Navigating beyond the Nile: Getting the most out of your Egyptian Adventure  ⋆ Tredwell Travel

Navigating beyond the Nile: Getting the most out of your Egyptian Adventure 

Egypt can be an overwhelming undertaking for a holiday due to the sheer volume and quality of sites across the country. With some of the best-preserved ancient ruins in the world, top rated snorkelling and dive sites along the Red Sea coast and beautifully peaceful towns and resorts all packed into one country, it’s difficult to know where to look first when planning your trip. So, here’s a whistle-stop tour of Egypt’s best sites, the ones you’ve seen before and hopefully a few you didn’t even know were there, all waiting for you to discover them. 

1. The Red Pyramid, Dahshur 

The Nile 

The focal point for any trip to this country, Egypt’s bustling capital, Cairo, is packed full of history. Taking a tour of the ancient sites allows you to see the monumental Giza Necropolis, including the Great Pyramid and Sphinx, as well as visit nearby pyramids located at Saqqara and Dahshur (picture 1) and the site of the ancient city of Memphis, all in one day. The much-anticipated opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum is scheduled for early 2024, with an exhibition containing some 5,000 artefacts found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Away from ancient Giza, Cairo has plenty more recent history to explore. Take a walk down Al Moez street in the Islamic Quarter in the early evening for many great examples of Islamic architecture (picture 2), a single ticket grants access to them all. From here, move straight to the Khan el-Khalili night market to witness Cairo at its vibrant and chaotic best. Also not to be missed is the Coptic Quarter, where churches have stood since the 7th Century CE. Visit the Hanging Church, one of Cairo’s most famous churches, and the Church of St. George (picture 3). The whole area is conveniently located right next to the Mar Girgis metro station. 

2. The Qalawun Complex, Al Moez Street, Cairo 
3. St George’s Church, Cairo 

If time allows, take the slower, environmentally conscious route to Luxor, replacing a one-hour flight with a private cabin on the overnight train. Leaving Cairo at approximately 8 PM, your train will roll into Luxor main station around 7 AM, giving you a full day to explore on either side of the Nile. The eastern bank offers Luxor and Karnak Temples, linked by the Sphinx Avenue, along with the majority of Luxor’s population. This is the side to be on for dining in the evening and perfecting your haggling skills in the souks. A short ferry across the Nile brings you to the western bank, an open-air museum of ancient Egyptian sites. These are best experienced as part of a tour as transport between locations is essential. The Valley of the Kings (picture 4), Medinet Habu and Temple of Hatshepsut are highlights amongst a wealth of ancient sites. For a unique perspective of this magical spot, known in antiquity as Thebes, enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon ride to create a memory that will last forever. 

4. The Valley of the Kings, Luxor 

An alternative to leaving the Cairo train at Luxor, carry on all the way to Aswan (picture 5), a destination full of reward for those who make the effort to journey down there. Here Nubian culture is celebrated alongside Egyptian with the incredibly informative and very well laid out Nubian Museum. Kayaking amongst the islands of the Nile gives a new insight to Egyptian wildlife, and a stay at the Cataract Hotel allows you to walk in the shoes of a number of esteemed guests including Princess Diana and Agatha Christie. Aswan is not short of historic sites either! A half day trip to Abu Simbel, the location of the incredible Temples of Ramesses II and Nefertari, built in the 13th Century BCE, is highly recommended. 

5. A Felucca sailing on the Nile, Aswan 

To the North and West 

Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, is often overlooked by tourists, but don’t fall into the same trap! Start your day with a coffee in one of the many harbour-front cafes that line the corniche and watch the city slowly come to life (picture 6). Sprawling street markets will lift you off your feet, and as you walk between the stalls, there is a sense of a life unchanged over hundreds of years. Some of the best food in the region can be found in Alexandria too. Visit Mohamed Ahmed Restaurant for freshly made falafel served alongside hummus, aubergine and foul (an Egyptian bean dish). The Great Library of Alexandria once made the city a global capital of learning and knowledge before its influence declined. A plan first put together in the 1970s to revive the library led to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, completed in 2002. Tours of the library including exhibits on the ancient library are available in English, French and Arabic. 

Now join Alexander the Great on a journey laced with myth and mystery as you bounce through the desert to Siwa Oasis. A true desert oasis, Siwa is located almost 500 kilometres away from Alexandria, a dream-like location to relax after the bustle of city life. Float in sparkling salt pools, sip on fresh fruit juices by Cleopatra’s pool (known locally as Juba), and wander amongst the date palms and the ancient fortress (picture 7). Finally, complete the journey Alexander made, visiting the Oracle Temple, still amazingly well-preserved on a hill overlooking the city.  

6. Alexandria Harbour, Alexandria 
7. The Ancient Fortress, Siwa Oasis 

The Red Sea 

Rivalling the glory of the ancient sites dotted along the Nile and the mystery of a desert oasis, Egypt’s Red Sea coastline is home to many jewels in the crown of global diving and snorkelling. Popular tourist spots Hurghada, on the east coast of the mainland, and Sharm el-Sheikh, on the Sinai Peninsula, offer a wealth of resorts for those looking to split their time snorkelling over coral reefs and relaxing by the coast. South of Sharm el-Sheikh is the Ras Mohamed Nature Reserve, with protected coral reefs, white sand beaches and regular turtle sightings, making this area increasingly popular for eco-tourists. 

8. A waterfront restaurant, Dahab 

For those not yet done with adventuring, Dahab located an hour north of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula, is a fantastic spot for water sports enthusiasts. A number of schools base themselves along the pedestrianised main street (picture 8), offering sessions and lessons in a wide range of activities: kitesurfing, windsurfing, snorkelling, diving, and freediving (increasingly popular following Dahab’s feature in the recent Netflix documentary “The Deepest Breath”). The natural beauty of Dahab’s Sea is matched by a dramatic inland landscape. The mountains located in the St Catherine’s Protectorate include Jabal Katherina – the tallest mountain in Egypt – and Jabal Musa – Mount Sinai, one of the locations claimed to be where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Organised tours leave Dahab on most days for a sunrise hike of Mount Sinai (picture 9), with camels available to assist on the way up or down and finishing at the secluded Monastery of St Catherine. 

9. Sunrise from the summit of Jabal Musa (Mt Sinai), St Catherine’s Protectorate 

Onwards Travel 

If you are also planning to visit Jordan as part of your trip, be sure to read our blog post on Jordan and take advantage of the daily ferry services running from Nuweiba to Aqaba. Nuweiba can be accessed by bus or private transfer from Dahab or Sharm el-Sheikh. 

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