The 12 Best Day Trips From Cairo

Sunset over the Giza Pyramids, Cairo

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Steeped in history yet equally renowned for its thriving modern culture, Cairo offers an almost unlimited number of things to do within its city limits. When you feel like a break from its often chaotic streets, however, there are just as many incredible day trips to embark upon. Ancient pyramids, desert oases, and Red Sea resorts—whatever it is that makes you happy, you’ll find it within a few hours’ drive of the Egyptian capital. The easiest way to explore the area around Cairo is to hire a car; otherwise, you’ll find tour operators offering guided trips to each of the destinations listed below. 

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Pyramids of Giza: The Last Remaining Wonder of the Ancient World

Giza Egypt Pyramids in Sunset Scene, Wonders of the World.
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Al Haram, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Giza Desert, Giza Governorate 3512201, Egypt

Located across the Nile from downtown Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza constitute Egypt’s most iconic ancient site. The plateau houses three separate pyramid complexes: the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, and the Great Pyramid of Giza. The latter is both the oldest (completed in 2560 B.C.) and the most famous, as it's the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. The Great Sphinx of Giza completes the site’s main attractions.

Getting there: Join a guided tour with included transfers, hire a private taxi, or hail an Uber for the 40-minute ride from downtown Cairo. Alternatively, buses depart from outside the Egyptian Museum

Travel tip: To get a panoramic view of the three main pyramids against the Cairo skyline, hike to the top of the sand dunes behind the Pyramid of Menkaure. 

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Saqqara: The Memphis Necropolis and Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid

Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

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To the south of Cairo lies Saqqara, the necropolis of the ancient capital of Memphis. This is the country’s largest archaeological site and also one of its oldest, having served as a burial ground for the pharaohs of Egypt since the First Dynasty. It was here that the art of pyramid building began. Dating back to the 27th century B.C., the stepped Pyramid of Djoser is the world’s oldest stone-cut monument, and served as the blueprint for the later smooth-sided pyramids.

Getting there: There are no direct public transport routes from Cairo to Saqqara, so joining a tour or hiring a car, taxi, or Uber are your only options. The journey takes approximately one hour. 

Travel tip: If you decide to take a taxi to Saqqara, consider hiring the driver for the whole day so that you can cover more of the site on a single visit. 

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Mit Rahina Museum: An Open-Air Museum in Ancient Memphis

Alabaster sphinx at the Mit Rahina Museum, Egypt

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Mit Rahinah, Badrshein, Giza Governorate 3364932, Egypt

Although well worth a day trip in its own right, the Mit Rahina Museum is also a great add-on to a Saqqara outing. Located just 20 minutes away from the necropolis, the modern town of Mit Rahina stands on the site of ancient Memphis—and all that’s left of the once majestic capital is on view in its open-air museum. Of particular interest is a colossal fallen statue of Ramesses II (notable for its astonishing detail), and an alabaster New Kingdom sphinx. 

Getting there: The museum is located due east of Saqqara, and is best accessed via private taxi. Most Saqqara tours also include a stop at Mit Rahina. 

Travel tip: Try to time your visit to avoid the heat of the day. Whenever you go, be sure to bring ample sun protection and plenty of water. 

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Dahshur: Where the Old Kingdom Pharaohs Practiced Pyramid Building

Road leading to the Red Pyramid of Dahshur, Egypt

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Part of the UNESCO-recognized Pyramid Fields, Dahshur is another worthy day trip choice for pyramid fanatics. Located roughly half an hour south of Saqqara by car, this necropolis serves as the burial ground of several different pharaohs, their family, and officials from the Old Kingdom onwards. Its most famous pyramids are the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid, both commissioned by Sneferu, the first pharaoh to build at Dahshur in the 26th century B.C. The Red Pyramid is believed to be the first true (i.e. smooth-sided) pyramid. 

Getting there: Join a Pyramid Fields tour (incorporating Giza and Saqqara as well), or take a taxi or Uber from downtown Cairo. The trip from Cairo takes just over an hour. 

Travel tip: Bring a flashlight for exploring inside the Red Pyramid. Claustrophobics should opt out of this interior tour, however. 

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Nile River: History and Scenic Beauty on the World’s Longest River

Felucca boats on the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt

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The Nile is Egypt’s life-giving water source and the foundation upon which its historic wealth and culture was built. It flows right through Cairo, and there are many different opportunities for those who want to venture out upon its waters. These range from two-hour cruises with dinner and bellydancing or whirling dervish performances, to all-day adventures in the traditional Egyptian wooden sailing boats known as feluccas. Many organized tours combine day trips to the pyramids at Giza, Saqqara, and Dahshur with a Nile river cruise. 

Getting there: The Nile runs along the city’s western edge, separating it from Giza. Cruises depart from various points along either side of the river. 

Travel tip: Book an early morning or late afternoon cruise for the best light for photography, or an evening cruise to see the city lights reflected in the water. 

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Wadi El Rayan: Desert Waterfalls and Fossilized Whale Bones

Wadi el Rayan Waterfalls, Egypt

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Wadi El Rayan, Al Faiyum Governorate Desert, Faiyum Governorate 2812001, Egypt

Tired of arid landscapes and dusty ancient sites? Make your way out of the city to Wadi El Rayan, a Ramsar wetland located within the Faiyum oasis. This scenic nature reserve is dominated by two large lakes separated by Egypt’s largest waterfalls, while the surrounding landscape impresses with towering sand dunes and a valley littered with the fossils of long-extinct whales. Look out for local wildlife, too, including the rare slender-horned and dorcas gazelles. 

Getting there: Whether you choose to take a taxi, rent a car, or travel with a guided tour, Wadi El Rayan is located roughly two hours southwest of Cairo near the city of Faiyum. 

Travel tip: Bring your swimsuit and towel, since there’s no better way to cool off after a morning spent hiking or sand boarding than a dip in one of the desert lakes. 

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Lake Qarun: A Birding Hotspot in the Faiyum Oasis

Fishing boat on Lake Qarun, Egypt

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Qarun Lake, Faiyum Governorate 2814001, Egypt

Also part of the Faiyum Oasis, Lake Qarun is a particularly rewarding day trip destination for keen birdwatchers. Classified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, this saline lake is dotted with lagoons and bays, which provide an important resting site for migratory birds on their annual journey across Africa. In addition to large flocks of flamingos, key species include black-necked grebes, slender-billed gulls, and spur-winged lapwings. On the shore lies Tunis, a rural village known for its pottery workshops. 

Getting there: Buses from Remaya Square in Giza travel to Faiyum and can drop passengers off at Tunis. Otherwise, a rental car or private taxi is the easiest and quickest way to make the two-hour journey. 

Travel tip: The best time of year to see migratory birds at Lake Qarun is during the Northern Hemisphere winter. 

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Alexandria: Hellenistic History Meets Modern Culture in the Nile Delta

Modern Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

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Egypt’s second-largest city is the stuff of legend among historians, who remember it as the bastion of Hellenistic culture and learning founded by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. While the city was once home to iconic monuments such as the Great Library and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, little remains of its illustrious past. However, there is still much to discover in modern cultural landmarks, including the Alexandria National Museum, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and 15th-century Fort Qaitbey. 

Getting there: Alexandria is located approximately 2.5 hours from Cairo by car. It’s also 2.5 hours by express train from Cairo’s Ramses Station. Buses and microbuses ply this route as well. 

Travel tip: Don’t miss the Roman ruins at Kom el-Dikka, where you'll find the only amphitheater of its kind in Egypt and the 2nd-century Villa of the Birds. 

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Port Said: Crumbling Victorian Grandeur at the Gateway to the Suez Canal

Port Said waterfront, Egypt

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Another major settlement in the Nile Delta, the city of Port Said is located on the Mediterranean coast at the northern entry to the world-famous Suez Canal. The city was established during the canal’s construction in 1859, and a walk along its 19th-century waterfront offers the chance to marvel at the huge supertankers en route between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The Port Said Military Museum affords a more in-depth insight into the canal’s incredible political and economic significance. 

Getting there: There is a direct train route to Port Said; however, driving in a hired car is the quicker option, taking just over 2.5 hours. 

Travel tip: Hop aboard the free ferry between Port Said and Port Fuad to cross the Suez Canal and the continental border between Africa and Asia. 

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Ain Sokhna: A Red Sea Getaway Within Easy Reach of the Capital

Umbrellas on the beach at Ain Sokhna, Egypt

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Few people realize how easy it is to combine a trip to Cairo with a visit to the Red Sea. Instead of flying to well-known resort towns like Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh, you can reach Ain Sokhna on the Gulf of Suez in less than two hours by car. This popular getaway spot boasts beautiful beaches set in between sweeping mountain ranges and balmy waters—perfect for water sports, fishing, and even dolphin-spotting. 

Getting there: Local buses do travel between Cairo and Ain Sokhna, although hiring a car or a taxi for the day is by far the quickest and most comfortable way to get there. The journey takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes. 

Travel tip: If you want to sample the town’s fresh seafood, pay a visit to the much-loved local restaurant Abou Aly. 

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El Alamein: Second World War History on the Mediterranean Coast

Commonwealth war cemetery at El Alamein, Egypt

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Second World War buffs and those with an interest in more recent Egyptian history will find the trip out to El Alamein on the Mediterranean coast worthwhile. It was here that Allied forces achieved a decisive victory against the Nazis in 1942, driving the Germans back into Tunisia and ultimately marking the beginning of the end of their campaign in North Africa. Today, visitors can learn about the conflict at the Military Museum and pay their respects to the 11,000 soldiers killed in the war cemetery. 

Getting there: El Alamein is connected to Cairo via train, but driving is the only way to get there and back comfortably in one day. The drive takes three hours. 

Travel tip: If you want to visit the museum, be sure to visit during the week since it is closed on weekends. 

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Luxor: Ancient Temples and World-Class Museums

Entrance to the Temple of Luxor, Egypt

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A day trip to Luxor from Cairo may be impossible by car, but Egypt Air can get you there in just one hour. If you don’t have the time for a lengthier stay, a fly-in visit is absolutely recommended since Luxor is home to some of the finest ancient monuments in the country. Started by Amenhotep III in 1390 B.C., the main temple complex was later expanded by some of Egypt’s most iconic pharaohs, including Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. Luxor Museum is filled with artifacts from Luxor and Karnak temples, as well as from the nearby Valley of the Kings

Getting there: Book a one-hour domestic flight from Cairo to Luxor with Egypt Air. Several tour operators can also arrange an itinerary and flights for you. 

Travel tip: Luxor Museum typically closes in the afternoon from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., so it’s best to visit it first if you want to fit everything into a single day. 

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The 12 Best Day Trips From Cairo