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The Essential One- to Two-Week Egypt Itinerary

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If you have two weeks and a sense of adventure, Egypt might be the perfect tour destination. Despite its 5000-year-old history, you can easily see the best of Egypt in 2 weeks or less.

Giza Pyramids beyond Cairo, Egypt

Classic sights in Egypt

Conveniently, Egypt's most famous sights are also world heritage sites. Egypt has 7 UNESCO sites, 6 cultural and one natural, and we planned our itinerary around them. We’ve visited UNESCO sites all over the world and have never been disappointed or sorry we went. This itinerary includes all but two.

  • Historic Cairo
  • Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
  • Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)
  • Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
  • Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
  • Abu Mena – We wanted to visit Abu Mena Monastery but couldn't. Even though it's between Cairo and Alexandria, the early Christian holy city is closed to the public.
  • Saint Catherine Area – We didn't include this because Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a 5-hour drive from Cairo. It's down near Sharm El-Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai peninsula.

For some people, diving in Sharm el-Sheikh and climbing Mount Nebo to the monastery are bucket list items. No worries, it's easy to arrange an excursion there. Here are some to look at.

That’s why we left wiggle room in this itinerary: Everyone’s different. You need time for things like that.

Getting around Egypt

Egypt is big. Let's face it, sometimes it’s not practical to take a taxi or walk.

  • Uber. Yes, there is Uber in Cairo. We use it whenever we can. If you aren’t using the app yet, download the app now. Register with the code danb2984 to get up to $5 off your first ride.
  • Rental car. Driving in Egypt can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak Arabic. That said, you can research prices for a car rental here. You can book from this website as well.
  • Public transportation. Egypt is large. Most visitors fly to Luxor, Aswan and the Sinai Peninsula. You can also take a train to Luxor. This website will help you plan a route by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.
  • Private drivers. If you’d like to hire a driver, you can find recommendations in the TripAdvisor forums.
  • Guided tours. We'll discuss them below.

Where to stay in Egypt

Travel styles differ so we recommend using HotelsCombined to make your lodging arrangements. Search across multiple booking sites from one website. Compare prices, amenities, and ratings before you book. Easy.

Where we stayed:

Done-for-you tours

We often make our own plans, but sometimes it’s best to have someone else manage all the arrangements.

Private tours and guides

Private tour companies can create a custom itinerary tailored to your interests. They make all transportation and lodging arrangements, provide local guides, and ensure your safety.

Organized tours

G Adventures offers insanely affordable small group tours on all 7 continents, with 100% guaranteed departures, even if you’re the only traveler. Expect local accommodation, cuisine, and transport to connect you with the planet’s people, cultures, landscapes and wildlife.

Day trips and excursions

An alternative is to make your own lodging arrangements and book a series of day trips. That's why we included tour suggestions throughout this article.

When we travel, we use Get Your Guide a lot. It’s our go-to for food tours, attractions and activities. Click here to see what's available in Egypt.

One week in Egypt

If you're visiting a series of destinations and only have a week to see Egypt, here's the itinerary we would recommend.

  • Day 1: Arrive in Cairo. See the Pyramids of Giza and (time permitting) visit Saqqara.
  • Day 2: Sightsee Cairo. Begin with the Egyptian Museum, then visit the Citadel, Old Cairo and the Bazaar.
  • Day 3: Fly to Aswan to begin your Nile cruise. Enjoy lunch on board, then spend the afternoon touring Aswan High Dam; the ancient Temple of Philae, and the remarkable Unfinished Obelisk. Related tours here.
  • Day 4: Cruise to Edfu. Excursions at Kom Ombo and Edfu
  • Day 5: Cruise to Luxor. East Bank sightseeing, including the Temple of Luxor. Optional nightly Sound and Lights Show at the Luxor Temple complex.
  • Day 6: Tour Luxor West Bank. Optional early morning balloon ride (see below). Visit Valley of the Kings and the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Fly back to Cairo.
  • Day 7: Fly out.

10 days in Egypt itinerary

This is basically the same itinerary we did ourselves. For those of you who don't want to go with a private tour company, we've included links to related tours for your convenience. To be honest, we are surprised at how cheap some of them are.

Empty Giza Plateau with the Pyramids

Day 1: Cairo

Your international flight will most likely land in Cairo. Cairo is an overwhelming, crazy city, so we recommend making your way to your hotel and relaxing for a while. Allow yourself time to adjust to the heat, dusty air and loud street noise.

We used a tour company, so our tour manager met us at Cairo International Airport. Cairo has hectic streets and crazy drivers. It was nice to be a bit insulated from the chaos in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle on the way to our hotel. After we had checked in, he reviewed our itinerary with us to confirm pick-up times for each tour.

Overnight in Cairo.

Tip:This website has all the information about getting to and from Cairo Airport. For a meet-and-greet private transfer service, click here for a list.

Day 2: Memphis and its Necropolis + Saqqara + the Pyramids of Giza

Morning: Begin your day at Giza, before the crowds and haze descend on the site. Play with perspective by posing with the three enchanting pyramids of Cheops, Khafre. Then head to the nearby Great Sphinx. The iconic head of a pharaoh with a lion's body dates back to the time of Khafre.

Also be sure to see the Valley Temple, which is connected to the Pyramid of Khafre. He was a busy king.
Walking all the way around the base or climbing the steps will give you a clear sense of a pyramid’s massive size. Makes you wonder, how did they do that?

Related tour: Giza Pyramids, Sphinx and Sakkara – Private Full Day Tour

Afternoon: Memphis, the ancient capital of Old Egypt during the Old Kingdom, was founded by King Menes. Visit the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, which was designed for King Djoser by his chancellor, Imhotep.

Imhotep was one of only a few commoners ever to be accorded divine status after death. He had an impressive list of credentials: Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor, and Maker of Vases in Chief.

Overnight in Cairo.

The Sphinx and a Pyramid in Goza

Day 3: El Fayoum (Valley of the Whales)

Morning: After all the big-city chaos, it's time to enjoy a little of Egypt’s natural side by visiting Wadi Rayyan (Wadi al-Rayan), a protected area in Egypt's harsh and deserted Western Desert. This 100 km drive will help you understand more about Egyptian mythology. The western lands were where the sun god Ra went to die each day. The pharoahs were buried on the western side of the Nile, too. It's all connected.

The first stop is also its best known: Wadi Al-Hitan (Valley of the Whales). This UNESCO site holds hundreds of whale skeletons as well as dramatic rock formations that challenge the imagination. Scientists say the desert had been an ocean at one time. Could be. We believe the whales were marooned there as the waters receded from the Great Flood.

Afternoon: After lunch, climb Mudawara Mountain for a spectacular view. The two gigantic freshwater lakes you'll see are connected by Egypt’s only waterfalls. After a day of desert heat, Wadi El Rayan Waterfalls will be a refreshing final stop before returning to the city.

Overnight in Cairo.

Climbing sand dunes in a 4x4 in El Fayoum

Day 4: Historic Cairo

Morning: Historic Cairo is a UNESCO site as well. Even if you're not a museum fan, we suggest you begin your Cairo tour with the Egyptian Museum. This is where you can see the famous Tutankhamun treasures, as well as over 120,000 other fascinating artifacts.

Related tour: 4-Hour Guided Tour of the Egyptian Museum

Tip: The room that houses King Tut’s treasures can be extremely crowded. For the fewest crowds, arrive at 9 AM, when the museum opens, and head straight to that hall.

Afterward, visit Salah El Din Citadel, which was constructed by Salah El Din (Saladin) in 1183 AD. He built it to defend Cairo from the onslaught of invading Christian Crusaders. Then visit Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque, named for the man who ruled Egypt over 45 years (1805-1849).

Afternoon: Visit Old Cairo to enjoy the Hanging Church, Ben Ezra Synagogue and a few other sites. Spend some time at Khan El Khalili Bazaar, one of the most famous and oldest bazaars in the Middle East.

Related tour: Cairo Citadel, Old Cairo & Khan El Khalili Full-Day Tour

Overnight in Cairo.

Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt

Day 5: Alexandria

Morning: Another escape from crazy, hazy Cairo, on an amazing day trip to Alexandria. First stop: Pompey's Pillar, built in honor of the Emperor Diocletian at the end of the 4th century. Then drive to visit the Catacombs which are the largest Roman Cemetery consisting of three levels cut in the rock.

Related tour: Full-Day Tour of Historical Alexandria from Cairo, Egypt

Afternoon: See the Qaitbay Citadel which was built on the site of the ancient Pharos of Alexandria, using some of its stones. The Pharos was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Next to Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a major library and cultural center built to commemorate the famous Library of Alexandria, lost to a fire in antiquity.

Overnight in Cairo.

Qaitbay Citadel, Alexanderia, Egypt

Day 6: Luxor + board Nile Cruise

Even if you're on a budget, don't discount those multi-day Nile river cruises. Thanks to the drop in tourism, prices are an unbelievable deal right now. Our cruise ship was running at only about 30% capacity, although we couldn't tell from the abundant food offerings!

Planning tip: If time is limited, opt for the Aswan-to-Luxor route. Due to the Nile's strong flow, cruise itineraries run for 4 Days downriver from Aswan to Luxor and for 5 Days upriver from Luxor to Aswan.

 

Morning: Fly from Cairo to Luxor (choose 07:20-08:30 or 10:45-11:55 am). We took the earlier flight so we could check in early and explore the ship at our leisure. That also gives you time to walk around Luxor's corniche (riverfront).

Afternoon: The ancient Egyptians knew Luxor as Thebes. The East Bank of the River Nile is home of Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis, a UNESCO site. As you tour Karnak Temple (the biggest temple in the world), Sphinx Avenue, and Luxor Temple, Pharaonic history begins to come to life.

Related tour: Full-Day Tour of the East & West Banks from Luxor

Evening: After dinner, take an evening stroll on the corniche. Or enjoy the Karnak at Night light show. Buy tickets here.

Overnight in Luxor on board the ship.

Night light show at Karnak Temple

Day 7: Luxor

Before dawn: Take a hot air balloon ride over Luxor. It's a memorable experience and you will return to the ship before breakfast.

Morning: Visit the ancient tombs and temples of Luxor's West Bank: the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple at El Deir El Bahari, and the Colossi of Memnon. (Valley of the Queens is also on the West Bank, but it’s not always included in the itinerary due to distance.)

Afternoon: Enjoy the passing Egyptian landscape as you cruise toward Edfu. In the afternoon, visit the sun deck and watch as the ship passes through the Nile Lock at Esna, the largest lock in the world.

Overnight in Edfu on board the ship.

Sunrise balloon ride over Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple.

Day 8: Temple of Edfu + Kom Ombo

Morning: Horus Temple at Edfu.

Afternoon: Sail to Kom Ombo to visit an unusual double temple, dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, and the falcon god Haroeris (Horus the Elder). Then, stop in at the Crocodile Museum to see a few of the 300 crocodile mummies discovered nearby. Return to the ship for dinner and sail on to Aswan.

Related tour: From Aswan: Day Trip to Kom Ombo and Edfu

Overnight in Aswan on board the ship.

Kom Ombo temple.

Day 9: Aswan High Dam + Unfinished Obelisk + Philae Temple + Nubian Village

Morning: Pay a visit to the Aswan High Dam, built in the 1960s to control Nile flooding. Then continue to one of ancient Egypt's stone quarries to see the immense Unfinished Obelisk, and finish the morning at the majestic Philae Temple.

Related: Get Your Guide offers a number of excellent tours in Aswan.

Afternoon: Take a trip upriver past the Nile's first cataract, and cool off with a dip in the Nile waters. Then continue on to visit a local Nubian village, either on a camel or on a boat.

Meet a traditional Nubian family, learn about their lifestyle and culture and gain insight into the traditions the Nubians have followed for thousands of years. (Note that this may be an add-on excursion. It's worth it, though!)

Overnight in Aswan on board the ship.

Camel waiting for a rider in a Nubian Village near Aswan.

Day 10: Disembark + fly home

Try to book a flight that departs later in the day. This way, you can disembark early from the ship, as we did, and drive to Abu Simbel. It's one of the most impressive UNESCO sites in Egypt and you'll be glad you woke up early to see it.

 

Related tour: From Aswan: Private Tour to Abu Simbel

Massive statues in Abu Simbel Temple

The 2-week Egypt itinerary

Here's where your own fun begins! You have four flexi-days for your own plans.

Begin with our itinerary, then add sights and activities that fit your interests. Maybe you'd like to spend a bit of time diving in the Red Sea at Hurghada, visit the Egyptian Mount Sinai, or see more Egyptian temples, like Dendara.

Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

Is Egypt safe to visit?

You probably know that Egypt has endured a lot of upheaval in recent years, and many countries have not yet lifted their travel warnings. Naturally, this has made tourists nervous. Tourism has plummeted nationwide and devastated local economies.

Our three outspoken guides gave their honest opinions about safety in their country. We were surprised to learn that attacks are directed at fellow citizens when groups have wanted to get the government's attention. Tourist areas are safe to visit now, they said, as long as you don't travel to the most remote parts of the country. They warned that visitors should stay away from the Libyan border and in north Sinai, but few people would want to go there anyway.

Hanging Church in Cairo, Egypt

What does all of this mean for you?

With tourists seeking alternate destinations, many of the country’s hotels and sites are left nearly empty. Prices have dropped, resulting in an inexpensive and less crowded experience.

We’re the last people to suggest you should take your personal safety lightly. It just means that you need to dig beneath the surface of headlines and hype. Do your own research, talk to any Egyptians you know, and remember that the real-life situation isn’t necessarily what the media might be saying.

This is where it pays to hire a guide or take a tour, private or otherwise. Tour companies keep up-to-date on political unrest and take their clients’ safety very seriously.

Should you take a tour in Egypt?

Some places are perfect for the independent traveler. And some, well, aren't.

We're not saying you can't see Egypt on your own. You can, of course. However, Egypt is chaotic and if you're not used to it, the Arab culture can be hard to deal with.

Seriously consider taking a tour or hiring a professional, even if it's not your usual style. We can't express how much it helps to travel with someone who “knows the ropes” and can tell you what you're looking at.

Thanks to low demand, Egypt is “on sale” at the moment, with rock-bottom tour prices. Thus, you can take advantage of the situation by booking a tour instead of doing it yourself.

Why take a private tour?

Considering this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we decided to pay for a private tour. We used Memphis Tours based on their glowing reviews. They created a custom itinerary for Egypt based on our must-see sights, made all our arrangements, and guided us throughout our trip. All our guides were certified Egyptologists. Highly recommend this if you want to understand the sights and culture.

From our experience, the advantages to booking a tour or hiring a guide include:

  • They make most or all of the arrangements, saving you time and streamlining the experience.
  • They can help you understand the culture.
  • They can warn you about health risks (and remind you not to eat the salad)
  • They can “run interference” for you if you're being hassled for baksheesh (we hated that about Egypt)
  • They speak the local dialect (our guide negotiated a great price, then saved me from being taken advantage of at the Cairo bazaar)
  • Best of all, many tour guides are certified Egyptologists. That's a good thing, because you would miss out on a lot if you don't understand what you're looking at.

Why take a group tour?

Depending on the price, group tours might seem a good option, but be selective. Trust us: Being herded from place to place can easily suck all the fun from a trip.

  • They have to stay on schedule so you can feel rushed.
  • They have to keep everyone happy, so your personal preferences aren't a priority.
  • Worse, you're part of a herd. How can you fully appreciate a place if you are never alone with it?

The cruise portion of our trip included a shared guide, but we only shared with a handful of people. After he showed us the important things at each site, we had plenty of time to explore on our own. He stuck around to answer any questions we had,  which was super helpful. Finally, he made sure we got back to the ship in time.

No one wants to wait for one last person, or worse, find out the ship left without you.

Whatever you do, don't let price stop you from enjoying Egypt.

There are ways to save money, even in Egypt.

  • Travel in the shoulder season, from March – April or October – November. Hotel rates are lower then. Plus,  you will encounter fewer crowds.
  • Another way to save money is to make your own travel arrangements.
  • You can book tours and day trips to some sites and see others (like museums or the pyramids) on your own. 

Be sure to factor in the cost of transportation, food and/or lodging when planning your Egypt itinerary. Remember that Nile cruises include all three in one single price.

Boats taking visitors to a Nubian Village

Inspired?

Planning resources

Here are some more useful links to help you plan your own trip.

  • Tourism authority: Egypt’s tourism website has many useful trip planning resources.
  • Airport. The code for Cairo International Airport is CAI.
  • Airport to hotel. Taxis are available, as is Uber. Another option is to book a private limousine service. They will greet you with a sign in the airport, help with your luggage, and escort you to your hotel.
  • Visas. Project Visa is an easy-to-use tool that will tell you if you are eligible for Visa on Arrival (VOA).
  • Currency. We use xe.com to calculate currency exchange values.
  • Travel insurance. You’d be surprised at how cheap it is and how much it covers. Learn more here. Trust us, when an airline misplaces your suitcase for a week, you’ll be glad you have it.

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ide view of sphinx with pyramid in background. Text overlay says Egypt: See the icons in 2 weeks

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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12 thoughts on “The Essential One- to Two-Week Egypt Itinerary

  1. Hahaha, I came across your post searching for Egypt itineraries, Lynda! We want to go to Egypt but we were thinking of spending there only 7 days and go to Jordan as well. From all I see, we could easily spend 2 weeks in Egypt though. Do you think one week would be enough though?

    1. Sure, Anda. You can see Egypt in one week/7 days, if you begin your tour as soon as you land. Here’s how you could do it.

        2 days – Cairo – Pyramids of Giza, Egyptian Museum, tour Historic Cairo
        4 days – Nile Cruise – Aswan→Luxor = 4 days (downstream). Luxor→Aswan = 5 days.
        1 day – your choice – Abu Simbel, Saqqara, El Fayoum, or Alexandria.

      Both Egyptian Museum and Abu Simbel are less crowded in the morning.

  2. Hi Linda,

    I am planning to visit Egypt with my family(2 adult & 2 kids) in February,2019 for 2 weeks. I would like to know who was your tour guide. I am looking for someone who can guide us instead of taking taxis here and there.

    1. Hi Sandip,

      We used a tour company called Memphis Tours, and they created a custom itinerary for us based on our interests and budget. Here’s the link. They made all the arrangements, took care of us from the moment we landed, and even gave us a cell phone to use while in country.

      If you’d prefer private tour guides, let us know – we can recommend our guides in Cairo and Luxor. (They are freelancers.)

    1. Hi Dawn, Our customized 12-day trip cost $1945 per person in 2017. This included
      – all lodging
      – all transportation
      – all admission tickets
      – tour guides ever day
      – most food (we paid for our own dinners in the hotels).

      We didn’t need child or senior rates so have no idea if those are available. All we know is, Egyptians like to bargain, so there’s a good chance you might be able to negotiate a lower price for four people.

  3. I visited Egypt with a guided tour as well and I wouldn’t do it independently – I think you just learn so much more with a guide because the historic sites themselves don’t have much in the way of signage. And I hated the hassling too. This was back before the Arab Spring, though, and it really pains me to read about how Egypt’s economy is suffering now.

  4. Oh, Linda, this is going to be such a great trip. And is long enough to allow you to visit a lot of interesting places. I want to go there very badly. My parents went to Egypt some years ago and they told me it was a fantastic trip.They also hired a tour and they told me it was worth every penny, so as you also suggested, Since they went to Egypt, I keep promising myself every year that we’ll go too,but nothing yet. The trouble is that the longer I wait, the more chances there are the political situation is going to be even worse than now.

    1. My friend, if I could reach through the computer and shake you, I would. WHAT’S STOPPING YOU? Besides, based on recent news reports, you might be safer in Egypt than in Europe.

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