The Perfect 8-Day Itinerary for Exploring Egypt

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Advisor - McKensie Worley
Curated By

McKensie Worley

  • Egypt

  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • International Travel

  • Luxury Travel

  • Sightseeing

  • Bucket-List

  • Local Culture

Large building with columns during daytime
Curator’s statement

The Egyptian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and there is no place more rich in history and culture than the country of Egypt. Step back 5,100 years and step into one of the most enriching and enlightening countries you could ever visit. The southern part of the country, known as Upper Egypt (yes, you read that right) is laid-back, yet traditional while the northern part of the country, Lower Egypt, is beautifully chaotic and modern. To experience the best that Egypt has to offer, spend some time in both places and get a feel for the country's past, present and future.

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Days 1 & 2 : Cairo

People walking around large pyramid during daytime

You will likely arrive in Cairo late at night, and while it will be tempting to spend your first day sleeping in and recovering from jet lag, the best possible way to kickstart your week in Egypt is with a tour of the number one site in the entire country: the pyramids of Giza. Hire a private driver and set off from your hotel early in the morning so that you can beat the traffic and the crowds and see the wondrous Giza complex before all of the tourist groups arrive.

You won't want to miss the chance to climb on the Great Pyramid, tour the inside of the Second Pyramid and grab an insta-perfect shot with the Great Sphynx. When you leave Giza, don't skip Saqqara! The pyramids in Saqarra are actually older than pyramids in Giza, and they are unique because they are step pyramids rather than smooth, pointy pyramids. Learn about the fascinating history of Saqarra and get up close and personal with the beautiful tombs and ruins there.

Finally, on your way back to Cairo, make sure to stop by a papyrus shop and get a lesson in paper making. It's fascinating and you can even take home your own piece of papyrus paper!

On your second day in Cairo, you'll be able to get a later start but not much later. After a slow, relaxing morning, head back to Giza and spend the afternoon at the NEW Grand Egyptian Museum. Because it is the largest and grandest museum in the entire world, you will want to give yourself plenty of time to take in all of its history and majesty. When you're done marveling at all of the ancient artifacts and soaking in all of the Egyptian history, you'll want to make your way to the heart of Cairo and the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. While it's not a great place to do any actual shopping (think hagglers and over-priced souvenirs), the bazaar itself is a sight to behold. Whether it's at the bazar or somewhere else in town, grab a yummy dinner and call it a night because you have an early flight to Aswan in the morning!

Days 3 & 4: Aswan

Large statues carved on the outside of tall building in Egypt

You'll get up early this morning and take a short flight down to Aswan, a river town in the very southern portion of the country. In the second half of the day, you must visit Philae Temple, which is a temple location on an island in the middle of the Nile river. Philae is a beautiful temple filled with exquisite carvings of images and hieroglyphs, and it's a must-see in Aswan.

After touring the temple, you have two options: you can ride a traditional felucca around the Nile, which is a slow, relaxing boat ride and offers beautiful views of the river, or you can ride a motorized boat to the local Nubian village that sits on the bank of the Nile. We chose this option and had a great time shopping in the Nubian markets including an incredible spice market that was one of the highlights of our time in Aswan! If you have time this afternoon, you can also stop by one of the local perfume shops and learn how to use essential oils to make perfume.

On your second day in Aswan, you'll want to hire a driver and make the 3hr trek out to Abu Simbel. While a 3hr drive each way is not ideal, Abu Simbel is one of the most impressive sites in all of Egypt. It's a temple built into the side of a hill, and there are four huge statues sitting at the entrance to the temple. It's hard to put into words how incredible this temple is, but if you're in Aswan and have time for a day trip, Abu Simbel is a no-brainer.

Advisor - McKensie Worley

A note from McKensie

Twice a year there is a festival that happens at Abu Simbel called the Sun Festival. The festival happens at sunrise, so the small area in and around Abu Simbel is filled with thousands of people from the early hours of the morning until just after sunrise. If you find yourself in Aswan on the same day as the Sun Festival, don't try to go to Abu Simbel for the festival itself. If you can wait until later in the day, you will have a much less crowded and much more peaceful experience at one of Egypt's most awe-inspiring temples.

Days 5 & 6: Luxor

Large statues on side of building during daytime

Once again you will wake up early; you'll begin your day with a 4hr drive from Aswan to Luxor. Along the way you will stop at Kom Ombo Temple, which was one of our favorite temples in Egypt! We got there just early enough that the tour groups hadn't arrived yet, which meant we had the whole temple to ourselves. There were several places in the temple where the paintings have been protected from the sun, allowing them to keep their colors, which was really beautiful!

Kom Ombo is the only temple in Egypt that's dedicated to two gods, one of which is the crocodile god. As such, the Egyptians in this area mummified the crocodiles they caught in the nearby Nile. There's a museum next to the temple full of hundreds of mummified crocodiles, and it is well worth a visit. Once you leave Kom Ombo, you will finish your drive to Luxor and arrive just in time to visit Luxor temple at sunset. By this point, you will have seen A LOT of temples, so seeing this one at night is a unique experience.

On your only full day in Luxor, you'll visit the Valley of the Kings/Valley of the Queens. On the opposite side of the Nile from Luxor Temple, there are rolling, rocky hills that the ancient Egyptians built their tombs deep inside of. In the Valley of the Kings, you'll get to go into at least three different tombs and see the beautiful paintings and hieroglyphs left inside of them. You'll feel like you're walking through a history book! And in the Valley of the Queens, you'll walk up the gigantic steps into the beautiful palace of Queen Hatshepsut. Make sure to take the time to learn all about her history because it is fascinating. Before nightfall, you'll want to hurry back over to Luxor and visit Karnak Temple, the largest temple in Egypt and the second largest temple in the whole world.

Advisor - McKensie Worley

A note from McKensie

If you really like early mornings, a popular activity in Luxor is a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings/Queens. Weather permitting, you'll see hundreds of hot air balloons soaring up above the Valley and the beautiful Nile river below. It's a site to behold and well worth the early wakeup call.

Days 7 & 8: Sharm El-Sheikh

Mountains with pink and orange skies during sunrise

For many people, Luxor marks the end of their time in Egypt. But for us, we had a bucket list item we needed to check off: hiking to the top of Mount Sinai at sunrise. Mount Sinai is located in the southern half of the Sinai peninsula. To get there, you fly into Sharm El-Sheikh (Sharm for short), which isn't the easiest place to get to. There are nonstop flights between Luxor and Sharm but only on certain days of the week; if you're not traveling on one of those days, you'll have to connect through Cairo.

If you decide to hike Mount Sinai at sunrise like we did, you'll likely land in Sharm in the middle of the day. You'll want to have a very chill afternoon and get to bed early because you'll have to leave for the Sinai mountains around midnight. It's easy to chill in Sharm, though; Sharm is a beach town located on the shores of the Red Sea. You can book a room at a resort and enjoy your time sitting by the pool or relaxing next to the sea.

When your driver picks you up at midnight, it's a good idea to sleep through the 3hr drive to the Sinai mountains; you'll definitely want to rest up for the hike ahead. At 3am you'll start hiking, and by 5am you should summit Mount Sinai. You'll want to get to the top quickly and secure your spot because it gets crowded fast. The sun will start rising by 6am, and the sight is just spectacular. The Sinai mountains have a unique look to them, and seeing them with the sun resting on top will literally take your breath away. After admiring the views, you'll trek back down to Saint Catherine's Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai and tour this beautiful monastery.

After your tour, you'll make the drive back to your resort in Sharm and reward yourself with a drink and an afternoon at the pool. It's the perfect way to finish off your amazing trip to Egypt!

Need to Know

We elected to drive from Aswan to Luxor, but many people enjoy taking a river cruise. This is also a great option because you move at a slower pace and get to see a few more sights along the way. You'll want to weigh the pros and cons of doing a river cruise rather than driving from Luxor to Egypt, and any Fora travel advisor would be happy to help you do so!

For more travel tips, check out my guide to Portugal: Unique Travel Guide for the Azores, Portugal.

Advisor - McKensie Worley

Travel Advisor

McKensie Worley

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