There are so may wonderful things to do in Egypt, as well as numerous interesting places to visit, that traveling to the country is a definite something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.
This is the ultimate guide about the best places to visit in Egypt, the most fun things to do in Egypt, and everything in between. Whether you can only visit for a week, or you have months to explore, this list will give you an idea of everything Egypt has to offer!
5 essential Arabic terms to learn
1. Salaam Alaikum – Meaning ‘peace be upon you’, this is like saying hello and is a standard greeting. The response is Alaikum Salaam – and ‘upon you be peace’.
2. Shukron – Thank you / Afwan -You’re welcome.
3. Ana iza (f) Ana Ayez (m) – I want / ana izine – We want (and just as importantly, don’t want = Mish Iza).
4. Khalas – It’s finished, that’s enough, let that be an end to it. If someone is hassling you, you can use this word, but it is a little abrupt so be warned!
5. Meya meya – It literally means ’100, 100′ but translates as ‘excellent’ or ‘really good’. Great to say at the end of a meal!
15 Things to do in Egypt you can't miss
1. Siwa Oasis
If you spend long enough in Egypt, you’ll eventually come across Siwa brand water bottles. If you look hard enough and drive far enough out toward the Libyan border, you’ll come across the Oasis itself.
This remote town is a great way to see another side of Egypt beyond bustling cities like Cairo and Alexandria.
Siwa has a unique culture that is a result of the Berber origins of many Siwans, and their relative isolation until the 1980s when a road was built.
Siwa is also a popular place to go for a tour in the dessert. While some prefer walking, nothing beats romping around in jeeps, duneboarding, and sunset over the Sahara. There are also several springs (cold and hot) and a small lake to swim in.
2. See the sunrise from Mount Sinai
If you are into a good night hike, unbelievable starry skies, and memorable sunrises, you will definitely enjoy Mount Sinai in Egypt. Much more than a religious pilgrimage, the hike is packed with tourists from all over the world ready enjoy one of the planet’s most breathtaking sunrise and one of the highest points in Egypt.
Climbing to the summit takes approximately 6 hours, considering regular stops at huts to get a warm hot chocolate or simply to catch your breath, and can be done either during the day or at night, to see the sunset or sunrise.
Also known as Moses Mountain, this hike is a great thing to do in Egypt.
3. The South Sinai
If you are looking for world-class beaches, even better diving and snorkeling, sand dunes and plenty of sun, but prefer to get far away from the tourist hoards, go explore the villages lining the Red Sea in the South Sinai Peninsula.
Everyone has heard of Sharm El Shiekh, as its the most popular resort town in the Sinai, but its, well, the most popular. So except for flying in to there, it would be more fun to be based in Dahab for your Sinai explorations.
Dahab is amazing itself, and my favorite, but from there you can easily get around and visit more nearby towns and villages Ras um Sid, Neiweba, Taba and a few more
Have you seen our guide to Dahab?
4. Discover loads of history in Luxor
Luxor is located in south/central Egypt and is home to many of the most fascinating relics of ancient Egypt, including Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings.
Luxor is now a large modern city that sits atop the ancient city of Thebes, which was once the capital of ancient Egypt, where all the great Kings of the New Kingdom reigned.
The Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens together house nearly 140 known tombs built far underground and large enough to hold all of the possessions the pharaohs would need in the afterlife. Also nearby and worth a visit are Karnak Temple and Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir al-Bahari.
5. Peruse the city of Alexandria
Alexandria is Egypt’s biggest industrial seaport and a busy tourist destination, located on the Mediterranean coast. Tourist, as well as Egyptians from Cairo, can find a lot of things to do in Alexandria, from ancient monuments, museums and sweet beaches.
Anyone that enjoys Egyptian history and archaeology should explore the the Catacombs of Kom es-Shoqafa were built around 2 A.D. There is also the Alexandria National Museum that showcases some priceless
Other historic and sweet monuments you should see in Alexandria are Abu El Abbas Mosque, the Anfushi Tombs, Citadel of Qaitbey, the Roman Amphitheater, Montazah Palace and Gardens, the Pompey’s Pillar and more. Definitely come visit this city named for Alexander the Great.
6. Abu Simbel
An ancient pharaonic temple located near Aswan, Egypt, Abu Simbel is one of the most incredible monuments in the world.
Made up of two enormous and elaborately carved rock structures, Abu Simbel was originally built into the mountainside by Ramesses II in the 13th century BC as a way of showing his stature and greatness following a victorious battle against his neighboring enemies.
In 1960, a campaign was launched to save Abu Simbel from being destroyed by the rising waters caused by the construction of the nearby Aswan High Dam.
With the help of UNESCO, the entire complex was relocated to a position above the reservoir, which was no small feat. The temple was placed in exactly the same relation to the sun as it originally was, and it is safely out of the water’s destructive path.
7. Sail a felucca down the Nile River towards Aswan
One of the most popular things to do in Egypt is a cruise on the Nile River. Most cruises leave from Aswan, head downriver (North) and end in Luxor.
While the mystique of Nile cruising is to board a traditional felucca sail boat, most visitors opt for one of the modern three-story river cruisers.
The modern boats run at set schedules, while feluccas are at the whims of the current and the wind. Feluccas are also very primitive and do not provide facilities, which can be a challenge – particularly for female passengers.
Generally, feluccas don’t make the entire trip from Aswan to Luxor – visitors usually only get 1 or 2 nights on the boat and then board buses for the rest of the trip.
8. Go diving in The Red Sea
The diving in Egypt is world class for sure. I went there to try it out, and ended up staying for months doing nothing but diving. The huge abundance of marine life as well as pristine reef is insane! The diving in Egypt is amazing, and so far, my favorite location in the world.
There are so many awesome dive locations in the Red Sea, that we put together the Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving Egypt.
9. Take a desert safari
This is another really popular thing to do in Egpyt, because the deserts here are like nothing else you’ve experienced.
Your hotel, in probably any city in Egypt, can hook you up on a guided desert safari, almost always with a local Bedouin or two, who will take you out and show you a desert, usually topped off with an amazing star-gazing opportunity and a Bedouin cooked dinner.
There are a few different kinds of safaris though. You can go by camel, donkey, horse, ATV and Jeep. What ever you pick, you are sure to make some long lasting memories!
10. Egyptian Antiquities Museum
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a treasure trove of antiquities relating to the pharaohs. If you thought the traveling King Tut exhibit that makes an appearance in top cities around the world was impressive, you will simply be amazed at the breadth and depth of this museum.
There are two floors full of exhibits. The ground floor features treasures like age-old papyrus and coins, monuments carved out of stone and wood, and dozens of statues and busts of pharaohs. The second floor holds the major exhibits – the ones that draw lines of people waiting to get a peek.
There’s a large display on Tutankhamun, containing dozens of artifacts from his tomb and burial dress, most impressive of which is his 24-pound gold death mask.
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11. Temple of Hathor at Dendera
The Dendera Temple complex is located about 2.5 km south-east of Dendera, Egypt and is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. For history buffs who love ancient Egypt, this is a must-visit.
Hathor temple is the main temple, but there are many others in the complex including Temple of the birth of Isis, Sacred Lake, Sanatorium, Mammisi of Nectanebo II, Christian Basilica, Roman Mammisi, a Bark shine, Gateways of Domitian & Trajan and the Roman Kiosk.
The oldest building in the compound today is the Mammisi, raised by Nectanebo II in 360–343 BC, but there is evidence of a temple built in the eighteenth dynasty (ca 1500 BC). SO if you are looking for some really old, in-good-shape temples with not many tourists, then this is the place to see!
12. Hurghada and El-Gouna
Both Hurgarda and El Gouna are popular beach destination for Europeans and Egyptian tourists alike. Mostly frequented by Italian, German and Russian divers, these two resort towns, nearest beaches to Cairo, are the go-to, and one of the top things to do in Egypt for some.
Hurgarda is the biggest of the two, and is much more touristy. There is nearly 20 kilometers of resorts and dive centers lining the shores with plenty of things to do.
Most come either to relax on awesome beaches or to go diving, but due to over-use, the best diving is far off shore. But those dives are incredible.
13. El Alamein
Located 106 kilometres (66 mi) west of Alexandria and 240 kilometres (149 mi) northwest of Cairo, El Alamein was the front for two massive battles during WW2, the first on 1 – 27 July 1942 and the second on 23 October – 4 November 1942.
These were huge fights, were thousands of people lost their lives, both on German and Italian sides and well as the Allies. Today the city holds some major war memorials and museums you need to visit, that commemorate the dead.
The battle for Al Alamein was one of the most important victories, and definitely the first the the entire European front. If the Germans would have had control over the Suez Canal, the resupplying for the allies would have been all but stopped.
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14. The Pyramids of Giza
Ok, lets get this one out of the way. We have all heard about the Pyramids of Giza, the most famous place in Egypt to see, and definitely on top when it comes to popular Egypt Attraction. This isn’t anything new, but what kind of guide would this be without mentioning them!?
There are actually over 120 KNOWN pyramids around Egypt, but the ones in Giza, shown above, are the biggest and the main reason for tourism in Egypt. Did you know that Khufu, the biggest of the three, and also named the Great Pyramid of Egypt, is the last and only remaining of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world? It also happens to be the oldest. It was built from 2575-2566 BC by the Pharaoh Khufu, son of Sneferu, who built the worlds first Pyramid.
15. Visit all the UNESCO World Heritage sites
Most, if not all, know about the Great Pyramids of Giza, as they are the most popular places to visit in Egypt, But did you know there are actually 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around Egypt?
All are worth a visit, and some are the most interesting things to do in Egypt. Here are those sites:
Here are the 7 Egypt UNESCO Sites:
Abu Mena was a town, monastery complex and Christian pilgrimage center in Late Antique Egypt, southwest of Alexandria. Its remains were designated a World Heritage Site in 1979.
There are very few standing remains, but the foundations of most major buildings, such as the great basilica, are easily discernible.
Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
Thebes, the city of the god Amon, was the capital of Egypt during the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms. With the temples and palaces at Karnak and Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Thebes is a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height, and is a must see when in Egypt.
To many, this is even more beautiful and mysterious than the Great Pyramids. Make sure its on your list of top things to do in Egypt!
Though the Pyramids were the only thing Cairo had to offer? Nope. Inside the modern urban area of Cairo lies one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains.
Founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century. Don’t leave Cairo without checking it out first!
- The Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
You thought I would forget the Pyramids didn’t you? The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids.
In ancient times, the site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. These are on the bucket list of things to see for many a traveler, and for good reason.
- Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
This outstanding archaeological area contains such magnificent monuments as the Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae, which were saved from the rising waters of the Nile thanks to the International Campaign launched by UNESCO, in 1960 to 1980.
In my opinion, Simbel is much more beautiful and grandiose then the famous Pyramids, yet many less people know about or travel to them. These are sites to behold. I am sure when you were writing your list of things to do in Egypt, this was on the top of that list!
- Saint Catherine Area
The St. Catherine Monastery is at the foot Mount Horeb, or “Moses Mountain”; the biblical mountain where Moses received the ten commandments. The mountain is known and revered by Muslims as Jebel Musa.
The entire area is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Monastery, founded in the 6th century, is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its initial function. St. Catherine is popular for non-religious people as well, as it is said to have one of the best sunsets/sunrises in the world. It’s definitely a place to visit!
- Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)
Wadi Al-Hitan is a paleontological site in the Al Fayyum Governorate of Egypt, about 150 km southwest of Cairo. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005 for its hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of whale. No other place in the world yields the number, concentration and quality of such fossils.
Now, either by 4×4, camel or by foot, you can visit the Wadi Al-Hitan protected area and see the ancient bones. Definitely an off-the-beaten-track place that you should visit. Just goes to show that some of the best things to do in Egypt are far off the beaten track!