Egypt is an extraordinary travel destination. If you are like us, you have dreamed of seeing the pyramids of Giza since you were a child. With 10 days in Egypt, you have plenty of time to go beyond the pyramids and experience the highlights of this amazing country.
On this Egypt itinerary, you will visit the intricately decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings, drift on the Nile River in a felucca, and see the Pyramids of Giza while sitting atop a camel. Are you getting excited yet? The list continues, with visits to the spectacular temples at Abu Simbel, the enormous Karnak Temple in Luxor, and the ancient pyramids in Dahshur and Saqqara.
This trip is one thrilling, unforgettable experience after another. Be prepared to make some extraordinary memories and to come home with tales to tell.
I hope you enjoy Egypt as much as we did. And if you are like us, you will be dreaming about returning again someday.
About This Egypt Itinerary
On this Egypt itinerary, you will not take a cruise on the Nile River. Instead, you will drive between Aswan and Luxor. This has many advantages. It’s cheaper, you have the option to tour the tombs and temples in a small, private group (rather than in a large cruise ship group), and you have a lot more flexibility in your schedule. However, if a Nile Cruise is a must-have experience for you, we let you know how to include this at the end of this itinerary.
You can do this itinerary independently or you can hire an Egyptologist and driver.
Typically, we travel independently, and very rarely do we hire guides or take tours. But Egypt is different. You will see an unbelievable amount of ancient sites and the history is fascinating. To get the most out of your experience, we recommend hiring an Egyptologist.
For our trip to Egypt, we hired the company Egypt Tailor Made. For most of our visit (every day with the exception of our day trip to Abu Simbel), we had a driver and guide/Egyptologist. It was a great decision. We traveled in a private group, our guides Ali and Laila were knowledgeable and entertaining, and we learned a lot from them. We could just sit back and enjoy the trip and let our guides handle the logistics.
Hiring an Egyptologist and driver is well worth the small extra expense in order to get the most out this experience.
Arrive in Cairo
Many flights arrive in Cairo midday or later, so you will not do much sightseeing on this first day of the trip.
The Cairo International Airport sits on the outskirts of the city. Depending on where you stay, it can take an hour, sometimes longer, to get to your hotel. The traffic in Cairo is terrible, with some of the most congested streets we have seen. Expect long travel times by car while you are here and in Giza.
Get settled into your hotel and get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow will be a big day.
Where to Stay
Wouldn’t it be nice to start and end your day with a view of the pyramids? Here are three recommended hotels in Giza with views of the pyramids. You will spend two nights at this hotel.
Marriott Mena House. This is where we stayed and it was fantastic. It was 8 pm and dark by the time we arrived at the hotel, but what a thrilling experience to see the Great Pyramid from our balcony. Breakfast is a buffet with endless choices of food (it’s one of the best hotel breakfasts we have had yet). Plus, you can sit outside and stare up at the Great Pyramid over a cup of coffee.
Pyramids View Inn. This small hotel offers views of the Sphinx and the pyramids. The view from the rooftop terrace is amazing and this is a great place to watch the Sound and Light Show, without joining the crowds.
Panorama Pyramids Inn. This hotel sits right next to the Pyramids View Inn, so the view is similar. This hotel also has a rooftop terrace and some rooms have views of the Sphinx and the pyramids.
Cairo: The Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum
The Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza are a big bucket list destination for many travelers. In fact, the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu) is the last remaining ancient Wonder of the World.
Nine pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and a collection of smaller tombs sit on the Giza Plateau, also called the Necropolis of Giza. The Pyramid of Khufu, with its two neighbors, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure, form one of the most iconic sights in Egypt, if not the entire world.
Most people spend about two hours on the Giza Plateau, but we recommend budgeting more time than that. There is a lot to do here.
Top things to do on the Giza Plateau include a camel ride around the pyramids, seeing the Great Sphinx, going inside one of the pyramids, visiting the photographic viewpoints, and seeing the solar boat.
We recommend spending a minimum of three hours on the Giza Plateau.
The Giza Plateau opens at 8 am and closes at 4 pm. Start your day here at 8 am, to avoid the crowds. Most people arrive around 10 am and it stays busy for the rest of the day. There is a chance that it could be hazy in the morning, especially during the winter months, but I think that it is worth a visit at this time, to avoid the big crowds. You also get to avoid the midday heat.
Spend the afternoon at the Egyptian Museum, which contains the world’s largest collection of Egyptian artifacts. Highlights of a visit include seeing the solid gold mask and the golden sarchopagi of Tutankhamun, the Royal Mummies room, and an astonishing number of statues, jewelry, and treasures.
A visit here typically lasts two hours. The Egyptian Museum is located on Tahrir Square in Cairo. To get here, we recommend hiring a driver and guide, but you can also use Uber, taxis, or public transportation. It takes roughly 30 minutes to travel between the Giza Plateau and the Egyptian Museum.
Important Note: The Grand Egyptian Museum is expected to open at the end of 2020, although this date seems to change frequently. Once open, it will replace the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square. The Grand Egyptian Museum is massive…it’s so big that our guide, Laila, joked that you would need a tuk-tuk to see all of it. This museum is also conveniently located next to the Giza Plateau, so it will be very easy to combine these two sites without needing to navigate the streets of Cairo.
Qasr al-Nile Bridge and the Cairo Tower
You can end your day after your visit to the Egyptian Museum, but if you have a little more energy to spare, we have one more worthwhile place to visit.
From the Egyptian Museum, walk through Tahrir Square to the Qasr al-Nile Bridge. Walk across the Nile River, enjoying views of the city. Once on the opposite side of the bridge, it is just a short walk to the Cairo Tower.
From the top of the Cairo Tower, you get a bird’s eye view over the city. On a clear day, you can see the Pyramids of Giza. If you want dinner with a view, there is a revolving restaurant on top of the tower that serves good food and drinks. The Cairo Tower is open daily 9 am to midnight.
Tonight, sleep in Cairo/Giza.
Dahshur, Memphis & Saqqara, Fly to Aswan
Today, you will leave the congested city streets and head out to Dahshur and Saqqara, to see some of the oldest pyramids in Egypt. After a day of sightseeing, take an early evening flight to Aswan.
Dahshur contains two of the oldest and best-preserved pyramids in Egypt. These were built between 2613 and 2589 BC, so these pyramids are older than those in Giza.
The Bent Pyramid was the first attempt at building a smooth-sided pyramid, but they didn’t quite get it right, which accounts for its different angles.
The Red Pyramid was the second attempt and it was a success, the first smooth sided pyramid. This pyramid gets its name from the red limestone, the material that was used to construct this pyramid.
Going Inside of the Pyramids
You have the option to go inside of both pyramids (the Bent Pyramid just opened to visitors in 2019…it had been closed to visitors since the 1960’s!).
First, you walk up a series of steps, since the entrance sits up off of the ground. Then, you climb down a long, narrow tunnel. It’s too short to stand up completely, so expect to be hunched over until you get to the bottom. Once in the interior chambers, it can be hot and muggy, even in the winter months. There are several chambers to explore in each pyramid. Inside of the Bent Pyramid you can see a lot of bats.
Tyler in the tunnel of the Red Pyramid.
Pro Travel Tip: If you suffer from claustrophobia, skip the visit to the inside of these pyramids. Also, if you have any back, neck, or knee problems, you might also want to pass on this experience. It is difficult walking up and down through these tunnels, hunched over. My 72 year-old mom did the Red Pyramid but it was difficult for her. The Red Pyramid tunnel is shorter and larger than the Bent Pyramid tunnel, so I recommend starting with the Red Pyramid first.
Memphis was the first capital city of Egypt, and some records state that it could have existed as far back as 6000 BC. What remains today are the foundations, the stumps of pillars, and some statues, which you can visit in the open air museum. Highlights of a visit here include the alabaster sphinx and massive statue of Ramesses II.
Saqqara was the necropolis for the Egyptian capital city of Memphis. It is here that you can see the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser and the oldest complete stone building complex in the world.
It takes three to four hours to visit Dahshur, Memphis, and Saqqara.
Fly to Aswan
From Saqqara, it takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive to the Cairo International Airport, depending on traffic.
To get to Aswan, plan on taking a late afternoon or early evening flight. Nonstop flight time is one and a half hours. We recommend flying this evening in order to give yourself a full day for sightseeing tomorrow.
Once in Aswan, check into your hotel. On the Egypt itinerary, you will spend 3 nights in Aswan.
Where to Stay in Aswan
Sofitel Legend Old Cataract. This historic hotel is our top pick for Aswan, if you can afford the high price. The views of the Nile River are spectacular, the service is impeccable, and you can take your pick from a handful of great onsite restaurants and bars.
Movenpick Resort. This is where we stayed and we had a great experience, but this hotel does get mixed reviews. We are unsure why, but we got upgraded to a Royal Villa, which was amazing (they knew nothing of our travel blog and we pay full price when we travel). We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a terrace with a private view of the Nile River. It was spectacular. However, some of the rooms in the older section of the hotel are mediocre, so make sure you know what you are getting when you choose your hotel room. It is located on Elephantine Island, so you will have to ride the hotel’s shuttle boat to get back and forth across the river (which only takes a few minutes and really it is not a big deal).
View from our room at the Movenpick.
Nuba Dool Guest House. This highly-rated guest house offers rooms with views of the Nile River at a budget price. It is located on Elephantine Island, so you will have to ride a shuttle boat to get here. From the upper terrace, you have wonderful views of the Nile River.
Today is a nice, relaxing day with just a few places to visit.
See the Unfinished Obelisk, the largest known obelisk in the world. It still sits in a stone quarry in Aswan since it cracked during excavation.
The Philae Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, and to get here, it’s a pleasant ride by boat on the Nile River.
If you aren’t staying here, or even if you are, The Terrace at the Sofitel is a nice place to have lunch.
Pro Travel Tip: For a table with a view, make your reservation in advance, even for lunchtime.
In the afternoon, visit the Nubian Museum and then spend the rest of your day on the Nile River.
Ali, our guide, arranged for us to have a one-hour felucca ride on the Nile, followed by a trip by motorboat to the Nubian Village. Peacefully drifting on the Nile River by felucca at sunset was my favorite experience in Aswan.
We ended the day with a visit to the Nubian Village. Some people love a visit here, some think it’s a tourist trap. We liked it, but it was fun arriving by boat, shopping, and seeing the camels that walked through the city streets.
For dinner, dine at the Panorama Restaurant at the Movenpick (amazing views of Aswan but mediocre food) or Al Dokka (great food with beautiful views of the Nile River and Elephantine Island).
View from Al Dokka restaurant.
Sitting on the bank of Lake Nasser, not far from Egypt’s border with Sudan, sit the twin temples of Abu Simbel. These temples were built by Ramesses II over 3,000 years ago, to display the might of ancient Egypt. When the Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960’s, the rising water levels threatened to flood the temples. Both temples were painstakingly dismantled and then reassembled on higher ground.
Abu Simbel can be visited on a day trip from Aswan. You have two ways to get here: by plane (fast but expensive) or by land (slower but cheaper).
Whether you travel by land or by plane, you should arrive back into Aswan by mid-afternoon. Spend a leisurely afternoon and evening at your hotel.
Drive to Luxor, Visit Kom Ombo, Edfu & Esna
Today, you will travel to Luxor by land. If you were to drive directly between these two cities, without time for stops, it takes just over 3 hours, if you take the highway. By “scenic route,” the rural roads along the east bank of the Nile River, it can take four and a half hours.
However, there are three important temples and historical sites to visit on the way, at Kom Ombo, Edfu, and Esna. With these three stops, it takes about 9 hours to travel from Aswan to Luxor.
The Temple of Kom Ombo is a double temple that was constructed for two sets of gods. One half of the complex is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god who is associated with fertility of the land along the Nile River. The other half is dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god.
Next to the Temple of Kom Ombo is the Crocodile Museum, where you can see the mummies of different sized crocodiles that were discovered around the temple.
Temple of Edfu
The Temple of Edfu is the largest temple dedicated to the god Horus. It was built in the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 237 and 57 BC.
Temple of Esna
The Temple of Esna is dedicated to the god Khnum, his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their son, Heka, and the goddess Neith. The temple sits 9 meters below street level. Over several millennia and the repeated flooding of the Nile River, the city slowly built up around this temple.
Once in Luxor, check into your hotel and have dinner.
Where to Stay in Luxor
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor. This hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in Luxor. It is centrally located in the city, with views of the Nile River and within walking distance of the Luxor Temple.
Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa. This is where we stayed and it was our favorite hotel in Egypt. The views of the Nile River and the balloons that drift over the West Bank are magical. The rooms are large, clean, and quiet. There are several onsite restaurants, a pool, and a fitness room. We loved this place and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.
View from our room…looking across the Nile River to the West Bank at sunrise.
Nile Castle. This budget hotel gets great reviews. It is located on the West Bank of the Nile River, so you will have easy access to the West Bank sites, but expect more travel time when visiting the East Bank sites and when traveling to and from the airport.
West Bank of Luxor
The West Bank of Luxor is literally packed with tombs, temples, and historical sites. We spent two full days on the West Bank and still didn’t get to everything. With one day on the West Bank, here are our top recommendations of where to go.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. This is a royal burial ground, with exquisitely decorated tombs for the pharaohs who ruled Egypt between 1539 and 1075 BC. There are over 60 tombs in this small area, although only a handful are open to public.
Tomb of Ramesses V and VI
Tomb of Seti I
Your entrance ticket includes a visit to three tombs. You have the option to add on three extra tombs at an additional cost: Seti I, Tutankhamun, and the tombs of Ramesses V and VI. If you choose to visit six temples, a visit to the Valley of the Kings lasts 2 to 3 hours.
Tomb of Queen Nefertari
Located in the Valley of the Queens, this is the most spectacular tomb we visited in Egypt. It has a huge ticket price, 1400 EGP, plus the entrance fee of 100 EGP to get into the Valley of the Queens, but it is worth it.
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
This temple, with its three terraces and location in the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri, has a much different appearance than many other temples in Egypt. It is dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut, one of the most powerful female rulers of ancient Egypt.
Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu
This huge temple complex is dedicated to Ramesses III. There are several courtyards, pylons, and peristyle halls, with inscribed reliefs depicting the defeat of the Sea People during the rule of Ramesses III.
This is a mortuary temple that usually does not make it on the must-visit list of the West Bank of Luxor, but maybe that is why we liked it so much. We had it all to ourselves, which was wonderful. It is a beautiful temple, another one of many temples dedicated to the great Ramesses II.
How to Visit the West Bank of Luxor
To visit the West Bank of Luxor, you can either hire a driver or a taxi for the day, or you can do what we did, and hire an Egyptologist and driver.
If you start early, at 7 to 8 am, you might have enough time to visit all of these sights, but you will have to move fast. On this list, don’t miss the Valley of the Kings, the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Medinet Habu, and if you don’t mind the entry price, the Tomb of Queen Nefertari.
East Bank of Luxor
There are four major sites to visit on the East Bank of Luxor, so today is a shorter, more low-key day than yesterday.
Start at the Karnak Temple. This is the second largest temple complex in the world (Angkor Wat in Cambodia is #1). Enter through an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes, gaze up at the massive columns in the famous Hypostyle Hall, and visit the Karnak Open Air Museum. It’s very easy to spend several hours here, exploring the various sections of the complex.
Luxor Temple looks and feels like a smaller version of Karnak Temple, although this temple served a different purpose than many found in and around Luxor. This temple is not dedicated to one particular god or pharaoh. Instead, it may have been where many of the kings of ancient Egypt were crowned. This temple was built in 1400 BC.
When you first approach Luxor Temple, you will see only one obelisk in front of the first pylon. The other obelisk can be found at Place de la Concorde in Paris, France.
This museum contains artifacts that were found in the Luxor area, as well as artifacts from the tomb of King Tutankhamun. A visit here typically lasts about one hour.
This is a small, somewhat interesting museum about the mummification process. Not only can you see mummified people but there are also mummified cats, birds, and crocodiles. A visit here typically lasts 30 minutes.
Our day started at 8 am and we finished up at the Mummification Museum by 2 pm. Ali, our guide, took us to a small restaurant called Aboudi Coffee Break, for a late lunch. This restaurant sits across from Luxor Temple and the view is great (the food is good too).
Fly to Cairo with the Option of More Time in Luxor
Today, you will return to Cairo, in order to catch your flight home tomorrow. You have two options on how to spend your time.
Option #1: More Time in Luxor
There is still so much to visit on the West Bank of Luxor. You could spend a morning here, visiting the places you did not get to earlier, and then fly to Cairo in the evening. Spend the night at a hotel near the airport, to save yourself a long drive into and out of Cairo.
Option #2: More Time in Cairo
In the morning, take an early flight to Cairo and spend the day touring the city. Visit the Coptic area of Cairo, take a walking tour through Old Cairo with a visit to the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, or visit the mosques in central Cairo. Spend the night either in Giza, for one last view of the pyramids, or near the airport, to minimize travel time tomorrow.
Fly home or continue your travels.
How to Modify This Egypt Itinerary
With More Time
Day Trip to Abydos and Dendera
The sacred city of Abydos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt. It is home to many sacred temples, including the memorial temple of Seti I. The Hathor Temple in Dendera is one of the most colorful and best-preserved temples in Egypt. You can visit both of these on a 10-hour road trip from Luxor.
Our guide, Ali, in Abydos Temple
Inside Hathor Temple at Dendera
The beautiful ceiling of the Hathor Temple
Day Trip to Alexandria
On a day trip from Cairo, you can visit the beautiful Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
The White Desert
I wish I had known more about this when planning our trip to Egypt. If you want to take a break from tombs and temples and see some very unique landscapes, then add this to your Egypt itinerary. A visit to the White Desert takes two days and one night of your time. To get here, it is a 4-hour drive from Cairo and you spend the night camped out in the desert. Return to Cairo the following evening.
If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out this tour offered by Egypt Tailor Made.
With Less Time
To make this a 9-day Egypt itinerary, remove the day trip to Abu Simbel.
To make this an 8-day Egypt itinerary, spend only one day in Cairo. You can visit Dahshur and Saqqara in the morning and the Pyramids of Giza in the afternoon (this is what we did our first day in Cairo). In the evening, fly to Aswan.
To make this a 7-day Egypt itinerary, you can remove one day from Luxor, visiting the West Bank in the morning and the East Bank in the afternoon. It will be a big, busy day and you will miss some amazing places on the West Bank (so, if you can, it’s worth it to add another day to your trip so you don’t miss out on some of these incredible sites).
How to Add a Nile Cruise to this Egypt Itinerary
For some people, a visit to Egypt would not be complete without a cruise on the Nile River. Fortunately, a cruise can easily be added to this itinerary.
There are many cruise options. The shorter cruises usually go from Aswan to Luxor, since you are traveling with the current of the Nile River.
A 4-day 3-night Nile Cruise, Aswan to Luxor, works perfectly with this itinerary. On the cruise, day 1 is spent visiting the sights in Aswan. Some cruises sail to Kom Ombo the first night and others will sail to Kom Ombo the morning of day 2. On day 2, you tour the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu (cruises typically don’t stop in Esna, unless you are doing a longer cruise). Day 3, you will visit the West Bank of Luxor. On day 4, disembark the ship and tour the East Bank of Luxor.
Here is what your 10-day Egypt itinerary will look like if you add a Nile Cruise:
Day 1: Arrive in Cairo
Day 2: Cairo: Pyramids of Giza & Egyptian Museum
Day 3: Cairo: Dahshur, Memphis & Saqqara, Fly to Aswan
Day 4: Abu Simbel
Day 5: Aswan (Nile Cruise day #1)
Day 6: Kom Ombo and Edfu (Nile Cruise day #2)
Day 7: West Bank of Luxor (Nile Cruise day #3)
Day 8: East Bank of Luxor (Nile Cruise day#4)
Day 9: Fly to Cairo, with the option of more time in Luxor
Day 10: Fly Home
Please note: Each cruise company offers variations of 4-day 3-night itineraries, but this gives you a general idea of what to expect.
Best Time to Visit Egypt
The best time for this Egypt itinerary is the cooler months of the year: November through March. In the southern part of the country, such as Luxor and Aswan, rain is unlikely. During the winter months, it does occasionally rain in Cairo and Alexandria.
Expect the biggest crowds in December and January.
During the summer months, temperatures can be oppressive. Temperatures can range from 40 to 55°C (104 to 130°F). In Luxor and Aswan, this is a dry heat, but up north around Cairo and Alexandria, the humidity can make the heat feel even worse.
If you have any questions about this Egypt itinerary, let us know in the comment section below!
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