Cairo is a place like no other; a rambling metropolis of sand-beaten colours and ancient wonder. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the acclaimed sites and lose yourself in bustle of this fascinating city.. Bask in the unique atmosphere of Aswan and experience not only the warmth and charm of Nubian hospitality, but also some delicious traditional cuisine on a local homestay.. Set sail on one of the world’s most iconic rivers with an included felucca trip down the Nile. Relax and soak up the landscapes, as scenes of everyday Egyptian life pass you by.. Unwind in the vibrant beach resort of Hurghada, perhaps exploring the extraordinary ecosystem and coral reefs off Giftun Island deep in the dazzling Red Sea.
Travel with Intrepid and Lonely Planet to experience the ancient stories and pharaonic cultures that are the quintessential image of Egypt. For 15 days, adventure to bustling Cairo, cruise along the Nile in a traditional felucca and explore Luxor, Alexandria and coastal Hurghada. Gaze at the grandeur of the pyramids, step back in time at magnificent tombs and relax on deck while you watch rural Egyptian life pass you by along the Nile. Acclaimed sights, tucked-away treasures, Nubian hospitality and everything in between – let your mind wander as you discover the true face of Egypt.
Breakfast Included: 14 Lunches Included: 4 Dinner Included: 5
Welcome to Cairo – Egypt's chaotic capital. Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Cairo is one of the great ancient cities and its history can be symbolised by two imposing landmarks – the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. If you have time, why not jump on a quick felucca ride or head out to explore the markets. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, the Christian Coptic sector is well worth a visit.
After breakfast, set out to see some of Egypt’s most renowned sights. Visit Giza’s pyramids and Sphinx – instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power. Explore these structures that have stood tall for 4500 years, and you may even be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu for an additional charge. Afterwards, perhaps make your way to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the museum, and check out the optional Mummies Hall for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. Later in the evening, meet your leader and travel to Giza train station, where you will board a sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours).
The Nile, Elephantine Island and white-sailed feluccas: welcome to Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city. Today is a free day so take the opportunity to see such Aswan sites as the unfinished obelisk or the High Dam. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is top of many visitors’ lists. Highly recommended is the beautiful Temple of Isis (goddess of health, marriage and wisdom), which was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated to 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. The waterfront promenade, or corniche, runs alongside one of the Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. Watch the waterfront come alive at dusk, with families out strolling, socialising and relaxing along the corniche.
This morning is your best chance to head out of Aswan and visit stunning Abu Simbel, if you choose to. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Otherwise, the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular afternoon option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively, you could take a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned seventh-century fortress located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your local leader will be on hand to help you get the most out of your day. You may prefer to just relax and take in the beauty of the Nile, or do some shopping in the vibrant bazaar.
This morning, jump on a traditional Egyptian sailboat – or felucca – for a morning sail until lunch. After lunch on board the felucca, arrive at a Nubian homestay on the west bank of the Nile. Here, you’ll learn about the local way of life with a walk through the surrounding countryside and agriculture fields to reach the homestay. The house is in traditional Nubian style, with a sandy courtyard in the middle where the family gathers for meals, and bedrooms to the side – this is where you’ll be staying for the night. Get into the swing of Egyptian life by lending a hand in the kitchen to help cook dinner, or maybe kick around a football in the courtyard with the kids. There are few better ways to understand a country and its people than with a local homestay, and you’ll have the chance tonight to soak it all up.
Board another felucca today and enjoy a day out on the river, seeing rural Egyptian daily life play out on the banks before spending a night under the stars. Your sailing crew will provide all of your onboard meals, which are hearty and delicious. The felucca is a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails, offering some shade and protection from the elements, but there is no cabin or enclosed section – watching the sun setting over the Nile in the evening from an open deck is an experience you won't forget.
After farewelling the felucca crew, take a private van to Luxor (approximately 3.5 hours). Today you will explore the magnificent Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient pharoahs' 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 will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Rise early this morning and head into 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 sprawling and spectacular 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, their funerary rites, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics, still well-preserved in the deepest tombs. Visit three of the most interesting royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut – a stunning colonnaded building set against high cliffs that create a spectacular natural amphitheatre. The legendary Hatshepsut had this mortuary temple built to signify her importance and honour her ancestors.
This morning, farewell the Nile to drive east to the beachside town of Hurghada (approximately 5 hours). The green Nile valley is soon left behind as you head out into the Eastern Desert. As you pass by rocky hills, the glittering waters of the Red Sea come into view and the rugged bulk of the Sinai Peninsula looms through the haze on the opposite shore. A vibrant beach resort, Hurghada is by no means a typical adventure destination. After checking in to your hotel, take a leader-led orientation walk to get your bearings and to scope out some of the local restaurants.
Transfer to the Hurghada Marina and climb aboard your boat for a trip out to Giftun Island – part of the Red Sea Marine Parks – where you’ll spend a relaxing day on the stunning white beach of Mahmya. While here, you have the opportunity to take a snorkelling excursion by boat to one of the most magnificent reefs in the Red Sea – fine reef walls, lovely fan corals and colourful fish all await. Your snorkelling gear is provided. After a buffet lunch in one of Mahmya’s open-air restaurants overlooking the ocean, there are plenty of activities to choose from, such as volleyball, soccer, or simply lazing on the beach. Head back to Hurghada in the late afternoon and transfer to your hotel.
Check out of your hotel this morning and make the 6-hour journey back to Cairo by private vehicle. On your return, visit the Islamic parts of the city and the frenetic backstreets of the local Khan el-Khalili bazaar with your group leader. The ‘Khan’ is one of the biggest and oldest markets in the world, sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes and a quintessentially Cairo experience. 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 can be purchased next door in the cloth market!).
Jump in a private van today and follow the ‘desert road’ 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. On arrival, take an orientation walking tour with your leader. 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. Take some time to stroll along the corniche and take in some fresh Mediterranean air. Alexandria at night is not to be missed, with the whole city lighting up.