Despite the negative press, Egypt is an amazing place to visit and now is actually a good time to explore! The bad image of the Middle East has chased tourists away, leaving most of the hotels and sites nearly empty. While this is sad for the local economy, its makes for a really inexpensive and personalized experience for you the traveler. There is a lot of see in Egypt, but you can surprisingly hit a lot of the major landmarks in only 14 days.
I felt safe throughout my 2 weeks in Egypt and a large majority of the famous landmarks were devoid of tourists due to the geopolitical situation in the region. This is not to say that you should take your personal safety lightly. It just means that be realistic about planning a trip here and understand that the situation on the ground isn’t exactly what the media hypes it to be.
To get a run down of my full Egypt experience, check out my video of the trip. But if you’re considering a 14 day trip to the heart of civilization, this is the itinerary I would recommend:
Day 1: Arrival
If you’re like most people, you’ll be landing from your international flight in Cairo. Cairo is crazy overwhelming, so I recommend making your way to your hotel and relaxing for a while as you get adjusted to the hot temperatures, dusty air and loud street noise.
Day 2-3: Cairo
Get up early to make your way over to the Giza pyramids, the only last standing ancient wonder of the world. By going early, you’ll miss some of the crowds and get there before the dusty haze of midday. Once you’ve marveled at the age and size, head over to the sphinx, which is just down the road (your ticket will include both sights). Rest up for a few hours at the peak hour of the day then head over to the Egyptian museum in Tahrir Square. The museum itself is laid out horribly and has no air conditioning, but the King Tut exhibit and mummy exhibit are excellent!
Exploring Cairo will be overwhelming, so be prepared for an exhausting day. In my opinion, it’s a tough city for a traveler. It’s as chaotic and polluted as India, hotter and dustier than you imagined, and filled with people ready to heckle you. Nonetheless, it is eye opening and full of history. Tahrir square, the Nile river front and local food were some of my highlights.
If you want to get out of the city, take a day trip to Memphis and Sakkara, both of which are impressive cultural heritage sites outside of the city.
Day 4: Abu Simbel
Grab a flight from Cairo to Abu Simbel to catch my favorite ruins. Abu Simbel is located in southern Egypt very near the Sudan border and are an incredibly impressive set of ruins. The paintings & hieroglyphic carvings are incredible. After a few hours exploring, drive about 3 hours to Aswan.
Day 5-6: Aswan and the Nile River
Aswan is home to the Philae temple, another impressive ruin. This sight was nearly empty when I visited, so you really get a chance to appreciate the carvings. Take a tour of it in the morning before floating down the Nile all day on a traditional felucca. The felucca is a must do! I highly recommend it.
Day 7-8: Luxor
If you opted for an overnight felucca ride, you’ll wake up to the sun in your face and birds in the air. Make your way down to Luxor for your next 2 days. I’d recommend doing Karnak temple and the temple of Hatshesptu on your first day and then do the Valley of the Kings early on the second morning. All of the sights are impressive, but by this point you’ll probably be exhausted from seeing ancient ruins.
Day 9: Alexandria
If you’re feeling adventurous, I had a ton of fun taking the overnight train from Luxor to Cairo, but if you want something faster, hop on a flight to Alexandria. Located on the water, Alexandria feels like such a different from desert cities in southern Egypt! Definitely eat some seafood, wander through the millions of books at the library and just enjoy the vibe of this port city.
Day 10-11: Siwa Oasis
I know it seems like it might not be worth the drive, but you must go out to western Egypt. It is so unique and incredibly beautiful! Siwa Oasis is about a 10 hour drive from Alexandria, so pack up a good book and settle in to enjoy the desert views. Siwa Oasis really does feel like an oasis, becomes it comes out of nowhere. Enjoy the unique rain ruins in downtown Siwa, go for a sunset bike ride and eat the best and most fresh dats you’ve ever had in your life.
Day 12: White Desert
Drive from Siwa to the White Desert to enjoy the incredibly pristine and bright landscapes. It is unlike anywhere you’ve ever seen before. Don’t forget to reach down and touch the chalky sand! Spend a night sleeping under a million visible stars and just enjoy the company of the people around you. It’s a great and peaceful way to end your trip.
Day 13: Back to Cairo
Make the long road trek back to Cairo. It’s about a 10 hour drive through the desert so queue some podcasts and get ready to enjoy the open space! When you arrive back in Cairo the noise and chaos is going to feel like a completely foreign environment.
Day 14: Say goodbye to Egypt
The end of any trip is bittersweet, but cherish the history, culture and memories that you made from your 2 weeks in Egypt!