If you are wondering what the best things to do in Egypt are, I have to say that’s a tough one. Not for lack of choice, but because Egypt has so many wonderful things to do, places to eat, and ancient tourist attractions to visit.
Egypt has a gorgeous coast and is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It’s easy to see why the country receives over 10 million visits a year, all trying to plan out the best things to do in Egypt.
If you’re planning a trip to Egypt, you’ll want to read this list to pick out what Egypt points of interest you want to visit. Don’t forget to check out our Egypt travel tips after the read!
The Best Things to do in Egypt
It’s impossible to visit Egypt and skip its capital city. Cairo is the largest Arabic city and famous for its Islamic architecture (and copious minarets). If you’re a photographer or a history buff, this is a must-see, particularly if you are in any way interested in the history of the ancient world.
Cairo is associated with Ancient Egypt due to its proximity to the Nile Delta, the ancient city of Memphis, and the Giza pyramids.
Pyramids of Giza
You can’t visit Cairo and not head to the pyramids, they are among one of those unbelievable things of Egypt everyone should see. Obviously, they are among one of the best things to do in Egypt. The Pyramids of Giza are easily the best things to see in Egypt and have been an icon for the country for hundreds of years.
It’s easy to visit the pyramids yourself, but to hear all the stories and get the information, it’s best to hire a guide for the day to share with you all the interesting information. Camel rides are available, and you will 100% get asked if you want a camel ride. We declined the ride as the camels looked like they were in poor condition.
It’s possible to go inside the Pyramid of Kofu for an extra ticket. However, if you get claustrophobic, I would avoid it. It’s extremely hot, humid, and tight.
Make sure to see the Sphinx before leaving. It’s a long walk or a short drive away from the main pyramid complex, but well worth a stop and photo op. Our guide for the day brought us here, which was extremely helpful, and we were happy we had him guide us around the large site in the heat.
Once again, this is a must-see for Egyptology enthusiasts or anyone who loves a good historical site. Luxor is a city on the banks of the Nile, known for being the site of the ancient city of Thebes—the pharaohs’ seat of power during their reign.
Karnak and Luxor Temples are the main sights to see here (two massive surviving structures from the golden age of Thebes). For those who like tombs, royal burial sites of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are also in the area. Definitely one of the best things to do in Egypt and on most visitors’ Egypt bucket list.
Aswan is a must-see in Egypt. Things to do in Aswan include a massive (unfinished) obelisk, an open-air museum, a mausoleum, and Elephantine Island, chock full of archeological sites. There’s even a monastery in the middle of the desert. Being located right on the banks of the Nile, consider taking a boat cruise up the river, whether just for the day or to sail to your next destination.
Nile River Cruise
One of the best things to do in Egypt is cruise up or down the Nile. We were able to check many of the sites on this list off on our Nile River Cruise with the Steam Ship Sudan thanks to the tailor-made holidays specialist Original Travel.
A Nile River Cruise can be a great way to see all that Egypt has to offer between Luxor and Aswan. There’s no better feeling than watching the sun go down on the banks of the Nile from the actual Nile River.
The ship we went on has to be the most unique in all of Egypt. The SS Sudan is the most luxurious way to cruise the Nile. This ship is over 100 years old, and between 1922 and 1935, it enjoyed the “golden age” of Nile River cruising. In 1933, Agatha Christie embarked on an archaeological mission and was inspired to write Death on the Nile, with people she met on the cruise becoming real-life characters in the book. We made an entire video to showcase this extraordinary ship!
From the Second World War to the 1990s, the SS Sudan sat docked until she was revitalized at the turn of the century. Now it sits as one of the last reminders of the golden era in Egypt. See our full review of our time on this ship here.
After spending time landlocked among temple and pyramid ruins, we can’t blame you for wanting to soak in a bit of sun. Hurghada is a beachside resort town along the Red Sea coast, famed for its world-renowned scuba diving (there are even many diving schools here to help you learn).
The Sekalla district is more modern, with nightclubs, restaurants, and bars, while the “old town” (El Dahar) is home to more traditional cultural ventures like souks and traditional Egyptian coffee shops (so there’s something for everyone).
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Less than an hour away from Hurghada is Soma Bay. Soma Bay is a coastal resort area tucked away on its own peninsula. It’s one of the best things to see in Egypt and where you’ll find honeymooners, families, and passionate divers.
It’s one of the best places in Egypt to have a completely relaxing holiday, go diving, or try your hand at golf. It has all the fun adventure things like windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, and quad biking across the desert.
If long stretches of white sand, crystalline waters, and coral reefs are even remotely up your alley, there’s a pretty strong chance you will like Marsa Alam. And enjoying the Red Sea is one of the best things to do in Egypt! Also located on the Red Sea coast, this is an excellent spot for diving and snorkeling, particularly if you want to see the sea turtles or dugongs (similar to manatees) that call the region home.
Among the other things to do, there are ancient gold mines, emerald mines, a shipping port, and nearby Karnak Temple (see below for more info) for those who can’t get their fill of historical sites.
Temple of Karnak
One of the main Egypt points of interest is Karnak Temple. The most remarkable thing about the Temple of Karnak is that it’s less a single temple so much as it is an entire complex of temples, chapels, pillars, and other structures in varying states of decay. It’s not far from Luxor, so chances are this could be worked into your time staying there as a day trip.
Construction on the temple began around 2055 BC, though much of what remains is from slightly more modern times (11th century AD). The grounds of the temple are vast and even include an open-air museum. Of the four parts to the complex, the largest one (the Precinct of Amun-Re) is the only one open to travelers.
Temple of Edfu
While many ruined temples in Egypt are just that (in ruins), the Temple of Edfu is one of the best-preserved structures in the country. The walls of this temple are inscribed with near-endless text that gives crucial historical context into life in the Hellenistic period in Egypt.
The site contains statues, busts, and wall carvings of Egyptian gods. There are even regional-specific structures such as a nilometer (a structure to measure the clarity and water level of the Nile river during its flooding season).
Kom Ombo is a must-visit in Egypt. As far as the historically unusual goes, the Temple of Kom Ombo is probably a front runner. It is a double temple, for starters, meaning that all of a temple’s usual structures were built in double, in dedication to two sets of gods.
Being that one of the gods revered here was Sobek, the crocodile god of fertility, some 300 crocodile mummies were discovered at this site and are housed in the nearby Crocodile Museum. The walls and enormous columns of this temple are inscribed with text and colored hieroglyphs.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a valley on the western bank of the Nile across from Luxor, where pharaohs and nobility were buried in rock-cut tombs. While the valley contains 63 tombs, several have been discovered in only the past decade, indicating that many more could exist.
Most of these are not open to the public. Time spent inside is limited and silent (guide lecturing happens outside, and then tourists are instructed to travel single file quietly through the tombs to minimize potential damage from visitors over time). Despite this, it is a world-renowned site worth seeing.
Valley of the Queens
There can’t be a Valley of the Kings without having one for the Queens, too. This is where the wives of pharaohs would be buried. This valley contains 91 known tombs in the main valley and an additional 19. The earliest tomb carved here is thought to be that of the wife of Ramses I, and perhaps the best-known tomb is that of Nefertari, Ramses III’s favorite queen. Like the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 90s.
Temple of Abydos (Temple of Seti I)
While the one remaining structure is known as the Great Temple of Abydos, it is part of a larger complex called the Temple of Seti I. The temple was dedicated to Seti and early pharaohs, and there is a wall within the temple on which are carved the names of kings and pharaohs recognized by Seti (known as the Abydos King List).
The grounds of the temple contained several chapels, most of which are in varying states of decay. Regardless of the Temple’s condition, its ruins are no less impressive and worth seeing.
Dendera Temple Complex
Located less than two miles from Dendera lies one of the country’s best-preserved temple complexes. A site of human habitation as far back as 1500 BC, this was likely an oasis owing to its location on the banks of the Nile river.
The Hathor temple is the largest structure in the 40,000 square meter complex, but the area also includes several chapels, shrines, and basilicas throughout.
Temple of Isis, Agilkia (Temple of Philae)
Another one of the best places to visit in Egypt is the Temple of Isis. While Egypt’s endless ancient temples are all impressive, there’s something about a temple on an island that has a little extra something. The Temple of Isis is located on Agilkia Island, having been moved in the 1960s from its original location of Philae Island due to flooding in the region.
The temple is one of the last structures built in the classical Egyptian style and one of the last to worship Isis. You can take a river cruise with a stop here, and at night, there is a wonderful light and sound show on-site.
City of Memphis
When this city was at the height of its glory, it served as the capital of Ancient Egypt and the entrance into the Giza region, thanks to its location at the entrance to the Nile Valley. This was a site of everything from kings to commerce to religion.
Of its most famous events, Alexander the Great was crowned pharaoh, and the Rosetta Stone originated from the city. The city declined to almost nothing after being annexed by the Romans and becoming Christianized, and today is an impressive array of preserved ruins to explore.
It’s here that you can also see a colossal statue of Ramesses II.
Located near Cairo and the remains of the ancient city of Memphis, Saqqara served as a large cemetery complex for the latter. The area contains several pyramids and large tombs, the most famous of which is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which is widely regarded as Egypt’s first large stone structure (a precursor to the Giza pyramids, having been built some 70 years earlier).
To this day, routine excavations are revealing new discoveries, including animal mummies, rare burial masks, and, most recently, nearly 2000 mummies of noblemen.
Thanks to the rise of Instagram travel photography, this might be one of Egypt’s most recognizable structures and are among one of the best places to go in Egypt. The temples of Abu Simbel include the Temple of Ramesses II and the Small Temple of Hathor and Nefertari.
Most well-known is the facade of the temple structure—it consists of a single entrance door flanked by four 65-foot carvings of seated Ramesses.
The temple was designed so that on October 22 and February 22, the sun will light up the interior room and the sculptures on the far wall. Many people gather annually to witness this, as it is truly an awe-inspiring scene to see.
Located just across the river from where the city of Luxor stands today, Deir el-Medina was the city where artisans who built the Valley of the Kings lived and worked.
It is some of the best and most detailed documentation of community in Egyptian history, with a detailed account of everything from social interactions to living and working conditions spanning 400 years—all thanks to hundreds of surviving texts detailing day-to-day happenings. Notable sights when visiting include the wall around the city, housing foundations, and the pyramid tomb.
Luxor Temple is a must see in Egypt. Dating back from 1400 BC, Luxor Temple stands in today’s city of Luxor and was, in ancient times, one of the most important sites of religious worship in the country.
Constructed throughout several reigns, including those of King Tutankhamen, Ramses II, and Amenhotep III, today what is left are partially reconstructed ruins (which include an impressive complex of nearly 30 20-foot high pillars complete with carvings), and the Great Colonnade Hall.
Dedicated to the sun god Amon-Ra, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is built into the cliff face across from modern-day Luxor. Built in the classical style and somewhat modern-looking in its linearity, the structure includes a terrace complete with colonnades, courts, a chapel, and a sanctuary.
While today it is largely ruined and what remains has been dutifully reconstructed, in its day, it would have been quite a sight, with lush gardens and a causeway flanked by sphinxes. Visit in the morning, as this location is one of the hottest places in the world.
Colossi of Memnon
Still, wondering what to do in Egypt? Don’t miss the Colossi of Memnon after visiting the Valley of the Kings nearby. The Colossi of Memnon are two enormous sandstone statues of a seated Amenhotep III, just east of Luxor along the Nile. Though today they appear to be freestanding, they flanked the entrance to the aforementioned king’s mortuary grounds in their day.
This structure no longer exists, thanks to regular flooding and the practice of using existing structures as building materials for new ones, but the seated guardians have persisted.
The Blue Desert is what it sounds like: a Belgian artist, inspired by the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, was permitted to paint rocks in the desert blue. This brightly-hued installation sits where many battles occurred between the two countries, as a testament to the peace made between them.
They make for an interesting photo due to the unusual and prominent coloring that differs drastically from the amber hues around them. Thanks to its proximity to Mount Sinai, this has become a revered site, where God is believed to have spoken to Moses.
One of the most unique things to do in Egypt is visit the White Desert. Though the White Desert is a little less accessible than many sights in and around major hub cities (it involves a five-hour drive to get to the region), it’s worth the visit.
The white calcite rocks have worn down finely enough to resemble sand, giving the entire landscape a bright, almost lunar-like appearance. It’s some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises you will ever see. If you do brave the cold nighttime temperatures, you will see some of the starriest skies you may ever see in your lifetime.
When is the Best Time to Visit Egypt?
Is Egypt Safe to Visit?
Since the 1970s, tourism has been one of the leading drivers of Egypt’s economy. Tourism is crucial to employment, income levels, and the economy as a whole. In 2010, Egypt was a trendy place to visit, drawing in people worldwide. At its height, the country saw almost 15 million visitors a year.
During and after the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, tourism plummeted to less than 9 million visitors. More than a 30% drop in the countries top sector hurt Egypt hard. What followed was a series of terrorist attacks that only crippled the country more. But now tourism is bouncing back.
So is Egypt a safe place to visit? Well, of course, I can’t say that because nothing happened to us that it is absolutely safe. BUT after our recent trip, I felt secure and well looked out for during my entire trip.
Tourism companies and the government have gone to great lengths to make their country more secure. We never entered a single site without having to pass through multiple security checkpoints, we got police escorts to certain temples in the middle of nowhere, and when we flew from Cairo to Hurghada, we had to pass through three security checkpoints at the airport.
If you want to go to Egypt but are nervous about your safety, it’s best to book through an organized travel agent.
Should You Hire a Guide in Egypt?
We don’t typically hire guides when we travel. But in Egypt, we knew we needed one not only to take us to the amazing sites but to tell us all about the ancient history of what we were seeing.
There are no placards or pamphlets to inform you about ancient statutes and historical sites at most of these things to do in Egypt. Our guide was essential to our Egypt trip. The only place where we did not have a guide was on the coast of Hurghada, where we spent the majority of the time relaxing and diving.
We hired our guide in Cairo throughout Airbnb, and our guide from Luxor to Aswan was all part of our Nile River Cruise tour.
If you’re on the fence, consider supporting the local economy and hiring a guide for your trip. Egypt is not an expensive country, and you can easily get a guide for your whole group for under $100 a day. Please remember to tip at the end!
What to Wear in Egypt
One of my top travel Egypt tips is to dress appropriately. It gets HOT in Egypt, especially the further south you go. Peak tourist season in Egypt runs from mid-October to May, during winter and spring. If you visit in the summer (June – September), you’ll constantly be seeking heat relief.
We visited in mid-October, and while Cairo and the Red Sea were fairly comfortable, once we got to Luxor, it was stifling hot until we departed Egypt. Our days started around 4:30 am so that we would sightsee before the heat of the day at noon. We generally stayed in the shade or AC from 12-4, and then ventured back out again in the evening.
It’s important to dress for hot temperatures while still respecting that you’re in a conservative country. This means white and tan loose clothing. Dresses past the knee, light pants, and shirts that aren’t too revealing are ideal.
I prefer linen in hot temperatures like this. Also don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sun protection! – See more Egypt packing tips here! You can check out our packing recommendations at the bottom of this post.
Best Things to do in Egypt Map
Quick Egypt Travel Tips
- Language – Arabic. However, with good education and a strong tourist industry English is widely spoken.
- Currency: Egyptian Pound
- Visa: Most visitors can get a 30-day visa on arrival for $25
- What to Pack: Pack for desert temperatures. Light, loose, and conservative clothing works best here!
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Egypt so it’s best not to contribute to the problem of buying plastic water bottles when possible.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about the favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
These were great to have! You’ll do a lot of walking around Egypt in the extremely hot sun. Hiking sandals allow for your feet to breathe and they do not collect sand when trudging through the desert. You bet we’ve reviewed the best hiking sandals for travelers!
Want to fit in in Egypt? Get yourself some Rainbow brand sandals, seriously everyone around you will be wearing them – and for a good reason. They are uber comfortable once you break them in and last forever!
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to Egypt, good walking shoes should be your top concern.
Remember that Egypt uses Type C and F electrical outlets. Make sure you find a good universal adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land.