An Ultimate Egypt Vacation to us means spending at least 2 weeks travelling through the historic wonders of the land. Our goal was to see all the top recommended locations within one visit, since we never go back to a same place twice. With lots of research we had organised to visit 4 main cities of Egypt; Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Hurghada over a course of 16 days. Our 16 days included the top sights such as the Pyramids of Giza, Saqqara, Luxor and Karnak Temples, Hatshepsut Temple, Valley Of The Kings, Edfu and Kom Ombo Temples, snorkelling in the Red Sea and of course plenty of time for relaxing!
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All photos were taken during our October 2018 vacation.
To start with, get yourself the latest Lonely Planet 2018 Egypt Guide! We read in advance many chapters of the areas we were visiting, and thoroughly used it during our vacation for checking tips, places to eat and for things to do if we had some spare time! We don’t normally have a guide book but it was super helpful.
Giza – 4 Nights
During our 4 nights at Giza we had two full day trips planned with the following locations and the other days to relax. This was a great start for our ultimate Egypt vacation as we wanted to get stuck in with visiting the historic sites.
Great Pyramids of Giza
How amazing it is to wander up from the entrance to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Greeted firstly by the largest of them all through the other tour groups. The Great Pyramid of Giza and pyramid complex are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
We first saw the pyramids when we woke up in our hotel room in Giza, check out our fantastic view on this post! But we still couldn’t imagine how large they were until we were standing right next to the gigantic blocks. You can’t go to Cairo and not visit the Pyramids!
During a visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza you will ultimately see the famous sphinx statue too. It is just a short walk from the pyramids or a quick 1 min drive with your tours. We didn’t stay too long at the sphinx since you can only really get close to it from the left side. I believe in the past you could walk right around it at a closer distance.
The boat museum is a wonder! Inside you will see objects and tools found from the area of the Pyramids. The boat itself is huge, with my 6ft partner looking very short for a change. The boat has been fully restored and put back together how it was found, hung up within the museum. You can walk around it on a lower and upper level. We had a ticket in advance with our private tour, however others you can buy tickets at the door.
With a short journey with the car we had arrived in Saqqara. Along the way you can really see how locals live in he city and surrounding areas. But more on that in a different post. Our Saqqara visit started at the Memphis Museum before heading our way to the Serapeum Of Saqqara and the Pyramid of Djoser. Looking back, it felt a lot more quiet in this area with less tourists. We believe not everyone has the extra day or time to visit Saqqara. Which is why we are highly recommending it for an ultimate Egypt vacation!
This museum has some unique pieces, with one very large statue recovered face down from a river as one of them. This is an outside museum, with one side all artefacts and the other side some little stalls where people are selling things. We were told that these sellers were the least pushy of them all, so a good place to negotiate a souvenir if you wanted.
We have made a full review of our Hotel locations and Nile Cruise that you can find here!
Serapeum Of Saqqara
This location is a place that is amazing to visit, but also very empty because all travellers we had met didn’t even know about it. Have you? This underground hidden tomb is the home to 25 large granite sarcophagus. Known as a burial place of Apis bulls, sacred bulls that were incarnations of the ancient Egyptian God Ptah. There still lies a mystery to how they were built. Each sarcophagi is perfectly cut straight from one piece of granite, weighting more than 70 tonnes each. The size is hard to show in a photo, but my 6ft partner could stand next to this and he would just be reaching the opening – without the lid!
Pyramid of Djoser
This pyramid, also known as the step pyramid, is one of the top pyramids visited by tourists in Saqqara. Within the same location as the red and bent pyramids, which are grouped near each other. We did not go into any of the pyramids here but walked around the area and listened to the history from our guide in a shady spot. It was fascinating to see these pyramids compared to the much larger Great Pyramids of Giza.
Cairo Egyptian Museum
Take a trip the Egyptian Museum based in the center of Cairo. As of 2018 the museum still had more than half of their unique objects and artefacts, including Tutankhamun’s treasures. We were pleased to have seen all that we could here, but it was extremely busy with not only tourists but school groups too. The new museum is still closed to the public and a few rooms had already been relocated. However with the amount that was still there we did not feel like we had missed out on too much. We think once the new museum is open, you will be able to visit both during an ultimate Egypt vacation, since there really is so much to see!
Mosque Mohammed Ali
This mosque is the most visited mosque in Egypt. It is situated within the Cairo Citadel and has the best viewpoint of Cairo and Giza plateau. The solid marble built mosque was completed in 1857 with the domes including 136 stained glass windows. When visiting with a tour group, you can either take your shoes off (and carry them) or buy some thin slippers at the entrance that you place over your shoes to enter.
During our day trip the Hanging Church was also on our itinerary. Hidden from the busy streets, you would have no idea from the entrance that a church was behind the doors. Called as Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church officially, the church got the hanging name based on the building foundations. The church was built above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, the Roman fortress in Coptic Cairo in the 3rd century.
Luxor – 2 Nights
After arriving from Cairo with EgyptAir we had booked this place as extra before our cruise. Most things in Luxor we already had planned with our Nile cruise itinerary so we wanted 2 nights in between to relax by the pool. This was for us perfect as we were also feeling like were on holiday and not just every day seeing things. During these 2 nights we did venture out of our hotel complex for a walk and to the museum. This was not on our cruise itinerary so we would have missed it.
We visited the museum by ourselves late in the evening as it is open till late. You can easily buy your tickets and head in without needing a guide. Inside the museum it was very quiet because all tours would have visited during the day time. So to really see each artefact well, we recommend late evening too! Worth the visit as they have some interesting pieces. Keep in mind you need to buy an extra photography ticket for inside.
We have made a full review of our Hotel locations and Nile Cruise that you can find here!
Nile Cruise – 4 Nights
Our ultimate Egypt vacation included a luxurious cruise on the River Nile. Starting in Luxor we boarded with our suitcase and prepared ourselves for our daily itineraries. For a full review of the cruise, check out this post here. For our tour group, we were most days max 6 people in our group.
We visited the temple first thing with our tour group. We visited after lunch and it was pretty busy! It felt like all the tourists in Luxor were currently on the same itinerary as us. But don’t let that turn you off visiting, as this temple is very large. Allowing you to see all aspects of it within your own time and space. Throughout all the temples we visited in Egypt, we were able to see original paintings and colours used from the Egyptian times.
By sunset we were visiting Luxor Temple. This beautiful temple has some great sections of carvings and original coloured stones and paintings. You can also find a catholic mural here which has been painted on top of some of the Egyptian paintings. What was beautiful about this temple, and a few others on our journey, was that it is lit up at night. Allowing you to see it from a night setting, imagining how it would have been with fires at light.
Colossi Of Memnon
We first took a boat from the east side of the Nile where our cruise was, to the west of the Nile. As this is where the Colossi of Memnon, Hatshepusut Temple and Valley of the Kings are situated. Reaching the Colossi of Memnon first, both statues are 18 meters / 60 ft high and carved from single blocks of sandstone. They represent Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. Our group didn’t stay very long as you can only see the statues and none of the other artefacts they have found near them. But it was a nice start to the days activities.
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
After visiting the Memnon statues we headed first to the Hatshepsut Temple, as many group tours go there after the Valley of the Kings. We got there early enough to be one of the first groups to be able to walk around without any crowds. The temple itself was beautiful to see, so different all the rest on our vacation. The temple for the female pharaoh was made for the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Hatshepsut. The temple itself is built under the cliffs at Deir el-Bahari.
Valley Of The Kings
We visited 6 tombs during our day trip to the Valley of the Kings. In total only 3 were included in our tour itinerary, and the other 3 we had paid extra for. Totally worth it if you are only in Egypt once!
The 3 tombs that were included were:
- Ramesses 4
- Ramesses 9
- Ramesses 3
The 3 tombs that we paid extra for were:
- Seti 1
- Ramesses 5 & 6
Keep in mind you need to buy a photography ticket to take photos inside. However the photography ticket will be hole punched at the entrances of each tomb, and only allowed to be hole punched 3 times. So when visiting more than 3, some may expect money in return that you take photos. Else keep this in mind, do your research before hand and only take photos in the 3 that you wish. We ended up giving some money to the Egyptian guy inside Tomb Seti 1 as it was the most impressive!!
You can read our whole post about our day trip to all 6 tombs within the Valley of the Kings here!
Temple of Edfu
When visiting this temple from a Nile Cruise. You have no choice but to take a horse and carriage organised by the tour guide. We had refused camel and horse rides throughout our vacation but here it was needed to get to the temple. Many horses were clearly underfed and looked sick, which didn’t give us a good feeling. But you could say it’s all part of the culture and experience during our ultimate Egypt vacation.
The temple however was enjoyable to visit. With no hassle from locals and less busy from other temples we had visited. The temple had original pieces unlike other temples, such as the ceilings and rooftops still intact. What was also unique with this temple was that the ceilings were mostly black from smoke. This is from when christians had lived in the temple at a much later date, using fires to keep warm and cook food.
Kom Ombo Temple
This beautiful temple was on our itinerary for the late afternoon. This was perfect as we experienced the temple during the sunset. The temple itself is a lot smaller than all the rest we had visited during our ultimate Egypt vacation. Large groups ended up being squished into small areas of the temples to see some of the unique aspects. One special area was one wall etching that showed one goddess who was pregnant. Next to her were all hospital items such as syringes, clamps and medical equipment needed during childbirth.
This museum is situated right next to the Kom Ombo Temple. All tours seemed to bring their groups here as it was included in your ticket. The museum itself is extremely small with a glass box in the middle. The glass box contained more than 10 mummified crocodiles at different lengths which were interesting to see. However we found the rest less interesting and found ourselves the exit within 5 minutes of being inside. We weren’t the only ones either, with our whole group back together in no time. I wouldn’t consider this a must-see museum during an ultimate Egypt vacation.
Aswan High Dam & Lake Nasser
With our tour group we drove to the High Dam of Aswan. Heavily guarded by the military we were waved through after a vehicle check was complete. With only one place to stop on the Dam, the tour bus stopped and let us out. The views were pretty amazing in person. One side towards the city of Aswan, the end of the Nile where no more cruises can go. The other side, this enormous Lake Nasser filled with crocodiles. It is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, at 479 km / 298 miles long and 16 km / 9.9 miles across.
The Lotus Tower was built to celebrate Soviet-Egyptian collaboration on the dam project. Based on the Lotus Flower, which is the flower of Egypt and symbol for all honoured places. Our tour group didn’t stop here to walk around, but it seemed to be well kept with gardeners and lots of security like the High Dam.
This was our last temple of our Nile cruise itinerary. To get there, you need to go by boat to the island where it was raised from the water. This was a little hectic but organised by our tour guide. Half of the temple was once under water when they built the Aswan High Dam. But it was all recovered and placed on higher land nearby.
This was a top highlight during out ultimate Egypt vacation in Aswan. Many tour groups were also visiting but it’s amazing to see in person. It’s best to first understand how they made obelisks before visiting. This will give you a much better understanding and what you are actually looking at. Even though there is only one unfinished obelisk, you can spot many more areas in the rock where others were made. Even now, a few weeks after being home, I’m still interested and would have loved to have seen them in action creating these obelisks.
We have made a full review of our Hotel locations and Nile Cruise that you can find here!
Aswan – 2 Nights
For our ultimate Egypt vacation we wanted to stay extra in Aswan to visit the Abu Simbel temple. However based on some last minute decisions we decided against it. Taking the time to relax at our hotel.
Aswan Old Souks
We explored the shopping area of Aswan with the German couple from our cruise one late afternoon. All credit to the German couple as we were not so much interested in buying something or getting hassled. So we wouldn’t have gone without them. The area was only filled with locals during our late afternoon visit so we stood out pretty well, but that didn’t stop us exploring.
Felucca Boat Ride
One of the prettiest places for a felucca boat ride is in the city of Aswan. If the winds are right, you can take an hour trip along the River Nile and around the islands. We found a guy who gave us a decent price for 1 hour of sailing. Time it right and you can be sailing on the Nile during the sunset. Nothing wrong with a bit of sunset romance during your ultimate Egypt vacation right?
Hurghada – 4 Nights
For our ultimate Egypt vacation we had to end with some relaxation by the Red Sea. For this we looked into Hurghada as we could see that there was a direct flight back to the Netherlands that was suitable for us. Of course staying at an all inclusive resort such as the one we did, you have plenty of time to relax, read, eat and drink. We found it perfect to have the all inclusive resort at the end of the vacation. This gave us the time to take everything in that you have seen during the vacation.
Hurghada is a great place where you can go diving or snorkelling in the Red Sea. We had chosen a snorkelling boat trip for the day during our stay. It included an hour stop at this beautiful sandy orange beach and shallow waters area. We were also very lucky to have seen a pod of dolphins in between snorkelling reefs.
Read more of our Egypt posts!
Our ultimate Egypt vacation was one we will not forget any time soon. Most days we were busy in the mornings with the itinerary. This worked out great as you are awake early for the temple visits and excursions, before it gets too warm. This was great for us, allowing the afternoons to relax with a book, plan the next day and even the occasional afternoon nap!
We loved the Nile cruise with Memphis Tours as all was planned for us. The itinerary matched pretty much the same with all other Nile cruises during the same time. So we didn’t miss out on anything.
Between each city location we flew with EgyptAir, which had a good service with free drinks and snacks. One flight was delayed for 1 hour and we unfortunately were not told any information why, but we were in no rush so we didn’t mind the wait. We had chosen to fly between the cities as it was quickest, but the prices were also decent too. Each flight we checked in our suitcase too with no hassle.
As mentioned above, we were very happy to have booked the all inclusive resort at the end of the vacation. This concluded our ultimate Egypt vacation! The hotel gave us the relaxation and peace to finish the last pages in our books, swim in the pool and soak in the last sun rays. We loved that we could snorkel in the Red Sea and see the beautiful fish and coral there too.
We felt that 16 days was perfect to see everything that was safe to see in Egypt. The Siwa Oasis desert and Alexandria we also considered as extra days, however at the time of travelling the Siwa desert was not recommended for safety and Alexandria just didn’t have much on offer for us. So these two top locations we decided to skip.
If you are interested in knowing where we stayed during our ultimate Egypt vacation, we have made a full review of our Hotel locations and Nile Cruise. And dont forget to invest in that amazing Lonely Planet Egypt Guide!
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Have you been or are you thinking of visiting Egypt? We’d love to hear your plans! Else get in contact if you want to know more!