Egypt //

Itineraries

The following itineraries range right across Egypt, taking in both classic attractions and little-visited sights, from temples to turtles. Don’t worry if you can’t complete the list – even a handful of places will give you a feel for the themes.

Diverse deserts

Temples and Tombs

Wildlife

Over 96 percent of Egypt’s landmass is desert, from the arid peaks of Sinai and the Eastern Desert to the dunes and escarpments of the Western Desert, where most of Egypt’s oases are located. A jeep-safari to all these sites lasts 11 to 18 days, but you could do most of the highlights in a week, using buses in conjunction with local safari outfits.

1 Siwa Oasis

Way out near Libya, Siwa has a unique character, romantic ruins, natural springs and other beauty spots.

2 Great Sand Sea

A 72,000-square-kilometre wilderness of dunes up to 100m high, stretching from Siwa to the Gilf Kebir. The Sand Sea can be entered from Siwa, or traversed on deep-desert safaris from Bahariya or Farafra Oasis.

3 El-Qaf

A 500,000-year-old stalactite cave, accessible by jeep from Bahariya or Farafra.

4 White Desert

This surreal landscape of chalk rock-formations within Farafra Oasis is actually best reached from Bahariya, visiting the Black Desert en route.

5 Al-Qasr

A labyrinthine medieval Islamic settlement in Dakhla Oasis, reached by off-road safari from Bahariya, or by bus along the road between these oases.

6 Gilf Kebir

This super-arid plateau at the remotest corner of Egypt is the site of extraordinary prehistoric rock art at the Cave of the Swimmers (featured in The English Patient) and other sites, accessible by long-range safari from Bahariya, Farafra and Dakhla.

Egypt’s world-famous ancient tombs and temples range the length of the Nile Valley, from the Pyramids of Giza outside Cairo to Abu Simbel. It takes about ten days to explore them, using intercity trains, local taxis and minibuses.

1 Pyramids of Giza

These gargantuan Old Kingdom monuments were constructed as tombs for three IV Dynasty rulers, Egyptologists believe – but there are many alternative theories as to why (and how) they were built.

2 Abydos

One of the foremost healing centres of Ancient Egypt, dedicated to the god Osiris enshrined in the exquisitely carved mortuary-temple of Seti I.

3 Luxor

The ancient New Kingdom capital has more tombs and temples than anywhere else in Egypt, from the awesome complex at Karnak to the Theban Necropolis across the river, with its fabulous Valley of the Kings.

4 Edfu

Sacred to the falcon-headed sky-god Horus, Egypt’s best-preserved cult-temple dates from the Greco-Roman era, but respects all the Ancient Egyptian traditions of temple architecture.

5 Philae

An exquisite island shrine to the goddess Isis, which was semi-submerged by the Nile before its reconstruction between the two Aswan Dams.

6 Abu Simbel

This great sun temple, with its colossi of Ramses II hewn from a hillside, was also saved from submersion by Lake Nasser.

Egypt is one of the world’s major flyover zones for birdlife, and the Red Sea abounds in corals and other aquatic life. You could visit all of these sites in about two weeks using a combination of buses and liveaboard boats.

1 Lake Manzala

This Mediterranean wetland is a wintering ground for egrets, avocets, cormorants, plovers, lapwings, redshanks, terns and other bird species.

2 Ras Mohammed

A marine national park at the southern tip of Sinai, which sustains a thousand-odd species of fish, from the child-friendly Crevice Pools to offshore dive-sites.

3 Careless Reef

Two coral-encrusted pinnacles just below the sea’s surface, whose depths harbour semi-tame moray eels (normally known for their ferocity).

4 The Brothers

These two isolated reef-pillars are magnets for pelagic fishes and the hunting grounds of hammerhead, tiger, reef and whale sharks.

5 Marsa Alam

The Red Sea’s southernmost resort serves as a springboard to wildlife sites in the far south, from Wadi Gimal to Ras Banata.

6 Wadi Gimal

This national park is especially rewarding during the spring and autumn migrations, to observe ospreys, falcons and flamingos.

7 Ras Banata

One of the few undisturbed breeding colonies for sea turtles, accessible by dive-boat from eco-lodges 80km south of Wadi Gimal.