For thousands of years, travelers have journeyed to Egypt to gaze in wonder at the ancient pyramids and temples left over from the time of the pharaohs, one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. More recently, visitors also go to soak up the culture or to do business in Cairo; and to discover the idyllic beaches and world-famous reefs of the Red Sea. If a trip to Egypt is on your bucket list, one of the first decisions you'll need to make is when to go.
If weather is your primary concern, the best time to visit Egypt is during the northern hemisphere fall, winter or early spring (October to April), when temperatures are lower. To avoid the crowds at ancient sites like the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor, and Abu Simbel, try to avoid peak season (December and January). At this time of year, accommodation and tours throughout the country are typically more expensive. Budget travelers can get good discounts in the summer and shoulder seasons.
The Weather in Egypt
For many people, weather is a crucial factor in deciding when to visit Egypt. The climate is typically hot and sunny throughout the year, and there is very little precipitation south of Cairo. Even in the wettest places (Alexandria and Rafah), it only rains on an average of 46 days per year. Winters are generally mild, with daytime temperatures in Cairo averaging around 68 degrees F. At night, temperatures in the capital can drop to 50 degrees F or lower. In summer, temperatures reach an average of 95 degrees F, exacerbated by intense humidity.
It is important to remember that many of Egypt's ancient sights are located in desert regions that remain hot despite the proximity of the Nile River. Climbing into an airless tomb on a 100-degree day can be draining. Several top attractions are located in southern Egypt, where it is even hotter than Cairo. If you're planning on visiting Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and/or Lake Nasser from May to October, make sure to avoid the midday heat by planning your sight-seeing for the early morning or late afternoon.
Between March and May, the khamsin wind brings thick dust and sandstorms.
Best Time to Cruise the Nile
With this in mind, the best time to book a Nile cruise is between October and April. Temperatures are manageable at this time of year, allowing you to get the most out of day trips to iconic sights like the Valley of the Kings and the temples of Luxor. For the same reasons, travel during the peak summer months of June to August is not advised. Average highs for Aswan exceed 104 degrees F at this time of year, and there isn't a lot of shade to offer respite from the midday sun.
Best Time to Enjoy the Red Sea
June to September is an excellent time to visit the Red Sea beach resorts. Despite being the peak of summer, temperatures on the coast are much cooler than in the interior. Average summer temperatures at popular beach resort Hurghada hover at around 84 degrees F, while the sea temperature is a balmy 80 degrees F—perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. In July and August it's essential to book well in advance, as resorts can get busy with vacationing Europeans and Americans; and with wealthy Egyptians seeking to escape the heat of Cairo.
Best Time to Visit Egypt's Western Desert
Summers in the desert should be avoided, as temperatures at destinations like Siwa Oasis routinely exceed 104 degrees F. During the depths of winter, nighttime temperatures can plummet to just below freezing, so the best time to visit is halfway between the two in either spring or fall. February to April and September to November are the optimum times temperature-wise, although spring visitors should be aware of possible sandstorms as a result of the annual khamsin wind.
Traveling to Egypt During Ramadan
Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting, and the dates change every year according to the dates of the Islamic calendar. Tourists are not expected to fast when visiting Egypt during Ramadan. However, shops and banks tend to close for much of the day, while many cafés and restaurants do not open at all during daylight hours. At night, there is a generally festive atmosphere as eating and drinking resume. Toward the end of Ramadan, there are several festivities that are fun to experience and observe.
Spring is a nice time to visit Egypt, as temperatures are typically quite moderate. Some visitors may want to avoid the khamsin wind season (March to April) as visibility is often impaired by sand and dust storms. This is a particular concern for keen photographers. Accommodation and tour prices are typically cheaper than they are in the peak winter season.
Events to check out:
- Abu El Haggag Moulid, a five-day carnival in Luxor, typically takes place in the spring, a month before Ramadan. The festival celebrates a 13th-century Sufi leader, Yusuf Abu Al Haggag.
- People of Egypt celebrate Sham El Nessim to welcome the season of spring in the country. It usually takes place in April, after Coptic Easter.
Temperatures are often sweltering in summer, especially in Upper Egypt near Luxor. But traveling during this time has its perks: you can see Egypt without swells of fellow tourists, leaving you in peace at some of the country's most revered monuments. Ramadan typically falls during the summer months; beware that some attractions may close earlier than usual.
Events to check out:
- Muslims end the long month of Ramadan with Eid al Fitr, a religious festival.
Like spring, fall brings cooler temperatures and affordable prices. Heat can sometimes last into October, but crowds are still thin, making this a great time to visit popular monuments. If you're planning a visit to the beach, this is an ideal season to do so as the Red Sea is still warm and uncrowded.
Events to check out:
- Wafaa Al Nil is an ancient festival devoted to the Nile River. It's typically held during September.
While winter can mean nice weather, it's also the high tourist season. Attractions will be more crowded, and hotel prices can skyrocket. There is occasional rain and some cities, like Alexandria, will be quite damp.
Events to check out:
- On January 7, the Coptics of Egypt celebrate Coptic Christmas. At midnight, worshippers gather en masse and enjoy a traditional fatta meal together.
- The Abu Simbel Festival is held on February 22 each year in celebration of the eponymous temple.
- Formerly held in the summer, Cairo Art Fair is one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in the country.