A visit to Egypt is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you don't want to miss any of the top sights while you're there. From temples and tombs to museums and beautiful coral reefs in the Red Sea, these are the top 10 tourist attractions to build your trip to Egypt around.
- 1. Giza Necropolis (Near Cairo)
- 2. The Karnak Temple Complex (in Luxor)
- 3. The Egyptian Museum (in Cairo)
- 4. Nile River Cruise (Between Luxor and Aswan)
- 5. The Valley of the Kings (Near Luxor)
1. Giza Necropolis (Near Cairo)
Probably one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in the entire world, the Giza Necropolis is a must-see and tops the list easily. You'll want a full day to explore the site.
The Giza Necropolis consists of three main pyramids and the Sphinx. The three pyramids were built as tombs for three ancient Egyptian pharaohs: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. Khufu's pyramid is the one you can also enter at the moment. Only 300 visitors a day are allowed in though, so you'll have to plan ahead. Contact us to make appointment.
The Pyramid of Khufu is also the largest pyramid in Egypt, and is also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Pyramid of Cheops. It was believed to have been built in 2560 BC, with construction allegedly taking between 10 and 20 years.
The second-biggest pyramid at Giza is the Pyramid of Khafre, often considered the sister structure of Khufu. It is sometimes seen as being bigger but it was built on a bedrock giving it some height advantage. Architecturally it is also steeper, giving it a more pointed top.
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a statue of a sphinx, a mythical creature combining a human head with a lion's body, and it represents the pharaoh Khafre. It is the oldest known sculpture in Egypt, having been built between approximately 2558 and 2532 BC.
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2. The Karnak Temple Complex (in Luxor)
Located in Luxor, Karnak, known also as Ipet-isu, is the largest temple in the entire world. It took over 2,000 years to build, and has four different parts, only one of which is currently open to the public: the Temple of Amun.
Apart from the Temple of Amun there are a mix of decayed temples, pylons, chapels, and remains of other buildings, making for an impressive sight. A total of approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the complex, explaining the size and diversity not seen at any other religious complex in the world.
The most famous sight at the Temple of Amun encompasses 134 columns standing 21 meters high, part of the Great Hypostyle Hall, which is 4,600 square meters or 50,000 square feet large.
Karnak was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 alongside Thebes, the ancient city it is in, which is located in modern-day Luxor.
You could spend an entire day exploring Karnak.
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3. The Egyptian Museum (in Cairo)
Nestled in Egypt's capital Cairo is the Egyptian Museum, probably one of the most incredible museums in the entire world. The museum is full of ancient Egyptian antiquities, storing over 120,000 items with descriptions of the items on display. You'll find items from many different time periods and of different origins.
There are plans to move this museum to Giza, to the new Grand Egyptian Museum around November 2022, but the date for this has already been pushed back multiple times as construction was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As for the time of writing this (August, 2022), the museum is still located in Cairo.
A visit to the museum can take most of the day depending on how much time you have available and how long you like to spend in museums!
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4. A Nile River Cruise (Between Luxor and Aswan)
A cruise on the Nile is an unforgettable experience, and a must-do when it comes to an Egypt trip given the Nile's role in Egypt's past as well as its future. The Nile is the longest river in the world, and is Egypt's primary water source, as well as an important economic river for agriculture and fishing.
Most routes on the Nile go between Luxor and Aswan, which is a scenic and safe route, and gets you between two of Egypt's most important towns.
When it comes to your trip, you can either take a Felucca, a sail boat that has been used on the Nile for a long time, or otherwise you can take a luxury cruise ship which is a bit more comfortable but perhaps less authentic. There are also various lengths that you can take your boat tour for, making it easy to fit a Nile River cruise into your itinerary.
Suggested read: Best of Luxor and Aswan: Short Tour Planner
5. The Valley of the Kings (Near Luxor)
In a valley near Luxor, you'll find the Valley of the Kings, a must-see on your trip. This is where, for approximately 500 years between the 16th and 11th century BC, kings and other privileged people were buried.
As of today, approximately 63 tombs and chambers have been unearthed, with the most famous one being the tomb of Tutankhamun. The most recent discoveries here were in 2008 and 2005, showing that there is likely more to be uncovered on the site.
Some tombs in the Valley of the Kings contain just one chamber, while others have constructions featuring over 120 separate chambers. Many of tombs that had previously been opened were robbed of their treasure and emptied out, but you'll still be able to visit and see the incredible artwork on the walls and their sometimes-complex constructions.
You can visit the Valley of the Kings and see a range of different tombs on your visit. The tombs that are open to the public sometimes rotate to maintain and conserve them by avoiding crowding them.
6. Abu Simbel (Near Aswan)
Approximately three hours from Aswan (300 kilometers or 190 miles), Abu Simbel, close to the border of Sudan, contains two massive temples cut into rocks. The temples are beautiful and unique because of the way that they are carved out of huge rocks, which was done in the 13th century BC during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II. They are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Nubian Monuments.
These temples relocated in 1968 as part of a campaign ran by UNESCO, as they would have flooded after the creation of Lake Nasser, a massive water reservoir that was created after the Aswan High Dam Project. In order to relocate them they were very carefully taken apart and rebuilt over 4 years by engineers from many different countries, in what is known as one of the greatest challenges of archeological engineering in history. That story alone makes the visit worth the trip, regardless of time it takes to get there.
7. Red Sea Reefs (in Sharm el-Sheikh)
Egypt is home to some beautiful, colorful reefs, and rich marine life at the Red Sea reefs. If you are a diver, they are a must-see attraction, and there are also incredible sights to see for those who prefer to snorkel as the area is known for the clarity of its waters.
The Red Sea is home to just over five percent of the entire world's coral reefs, over 209 types of corals. Some of the fish you'll see on your dive or snorkel are some of the rarest in the world, and can only be seen in the Red Sea.
You can visit the Red Sea in Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular tourist destination with a lot of great resorts, beaches and restaurants. Another town at which you can start your sea adventures is Hurghada, which has long been a tourist destination.
8. The Siwa Oasis (East of the Libyan Border)
The Siwa Oasis, located just 50 kilometers (30 mi) east of the Libyan border in the Libyan desert, is popular with tourists because of its vast, beautiful landscapes, freshwater springs, and historical significance. It has historically also been one of Egypt's most isolated settlements with mostly Berbers living here.
The oasis is home to an oracle of Ammon, the ruins which named the Siwa Oasis after Amun Ra, a major ancient Egyptian deity. These ruins of the Temple of Amun, which was believed to have been built in the 6th or 7th century BC originally, made the Siwa Oasis a destination for pilgrims. One famous person known to have sought wisdom here was Alexander the Great.
When visiting you'll find lots of hotels that are built using local materials that blend in with the unique surroundings.
9. The Step Pyramid of Djoser (in Saqqara)
A village close to Giza, Saqqara also covers vast ancient burial grounds for many Egyptian royalty, one of who's tombs was recently featured in the popular Netflix documentary Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.
Within these grounds (which are actually the largest archeological site in Egypt, due to it being a site of importance for 3,000 years) there are also pyramids.
Apart from visiting tombs here, you absolutely must see the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Despite not being the most famous pyramid in Egypt, it is the oldest pyramid in Egypt, having been built in the 27th century BC. It is a huge 6-tier and 4-sided structure, and the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt.
In 2020 the Step Pyramid of Djoser was reopened for visitors after restoration that took approximately 14 years.
When visiting on-site you'll learn a lot more about how the plan of the construction of the pyramid changed while it was being built, as evidenced in the inner walls. It is also a great spot to get a beautiful view over the Nile from.
10. Dahab (Near Sinai)
A Bedouin fishing village, Dahab, on the southern tip of Sinai, makes for a great stop to get a taste of life beside the Red Sea. It is a beautiful and laid-back town with only 15,000 residents, sporting some beautiful clear, blue water that has attracted tourists from all over the world, particularly since the 1980s.
Activities here include windsurfing, kitesurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, camel riding and jeep trips. In fact, it is one of Egypt's most treasured diving destinations, and windsurfing is incredible due to strong winds further out at sea and flat-water conditions inside Dahab's sand spit.
Dahab is generally seen as the more "hippie" or "alternative" destination to Sharm el-Sheikh for those who want to enjoy Egypt's coast on a slightly lower budget.
From Dahab, you can get to Mount Sinai within just two hours, if you'd like to add that to your itinerary too!
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