Ancient history and archaeological wonders take center stage on this 11-day journey through Egypt. It starts with you riding a camel around the pyramids of Giza, browsing King Tut's artifacts at the Egyptian Museum, and bargaining for souvenirs at Cairo's old bazaar. Then, set off on a three-night Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor—hopping between riverside temples, visiting local islands, taking a spin on a traditional felucca sailboat, and making a day trip to marvel at the rock-cut splendor of Abu Simbel.


  • Discover the secrets of the Great Sphinx with an Egyptologist guide
  • Tour the legendary Abu Simbel to see the Great Temple of Ramesses II
  • Cruise up the Nile, stopping at temples and islands as you go
  • Stand among the giants of the Luxor Temple complex

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cairo, Nile Dinner Cruise Cairo
Day 2 Explore the Egyptian Museum, Evening Tour of Khan el-Khalili Cairo
Day 3 Day Trip to the Pyramids, Memphis & Saqqara, Lunch at 9 Pyramids Lounge Cairo
Day 4 Fly to Aswan, Tour Elephantine Island Aswan
Day 5 Day Trip to Abu Simbel Aswan
Day 6 Tour the Sights of Aswan, Board Nile River Cruise Aswan
Day 7 Cruise to the Temples of Kom Ombo & Edfu Luxor
Day 8 Cruise to Luxor, Tour Karnak & Luxor Temples Luxor
Day 9 Disembark Nile River Cruise, Tour the Valley of the Kings & Luxor West Bank Luxor
Day 10 Discover Abydos & Dendera Temples, Sunset Felucca Tour to Gezira el-Mozh Luxor
Day 11 Fly to Cairo, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cairo, Nile Dinner Cruise

Get a warm welcome to Cairo on a Nile dinner cruise

Welcome to Egypt! Few countries have captured the world's imagination like this North African nation bordering the Middle East. Egypt has preserved much of its ancient history through landmarks, archaeological sites, and antiquities, all accessible to the public. Once you arrive in Cairo, Egypt's capital and largest city, you'll be picked up at Cairo International Airport and transferred to your hotel to relax and settle in.

In the evening, you'll transfer to the Nile River for a traditional dinner cruise. Hop aboard the boat, designed to resemble a Pharaonic barge in a tribute to the ancient Egyptian god Hathor. Admire the panoramic views of the Cairo skyline from the deck, then tuck into a buffet dinner with a mix of local and international dishes and desserts. Meanwhile, you'll enjoy performances of Egyptian music, belly dancing, whirling dervish shows, or meditations led by an expert. After dinner, head back to the deck, enjoy the cool breeze, and take in the glittering sights of the Cairo skyline as you return to the harbor.

Day 2: Explore the Egyptian Museum, Evening Tour of Khan el-Khalili

Egyptian Museum
Hunt for treasures in Cairo's old bazaar, Khan el-Khalili

Meet your Egyptologist guide this morning for a full-day guided tour of Cairo's historic sites and cultural landmarks. Begin at the Egyptian Museum, which houses the world's most extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts, with Pharaonic treasures dating back more than 5,000 years. See highlights including the tomb of King Tut and an exhibit of well-preserved royal mummies, including those of famous pharaohs such as Ramesses II and Hatshepsut.

Finally, follow your guide through the teeming streets of Khan el-Khalili, Cairo's old bazaar, packed with legendary shops that sell everything from fine brassware to perfumes to antiques. Hunt for treasures at this historical souk (market), where you'll find lamps, rugs, jewelry, and more. Learn the art of bargaining as you pick up some one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Day 3: Day Trip to the Pyramids, Memphis & Saqqara, Lunch at 9 Pyramids Lounge

Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx
Admire the 240-foot-long (73 m) and 66-foot-tall (20 m) Great Sphinx of Giza

Today, you'll set off for a guided tour of some of Egypt's most iconic sites via your preferred transport method: horse, camel, or horse-drawn carriage! Begin at the ancient pyramids of Dahshour, then continue to the Pyramids of Giza complex to visit the Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu), the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain largely intact. Built as a tomb, its shape was intended to help the dead pharaoh's spirit rise to heaven.

Nearby, you'll find Khafre, the best-preserved of the main Giza pyramids, and Menkaure, the smallest of the three. Spend time admiring the magnificent Great Sphinx (a vast limestone statue) up close, and take a breather for lunch at 9 Pyramids Lounge, a restaurant with al fresco seating and an incredible view of the pyramids. 

Afterward, head to the ancient ruins of Memphis, the first unified capital of the ancient world. Here, you can visit the necropolis of Saqqara, an ancient burial ground, to explore the Step Pyramid of Djoser and 4,350-year-old tombs with ancient hieroglyphics engraved on the walls.

Day 4: Fly to Aswan, Tour Elephantine Island

See a different side of Egyptian culture as you tour the colorful Nubian villages of Elephantine Island
Plan your trip to Egypt
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

This morning, you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Aswan, an archaeologically rich city on the banks of the Nile. Settle into your hotel, then transfer to the port and hop on a ferry to Elephantine Island, which sits in the middle of the river. As you approach the papyrus and palm-lined shores, home to UNESCO-listed archaeological sites and traditional Nubian communities, you'll get a gorgeous view of the Agha Khan Mausoleum.

Upon arrival, walk between the two Nubian villages of the island, Siou and Koti, via narrow lanes lined with gardens and brightly painted houses and linked by trails. Among the colorful homes, you'll find locals offering souvenirs, henna tattoos, and mint tea among the chatter of Arabic blending with the local Nubian language. Later in the afternoon, see the sunset from the Botanical Gardens on the neighboring Kitchener's Island (El Nabatat), or enjoy dinner with a view on the lovely terrace of the Nubian Dreams restaurant. Head back to Aswan at the end of the day. 

Day 5: Day Trip to Abu Simbel

Full day tour to Abu Simbel
Take a day tour of the impressive Temples of Abu Simbel

You're off on a day trip this morning as you head to the airport in Aswan for a 40-minute flight to Abu Simbel, home to an important archaeological site and two UNESCO-listed rock-cut temples. Begin your full-day tour standing in awe before these iconic landmarks, commissioned by Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BCE and carved out of sandstone cliffs. The main temple is dedicated to the gods Ra-Horakhty, Ptah, and Amun, while the smaller temple honors the pharaoh's beloved wife, Queen Nefertari.

Pass the towering statues of the pharaoh sitting on his throne to explore the temple's interior halls and chambers. Admire the vibrant wall reliefs, depicting scenes from Egyptian mythology, religious rituals, and the pharaoh's military conquests. Along the way, your guide will help illuminate the history surrounding the temples and share the remarkable story of how the entire site was moved piece by piece in 1968 to protect it from the rising waters of the Aswan Dam. At the end of your explorations, you'll catch the short flight back to Aswan.

Day 6: Tour the Sights of Aswan, Board Nile River Cruise

Board Cruise from Aswan to Luxor
See the sights of Aswan before starting your cruise down the Nile

Spend this morning discovering more of the many important sites around Aswan. Meet your guide for a tour of the Temple of Philae, built in the fourth century BCE and dedicated to the goddess Isis. Then, continue to Egypt's engineering achievement of the modern era, the Aswan High Dam, and take in the sweeping views. You'll also make a stop to admire the Unfinished Obelisk, the largest known ancient obelisk, located in the stone quarries of ancient Egypt in Aswan.

Later in the afternoon, you'll be welcomed aboard a cruise ship, where you'll get checked into your comfortable cabin for a three-night scenic Nile cruise. After settling in, take a quick spin on a felucca (a traditional river sailboat) for sunset views of the river and Elephantine Island. Then, you'll reboard the ship as it casts off, relaxing on deck, enjoying the passing scenery of papyrus and palm-lined riverbanks, and falling asleep to the gentle rhythms of the river as you cruise north.

Day 7: Cruise to the Temples of Kom Ombo & Edfu

Explore the ancient relics within the Kom Ombo Temple

After a leisurely breakfast onboard, your Nile journey continues as you cruise upstream toward the Temple of Kom Ombo. Built during the Ptolemaic era, the dual design of Kom Ombo is dedicated to the crocodile god (Sobek) and the falcon god (Horus) and is perfectly symmetrical along its central axis. Due to the conflict between these gods, the ancient Egyptians felt it necessary to separate their temple spaces within one temple, making this one of the most unusual temples in Egypt. You'll step ashore to admire its many intact courts, halls, wall carvings, and statues with a guide.

Then, return to the boat and cruise to Edfu, where you can take a horse-drawn carriage to reach the Temple of Horus, considered one of the best-preserved shrines in Egypt. Constructed between 237 BCE and 57 BCE, you can still make out many intricate inscriptions. Return to the ship for dinner and a spectacular sunset as you cruise.

Day 8: Cruise to Luxor, Tour Karnak & Luxor Temples

The vast Karnak Temple complex rises above Luxor's lake 

This morning, your ship will pull into Luxor, where you'll cross to the Nile's East Bank to explore some of Egypt's most spectacular temples. Start at the Karnak Temple complex, the second-largest ancient religious site in the world and once the most significant religious complex in ancient Egypt. Founded in the Middle Kingdom, it's now one of Egypt's largest surviving temples. From its massive decorated pillars to the obelisks, statues, and kiosks, the complex, which took around 2,000 years to finish, will astound you.

Then, continue to the famed Luxor Temple complex, built during the New Kingdom around 1400 BCE and dedicated to Amun Ra. Walk down The Avenue of the Sphinxes, which once connected Luxor with Karnak, guarded by the giant statues of Ramesses II. You'll return to the ship to enjoy your final night on board with a celebratory dinner and another spectacular Nile sunset.

Day 9: Disembark Nile River Cruise, Tour the Valley of the Kings & Luxor West Bank

Valleys of the Kings, Necropolis of Thebes, Temple of Hatshepsut
Explore the famous Valley of the Kings on Luxor's West Bank

Enjoy one last breakfast on the ship before saying your goodbyes and disembarking. Then, it's time to join your guide on the West Bank of the Nile for a tour of the famed Valley of the Kings, known for its rock-cut tombs for kings and pharaohs, buried between the 16th and 11th centuries BCE. Discover the exteriors of the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the beautiful Temple of Deir el-Bahari, a complex of mortuary temples and tombs.

Stop at the Colossi of Memnon to see the imposing statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that guard the entrance of his memorial temple. You'll also see the Necropolis of Thebes, used for ritual burials for much of the Pharaonic period, especially during the New Kingdom. At the end of your tour, return to Luxor, where you'll check into your hotel for a restful evening.

Day 10: Discover Abydos & Dendera Temples, Sunset Felucca Tour to Gezira el-Mozh

Private Sunset Felucca Tour to Luxor and Banana Island
Take a sunset felucca tour on the Nile to Luxor and Banana Island

On your last day in Luxor, you can delve deeper into the history of ancient Egypt on a guided full-day trip to the temples of Dendera and Abydos. The massive Dendera Temple complex dates back to the Old Kingdom (around 3000 BCE) and is considered one of the best-preserved in all of Upper Egypt. Dedicated to the love goddess Hathor, visitors can explore the main temple, the Sacred Lake, and the small but impressive Hathor's Temple, featuring vibrant reliefs and statues of the goddess.

Continue to the nearby Abydos Temple, built over centuries, starting in the Early Dynastic Period and continuing through the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. This complex comprises a courtyard, a hypostyle hall, and a sanctuary. A colonnade surrounds the courtyard, and it contains several statues of Osiris. The hypostyle hall is the largest room in the temple and one of the most impressive in Egypt.

For a more leisurely day, stick around Aswan and board a felucca for a scenic sailing trip to the picturesque Gezira el-Mozh (Banana Island). Enjoy a guided tour of the lush island full of banana plantations, sit down to dinner at a local restaurant, and take a relaxed camel ride. Pick and enjoy some of the freshest and sweetest bananas you'll ever taste right off the tree, then sail back to Luxor, savoring a cup of traditional Egyptian tea as you watch the sunset over the West Bank and the river.

Day 11: Fly to Cairo, Depart

Airplane departing with a view of clouds below
Enjoy one last stroll in the company of pharaohs before heading home
Sadly, your time in Egypt has come to an end. Check out of your hotel and transfer to Luxor Airport for your flight to Cairo in time to make your connection or fly to your next destination. Ma'a salama!

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Map of Egypt Ancient Highlights & Nile Cruise: Cairo, Aswan & Luxor - 11 Days
Map of Egypt Ancient Highlights & Nile Cruise: Cairo, Aswan & Luxor - 11 Days
Written by Amr Ali, updated May 14, 2024