Egypt is a fascinating country full of an incredible number of modern, ancient and natural wonders. However, when most people think about all the things to do in Egypt they don’t tend to think much beyond the pyramids. Don’t get me wrong, the pyramids are pretty darn incredible, but there’s SO MUCH more to Egypt!
If you only have a few days, by all means stick to the pyramids! It’s almost impossible to visit Egypt and skip them! But, if you’re able to spend a bit more time in Egypt, let this list inspire you to seek out more.
Citadel of Cairo
When considering things to do in Cairo make sure to plan on a trip to the Citadel of Cairo. Originally constructed in the 12th century, the Citadel of Cairo was the seat of the Egyptian government for over 600 years.
You’ll spot this imposing monument towering over the surrounding neighbourhoods as you approach. It’s perched high on Mokattom Hill and offers commanding views of the city. Inside the Citadel, you’ll find 3 historic mosques, a royal palace and several museums.
The highlight of the Citadel is the beautiful Mosque of Muhammad Ali. It originally contained the tomb of Muhammad Ali Pasha who is credited with founding modern-day Egypt!
After visiting his mosque make sure you check out the Al-Gawhara Palace where Muhammed Ali resided during his rule of Egypt. And if you have extra time, the Royal Carriage Museum and Egyptian Military Museum are also worth a visit; they are all contained within the massive Citadel.
It’s best to visit the Citadel of Cairo in the morning as there is little shade to protect you from the relentless Egyptian sun. And when you’re done exploring the Citadel head down the hill to marvel at the neighbouring Madrassa of Sultan Hassan and the Al-Rifa’i Mosque.
Nick & Val | Wandering Wheatleys
Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt, after Cairo, and sits along the Mediterranean Sea. It is an ancient city that was founded by Alexander the Great and it served as the nation’s capital for almost 1,000 years. It was also the seat of many rulers, including Cleopatra, and is home to the Great Library of Alexandria. The port city has remained a cosmopolitan hub for international visitors throughout much of the 20th century.
Today you can find lots of historical buildings and monuments including the Qaitbay Citadel, Pompey’s Pillar, and the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. The city also has several important mosques and churches. Although the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by a fire long ago, you can visit the modern version of the library. Other great things to do in Alexandria include visiting its port, enjoying its sandy beaches, shopping, and trying the local seafood. We also recommend stopping at the Montaza Gardens.
Although the city is not nearly as popular of a tourist destination today as Cairo, it is still a city worth visiting if you have the time. It is easy to get here from Cairo by train, bus, car, or guided tour. For more information you can check out our guide to things to do in Alexandria and tips for getting around the city.
Jessica | Independent Travel Cats
The Valley Of The Kings
The pyramids may be the most famous monuments in Egypt, but if you really want to immerse yourself into mystical ancient Egypt fully, Valley of the Kings is the place for you.
What exactly is the Valley of the Kings?
Once ancient Egyptians realized that advertising your resting place (and the treasures that come with it) with big pyramids is NOT a wise idea, they started building secret tombs in a valley nearby Thebes (Luxor). Each tomb’s building process began when the pharaoh was selected and continued until his death. Once the body was mummified and put inside a sarcophagus, the vault was buried, and no one (not even the next pharaoh) was aware of its location. This system worked very well, and today archaeologists continue to find perfectly preserved tombs with unimaginable treasures.
It was in the Valley of the Kings where the famous archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the 3000 year old resting place of Tutankhamun with his mummy and of all his riches intact. While the gold and gems are now in the Cairo museum, you can still see the original mummy of the young pharaoh, resting in his tomb!
To explore the Valley of the Kings, you need to make your way to the nearby city of Luxor and hire a guide with a driver or simply a taxi. The entrance ticket permits you to check only three tombs. Some of the best you can choose are Ramses III, Ramses IV, and Merepetah, while Rameses V & Rameses VI, Seti I (the best preserved but also the most expensive) and Tutankhamun require an extra ticket.
Verislav | Global Castaway
Cruise Along The Nile River
A cruise on River Nile is a must for any trip to Egypt. This is one of the longest rivers in the world, flowing from central Africa, and it has been at the centre of Egyptian life for millennia. It provides vital water that has allowed for agriculture along its banks, and thus humanity has been able to live in the otherwise desert-like surrounds of Egypt.
The majority of Egypt’s population lives along the Nile, and this has been true for thousands of years. As such, nearly all the Ancient Egyptian sites can be found close to the Nile. This makes a Nile cruise a fantastic way to see Egypt. From the various town and cities that the river boats stop at, you’re within easy reach of some of Egypt’s most spectacular sites and monuments. A cruise is also a wonderful way to travel, as you don’t have to pack and unpack as you go, and you can watch the scenery change from the comfort of your bed!
There are many companies offering Nile cruises, of varying lengths. It’s even possible to take a shorter ride on a more traditional vessel, known as a felucca. When we took our tour to Egypt, it included a 2 day Nile cruise, which was a definite highlight of our whole experience. However you do it though, we are sure you will have an amazing time.
Laurence | Finding The Universe
Temple of Edfu
Many visitors can feel templed-out after visiting Egypt, but one immensely overlooked site is the Temple of Edfu. Edfu is half way between Luxor and Aswan, best accessed from the Nile making it a popular stop over point for Nile cruises and riverboats. Boats are greeted by a fleet of horses and carriages that carry passengers from the dock, through the small township of Edfu to the temple – certainly a noisy and exciting experience for kids in itself!
The imposing Edfu Temple (also called the Temple of Horus) is one of the best-preserved shrines in Egypt. It was buried for many centuries before being ‘rediscovered’ and excavated in the 19th century. The inscriptions that cover the towering walls provide much important information about language, myth and religion during the Hellenistic period. What makes it unique is much of the roof of the Temple is still intact, and the extent of the inscriptions, certainly one of our most fascinating and educational stops. It is a site that you will definitely want a tour guide for, and is best visited very early in the day to beat the crowds.
Keri | Family Travel Middle East
Twelve kilometres south of Aswan on Aglika Island, downstream from the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, you’ll find the Philae Temple. But it hasn’t always lived there.
Built around 370 BC, these honeyed stones moved to their current location at the hand of UNESCO in the 1970s. Stone by stone, hieroglyphic by hieroglyphic, teams moved this complex in order to protect it from damage thanks to the new and nearby dam. And it has a stunning new resting place: surrounded by water, the peaceful call of birds and an easy transfer by boat across the Nile.
Originally, the temple was built to honour the goddess Isis and is considered to be one of the last temples of the classical Egyptian style.
A visit feels like an Indiana Jones fantasy, although of course, the truth is the other way around. Lines of columns, staggered stone doorways, stairs, pillars, drawings. By night, a completely different atmosphere arrives through a sound and light show in English, French, German and Spanish. By day, as with most places in Egypt, bring water, sunscreen and a hat. Temperatures remain fierce and there are limited places for shade.
Visit early and off season to have the place to yourself.
Abigail | Inside the Travel Lab
Aswan Botanical Gardens
The Aswan Botanical Gardens are located on a tiny island in the middle of the Nile River. It looks like a tropical paradise compared to the surrounding desert and the city of Aswan. You may not even see it from Aswan as it is hidden behind Elephantine Island.
Once there, you can walk in the paths and see all the beautiful plants and trees. Many of the plants and trees are labeled in English, so you’ll know what you are looking at. It is a nice place to explore to escape the city and get some fresh air. There are benches to sit and enjoy throughout the garden. There’s also a small cafe area near the dock. It’s a great place to see Aswan from a distance and get a closer view of the giant sand dune on the other side of the Nile.
To get to the botanical gardens, you’ll have to hire a boat to take you across and wait for you to return you. However, the cost is low, and it is a short ride across. I recommend taking a motorboat so you can use your time wisely.
Tiffany | A Girl And Her Passport
Nubian Village Near Aswan
Another must-do when in Aswan is to visit the Nubian village. You arrive at the village by taking a ride in a traditional felucca down the Nile. The ride itself is worth it, you’ll see beautiful landscapes and locals like fishermen going about their days. Take in all the sights, sounds and especially colors as you arrive closer. With the primarily desert landscape of Egypt, most cities come from a similar color palette, when arriving here it’s like a refreshing feast for the eyes to see such a color-filled village.
The Nubians are a unique ethnic minority group with a culture, history, traditions and language of their own. Enjoy a stroll through the village and take a look up close to the paintings on the homes with beautiful geometric shapes, it’s said that the patterns represent the families that live inside. You can also stay at the heart of the Nubian village and spend the night at a traditional Nubian style hotel or even just stay for a meal and perhaps a traditional Nubian dance performance. A beautiful place for such a local experience is the Anakato Nubian homes. Sit on the Anakato terrace and enjoy relaxing nile views, sipping on mint tea while you escape the heat under the big colourful umbrellas.
Monica | Ahlan Monica
For many travelers, the highlight of a trip to Egypt is a visit to Abu Simbel. These dual monuments – the Temple to Ramses II and the adjacent monument to his wife Nefertari – are arguably the best monuments in Egypt. Incredible in their construction and remarkable in their preservation, you can almost envision Ramses victory at the Battle of Kadesh.
Abu Simbel was nearly lost when Lake Nasser was built behind the Aswan High Dam project. As the waters rose, the world community rallied to save this remarkable monument. Archaeologists from around the world worked day and night to move the monument 65 meters up from the hill from the rising waters. The near-loss of Abu Simbel was the rallying point that started the UNESCO World Heritage Sites program.
Given Abu Simbel’s remoteness in Southern Egypt, most visitors come as a day trip from Aswan – either flying or as part of the daily overland convoy. However, for visitors that want to stay the evening and see Abu Simbel with fewer crowds, there are several local hotel options, the best of which is the Seti Abu Simbel Lake Resort because of the incredible views it offers.
Lance and Laura | Travel Addicts
Explore The White Desert
The White Desert in Egypt contains some of the most spectacular desert scenery in the world. It’s completely different from the golden sand dunes of the Sahara desert that most people imagine when they think of deserts in North Africa or the Middle East. It’s worth noting, though, that the word “sahara” in Arabic simply means “desert”, so the White Desert is called “Sahara el Beyda”, or “Desert the White”.
While you WILL find golden sand here, you’ll also find dazzlingly white rock formations made out of chalk rock. These beautiful formations are sculpted naturally by the sandstorms that pass through the area from time to time. If you use your imagination, you can find some that resemble mushrooms, chickens and other animals. Other nearby attractions include Bir Sitta — one of many hot springs in the area — and the El-Mufid lake.
The White Desert is part of the Farafra Depression and is located in a very sparsely populated part of Egypt. The few people who do live in the region are mostly Bedouins.
It’s most often visited from Cairo as part of a larger, multi-day jeep tour to the Western Desert. These tours typically also include desert oases such as Dakhla and Siwa, as well as other deserts with different types of scenery. The experience of camping under the stars in the middle of the desert is unforgettable.
Wendy | The Nomadic Vegan
Scuba Dive In The Red Sea
Scuba Diving in Red Sea is one of the most awesome things to do in Egypt. I would even go as far as saying that it’s one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Also, because the Red Sea is only really easily accessible from Egypt, and a handful of other countries you probably don’t really want to go to (Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia), diving here becomes even more exclusive and special.
Scuba diving in the Red Sea is such a phenomenal experience because the marine life is lively and colourful. If you decide to scuba dive in the Red Sea you’re likely to come across a variety of small and big creatures, such as moray eels, octopuses, pufferfish, great barracuda, anemonefish (Nemo) and even dolphins if you are lucky.
Hurghada is a good place to scuba dive from, but other cities also have diving opportunities if you’re interested. We stayed in Jaz Macadi Aquaviva Hotel near Hurghada which boasts the largest aquapark in Egypt featuring 50 thrilling water slides 25 of which are adult only slides. The accommodation and food were fantastic, the hotel complex felt really safe and access to a private beach was only a short (free) shuttle bus ride away from the hotel.
Egypt is really a very special destination, but not only the pyramids are great. The fact that it’s so awesome for scuba diving puts it right at the top of my favourite destination list. I hope you will like it too!
Kristina & Andrius | Around The World Travel Blog
The city of Saint Catherine is an underrated destination located in southern Sinai, named after a religious Christian virgin martyred after refusing marriage to a savage emperor who killed any follower of Jesus. It is said that her body parts were miraculously transferred by angels to the top of Egypt’s highest peak -at an elevation of 2629 meters- named after her “Mount St. Catherine”.
Visitors usually go to Saint Catherine as a day-trip from Dahab, or at midnight from Nuweibaa, to climb Mt. Sinai. It’s worth coming to watch the sun set or rise, but there’s more to do in this city. The Monastery of St. Catherine at it’s bottom is one of the oldest monasteries in the world, dating back to the 6th century. People come to see the burning bush & museum then head back to Dahab, not really aware of all the hiking opportunities they’re missing. There’s colourful canyons, valleys, & mountain ranges, as well as lush greenery, blooming flowers, natural water sources & waterfalls, not to mention its million stars sky.
This laid-back city is mostly inhabited by Bedouins, foreigners or former city people who have left the chaos of the city to enjoy the serenity in the valleys and mountains. It’s located in southern Sinai and is controlled by 8 Bedouin tribes who now run Egypt’s 1st long-distance hiking trail the Sinai Trail stretching from the Gulf of Aqaba, to the roof of Egypt; Mt. Saint Catherine.
St. Catherine area is a national protectorate and a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to the “baton blue butterfly” the smallest in the world, Nubian ibexes, Dorcas gazelles, medicinal plants, herbs, and endemic trees.
It’s an all year round destination with dry desert weather, where each season offers different scenery, and experience.
Why not stay at Fox Camp! It’s clean and affordable with a friendly atmosphere.
Passainte | Why Not Egypt
Sunrise at Mount Sinai
One of the best things to do in Egypt is climb Mount Sinai for the sunrise. Mount Sinai is where Moses received the Ten Commandments in the Bible and is of significance to Judaism, Islam and Christian religions. However, even if you are not religious, trekking to the top of the mountain is spectacular.
There are two routes – the longer route is actually the easiest and takes about 2-2.5 hours. The route starts at the picturesque Saint Catherine’s Monastery, home to the biblical burning bush. The walled monastery soon becomes a tiny dot nestled in the desert hills. The scenery is dry and rocky – this is the Sinai Desert – but beautiful. At the top is a small Greek Orthodox chapel and a small mosque.
It gets very cold at night and there’s no accommodation on the mountain, but a local person does rent blankets. If you’re willing to rough it, you can sleep outside at the top so that you don’t need to hike in the dark. This is what I did and it was a fun adventure, but cold. There were only a handful of us when I went to sleep. I woke up surrounded by dozens of people who had hiked up in the dark in time for sunrise, so this is the other option. The sunrise is spectacular, as the surrounding desert hills glow in the early morning light.
The hike back down is easy and it is not too long before Saint Catherine’s is back in view. A visit there makes the perfect end to this fascinating hike/ sunrise experience.
James Ian | Travel Collecting
Relax in Dahab
Egypt is a popular destination for beach holidays, but many resorts have become overdeveloped and overpopulated. When my husband and I toured Egypt we had a super busy itinerary and wanted a few days down-time for some much needed R&R. We wanted a nice beach and a relaxing vibe without the all-inclusive, package tourist vibe that typically comes with the major resorts such as Sharm el Sheik. After a bit of research we discovered Dahab.
Dahab is the Sharm el Sheik of thirty years ago. It is quiet and is home to only a few select hotels. Despite it being peak season, the hotels were not full and the streets were calm. There were enough tourist facilities and things to do to keep us occupied, without the crowds and hustle and bustle that you would usually find I a big resort. The beaches were quiet and peaceful- there was nobody smoking next to me or playing loud music. We could enjoy a cocktail, read our books and listen to the sounds of the waves.
Despite being a holiday resort, Dahab retains some of it’s Egyptian authenticity. You can visit the local shops and chat with the local people, without feeling like you are being ripped off or scammed in some way. Real Egyptian cuisine is available, or you can stick with your favourite International dish. It’s also possible to book a tour to go diving or quad biking and know that it will be just you and the guide(s).
Dahab is the perfect place to relax. It offers the ideal mix of Egyptian and international conveniences, the perfect combination of home whilst away. If you’re looking for a quite and authentic beach break then I absolutely recommend Dahab!
Hayley | Life As A Butterfly
Low Cost Luxury in Taba Heights
During my most recent trip to the Middle East, I found myself down in Eilat, Israel – soaking up the sun and snorkeling opportunities at the stunning Red Sea. A few friends recommended that I hop over the Egyptian border to Taba Heights, and spend some days resort hopping there! While I was a bit nervous at first due to some safety concerns, I couldn’t resist the urge to experience some luxury for the fraction of the cost. After searching for some hotel deals, I managed to book a 4-night stay at a 5-star Resort, the Sofitel Taba Heights, for only $100! Who could pass up that deal?
Upon arriving, I was shocked to discover that I basically had the entire resort to myself. It was Ramadan, and apparently, that’s a very slow season for all of the resorts along the Red Sea! I basically had the entire luxury resort to myself, and it was an experience I’ll never forget, and a travel tip I’m always eager to share with people!
Even year round though, Egypt is an incredible budget-friendly destination, and you can find some awesome hotel deals around the Red Sea! From Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, and Taba – this truly is a gorgeous part of the world, and I’d highly recommend visiting! The scuba diving is out of this world, the desert landscape paired with the Sea is spectacular, and you can definitely enjoy a nice solid vacation here!”
Dave | Jones Around The World
Hurghada Desert Safari
Hurghada is a well-known beach resort destination in Egypt, stretching about 40 kilometers along the Red Sea coast. Many tourists visit there for the boat tours, scuba diving, beautiful beaches, or seaside resorts that offer good services and value. Some may not know that there’s a black sand desert just 30 kilometers away from Hurghada’s city center.
We joined a desert safari tour in Hurghada and had a great time experiencing the Black desert and traditional Bedouin village. The first part of our tour brought us to a small hill in the middle of the Black desert where we had a panoramic view of the surroundings once we walked our way up to the top. Unlike the golden sand of the Arabian and Sahara deserts, the Black Sand Desert gave us another dimension to the unique terrain that Egypt has to offer.
Next, we headed to the Bedouin Village. The Bedouin people are a group of nomadic Arab people, inhibiting traditionally in the desert regions in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Many of them are still living a nomadic life – we saw a couple of huts from afar while those were their temporary home. The land they use for vegetation could only support their livestock and today their income is mainly from tourism and government subsidies. Walking through the village, they showcased some of their handmade merchandise and local food; and we had a better idea how tough it is for them to overcome such harsh living environment when water is in scarcity.
A bonus of our tour: our guide stopped the car on our way back to the city and we stargazed in the desert when it gets dark!
Kenny | Knycx Journeying
There you have it, some incredible things to do in Egypt beyond the pyramids. If you’re thinking of heading to Egypt make sure to pin this for later!!
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