Egypt has countless attractions, ranging from nature, to temples, to mummies, to vast pyramids. Egypt’s has an incredibly rich history dating back to the beginning of civilization and as such, Ancient Egyptian society left behind so many amazing sights, all somehow incredibly well preserved, despite the numerous tomb raiders that looted Egypt throughout history.
Before reading this itinerary, make sure to read my Egypt Travel Guide!
Also, with all the negative press Egypt has been receiving in recent years, many people ask if Egypt is a safe place to travel? This post will clear that up!
How many days do I need to spend in Egypt?
The million dollar question. While planning for Egypt, for some reason I thought there was just too many attractions and I’d never be able to see them all. Well, there certainly is an endless amount of temples and sights. Unless you’re an archaeologist or major history buff, how may temples can you see, and how much history can you ingest before you’ve had enough? As I write this post, I’ve already forgotten most of the temple names let alone the history behind it!
Turns out, a week is enough in my opinion see the main historical sights of Egypt, which include:
- The Great Pyramids of Giza & The Sphinx
- Sakkara Pyramids
- Egyptian Museum of Cairo
- Valley of the Kings
- Philae Temple
- Karnak Temple in Luxor
- Luxor Temple
- Abu Simbel Temple
- Nile Cruise
List is long I know, and you may want more time at each place, but there’s a reason most tours around Egypt are around a week long. If you have more than 1 week, then I’d highly recommend a visit to the Red Sea and the Sinai peninsula. If you’re looking to scuba dive, Dahab has some of the best and is the cheapest diving in the world. It’s one of my all time favorite places.
To Tour or not to tour?
As I was traveling solo, I booked a tour with TopDeck Tours that had fairly cheap prices, about $400 for a 7 day tour that visited all these sights. Turns out, the price did not include entrance fees, the Nile cruise, or any of our food which is ridiculous. After all our extra expenses, the tour probably ran me over $1000 in total.
Egypt is such a cheap place to travel through (which I realized after I arrived in Egypt), that I could have done the exact same itinerary for half the price. I essentially paid the extra money for the company of other travelers, which in the end was probably worth it as we had a great time.
Map of Itinerary
Egypt Two Week Itinerary Day by Day
If a guided tour is not your style, that’s okay, I’m here to provide a general itinerary for seeing all the sights, which also happen to be the same itinerary as most guided tours. The main thing to remember when touring Egypt is the main sights are all located along the Nile, because Ancient Egyptians believed this river to be the lifeblood of anything and everything they did in life. Naturally, they all lived along the Nile and all the impressive monuments they built were as well.
Day 1-2: Great Pyramids of Giza & Sphinx, Egyptian Museum
Day 3: Alexandria
Day 4: White Desert Tour overnight
Day 5: White Desert Tour, overnight train to Aswan
Day 6: Abu Simbel Temple
Day 7: Nile Cruise
Day 8: Nile Cruise
Day 9: Nile Cruise
Day 10: Arrive in Luxor
Day 11: Valley of the Kings and Karmac temples
Day 12: Fly to Sharm El Sheikh for the Red Sea
Day 13: Dahab
Day 14: Dahab
Day 15: Dahab
Day 1-2: Egyptian Museum of Cairo and Pyramids of Giza
Cairo is a huge city and one of the most populated in the world. I found it to be very dirty, with ugly buildings and trash everywhere so I was perfectly content just checking the main sights and getting out.
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is one of the first stops on most people’s itineraries when traveling to Egypt. With over 120,000 artifacts, the museum houses an incredible display depicting ancient Egypt’s glorious reign. You can enjoy mummies, sarcophagi, pottery, jewelry and of course King Tutankhamen’s treasures. King Tut’s goodies include his socks, underwear and the boy-king’s death-mask made of solid gold, described as the most beautiful object ever made. The displays are not all labeled very well and it’s a little haphazard but you’ll enjoy it nevertheless.
The place is massive, and devout history buffs could spend a few days here alone. It is inevitably overwhelming but there are some big attractions to see here but more visually stunning attractions ahead.
Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
Likely the most iconic of Egypt’s attractions are the great pyramids of Giza. Located within the city of Cairo, the pyramids can be seen afar pointing to the sky. There are three pyramids in total, and they are every bit as impressive as I’d always imagined. Nowadays, modern Egyptians built around the pyramids so when you’re standing on them, you can actually see downtown Cairo, which is good and bad I suppose.
For my detailed 1 day itinerary of Cairo, please read here!
Many pictures you’ll see of the pyramids make it look like it’s this lost city in the middle of the desert. Quite the opposite.
The great pyramids are actually some of the oldest monuments in Egypt, built during the old kingdom four thousand years ago. It’s absolutely incredible they’ve stayed in such good shape so long after they were built. Truly some incredible people in those times.
The Sphinx is located just a kilometer or two away from the pyramids. The statue of the pharaoh’s head on the lion with the pyramids in the background is probably one of the best pictures you’ll get in Egypt. The Sphinx to me was a bit underwhelming, far smaller than what I thought.
Day 3: Alexandria
The ancient capital of Egypt, Alexandria is Egypt’s second biggest city, located right on the Mediterranean. We spent a day seeing all the sights in Alexandria but sadly enough, most of its ancient wonders have been pillaged over the centuries, not kept up, and have decayed. Trains run regularly from Cairo and I’d only recommend visiting Alex if you have plenty of extra time.
From Cairo, you can either take an Uber (about 1000 LE one way) or take the train. There are also numerous buses daily that take you to Alexandria but I found the trains to be quite nice.
Day 4-5: Overnight Tour to the White Desert
Ah, how I wish I visited this place. I heard all about it from other travelers I met in Egypt and it sounded like a surreal spot. It’s called the white desert because the sand is literally bleach white. Like snow, instead of sand. Trips are easily organized from Cairo to spend a few nights camping under the stars in a much more untouched part of the country.
Trips leave regularly from Cairo and should not cost more than $150 for an overnight tour ($100 is reasonable).
Day 5-6: Overnight Train to the Abu Simbel Temple
Located near the southern town of Aswan, Abu Simbel is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock-cut temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses The Great in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari.
Because of the construction of the Aswan High Dam (which is also an impressive sight), the entire complex was man-moved to a new sight which is where it is now. MAN-MOVED! That’s pretty impressive considering how delicate and massive these sculptures are. I was a really big fan of the statues at Abu Simbel.
Day 7-10: Nile River Cruise
The Nile River cruise is a staple attraction of Egypt. The relaxing ride on a luxury ship with some of the most fantastic sunsets you’ll see is a great way to see Egypt. The cruise stops at some very famous and wonderful temples along the way making it a fantastic and economical way to see Egypt.
A cruise down the Nile is something well warranted. Whether it’s done on a Felucca (a large Arabian Dhow, much more modern than the ones in Mozambique however) or a cruise ship, it is a good way to relax, take in the sights along the Nile, and a good form of transportation to see Egypt’s other attractions.
The most popular Nile cruise routes go from Aswan to Luxor, allowing you to visit almost all the sights covered in this post. Expect to pay about $60-$80 a night for a nice cruise ship, and this price includes all your meals.
After a long day of walking around temples and bumpy car rides, it’s not too bad to just relax on one of these boats, and take in the beautiful Nile views. The accommodations were quite nice and all had balconies to watch the sunsets from.
Located on an island (Philae Island), and accessible only by taking a ferry ride out, the Philae Island is rich with vegetation, lovely flowers and magnificent temples. Because of its beauty and abundance, it was rightfully once called the ‘Pearl of Egypt’.
Egypt was conquered by the Greeks, and then the Romans and architecture from both these civilizations along with ancient Egyptian are all on display in this place.
Of all the temples I saw in Egypt, and I saw many, I think this one was the best preserved. It’s a huge temple, second only to the Karnak temple in Luxor and is dedicated to the falcon God Horus. Our guide here attempted to tell us the story of Horus fighting with ISIS(another Egyptian God), but between his questionable English, and my awe of the giant structure, I didn’t get much history out of it.
To be honest, whatever history I did learn in Egypt was immediately forgotten because there’s just so much of it.
Day 10-11: Luxor and surrounding area
The Valley of the Kings near Luxor is a valley where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the kings and privileged nobles of the New Kingdom. The valley contains 63 tombs and chambers, ranging in size from a simple pit to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers.
The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. All of the tombs seem have been opened and robbed in antiquity except for the famous tomb of Tutankhamun.
Temple of Hatshepsut
One of Egypt’s most iconic temples, this temple is located in Luxor and built by Queen Hatshepsut. Compared to the other temples and monuments in Egypt, I thought this temple looked the most different from the others. It’s incredible to think that this area was once so green and fertile, and what a temple like this would have looked like during its prime.
Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Valley of the Kings
This was a great experience. As an optional excursion, we decided to all do a hot air balloon tour through the Valley of the Kings. While not as impressive as the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, how often will you get to take a hot air balloon over Ancient Egyptian temples? I booked this through a hostel that my friend recommended and paid 250 EGP (~$35) per person as of 2014! This is likely 600-800 EGP in 2018 with the exchange rate but it is still a complete STEAL for a hot air balloon! Would not hesitate to recommend this activity!
Karnak Temple in Luxor
Karnak is the largest temple in Egypt and probably some of the largest in the world. We came here last on our week long Egypt Tour and I was so burnt out by temples, I almost skipped this one. Thank god I did not. This temple is just simply amazing. The Temple of Karnak actually consists of three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples located outside of Luxor town. One of most famous structures of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall, a huge hall area with over a hundred giant columns.
The carvings on the columns are quite well preserved in places, and some paint can be seen on rare occasions. The tall ornate columns standing in a row dwarf the visitors strolling by as they look up to admire the awesome sites.
Day 11-15: Red Sea and Dahab
From Luxor, take the Egyptair flight from Luxor to Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh. There is also a bus option but this will take much longer and the bus from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh regularly shuts down due to unfavorable activity.
From Sharm El Sheikh airport, take a taxi to Dahab, the beautiful and infinitely chilled beachfront town that is probably one of my all time favorite places in the world. There is world class diving to be had here at perhaps the cheapest prices in the entire world. There is also fantastic kitesurfing in the Bay with otherworldly views.
The construct of green water, desert, and granite mountains here make for some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth in my opinion. It feels like a place that shouldn’t have great diving, but it absolutely does! Read more about Dahab in my Ultimate Dahab travel guide!
Egypt One Week Itinerary
So what if you only have 7-8 days for a visit to Egypt? This depends on what you want to see. If you’re focused on history, temples and mummies, then follow this itinerary to check off the historical sights. This more or less eliminates the Red Sea and the White Desert
Day 1 – Cairo: Egyptian Museum and Great Pyramids of Giza
Day 2 – Alexandria: Full day trip in Alexandria, overnight to Aswan
Day 3: Abu Simbel Temple
Day 4: Aswan to Luxor 3 night Nile Cruise tour
Day 5: Same as above
Day 6: Same as above
Day 7: Luxor, explore Karmak temples and the Valley of the Kings
Day 8: Return to Cairo for flight out.
Egypt One Week Itinerary Focusing on Diving
If your plan is to soak in the diving and views of the Red Sea, use this itinerary instead. If this is your first time in Egypt, then at the very least you need to see the pyramids! The other temples are fantastic but the Pyramids are still the most iconic and just a 1 hr Uber ride from the airport.
Day 1-2 – Cairo: Egyptian Museum and Great Pyramids of Giza
Day 3 – Fly to Sharm El Sheikh: There are regular flights to Sharm so take an early morning flight out of Cairo
Day 4-8: Dahab/Sharm El Sheikh Diving
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