (A/C second class). Kids (4-9yo) get a 33% discount, kids 3 and under are free.

Taxi/Van – Tourists are not supposed to drive on the road from Aswan to Luxor after 6pm, so if you’re planning to drive you’ll need to ensure you leave early enough to make the 4hr journey before 6pm. That said, we started our journey at 6pm (due to the lack of wind on our felucca trip and desire to NOT spend another night crammed together on the felucca!) and didn’t end up having any issues, however I think we got lucky! If you’re going to take a private car, I’d suggest leaving first thing in the morning and stopping at Edfu and Kom Ombo along the way.

Cost: Around $100USD and up depending on the type of vehicle and how many stops you make.

Nile Cruise or Felucca (see above!!)

The Best Things To Do In Luxor In 3 Days

Luxor Temple

The Luxor Temple dominates the centre of town in Luxor, and really is what gives the city the feeling of being an “open-air museum”. After the demise of the Ancient Egyptian society, the Luxor Temple was slowly buried beneath the sand, and forgotten about while the city built up over top of it. Luckily for us, it’s been rediscovered and excavated.

The giant statue of Ramsees II is quite impressive, as is the single obelisk. If this obelisk looks familiar, it’s because you may have seen it (or one like it) before! The twin lives in Place de la Concord in Paris. It was given as a gift to France by the Egyptian government and arrived in Paris in 1833. It still boggles my mind that people thought it was a good idea to remove large artifacts and transport them around the world! As interesting as it is to see an Egyptian obelisk in Paris…it’s WAY better to see an Egyptian obelisk in Egypt!

The Avenue of the Sphinxes connects Luxor Temple with Karnak Temple. It’s still being excavated and you can see it in various stages of the process. Once you’re done visiting Luxor Temple, take a few minutes to walk up one side of the excavations. You don’t need to see it all, but it’s worth wandering up a block or two.

*expert tip – Many tour groups visit during the afternoon and for sunset, so if you’d like a quieter (not quiet!) visit, plan to come earlier in the day.

Hours: Oct – April 6am – 9 pm, May – Sept 6am – 10pm, Ramadan, 6am – 6:30pm & 8-11pm.

Cost: 35LE ($2.70 CAD) for adults, half price for students under 30.

El Souk

I love a good market, and El Souk in Luxor is definitely a good market! It’s set along a pedestrian-only street in the centre of Luxor, and is full of a wide variety of items. This is a great place to stock up on some last minute souvenirs, or just appreciate the intensity of a Middle-Eastern market. Over the years it’s turned into more of a tourist market than a local market, but it’s still worth a visit. If you’re looking for the local market, most of this has moved to a new location East of the Railway station.

You can access the market from a number of different points along the street, but the easiest entrance is just off the main round-about near McDonalds. The market street (in Google) is Abd El-Hameed Taha, and you’ll find it via the large sign that says “El Souk”.

Hours: Dawn until Dusk

Cost: Free!! If you do want to buy something, make sure you haggle hard as they’re used to over-charging tourists here!

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple was the most important religious site in Ancient Egypt and is the reason Thebes maintained a fair amount of power even after the capital was moved to Alexandria. Karnak is the second largest religious site remaining from the ancient world, the largest being Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Our absolute favourite part of Karnak was the Gret Hypostle Hall, followed by the Obelisks. The twin obelisks were built by Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s female Pharaohs. When built, they were the largest in the world! Only one remains standing today, the other fell over a long time ago.

*expert tip – Karnak is massive, and it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at without a guide. I strongly recommend hiring a guide.

Hours: May – Sept 6am-6pm, Oct – April 6am – 5pm.

Cost: 150LE ($11.50 CAD) for adults, 75LE ($6.75 CAD) for students under age 30, free for kids 5 and under

Luxor Museum

The Luxor Museum is small, and doesn’t compare to the massive Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but it’s still worth stopping by for an hour or two when you’re in Luxor. Because the museum is small, it’s also not very busy! During our visit there were only a handful of others in the museum at the same time, and we often were the only ones in a given room. This gave us the time to explore at our own leisure, and sneak in a couple “forbidden” pictures! (You can pay a camera fee to take photos inside, which I did. However, there are still a few areas where photography is not allowed).

The highlights of the Luxor Museum were the 2 mummies on display, as well as the sarcophagi, coffins and organ vessels. Everything was well signed in English so we always knew what we were looking at! The other great thing about the Luxor Museum is that it’s air conditioned!! After a morning wandering around outside, it was great to duck into the air con for a few hours during the heat of the mid-day.

Hours: Oct – April 9am-3pm & 4pm-9pm, May – Sept 9am-1pm & 5-10pm.

Cost: 140LE ($10.80 CAD) adults, 70LE ($5.40 CAD) students under age 30, free for kids 5 and under, 50LE ($3.85 CAD) camera fee.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

One of the most magical things you can do in Luxor is to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. This is a popular thing to do, and there are numerous balloons taking flight each morning.  One would thing that with all the competition pricing would be reasonable, but it’s not!! There’s enough demand for the supply, so a balloon ride here isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny.

You’ll have to be up early, well before sunrise. The balloon company will pick you up at your accommodation if you’re staying on the West Bank, or from the ferry if you’re staying on the East Bank.  If you’re hotel is on the East Bank, they’ll also organize your transportation from accommodation to and across the river.

As you float above the temples, while the sun slowly peers over the horizon, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a dream world. This truly is an amazing experience, and one you won’t likely forget any time soon.

*expert tip – hot air balloons are NOISY!! If you’re sensitive to noise bring along a pair of earplugs.

Temple of Hatshepsut

This was one of the temples I was most looking forward to, and to be honest I found it a bit underwhelming. However, given it was the first temple built in the “New Kingdom” style, and Hatshepsut was the first female Pharaoh of Egypt, I still think it’s worth visiting.

The view of the entire facade on the walkway up to the Temple is quite impressive, and we also loved the statues of Hatshepsut lining the front of the temple.

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Cost: 140LE ($10.75 CAD) per adult, 40LE ($3 CAD) per child.

Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is vast, and deserves the better part of a day. You really could spend multiple days exploring here, but after awhile I find everything starts to look the same. A full day will give you plenty of time to fit in what’s included in your ticket.

Although the Valley of the Kings contains an incredible 63 tombs, your ticket allows you to visit 3. You can also add-on any of the more famous tombs for an extra fee, these include; Tutankhamun, Ramses V/VI and Seti I. I’d suggest Tutankhamun’s tomb for sure, and the others at your own discretion (available funds and available time!).

As for which of the other tomb to visit, one of our guides suggested that the best are; Ramses IV, Tutmosis III, Horemheb and Seti II.

*expert tip – The morning is the most popular time for tour groups and cruise-ship passengers to visit, so I’d suggest starting at Hatshepsut’s Temple before lunch and saving the Valley of the Kings for after lunch. Also, save Tutankhamun’s tomb until the very end of the day.

Hours: Summer 6am-5pm, winter 6am-4pm (Tutankhamun’s tomb is closed from 1-2pm)

Cost: 200LE per adult. Tutankhaum’s tomb 250LE. Ramses V/VI Tomb – 100LE. Seti I Tomb – 1000LE (no student discount). Students 30 years old and younger are 50% off, and kids 5 and under are free.

Other West Bank Sites

If you still haven’t had your fill of Ancient Egyptian burial sites, there are a number of other archaeological sites on the West bank. The Tombs of the Nobles, Valley of the Queens, and a few other smaller stand-alone Temples can all be visited. You can buy tickets for the Valley of the Queens at the site itself, but tickets for everything else need to be purchased at the ticket office. It’s located beside Nourh El Gourna Hotel, or you can just ask your taxi driver and he’ll know where to take you!

Know Before You Go To Luxor

Where To Stay In Luxor

The biggest debate is whether to stay on the East Bank or the West Bank. Most tourist hotels are on the East Bank, and that’s where Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple are located. There’s a plethora of restaurants and shops here, but it’s also very much tourist-priced.

The West Bank is less common with tourists and has a few smaller guest houses and apartment style hotels. It’s quieter and the restaurants are a bit cheaper as they see fewer tourists. The Valley of the Kings is located on the West Bank.

We stayed in a lovely apartment on the West Bank called the Luxor Palace. The 2-bedroom apartments were spacious and our host was friendly and helpful. My favourite part was the pool! After a day of getting hot and sweaty seeing the sites it was great to come back to relax and swim in the pool.
Find the most up to date pricing on the Luxor Palace Hotel.

(The pool and terrace at the Luxor Palace Hotel.)

Find your perfect Luxor hotel:

Where To Eat In Luxor

Marsam Restaurant

Marsam Restaurant is on the West bank, near the Valley of the Kings. It’s a common lunch stop (and hotel) for many of the archaeologist and Egyptologists working in the area, and has been for years. Tables are scattered around a large shade-filled courtyard, and the food is excellent.

Cost: Expect to pay 100-150LE ($7.70 – $11.50 CAD) per person for lunch.

Check Trip Advisor for the latest restaurant reviews for both the East and West banks.

How To Get Around Luxor

Walk – The sites on the East Bank are relatively close together and within walking distance.

Horse & Carriage – It’s almost impossible to miss all the horses along the streets of the East Bank. You can hire one for around 150LE ($11.50 CAD), depending on the length of the journey. Although I wouldn’t use the horse & carriage solely for transportation, it is a fun experience and a unique way to get from point A to B. Your driver will often provide a bit of commentary about the various sites along the way, and act as a mini-tour guide.

Taxi – If you have a greater distance to cover, a taxi is an inexpensive and convenient way to get around. They’re everywhere and easy to hail from just about any corner.

West Bank – The sites on the West Bank are very far apart, and therefore require either a day tour, a taxi or rent a bike and explore yourself (which would’ve been my preference if we weren’t traveling with kids!). Taxis are inexpensive and easy to find everywhere. I suggest hiring a taxi for the entire day. Get his WhatsApp number so you can let him know when you’ll be done at the various sites. This will allow him to get other fares while you’re exploring, and lower your cost for the day!

Ferry – The East and West banks are connected by a passenger ferry that runs all day long. It was 2LE ($0.15 CAD) each direction and only takes a few minutes. It departs when full, but you’ll rarely wait more than 5min.

Pin This For Later!

If you’re thinking about heading to Egypt, make sure you pin this. It’s a great starting point for any Egypt Itinerary!

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