Set sail down the Nile – one of the world’s most iconic rivers. Relax in comfort as scenes of everyday Egyptian life stream by and experience day turn to night from your sundeck.. Join a local family in a small village near Aswan for a memorable night of Nubian hospitality. Learn about this ancient culture while sharing a special dinner with your hosts.. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the Egyptian Museum and stroll through past the colours and aromas of the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.. Explore the marvels, mythology and mystery of Ancient Egypt, including the Pyramids at Giza and the tombs of iconic pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, with expert guides providing a local insight.
Pharaohs, feluccas, temples and tombs. Pyramids, bazaars, mummies and catacombs. Egypt has myriad possibilities to marvel and discover, and on a 12-day cultural expedition to its highlights, you’ll understand how time has stood still and why you’ll need a history lesson at every turn. Lose yourself in the colour and chaos of Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, stand at the feet of Abu Simbel’s monumental temples, set sail down the iconic Nile and feel grand in the Valley of the Kings. With all your comforts cared for and questions answered by knowledgeable local leaders, Egypt will serve up all the historic, symbolic and pharaonic goods.
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Egypt. You'll be met on arrival at Cairo International Airport and transferred to your hotel, and your Egyptian adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm this evening. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can be symbolised by two imposing landmarks – the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. If you have some time spare, perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts – from donkey carts to expensive cars, desert slums to modern shopping malls. You could also travel along the river by felucca – a traditional wooden sailboat – or head out to explore the Khan al-Khalili markets.
This morning after breakfast you’ll see some of the world’s most iconic sights – the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Explore these structures that have stood tall for over 4500 years, and for an additional charge, you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, although occasionally it’s closed to visitors. Afterwards, your adventure continues to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of ancient artefacts. Wander the treasure-filled halls, and make sure to check out the optional Mummies Hall for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. The masses of gleaming artefacts recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun are an impressive sight – from jewellery to the famous golden death mask and his gilded sarcophagi, this pharaoh was certainly prepared for the afterlife.
Jump in a private van today and drive to the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria (approximately 3 hours). Egypt's second-largest city and main port, locals call this vibrant city the Bride of the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek architect Dinocrates built Alexandria in 331 BC under the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalising Alexander's name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual, political and economic metropolis. On arrival, head underground and delve into the mysteries of the Kom ash-Shuqqafa catacombs. This Roman burial site is the largest of its kind in Egypt. The crypts are 20 metres below street level, and what probably began as a small family tomb grew into a labyrinth of chambers that could accommodate more than 300 bodies. Afterwards, stop by the strikingly modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina, inspired by the original great library of Alexandria and built to hold over eight million books. Take some time to stroll along the Corniche and around Fort Qaitbey to enjoy the fresh Mediterranean air.
Alexandria - Cairo - Overnight Train
This morning, pay a visit to Al Montazah Palace and Gardens. Montazah Gardens is home to two palaces, one built in 1892 and another in 1932 by King Fuad I, and acres of manicured gardens. They are located along the shoreline and flow from splendidly landscaped gardens into great beaches. Soak up the surroundings before returning by private van to Cairo (approximately 3 hours). Take some time to relax or get some snacks before you board an overnight sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours).
Overnight train journeys are a fast way to cross long distances, allowing you to avoid traffic jams and arrive right into the city centre. You will share two-berth cabins which are comfortable and air-conditioned. All bedding is provided on board by the porter. Western-style toilets are located in each carriage, but we recommend bringing additional toilet paper. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. An included dinner and breakfast are served on board. You may want to purchase something extra beforehand to supplement your meal, particularly if you're a vegetarian as only a single type of meal is served for dinner, which always includes meat. In rare circumstances you may be paired in your cabin with a group member of the opposite sex, depending on the group configuration. On other occasions, you might be sharing with another traveller of the same gender who may not be part of our group, again determined by the group configuration.
The Nile, Elephantine Island and white-sailed feluccas. Welcome to Aswan – Egypt's southernmost city. Its easy-going charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. The city is Egypt's southern gateway to Africa and an important market town, so take time here to check out one of the country's best bazaars. When you arrive, you’ll explore the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom), which was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. In any free time, you might choose to visit the excellent Nubian Museum, which showcases the history, art and culture of the Nubians. This evening you’ll experience modern Nubian culture firsthand with a visit to a nearby village. Join a local Nubian family for a memorable dinner and get an insight into the daily life of the local people.
Abu Simbel - Nile River Cruise
This morning, take a short flight (approximately 45 minutes) from Aswan to Abu Simbel, where you’ll explore some magnificent temples. Built by Ramses II, it was the gateway to Egypt for Southern Africans and its imposing facade clearly delineated the line between what was the Pharaoh's land and what was not. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, carved directly out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Return from Abu Simbel and transfer to meet your Nile cruise boat. Enjoy a fantastic mix of total relaxation and organised sightseeing on a Nile River Cruise to Luxor.
Your included flight to Abu Simbel from Aswan will be early, usually around 7 am. You will have two hours on site which includes transport to and from the temple. The expected arrival back to Aswan is before midday (12 pm). Due to scheduling and availability, these times may change. On rare occasions, the group may be split over several flights or this included activity may take place tomorrow before setting sail from Aswan. If this occurs, an additional local guide will join you to ensure that full guiding services are included at the temple for the entire group.
The total duration of the Abu Simbel Excursion will be between 4-5 hours.
Nile River Cruise
Continue your leisurely cruise down the Nile, with today’s stop at Kom Ombo Temple, north of Aswan. Built on a high dune overlooking the Nile, the complex sits picturesquely ruined on the river's edge and dates back to the second century BC. The complex is unique because it has a mirror-image design, divided down the middle, with either side dedicated to a different set of gods. One half is known as the Temple of Sobek (the crocodile-headed god of fertility), and it includes details on the Ancient Egyptian's relationship with crocodiles, whom they revered and feared in equal measure. The other half is dedicated to Haroeris (also known as Horus the falcon god), and the whole temple is full of fascinating reliefs. Afterwards, return to the boat and travel upriver, with free time relaxing on the sundeck and taking in the surrounding sights – desert hills forming a backdrop to lush riverbanks, fishermen casting their nets and farmers working their land. This is living.
Today finds you moored near Edfu – a beautifully preserved temple also dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god. You will disembark and discover the lively streets of Edfu town, so get acquainted the bustling town centre and the bazaar. You’ll have time to visit the City of Edfu if you wish (please see our notes below regarding visiting Edfu Temple) Back on board, continue towards Luxor passing through the Esna Locks. It is not uncommon to have to queue to proceed through the locks, a great opportunity to check out the process from deck with a cool drink in hand, and listen to the shouts of the many captains as they navigate their way through the various small boats of merchants selling their wares to a captive audience – life on the Nile. Chill out and make the most of the incredible views across one of the world’s greatest rivers and your last night on board.
Your Nile cruise comes to an end in the open-air museum of Luxor – from the spectacular temple complex of Karnak to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is full of wonderfully preserved reminders of the Pharaohs. Today you'll explore the Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient Pharaoh’s monumental works. One of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, Karnak is a house of the gods built over a period of some 200 years. Your guided tour of this vast temple of impressive pylons, obelisks and chapels will reveal its finest sections, such as the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Great Temple of Amun. The rest of the day is free for you to relax, shop in the excellent bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Today you’ll hop in a private minivan and discover ancient Thebes. Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon – two 17-metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank. Continue on to the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. With your leader, explore this place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made. Your group leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics, still well preserved in the deepest tombs. You will visit three of the royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut – a colonnaded building set against high cliffs that create a spectacular natural amphitheatre. The afternoon is yours to explore – perhaps you'd like to shop in the market or visit the world's first Mummification Museum to discover the secrets of pharaonic preservation.
Catch a short flight back up to Cairo this morning (approximately 1.5 hours). On your return to the capital, visit the Islamic parts of the city and the frenetic backstreets of the bazaar with your leader. A labyrinth of narrow streets and passageways, Khan is one of the biggest and oldest markets in the world. The 'Khan', sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. You might explore the gold market, ‘Perfume Street’ and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth – which you could purchase next door in the cloth market! Tonight, perhaps gather together you fellow travellers for a celebratory kebab, kofta, sheesha, or all of the above.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart at any time. Please ensure you confirm your hotel check-out time with your leader.