Recently, I received an email from a friend regarding her upcoming trip to Egypt. She had only 6 days to see the famous highlights in
I wanted to stand up and scream (more like shout at the computer screen), “6 Days! Only 6 Days! That’s like trying to see all of Paris in a half-day or smash through Rome in a frantic 24 hour blitz. You need two of you…or four of you to see it all.” This is a common problem I’ve come across – travelers trying to squeeze Egypt into a handful of days. It’s tough. Egypt is a big country, and often with only 2 weeks vacation a year, Americans, want to see as much as possible in a short amount of time.
My friend’s 6 Day Egypt Extravaganza request is not all that uncommon, so I’m sharing my suggested itinerary below. This recommended trip immerses you in Egypt’s rich history, and squeezes in a little exploration of it’s natural wonders. To see Egypt properly I recommend at least 10 days, preferably two weeks. The longer trip provides time to enjoy a cruise of the Nile from Luxor to Aswan (or Aswan to Luxor) or more time enjoying it’s stunning deserts and great diving on the Red Sea.
Day 1: Giza Pyramids in the morning, Cairo Museum in the afternoon (leave the pyramids no later than 1pm to be to the Cairo Museum by 2pm). Arrive at the Giza Plateau when it opens to purchase a ticket to go inside the Great Pyramid. Evening trip to the Khan el-Kahili (Cairo’s grand bazaar). This massive traditional shopping center is just as lively and packed with people at midnight as in the afternoon.
Day 2: Take the early morning train to Alexandria (lovingly referred to as “Alex” by the locals”. In Alexandria visit the Catacombs, Pompeii’s Pillar, and the Qaitbay For (built on the spot of the famous ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria). Rent a taxi to go from site to site, Alexandria is big, you can’t walk everywhere. Evening train back to Cairo. [If there is 3 or more people in your party consider renting a car and driver for the day. This can be a worthwhile option even if there are only two in your group.]
Day 3: Fly to Luxor early in the morning on EgyptAir (keep a few “Inshallahs” handy for when the pilot is late due to standard Cairo traffic or the maintenance crew decides to duck tape the plane back together). Drop luggage at your hotel and hit the sites of the East Bank. Visit Luxor mid-day and Karnak in the afternoon. Attend the Karnak at Night show if it’s running.
Day 4:Rent a taxi or car for the day. This day is all about the West Bank. Visit Deir el-Bahari when it opens before the heat and crowds of tourists spoil it’s peaceful setting. Then it’s onto the Valley of the Kings (and Valley of the Monkey’s if you have time), Ramesseum, Valley of the Queens, Colossi of Memnon. If you’re feeling spunky and energized do the hour long hike over the mountains passes from Deir el-Bahari to the Valley of the Kings. Plan to do this hike early in the morning right after you visit Deir el-Bahari. Fly out in the evening either to el-Gouna (you actually fly into Hurghada and then take the $10 taxi ride to Gouna) or Dahab. Both are on the red sea. Sharm el-Sheikh is too touristy these days.
Day 5: Diving, snorkeling, dolphin watching, ATV riding in the desert, relaxing on the Red Sea. If you’re less into relaxing and more into Egypt’s history use this day to visit Aswan. Fly the night of Day 4 from Luxor to Aswan, and then on Day 5 visit Philae, the Nilometer, The Tombs of the Nobles and Kom Ombo Temple.
Day 6: Fly back to Cairo, visit Islamic Cairo and the Citadel, and make a Khan run (to the Khan el-Kahili) for last minute gifts.
That’s my 6 day whirlwind itinerary – it’s intense and jam-packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Now is a great time to visit Egypt; the country is safe and not many tourists are currently clogging up the famous sites. I go into greater depth in other articles on ArchaeoAdventures about how to visit Egypt and why it’s never been a better time to visit Egypt.