After bringing you the Top Suites of Cairo back in October, several readers asked us to offer an itinerary for Egypt. This week we turn to SmartFlyer travel advisors David Bragg and Justyna Della Valle who share 13 days in this fabulous country. Below is their day-to-day itinerary as an example of what they can customize for you, so read on.
By David Bragg and Justyna Della Valle, SmartFlyer
As a luxury travel agency, we’ve seen inquiries for Egypt private tours on the rise due to the region’s rich history, compatibility with social distancing, and of course, the ever-present bucket list factor offered by the pyramids.
History buffs will be quick to tell you how important Ancient Egypt is to the course of human history. This country’s heritage is as long as the Nile River itself, dating back to the beginning of written history. To this day, there’s still an air of mystery that surrounds the iconic monuments and sites. And while reading about Ancient Egypt is fascinating, a private tour of the land is the only way to get the full picture.
Wake up immersed in Cairo’s skyline just steps away from stunning cultural establishments. Unwind in hotels that were occupied by some of history’s greatest minds. Coast along the Nile River aboard the Oberoi Zahra, a five-star Luxury Nile Cruiser. While onboard, stop for tours of Ancient Egypt’s burial grounds. Afterwards, check into a cliffside hotel that once housed literal royalty. Finally, take cover in a remote oceanside resort and let the Egyptian sun recharge you.
Day 1 – Cairo
Touch down in Cairo International Airport where a representative will meet and guide you through the gates of the Two Lands at sunrise. Then, roll into the driveway of the immaculate Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza where you can freshen up in one of their spacious riverside suites.
Afterward, grab some breakfast and head out for an all-day historical tour of the capital. Here, visitors can gaze upon the largest array of Christian Egyptian sculptures at the Coptic Museum or stroll through the historic synagogues and mosques. We highly recommend a close encounter with the mummies at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
Day 2 – Cairo
Following breakfast, head over to the lobby and meet your guide and driver. Together, explore desert antiquities dating back more than 5000 years at the beginning of civilization. Start your excursion with a visit to King Zoser’s Step Pyramid in Saqqara. This vast desert plateau is the largest necropolis in Egypt and built to last until the end of time. Then, hop on camelback to visit the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still intact. Afterward, ride over to the Great Sphinx, the stone guardian of the pyramids since 4500 years ago.
Recharge with some lunch at the Nine Pyramids Lounge, an open-air venue with sweeping views of the pyramids. Upon returning to the hotel, use the rest of the day to kick back at the pool or perhaps explore another museum. We recommend the Grand Egyptian Museum to experience history within a beautifully modern space.
Day 3 – Cairo
Today, take a tour of the famous collection of pharaonic treasures at the Museum of Antiquities. Here, your guide will show you the highlights like the Tutankhamun Collection of Golden Treasures. Then, visit the Citadel overlooking the entire capital city. This impressive monument was completed in 1183 to wall off and withstand attacks from Christian crusaders. Following lunch at Naguib Mahfouz Restaurant – named for the first Arabic Nobel Peace Prize recipient – stroll through the Khan El Khalili. In this souk dating back to the 14th century, you’ll find a bustling collection of shops offering rugs, artisanal crafts, perfumes, and other locally-made goods. After your shopping spree, we encourage you to unwind in the hotel’s steam room and sauna before dinner.
Day 4 – Luxor
Check out of Four Seasons Nile Plaza Hotel and hop aboard a domestic flight to Luxor. Upon arrival, you’ll be directly guided to visit Luxor Temple. This incredible monument has been continuously used as a place of worship right up to the present day. Then, proceed to the Luxor Museum overlooking the west bank of the River Nile. This museum was inaugurated in 1975 and prides itself on its unparalleled accessibility and chic presentation. Afterward, check into the historic Sofitel Old Winter Palace Hotel and freshen up in your luxury suite. Pick out something regal to wear tonight. This evening, you’ll be treated to a pharaonic horse-drawn carriage tour of Luxor.
Day 5 – Nile Cruise and The Temple of Karnak
Today, you set sail across the longest river in Africa. Wake up to the Egyptian sun rising over the horizon and check out of Sofitel Old Winter Palace Hotel. Then, transfer to the Oberoi Zhara luxury cruise line and dine on some lunch aboard this elegant five-deck vessel. Before you set sail, make sure to check out the Temple of Karnak, the largest temple in the world! This site is a massive complex where dozens of pharaohs raised towers and statues in their own name. While here, visit the Great Hypostyle Hall and stroll among its expertly aligned columns soaring 80 feet high.
Day 6 – Valley of the Kings and Queens
Following your night on the Nile, disembark onto the Valley of the Kings – the pharaohs’ burial ground and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “boy king” Tutankhamun tomb is here, originally found in 1922 by British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter. Also, as a special treat, descend into the tomb of Seti I – the father of Ramses II – and experience one of the best-preserved tombs in the Valley.
Proceed to the Valley of the Queens, an area in the western hills chosen due to its seclusion. Here, rulers of the 18th dynasty chose rock-cut tombs as burial chambers instead of the traditional pyramids. Descend into the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut of Dynasty XVIII, built just north of the Middle Kingdom temple of Mentuhotep Nebhepetre in the bay of cliffs known as Deir el-Bahri. The temple was called Djeser-djeseru in ancient times, meaning the ’sacred of sacreds’. After gazing upon this reverent site, you can return to your ship for afternoon and evening fare on the Nile.
Day 7 – Edfu
Wake up on the coast of the site of Edfu. Here, the mythological falcon-headed god Horus was worshipped and battled his traditional enemy Seth, the god of storms and mischief. The Temple of Horus at Edfu is the best-preserved and the only known temple to have been completed.
The huge Ptolemaic monument is constructed from sandstone blocks over the site of a smaller earlier temple facing the river. Later, return to the cruise ship and dine on some onboard lunch while you’re sailing off to Kom Ombo: the Hill of Gold. The Temple of Kom Ombo was mainly dedicated to the crocodile God Sobek, and his wife the sun goddess Hathor. This Greco-Roman limestone structure dates back to 119 B.C. when Ptolemy VI built it in the likeness of the creators of the world.
Day 8 – Aswan
After another night on the water, wake up in the ancient city of Aswan and disembark to the Temple of Isis in Philae. This Greco-Roman temple occupies over a quarter of the island with its regal pylons, the Mamisi (the House of the divine birth of Horus), and irrigating Nilometer. Onto the High Dam, one of the most important Egyptian achievements in the country’s last century. It serves as a symbol of the New Revolution in 1952 and provided Egypt with water and electricity in a way that preserved the life-giving Nile.
Finally, proceed to The Unfinished Obelisk which lies in the granite quarry it was constructed in. Most people believe that it was constructed and abandoned during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut during the 18th dynasty. Had this monument been completed, it would have been nearly 1100 tons: the heaviest obelisk ever cut in Ancient Egypt. Return to The Oberoi Zahra for one last night evening on the Nile.
Day 9 – Kitchener’s and Elephantine Islands
Following breakfast on board, disembark from your cruise ship and transfer to the splendid Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel. Today, you’ll take a visit to the two major Islands on the Nile near Aswan: Kitchener’s Island and Elephantine Island. Kitchener’s Island was given to Lord Horacio Kitchener who transformed the entire island into a botanical garden in 1928. Now, it remains a peaceful haven for rare exotic birds that stretch their plumes in the shady trees. In the Old Kingdom, Elephantine was known as the “door of the south,” and served as the starting point for Sudanese trade. In modern times the island is the site of two Nubian villages brimming with hieroglyphic imagery.
Day 10 – Sharm El Sheik
On the final leg of your Egyptian escapade, take a short commercial flight from Aswan to Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh. The unrestricted ocean views and international fine dining make this a lovely start to your day. After a poolside meal or lunch within one of their terraced rooms, take your first dip in the magnificent Red Sea. This body of water is teeming with colorful sea life and unspoiled coral reefs. Its crystal clear waters and unique underwater gardens are globally renowned as an aquatic paradise for beginners and advanced divers.
Day 11 – The Red Sea
Egypt’s natural wonders are just as breathtaking as its man-made history. After you kickstart the day with a seaside breakfast, set out for an all-day adventure through rolling canyons and stunning oceanic encounters. Hidden in the desert in an area called the Sinai Peninsula, the Colored Canyon is one of those best-kept secrets of the marvelous country of the Great Pyramids. The only way to get there is by private vehicle, and its short length makes for perfect hiking. As you venture into the canyon, the walls narrow in width to just a few feet in some places, giving the canyon a close and secretive atmosphere. It also reveals the deep coloration of the canyon walls: a prismatic and metallic sheen that gives way to soft and billowy surfaces.
After a casual lunch, adventure-seekers are invited to put on your wetsuit and plunge into the mammoth Blue Hole. This diving site is considered a submarine sinkhole with a maximum depth reaching over 100 meters. You’ll first encounter “The Saddle” of the sinkhole, followed by a tunnel 26 meters long known as the “Arch”. The Blue Hole is infamous for housing a diver’s graveyard for those ill-prepared for this extreme dive. Although this may be true, those brave and experienced enough can encounter some of the world’s most vibrant aquatic wildlife (as well as take home some well-deserved bragging rights).
Day 12 – Sinai Mountain Range
On your penultimate morning in Egypt, head out to the peaks of the divine Mount Sinai and watch the golden sun ascend over the mountaintops. It’s here people believe Moses received the Ten Commandments, and this mountain range is still home to some of the holiest sites in all written history. After hiking down from the clifftops, explore Saint Catherine’s Monastery, one of the last functioning ancient monasteries in the world. The site houses the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Savior, which itself contains nine smaller churches. Make sure to peek into the church’s library, which boasts rare books and 6000 manuscripts.
Day 13 – The End
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Today, check out of your hotel after a filling breakfast and board a plane back home. At this point, you can recount all of the incredible sights, sounds, and tastes of Egypt as the peaks of the pyramids dip under the clouds.