25 Top Things to Do in Egypt

For centuries, tourists have flocked to Egypt to admire its ancient pyramids and temples, as well as its natural wonders. The River Nile is the longest in the world, and the Red Sea coast is a playground for resort-style relaxation and adventurous water sports. At the heart of Egypt’s cultural identity is Cairo, a cosmopolitan capital where historic churches, mosques, and museums rub shoulders with luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants. Discover all this and more with our helpful guide to Egypt’s top attractions.

01 of 25

Dive for Ancient Ruins Around Alexandria

Scuba Diver from Below

Brad Rickerby / Getty Images

While many of Egypt's ancient ruins can be seen standing tall above ground or hidden in tombs throughout the landscape, there are also a sizable amount of ruins still hiding below the surface of the sea near Alexandria. Discoveries are constantly being made, such as the city of Thonis-Heracleion which was rediscovered by divers in the early 2000s.

Although the water is not known for its clarity, divers will still see some incredible sights, such as the Ruins of Cleopatra's palace and the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Look for a PADI-certified dive shop to arrange a tour.

Alexandria, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt
02 of 25

Dine on the Nile

Sunset on the river Nile in Egypt, Africa

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If you don't have the time for a multi-day journey down the Nile, you can still enjoy the water by booking a dinner cruise from Cairo. Cruises last about two hours, where you'll be able to enjoy views of the city at sunset and live music, belly-dancing, and Tanoura, a dazzling traditional style that employs the use of a dynamic skirt to dazzle audiences. The food is typically buffet style, but you'll have a lot of different cruise operators to choose from so it's best to do a little digging and read reviews.

03 of 25

Ride Quads in the Desert

Extreme entertainment in the desert on 4 wheels. Rally in desert of Sinai Peninsula - stock photo

Iana Chyrva / Getty Images

The desert is an incredible landscape to explore, but you'll find yourself quite overheated doing so just on two feet. Instead, opt for a tour by quad. These 4x4 vehicles are fun to drive and you can appreciate the sights as they whizz by you. Quad or ATV tours from Cairo can take you past the pyramids and the sphinx, and often include extras like trips to Memphis or Sahara City, as well as camel rides and sand-boarding experiences.

04 of 25

Venture Through the Valley of the Queens

Valley of the Queens in aerial view from hot air balloon.

Nomad Outing / Getty Images

While the pharaohs are memorialized in the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens is the designated burial site for the wives of pharaohs, as well as several of the few female pharaohs that served throughout history. Located near Luxor, the site has over 90 tombs, the most impressive of which is the Tomb of Nefertari, Ramesses II's favorite wife, which is very large and decorated with incredible paintings. Although it is not as famous as the Valley of the Kings, many royal princes and princesses were also buried in this location.

Luxor, Luxor Governorate 1340410, Egypt
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05 of 25

Chill Out in Dahab

Camels on the beach, Dahab's Three Pools

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A trip to Egypt doesn't have to just be about history and ancient ruins, it can also be about laying out on the beach. A resort town like Dahab offers plenty of opportunities to relax and reset with many laid-back and family-friendly resorts where you can dip your toes into the Gulf of Aqaba, located at the top of the Red Sea. When you crave adventure, you can look to the nearby mountains for hiking or check out the incredible dive sites for scuba and snorkeling, such as the famous Blue Hole, which is accessible from the shoreline.

Dahab, Saint Catherine, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
06 of 25

Learn About Cairo’s Multicultural History

View of Cairo Citadel, Egypt
László Mihály/ Getty Images

At one time or another, Cairo has been occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Coptic Christians, Islamic caliphs, Mamluks, Ottomans, and British colonialists. Its architecture reflects its multicultural heritage, as you’ll discover on a walking tour of medieval citadel or with a visit to landmark religious sites such as the Hanging Church or Al-Azhar Mosque. For an overview of the country’s ancient history, head to the Egyptian Museum.

Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Cairo Governorate 4244001, Egypt
07 of 25

Experience Contemporary Cairo in Zamalek

Zamalek district in Cairo, Egypt

cinoby / Getty Images

Head to Cairo's trendy Zamalek neighborhood (located on Gezira Island in the middle of the River Nile) to discover contemporary art galleries, five-star hotels, and world-class restaurants. El Sawy Culture Wheel is a hub for concerts, plays, and lectures; while the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art and the Cairo Opera House are located nearby. Floating venue Le Pacha 1901 boasts no fewer than nine gourmet riverfront restaurants.

Zamalek, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
08 of 25

Shop for Souvenirs at Khan El-Khalili Bazaar

Khan El-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo, Egypt
Gary Yeowell/ Getty Images

Little has changed at Khan El-Khalili Bazaar since its foundation in the 14th century. In Cairo's most authentic souk, narrow cobbled streets open into alcoves packed with fragrant spices and handcrafted silver jewelry. Come to stock up on souvenirs, remembering that haggling is expected. Afterward, unwind with a cup of mint tea or Arabic coffee at the famous marketplace café Fishawi’s. The bazaar is located in Islamic Cairo.

El-Gamaleya, El Gamaliya, Cairo Governorate 4331302, Egypt
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09 of 25

Marvel at the Ancient Pyramids of Giza

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost/ Getty Images

The Pyramids of Giza lie on the outskirts of Cairo. The largest of the three pyramid complexes is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing today–an impressive feat, considering that the pyramids were built some 4,500 years ago. In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx, a cat-like creature carved from a single block of stone. Tickets to view the Great Pyramid cost EGP 100.

X4FR+HR8, Gamal Abd El-Nasir, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Giza Desert, Giza Governorate 12511, Egypt
Phone +20 115 427 7613
10 of 25

Visit the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara

Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara, Egypt
Yann Arthus-Bertrand/ Getty Images

Those with a passion for pyramids should also make sure to visit the Pyramid of Djoser, located just south of Cairo at Saqqara, the necropolis of ancient Memphis. The pyramid was built in the 27th century BC, using a unique stepped style that pre-dates the smooth-sided pyramids at Giza. It is the oldest stone-cut monument in the world. The best way to visit Saqqara is on a day tour from Cairo.

Al Giza Desert, Giza Governorate 3352001, Egypt
11 of 25

Walk Amongst Luxor's Ancient Monuments

Temple of Luxor, Egypt
Peter Unger/ Getty Images 

The modern city of Luxor sits on the east bank of the River Nile, on top of the ancient pharaonic capital of Thebes. Its temples, statues, and monuments give a sense of the city’s past grandeur. The top attraction is Luxor Temple, which was commissioned by Amenhotep III in the late 14th century. Monumental statues of Ramesses II guard the temple gate, and walking in between them is a breathtaking experience.

Luxor, Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
12 of 25

Explore the Karnak Temple Complex

Temple of Amun-Ra, Karnak, Egypt
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The Karnak temple complex is located just north of Luxor. Karnak was a place of great religious importance for the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, and it became the main place of worship for the ancient Thebans. Today, you can walk amongst an astonishing collection of sanctuaries and temples dedicated to the Theban Triad. The largest is the Temple of Amun-Ra, which costs EGP 120 to enter.

Karnak, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
Phone +20 2 22617304
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13 of 25

View Ancient Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost/ Getty Images

Across the river from Luxor lies the Theban necropolis, the Valley of the Kings. There are more than 60 subterranean tombs here, built for the mummies of New Kingdom pharaohs from as early as the 16th century BC. The pharaohs were buried with their worldly treasures amidst spectacular hieroglyphs. You’ll have to pay an extra EGP 100 on top of the standard ticket price to visit the most famous tomb – that of boy-king Tutankhamun. 

Luxor, Luxor Governorate 1340420, Egypt
14 of 25

Uncover Ancient and Modern History at Philae

Philae temple complex, Egypt
Steve Duchesne/ Getty Images 

The Philae temple complex was built by Nectanebo I and added to by Ptolemaic and Roman rulers up until the 3rd century AD. As such, it provides an architectural account of Egypt’s transition from paganism to Christianity. In modern times, it was moved brick by brick from its original location on Philae Island to nearby Agilkia Island after the former was flooded during the construction of the Aswan Dam. Learn more on a day tour from Aswan.

2VGM+6JQ, Aswan 1, البحر الأحمر 1240271, Egypt
15 of 25

Admire Incredible Reliefs at the Temple of Horus

Bas relief at the Temple of Horus, Edfu, Egypt
Tuul / robertharding/ Getty Images

The Temple of Horus at Edfu may not be the oldest structure in Egypt, but it is one of the best-preserved. The sandstone structure was built between 237 and 57 BC by the Ptolemaic kings, who dedicated it to the cult of the falcon god Horus. When paganism was banished, the abandoned temple began to fill with desert sand which kept its fabulous reliefs and statues intact.

Adfo, Edfo, Aswan Governorate 1291237, Egypt
16 of 25

Discover the Symmetrical Temple of Kom Ombo

Temple of Kom Ombo, Egypt

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The Temple of Kom Ombo is unique in that it is divided into two symmetrical halves. One is dedicated to Horus the Elder, the other to the crocodile god Sobek. Each half contains an identical entrance, hypostyle hall, and sanctuary, and many of the temple’s reliefs show traces of their original color. Don’t miss the nearby Crocodile Museum with its collection of mummified crocodiles.

Kom Umbu, Kom Ombo, Markaz Kom Ombo, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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17 of 25

See it All on a Full Nile River Cruise

Nile River cruise, Egypt
Tuul / robertharding/ Getty Images

One of the most atmospheric ways to see the ancient sights between Luxor and Aswan is to sign up for a multi-day River Nile cruise. There are countless different options, from historic steamships like the S.S. Sudan to luxury cruisers like the Oberoi Zahra. The latter has its own on board spa and swimming pool. Budget travelers can explore with a no-frills tour on a traditional felucca.

18 of 25

Stand in Awe Before the Abu Simbel Temples

The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, Egypt
Jean-Pierre Lescourret/ Getty Images

The two temples at Abu Simbel were built during the 13th century BC as monuments to Ramesses II and his queen, Nefertari. They were also relocated to higher ground to prevent flood damage in the 1960s. The entrance of the Great Temple is guarded by four colossal statues of Ramesses II. Inside, eight more enormous statues represent the pharaoh in his deified form and can be viewed on an Abu Simbel tour.

Abu Simbel, Aswan Governorate 1211501, Egypt
Phone +20 2 22617304
19 of 25

Experience Berber Culture at Siwa Oasis

Siwa Oasis, Egypt
SEAN F. WHITE / Design Pics/ Getty Images 

Experience the road less traveled at Siwa Oasis, a desert settlement located near the Libyan border. The town is known for its unique Berber culture, abundant date and olive plantations, and the ruined temple of the ancient Oracle of Ammon. The latter was once visited by Alexander the Great. Make sure to check current travel warnings before booking a trip to Siwa, as the Western Desert can be unsafe.

Siwa Oasis, Siwa, Matrouh Governorate 5011144, Egypt
20 of 25

Make the Pilgrimage Up Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai, Egypt

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Located near Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai is a place of pilgrimage for Christians who believe that this is where Moses saw the Burning Bush and later received the Ten Commandments. At the foot of the mountain lies St. Catherine’s Monastery with its museum full of religious icons and relics. There are two routes to the summit: the challenging Steps of Repentance, or the more forgiving Camel Trail.

Jabal Mousa, Saint Catherine, South Sinai Governorate 8730062, Egypt
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21 of 25

Soak Up the Atmosphere in Cosmopolitan Alexandria

Aerial view of Alexandria, Egypt
Yann Arthus-Bertrand/ Getty Images

Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC and, as one of the most important cities of its time, was home to a wealth of iconic landmarks. These included the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After a period of decline, Alex is once again a thriving port with an enviable culinary scene and several excellent cultural venues including the amazing Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Al Azaritah WA Ash Shatebi, Bab Sharqi, Alexandria Governorate 21526, Egypt
Phone +20 3 4839999
22 of 25

Cross the Suez Canal in Port Said

Sunset over Suez Canal House, Port Said
Anna Henly/ Getty Images 

The coastal city of Port Said marks the northern entry into the historic Suez Canal. Wander along the port’s waterfront boardwalk to view the supertankers preparing to make the journey from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. To experience a crossing for yourself, hop aboard the free ferries that run from Port Said to Port Fuad. On the way across, you’ll traverse the border between Africa and Asia.

Port Said, Port Fouad City, Port Said Governorate, Egypt
23 of 25

Learn to Scuba Dive in Sharm El-Sheikh

Snapper, Red Sea, Egypt
Borat Furlan/ Getty Images

Egypt’s entire Red Sea coast is a treasure trove for scuba divers, and the peninsula resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh is a great place to learn. There are plenty of different dive schools to choose from, allowing you to shop around for the best course price. You’ll also have access to beginner-friendly shore diving sites as well as spectacular reefs in nearby Ras Mohammed National Park.

Sharm El-Sheikh, Qesm Sharm Ash Sheikh, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
24 of 25

Dive the Wreck of the S.S. Thistlegorm

Motorbikes on the wreck of the S.S. Thistlegorm, Egypt

Experienced divers can explore the S.S. Thistlegorm, often ranked as one of the best wreck-diving sites in the world. The freighter was drafted into military service during the Second World War and arrived in the Red Sea in 1941. Shortly afterward it was sunk by German bombers with ammunition, armored vehicles, and military motorcycles on board. You can book the dive with a local operator like Eagle Divers.

RW7C+F86, El Tor, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
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25 of 25

Stay in a Luxury Hurghada Resort

Giftun Island near Hurghada, Egypt
majaiva/ Getty Images

Hurghada is a popular getaway for divers, watersports enthusiasts, and sun worshippers. It’s also home to several luxurious 5-star resorts including The Oberoi Beach Resort Sahl Hasheesh and Premier Le Reve Hotel & Spa. Expect landscaped grounds, sprawling swimming pools, fine-dining restaurants, and of course, excellent spa and water sports amenities. The offshore Giftun Islands are an idyllic day-trip destination.

Hurghada, Red Sea Governorate, Egypt
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25 Top Things to Do in Egypt