There are so many places to visit in Egypt that will ignite your curiosity and satiate all senses. This is a guide of what to see in Egypt- from desert oases to famous temples.
there is anywhere you think should be included on this list- please leave a comment and let us know!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Amazing Places to Visit in Egypt
- Quick History of Egypt
- Destinations in Egypt
- Valley of the Kings
- Giza Pyramid Complex and the Great Sphinx
- Egyptian Museum
- Karnak Temple Complex
- Temple of Isis
- Temple of Hatshepsut
- Habu Temple
- Deir el-Medina (Valley of the Artisans)
- Pyramid of Djoser
- The Nile
- Red Sea Coast
- Mount Sinai
- Siwa Oasis
- White Desert
- Cairo Tower
- Abu Simbel
- Temple of Kom Ombo
- Al Qsar
Amazing Places to Visit in Egypt
Egypt is a country that evokes thoughts of ancient history as it is considered one of the oldest countries in the world and the cradle of civilization.
The ancient Egyptians are credited with being the creators of many of the most important developments in human history, from writing to the origins of modern farming methods.
The ancient civilization is still a huge part of the cultural identity of modern Egypt with its grand pyramids still being marveled at today and many of the secrets of this early powerhouse nation still to be discovered.
This guide will take you through the most incredible places to visit in Egypt.
Before traveling to this part of North Africa, do ensure you check visa requirements to enter Egypt (Americans are not visa-free, FYI!)
This will ensure you prevent any travel hiccups before checking out some of these awesome places to see in Egypt.
Quick History of Egypt
Egypt is one of the world’s most fascinating and important countries. Located on both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, the North African nation has long been of strategic importance thanks to its proximity to the southwestern corner of Asia.
The mostly arid country is also home to the world’s longest river, the Nile (although the Brazilian government may disagree with you and claim its the Amazon).
The Nile is the lifeline of the country and supports most of the country’s large population (it’s the third-largest in Africa), along its fertile banks.
Considered to be the cradle of civilization, the country played a significant part in the development of humanity and modern organized religions, exporting its knowledge and culture throughout the world.
Human activity along the Nile is thought to date back 120,000 years, with nomadic tribes taking advantage of the natural resources and abundant food thanks to the nutrient-rich plains along the Nile.
At the time, the region was full of vegetation and moving around the area was easy as there was plenty of food available since herds of animals grazed the area and there was plenty of plant life to sustain nomadic tribes on the move.
However, over time, the climate changed, causing the area to become far arider and restricted nomadic movements, meaning early humans were forced to create settlements along the banks of the Nile.
These early settlements eventually grew to form one of the most forward-thinking and important civilizations of all time.
This guide will take you through the best places to visit throughout this amazing country, from the coastal regions and deserts to how to step into the country’s magnificent history.
Along with covering the natural and historical highlights, I have added in some of the best parts of modern Egypt to provide a contrast between the new and the old.
If you feel I missed out on an amazing place to see, please leave a comment below.
In addition, check out these Egypt travel tips if you’re looking for some knowledge before planning your epic trip!
Destinations in Egypt
Valley of the Kings
Located close to the city of Luxor (called Thebes during ancient times), is the impressive Valley of the Kings, used for centuries as a burial ground for the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom era where tombs were carved out of the rock into complex structures.
The decision to switch to tombs carved into the rock originated due to a large number of robberies occurring in the more obvious tombs.
Split between two valleys, the east and the west, the area is home to around 60 tombs, all of which vary dramatically in size from small simplistic tombs to giant complexes made up of over 100 chambers.
The most famous discovery at the Valley of the Kings is the tomb of Tutankhamun, a previously undiscovered tomb of an unknown pharaoh whose final resting place was surprisingly intact and still full of treasures.
Today, you can visit the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens along with its special visitors’ center where you can explore a small selection of the tombs in the complex along with Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Giza Pyramid Complex and the Great Sphinx
The Giza Pyramid Complex is where you will find the most recognizable pyramids in the world.
Consisting of three large pyramids, various smaller pyramids, the great Sphinx, other little cemeteries, and the remains of a workers village, the most famous of the pyramids is the Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as Pyramid of Khufu/Cheops.
It is the largest of all pyramids 481 feet tall.
For nearly 4000 years, the pyramid remained the tallest structure to have been built by man despite now being dwarfed by modern structures.
However, this giant pyramid still feels imposing. Due to its importance to human history, the pyramid was included in the seven wonders of the ancient world and should definitely be on your Cairo itinerary.
The other two main pyramids are both smaller than the great pyramids. In the complex, you will also find the Great Sphinx, which is believed to have the face of Pharaoh Khafre.
The impressive limestone statue is located to the east of the complex and is the oldest sculpture in ancient Egypt at close to 5,000 years old.
Access to the site is via two entrance points and you will need to pay for permission to view the site and then into the pyramids separately.
In the evenings, there is a spectacular sound and light show and will take your breath away when you’re visiting the pyramids.
The Egyptian Museum is one of the most impressive collections of ancient Egyptian relics in the world as it is home to well over 100,000 items (not all are on display).
The large museum is split over two floors and will take you through the complete history of ancient Egypt providing valuable insight into the way of life back then and their interactions with other civilizations.
One of the most impressive things about the museum is the extensive collection of relics retrieved from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Given the size of the museum and the vast amount to digest, I recommend setting aside a decent amount of time to view the museum and hiring a guide who can talk you through all of the artifacts as it can get slightly overwhelming.
The museum is currently located in Cairo close to the banks of the Nile River. However, it is planned to move the museum to a new purpose-built location close to the Pyramids.
It is located at Tahrir Square rd Tahrir Square، Ismailia, Qasr El Nil.
⇒ If you’re looking to take a guided tour of the museum, click here for rates.
Karnak Temple Complex
The Karnak Temple Complex is a very large ancient Egyptian religious site consisting of temples, pillars, and chapels all in various states of disrepair.
The construction of the temple, unlike many other of the buildings and sites built by the Ancient Egyptians, spanned over a 1,000 years and several dynasties.
During this time, the complex was expanded, rebuilt and redesigned, with Pharaohs piling plenty of cash into the sacred area.
The highlight of the complex is the central temple dedicated to the god Amun. The huge temple is one of the largest religious sites in the world and could easily fit several of the world’s largest cathedrals into its walls.
The Karnak Temple Complex is split into four different sections although only one is open to the public. The other sites include large temples dedicated to the family of the god Amun.
The Karnak Temple Complex makes up part of the monumental city of Thebes, which is contained within the modern city of Luxor. You can find the complex at El-Karnak in Luxor.
Temple of Isis
The Temple of Isis is the last temple of its kind dedicated to the goddess Isis who was considered the divine mother of the Pharaohs.
The temple is located on the island of Agilkia despite originally being on the island of Philae. It had to be moved to protect it from flooding after the construction of the Aswan dam in the early 20th Century.
The Ancient Egyptians started building the temple around 700 BC and it remained in use as a place of worship until around 550 AD.
Along with the main temple are plenty of other amazing sites, including giant pylons with amazing reliefs carved into them.
Inside of the temple, be on the lookout for the influence of early Christianity as the temple was previously used for Christian worship and the hieroglyphics were defaced with symbols of Christianity.
There was also a Baroque style alter placed inside of the church but it was eventually removed.
Around the lake, you will find plenty of other monuments and relics that were moved from the island of Philae to save them from flooding. The island of Philae can be seen submerged under the water.
Temple of Hatshepsut
Ancient Egyptian society was, in many ways, based around equality and the Egyptians believed that male and females elements balanced each other out.
Women held high titles within temples or society but few were privileged enough to lead the country.
Hatshepsut was the second of the seven known female rulers of Egypt. During her reign, she declared herself Pharaoh of Egypt after claiming she was the offspring of the popular god Amun.
She was known for bringing economic success to Egypt and increasing its trading position during a peaceful reign.
Another one of her traits was for building numerous monuments and temples throughout the land employing many people in the process.
Her grandest and most impressive construction was the Temple of Hatshepsut built near the Valley of The Kings.
The giant three-story, symmetrical temple was modeled on the neighboring Temple of Mentuhotep II.
However, she ordered her temple to be far grander and bigger because, as a female ruler, she needed to show her power and wealth in far greater ways than a male ruler would have traditionally done.
Interestingly, Hatshepsut was forgotten by history and her temple was turned into a Christian monastery where many of the reliefs were defaced.
It has only been in the last 100 years that we have been able to find out about this impressive female ruler. The temple is partially reconstructed with the third floor still being renovated.
It is advised to visit the temple early in the morning as this particular area is known for being one of the hottest places on Earth. It is best to view the wall carvings during periods of low light.
Habu Temple, or Medinet Habu, is an amazing temple and one of the best places to visit in Egypt as it dates back to the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.
Built by Ramesses III, the large temple is most famous for its impressive reliefs that adorn the walls of this magnificent marvel.
Many of the reliefs within the temple still have their original colorings and they depict epic stories and show Ramesses interacting and appeasing the popular god Amun and his wife Mut.
The coloring of these reliefs has helped historians recreate and understand how Ancient Egypt would have looked back in its prime days.
Despite its name, this is actually a site made up of multiple buildings and structures where you can also see early forms of Christian churches that were added far later.
The Habu Temple is often overlooked by tourists due to the sheer volume of other sites in the area that are slightly better known. However, it’s truly one of the best sites in the region and should not be missed.
You can find the massive complex at Al Bairat in Luxor.
Deir el-Medina (Valley of the Artisans)
Deir el-Medina was a specially built village to house the workers who crafted and built the tombs in the Valley of The Kings and the Valley of The Queens.
Just a short walk away from both Valleys, the village has provided amazing insight into the way that normal villagers lived in the Ancient Egyptian kingdom.
There is reason to believe that these people were kept separate from the general population since they were considered special and were inspired by the gods.
The self-contained village also includes burial tombs which are not as grand or opulent as the ones in the valley but are, nevertheless, impressive with the walls adorned with beautiful reliefs.
During the excavation of the site, many texts were found and they described the more mundane aspects of Egyptian life during the 400-year history of the village.
Previously all texts that had been found had described more historically important occasions. Visiting the village is relatively easy and can be done directly from Luxor itself or while visiting the Valley of The Kings or the Valley of The Queens.
Pyramid of Djoser
The Ancient Egyptians were extremely skilled builders who were able to build impressive structures that have lasted millennia.
The Pyramid of Djoser is believed to be the world’s oldest standing stone structure dating back to the 27th century BC and the original pyramid outdates any other in the world.
The step-style pyramid may not be as grand or imposing as those you find in the Giza Complex, but it is awe-inspiring in its own right and one of the must-visit places to visit in Egypt.
The pyramid is the focal point of a large complex featuring many smaller temples and constructions where you can spend time wandering around and marveling at just how architecturally savvy the Egyptians actually were.
The site is located just south of Cairo. Tourist crowds tend to head to Giza and the more well-known Pyramids, so you may find this site being more chilled out.
⇒ If you’re looking for a tour or driver to go to Djoser, click here for rates and availability.
If you are traveling the coastal areas, take the time to travel inland to the world’s longest river – the Nile.
This amazing river flows north from either Burundi or Rwanda (the actual source of the river has never been found). The Nile actually starts off as two rivers, the Blue and White Niles, which both join to form the Nile.
The Blue Nile is distinctly smaller than the White Nile. Thanks to this extensive and large river, ancient nomadic humans were able to settle along the water source which was home to plenty of food sources and kept the local lands fertile.
Ancient Egyptians were able to harness the power of the Nile to become one of the world’s first mighty civilizations.
Many of Egypt’s largest towns and cities are based along the Nile so visiting today is pretty easy and you can take a boat tour along the river or simply walk the banks of a river that has played such a crucial part in human history.
Red Sea Coast
On Egypt’s eastern coast, you will find the Red Sea Riviera, a long stretch of coastline that spans from the Suez Canal to the southern border with Sudan.
This fantastic stretch of coastline has recently experienced a tourism boom, thanks to plenty of historical sites and an abundance of natural beauty due to large areas of shore and water being protected by law.
The strict wildlife protection laws have made the waters around the shoreline some of the best diving spots in the world. Diving varies depending on which area you choose to go to.
The northern portion of the coastline is more popular with large resorts like Sharm-el-Sheik in the vicinity. However, diving these parts is incredible, especially if you are looking to explore old shipwrecks.
The southern part is less crowded and is home to some of the most amazing reefs in the world that are in superb condition and are teeming with marine life.
Along the coast, there are plenty of fantastic resorts where you can experience luxury at an affordable price.
Egypt is home to many religious temples and sites that are insanely impressive man-made structures.
On the other hand, Mount Sinai in the Sinai mountain range is one of the most amazing natural religious sites in the world.
Supposedly, the peak of the mountain is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God which remains a cornerstone of our modern moral and ethical belief system.
Trekking to the summit is a popular activity for both pilgrims and hiking enthusiasts. There are two options for reaching the summit and both routes start from close to the Monastery of Saint Catherine, one of the oldest continually operated monasteries in the world.
The common route for pilgrims is the Steps of Repentance, a harsh and steep step-based climb to the top that sets off from the back of the monastery.
Alternatively, there is an easier and gentler route that works it way up the mountain, although you will need to do the last part of the stairs to reach the summit.
The three-hour hike is a major tourist attraction but most tourists only come via a tour to hike to the summit and watch the sunrise.
If you are looking for a more peaceful experience, hike for the sunset or during the day to take in the views.
The Monastery at the bottom is only open in the mornings but worth checking out as the UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the world’s oldest library.
There are few things that conjure up the romanticism of deserts more than the idea of a desert oasis surrounded by lush vegetation.
Siwa Oasis is located in the far western reaches of Egypt just 50 kilometers from the border of Libya. Situated 20m below sea level, the large oasis has supported human life since the Ancient Egyptian times.
Interestingly, Siwa was settled by the Berber people giving it a unique and different culture compared to the rest of the country which has been preserved for centuries as the area remained only accessible by camel until the 1980s.
Along with relaxing among the palm and olive trees surrounding the dreamy oasis, the town is full of history with the impressive Ruins of Shali and Temple of the Oracle.
Reaching the oasis from Cairo is an adventure in itself with the bus journey taking around 12-13 hours, driving you through some of Egypt’s most remote villages and towns as you meander your way there.
This journey can be done overnight but there is a chance the bus can be canceled on the day for little reason so you will need to be flexible with planning.
The White Desert is one of the most amazing natural sites in Egypt with chalky white sands and monumental natural chalk structures carved by large sandstorms that occasionally ravage the desert.
The giant white structures have taken various forms over time ranging from oddly shaped bird-like structures to distinctly mushroom looking ones.
One of the best ways to visit the White Desert is by an organized tour where you can spend the night camping in the desert, Bedouin-style. As sunlight dwindles, the white sands reflect the vibrant colors of the sunset.
If you are lucky enough to camp during a full moon, the sands appear to glow in the moonlight.
⇒ Click here to check rates for an amazing overnight tour of the White Desert
The city of Alexandria is the second-largest city in all of Egypt and has played an important historical role in Egypt’s past.
Founded by Alexander the Great, the city is situated on the Mediterranean coast and is one of the key industrial cities of Egypt.
During its heyday, the city was one of the most culturally important epicenters with scholars flocking to its great library which was one of the largest and most significant in the world at the time.
One of the most famous landmarks of the city was the Lighthouse of Alexandra, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
However, this lighthouse sadly was unable to stand the test of time and has since collapsed after a series of earthquakes.
These ancient landmarks may not exist anymore but there are still plenty of sites to see including the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, one of the seven wonders of the Middle Ages, or the ruins of Rhakotis (the original settlement of Alexandria).
If you are looking to escape into nature, the city lies on the edge of the Nile Delta, some of the most fertile and lush lands in the whole country.
Although it is not the oldest city in the country, Cairo is the capital of Egypt and sprawls out from the banks of the Nile.
The city is full of world-class museums that contain the treasures of Egypt’s glorious ancient past along with other relics and artifacts from its turbulent history after the fall of the Pharaohs.
The main draw is the impressive Giza Pyramid complex but there is so much more to this famous city. Take the time to explore the bazaars and markets of the city and embrace the local culture and taste the history of the city through its epic food.
For stunning vantage points over the city of minarets, head to the Citadel where you can walk through its car-free streets that provide a nice, calming break from the hustle and bustle of modern Cairo.
Egypt is a predominantly Islamic country but there is a large Christian community that has been active in Egypt since around the second century AD.
Cairo also provides a perfect gateway for exploring the rest of Egypt with many tours and excursions departing from the city.
The small, unassuming village of Rosetta (also known as Rasheed), has probably done more for our understanding of Ancient Egypt than any other place in the country.
For years, Egyptian hieroglyphics had remained a mystery and were considered to be just captivating drawings on the walls.
Explorers were completely unaware of the secrets they held and that lasted until a revolutionary discovery in this little village.
In 1799, a group of French soldiers discovered a stone in the small village of Rosetta that was inscribed in three different languages; Hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Ancient Greek.
It was seen that little changed between the two known languages and this led to the unlocking of the meaning of hieroglyphics and the secrets they held.
The city was once a popular tourist destination amongst the British thanks to its interesting architecture and picturesque beauty.
The jaw-dropping architecture is still a major lure today with the Ottoman-era mansions providing beautiful contrast to the more standard Egyptian architecture.
The southern city of Aswan was one of the most significant cities of Ancient Egypt. It was strategically located on the country’s southern border until the new kingdom invaded the Nubians to the south.
In addition to being a strategic military location, Aswan was home to the most important quarries in the kingdom where they quarried the marble for the pyramids and other monuments throughout the land.
Today, the city is listed in the UNESCO Creative City Network due to the importance of its art and local culture.
Aswan, one of the best places to visit in Egypt, is home to impressive Ancient Egyptian structures and engineering feats such as the Nilometer.
There are also plenty of monuments in the area but many have had to be moved due to the flooding of the valley as a result of the construction of the dam. Many were saved but some were lost forever as the water levels rose.
The upper dam and Lake Nassar provide a great place to look out over the valley and the dam itself was built in collaboration with the Soviet Union and to mark this, there is a statue dedicated to Soviet & Egyptian friendship there.
Close to the city, you will also find Nubian villages, where the walls were adorned with bright colors and provide an amazing insight into this ancient civilization’s way of life.
Berenice is an ancient harbor on the Red Sea that for many years was strategically important.
Today, the town is more known for its beautiful beaches and brilliant seafood, as well as tons of monuments dating back to the Greek and Roman occupation of Egypt.
The best time to visit the area is during the summer when most of the monuments are open to visitors. During the offseason, the archaeological sites are covered up to protect them.
The area is also a great diving and scuba diving spot because it is home to amazing crystal clear waters and shipwrecks ready to be explored.
The city of Luxor is one of the most impressive and historically important cities in the world (and places to see in Egypt) and it is more like an open-air museum than a living, breathing city.
Built around the ruins of the ancient city of Thebes, Luxor is home to a large number of Ancient Egyptian monuments, temples, and tombs.
The modern city of Luxor has been built around these relics and provides a remarkable contrast as you take in its history.
The city is spread over the east and west banks of the Nile with sights located on both sides. The best thing about the city is that along with the historical relics, there are plenty of other aspects of Egyptian life to enjoy from amazing bazaars to vibrant nightlife where you can mingle with the locals and experience modern-day Egypt.
There are also plenty of activities that you can enjoy- for example, taking a hot air balloon trip over the city and seeing the impressive monuments from above.
Sometimes, the best way to take in a city is to view it from above. The Cairo Tower is a proud, 187-meter high tower, and a marvel of modern Egyptian architecture.
Completed in 1961, the tower is a large free-standing concrete structure, with latticework on the outside intended to link the tower to Egypt’s ancient history.
The best times to visit the viewing platform are when the pollution haze has lifted and that is normally in the early morning and late afternoon.
This will provide the clearest views over Cairo and the potential to see the grandiose pyramids in the distance.
Along with the viewing platform, there is a cafe and a revolving restaurant where you can enjoy 360-degree views while enjoying a nice meal.
The Abu Simbel temples are two notable rock temples located in close proximity to the Egyptian border with Sudan.
They were built by Ramesses II to demonstrate his authority and power over the Nubians and cement his rule in the region after it had recently been overtaken by the Egyptians.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site had to actually be moved in its entirety to an artificial hill in order to protect it from the rising waters caused by the damming of the Nile River.
The temple is relatively hard to reach and journey times by road can take 3-4 hours from the city of Aswan.
However, this is one of the best places to visit in Egypt and is totally worth it.
There is also a small airport servicing the area and some hotels, so you can break the journey up if you do not want to spend a whole day traveling.
Temple of Kom Ombo
The Temple of Kom Ombo is an interesting double temple with two entrances and two alters which was relatively uncommon for the time.
The reliefs on the wall appear to depict early medical practices and the instruments used in medical procedures.
The double temple is dedicated to many different gods with the crocodile god and healthy and fertility gods worshiped in the northern half of the temple
The southern half was used to worship the falcon god Haroesis along with a few others. When the temple was created, there would have been plenty of crocodiles basking on the shores around the temple.
These crocs were revered and respected by the Ancient Egyptians and were considered holy. At the site, over 60 mummified crocodiles were found and have been put on display at the nearby crocodile museum.
The Temple of Kom Ombo has had to be partially reconstructed due to natural damages from the Nile and several earthquakes, along with human interferences from builders taking the stones and Coptic Christians defacing the reliefs.
To reach the town, you can take a train directly from Aswan. It’s important to note there isn’t much else to do in the town of the same name and the temple is the only site.
Also, there are no longer any crocodiles by the temple as the construction of the dam and overhunting has wiped out crocodiles in this part of Egypt.
The medieval Ottoman town of Al Qsar is one of the most interesting towns to visit in the Western Desert and is located near the Dahkla Oasis.
The town sits at the bottom of a large cliff and was originally settled by the Romans despite its Ottoman appearance (they rebuilt the ruins). The streets are small and winding and it is easy to get lost there if you are not paying much attention.
Parts of Al Qsar have been carefully restored to show how it would have looked in its original state.
Take the time to explore the lush greens on the edge of the Oasis, as well as a little wonder in the desert where you might find some extraordinary fossils from a time when this area was under the sea.
Faiyum is one of the oldest settlements in the world and is situated on the shores of an Oasis that formed many millennia ago when the Nile flooded and water was able to spread to the region.
The lush, green oasis was able to support vegetation and wildlife that attracted humans to settle in the area.
The area in and around Faiyum was prosperous during ancient times thanks to its agricultural prowess and many structures were built in the region.
For example, several pyramids were built here although they now lay in disrepair.
Today, the area doesn’t receive many tourists even though it is located close to Cairo. The trip out to Faiyum is well worth it and is one of the must-visit places in Egypt.
There is also a famous site of a skeleton of a whale in the desert located close to Faiyum.
There are so many amazing places to visit in Egypt and this guide is just to get you started planning your Egypt vacation.
If you have any tips or other places in Egypt worthy of visiting, please leave them in the comments!