This perfectly-paced highlights itinerary offers a glimpse of Egypt's diversity in just 13 days. Journey from the Giza Plateau outside Cairo to the shores of the Red Sea in Hurghada—with a relaxed three-night Nile River cruise in between. Highlights of your trip include exploring the stepped pyramid of Djoser with an Egyptologist, a cruise down the palm-lined Nile River, a wild 4WD adventure in the dunes of the Sahara, and several snorkeling trips around the Red Sea's islands and reefs.


  • Learn the secrets of the pyramids with an Egyptologist guide
  • Cruise up the Nile to reach the "open-air museum" of Luxor
  • Dine around a campfire with local Bedouins under the desert sky
  • Snorkel and sunbathe among the Red Sea's islands and reefs
  • Bargain for treasures old and new at Cairo's colorful bazaar

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cairo, Sunset at Cairo Tower Cairo
Day 2 Day Trip to the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Memphis & Saqqara Cairo
Day 3 Discover the Egyptian Museum & Old Coptic Cairo Cairo
Day 4 Fly to Aswan, Tour the Sights of Aswan, Board Nile Cruise Aswan
Day 5 Cruise Toward Luxor via the Temples of Kom Ombo & Edfu Luxor
Day 6 Cruise to Luxor, Tour the East Bank & the Temple of Karnak Luxor
Day 7 Disembark Nile Cruise, Discover the Valley of the Kings, Transfer to Hurghada Hurghada
Day 8 Snorkeling Adventure in Giftun Island National Park Hurghada
Day 9 Sahara Desert Safari & Bedouin Camp Dinner Hurghada
Day 10 Day Trip to Mahmya Beach: Sailing, Snorkeling & Beach Time Hurghada
Day 11 Submarine Tour, Fly to Cairo, Tour Al-Muizz Street & Khan el-Khalili Cairo
Day 12 Free Morning to Explore, Cairo by Night Tour Cairo
Day 13 Visit Al-Manial Palace & Cairo Tower, Depart Cairo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cairo, Sunset at Cairo Tower

See Cairo from above with incredible panoramic views from Cairo Tower

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

In the early evening, head to the Cairo Tower (El-Gezira Tower or Burj el-Qahari), the highest point in the city, to see the sunset over the panorama of Cairo and the Nile River. One of the most prominent features of the Egyptian capital, the tower's partially open latticework design is intended to evoke a lotus plant. Eat dinner at the top of the 613-foot (187 m) tower in the revolving restaurant so that you can catch every piece of the view, including, on a clear day, the famous pyramids of Giza in the distance.

Day 2: Day Trip to the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Memphis & Saqqara

Pyramids of Giza
Stand in the shadow of the legendary Great Sphinx

You might have caught your first glimpse of the pyramids last night, but today, you'll get up close and personal with these stone megaliths. Your local guide will lead you around the iconic three pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, helping to unravel their complicated history. The iconic Great Sphinx is also on the docket, along with a quick detour to Saqqara, an ancient Egyptian necropolis and home to one of the world's oldest major stone structures, the stepped Pyramid of Djoser

Fuel up with lunch at a local restaurant, where you might find favorites like koshary (a mix of pasta, lentils, and veggies), ful medammas (fava bean stew), and molokhia (jute stew). Afterward, head to Memphis, Egypt's ancient capital. Two of the most famous sites that you'll get the pleasure of exploring are the colossal statue of Ramesses II and the Sphinx of Memphis, carved from alabaster and meant to resemble Ramesses the Great.

Day 3: Discover the Egyptian Museum & Old Coptic Cairo

Tour to Egyptian Museum, Citadel, and Coptic Cairo
See the tomb artifacts from King Tut at the Egyptian Museum

Meet your Egyptologist guide this morning for a few more stops in Cairo. Begin at the Egyptian Museum, which has the most extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world, with Pharaonic treasures dating back more than 5,000 years. Among many highlights is the tomb of King Tut and an exhibit of well-preserved royal mummies, including those of famous pharaohs such as Ramesses II and Hatshepsut.

Next, you'll learn about Islamic Cairo at the Citadel of Saladin, a beautiful example of military architecture from the Middle Ages, and the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, a monumental mosque built during the 1300s. Continue to the mosque of Mohamed Ali, known as the Alabaster Mosque. The brilliant domed ceilings, suspended lights, and city views from this former stronghold against the Crusaders are unparalleled. 

The rest of the tour focuses on Old Cairo, the city's historic heart, home to many ancient Coptic sites. You'll start at the remains of the Fortress of Babylon, Cairo's oldest original structure. First built by the Persians around the sixth century BCE, you'll find the famous Hanging Church on-site. Finish at the oldest synagogue in Egypt, Ben Ezra, where the famous "Geniza Documents" were found.

Day 4: Fly to Aswan, Tour the Sights of Aswan, Board Nile Cruise

See the impressive sights of Aswan on the Nile River, such as the Philae Temple

This morning, your driver will pick you up for your transfer to Cairo's airport, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Aswan, an archaeologically rich city on the banks of the Nile. Upon arrival, meet your guide for a tour of the city's highlights, starting at the Temple of Philae, dating to the fourth century BCE and dedicated to the goddess Isis. Next, visit Egypt's engineering achievement of the modern era, the Aswan High Dam, and continue to the Unfinished Obelisk, the largest known ancient obelisk, carved from the stone quarries near Aswan.

Later in the afternoon, you'll head to the shores of the Nile to board your ship and get settled into a comfortable cabin—your home for a three-night scenic cruise. Afterward, take a spin on a felucca (a traditional river sailboat) for panoramic sunset views of the Botanical Gardens, Elephantine Island, and the Agha Khan Mausoleum. Head back to the ship to relax on deck, enjoy the passing scenery of the papyrus and palm-lined riverbanks, and sleep onboard in your cabin. 

Plan your trip to Egypt
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Cruise Toward Luxor via the Temples of Kom Ombo & Edfu

Edfu, and Kom Ombo Temples
Cruise toward Luxor via the intriguing temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu

Enjoy a decadent breakfast aboard your ship this morning, cruising past beautiful views of palm trees and the idyllic countryside. Your first stop is at the Temple of Kom Ombo, where you'll disembark to explore. Looking out over the river from its hilltop precipice, this Ptolemaic temple is rather unusual for Egypt in that it honors two gods and has separate entrances depending on which god Egyptians were there to worship. Dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, as well as Horus the Elder, the temple's stone pillars are impressive and decorated with their own set of impressive reliefs. 

Reboard in time for lunch on deck as you continue cruising north to your next stop at Edfu. Home to immaculately preserved temples, you'll step ashore with your guide to tour the Temple of Horus, also known as the Temple of Edfu. This site is one of the best-preserved Ptolemaic temples in Egypt, and you'll get to stroll through its stone courts and sanctuaries and admire its intricate carvings. Head back to the ship in time for dinner and another peaceful night on the river as you cruise toward Luxor.

Day 6: Cruise to Luxor, Tour the East Bank & the Temple of Karnak 

Walk among giants at the famous Luxor Temple

Next stop Luxor! You'll spend the morning cruising north, watching as pastoral landscapes and scenes of traditional Nile life slide past you. Egyptians once traveled the Nile by traditional felucca, and you'll still spot many of these wooden sailboats traversing the river today. As you pull into Luxor, grab a bite to eat for lunch before heading out with your very own private Egyptologist guide, who will help unravel thousands of years of history in this important ancient city, littered with fascinating temples and often referred to as the "world's largest open-air museum."

Your first stop this afternoon is the impressive Karnak Temple. This is one of, if not the, most important religious building in ancient Egypt. It's thought that the universe was created here and was dedicated to the god Amon, nicknamed the "King of the Gods." Stroll between its jaw-dropping pillars, carved with religious reliefs and hieroglyphs, before moving on to yet another remarkable site, the Luxor Temple and its towering obelisk. Head back to the ship later on, where you'll spend a final evening moored on the river. 

Day 7: Disembark Nile Cruise, Discover the Valley of the Kings, Transfer to Hurghada

Transfer to the gorgeous beaches of the Red Sea at Hurghada

Enjoy one last breakfast on the cruise ship before disembarking 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, the ancient wonders found here date 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.

In the afternoon, switch gears from ancient Egyptian history to the great outdoors, transferring to Hurghada by private transfer. This resort town, around four hours away, lies on the coast of the Red Sea and is known for its long sandy beach and old town, El-Dahar, where you can dine on traditional Egyptian cuisine and shop in colorful souks (markets). The region is also a hotspot for scuba diving and snorkeling. 

Day 8: Snorkeling Adventure in Giftun Island National Park

Snorkel with marine life off the shore of Giftun Island in the Red Sea

Wake up to the sun shining over the Red Sea, then meet your guide for a snorkeling trip to the gorgeous Giftun Island National Park. The boat will take you to several snorkeling spots full of colorful corals and fish, and you'll have a chance to relax on the island, see dolphins, and swim off the beach. After lunch aboard the boat, enjoy the views as you cruise back to Hurghada. Spend the rest of the day walking around the palm-lined Hurghada Marina, splashing around at the Makadi Water World, or just enjoying the beach and dinner at your hotel.

Day 9: Sahara Desert Safari & Bedouin Camp Dinner

Take a camel to a local Bedouin camp for dinner under the stars

Today, join a tour to discover the vastness of the nearby Sahara Desert. Choose a 4WD vehicle, ATV, or dune buggy for your desert safari. Whichever option you choose, you'll enjoy getting a lift as you explore Bedouin villages and marvel at sweeping mountain and desert views. Meet a local who will lead you on a guided, 20-minute camel ride to a nearby Bedouin camp. Once you arrive, enjoy a cup of locally sourced habak (herbal mint) tea and help make traditional arbood (unleavened Bedouin) bread. 

After a glorious desert sunset, enjoy dinner buffet-style around the campfire in the middle of the desert, then watch a fire show accompanied by traditional shisha (apple-flavored tobacco). When the skies darken, meet the astronomy guide at the telescope area to watch the stars like you've never seen them before. You'll be transferred back to your hotel at night's end.

Day 10: Day Trip to Mahmya Beach: Sailing, Snorkeling & Beach Time

Snorkeling at Mahmya Island from Hurghada
Dive deep in the Red Sea off the shore of Mahmya Island

Grab your swimsuit and sunscreen this morning and meet your guide for an incredible day trip to Mahyma Beach, on the southern end of Giftun Island. Sail for an hour on the water and around the island, then take a smaller boat to shore (to help protect the delicate reef and its marine inhabitants).

Once you've landed on the island, snorkel around the impressive coral heads scattered in the clear lagoon, walk along the sandy beach, take on other guests at beach volleyball, or relax on the pure white sands. Eat fresh seafood for lunch at a local restaurant, and later in the day, enjoy drinks at the bar. As evening falls, you'll sail back to the Hurghada Marina, where your driver will be waiting to take you back to your hotel for an evening of leisure and relaxation.

Day 11: Submarine Tour, Fly to Cairo, Tour Al-Muizz Street & Khan el-Khalili

Hunt for treasures in Cairo's old bazaar

This morning, you'll be picked up for an underwater experience that won't get your feet wet. Board the Sinbad submarine, the only of its kind in the Middle East, to get another view of the rich marine life in the Red Sea. For two hours, you'll observe different types of coral reefs and colored fish at depths up to 72 feet (22 m). 

After this memorable experience, you'll head back to town, transfer to the airport, and hop on a one-hour flight back to Cairo. Once you've checked into your hotel, your guide will take you to one of the oldest streets in Egypt, Al-Muizz li-Din Allah al-Fatimi Street (Al-Muizz Street). This historical, pedestrian-only avenue is lined with famous monuments, including two of the three remaining gates in the old city wall, Bab al-Futuh (Gate of Conquests) and Bab al-Nasr (Gate of Victory).

Follow the street to the historic, recently restored alleyway, Al-Darb al-Asfar, and visit some of the most beautiful mosques in the city, such as Aqsunqur Mosque (the Blue Mosque), famous for its blue-tiled interior, and Al-Aqmar Mosque, with its detailed stonework facade. Finally, follow your guide through the teeming streets of Khan el-Khalili, Cairo's old bazaar, where you can bargain for treasures at this historical souk (market), including lamps, rugs, jewelry, and more.

Day 12: Free Morning to Explore, Cairo by Night Tour

See the sunset and night lights of Cairo on a comprehensive tour

This morning is free for you to relax at your hotel or explore more of Cairo at your own pace, shopping for souvenirs or clocking in more time at iconic sights like the Great Pyramids or the Egyptian Museum. In the evening, you'll meet your guide to discover Cairo by night. As the sun sets on this vibrant capital, a whole new world appears, which you'll find on this four-hour tour.

Begin your tour at the historic, beautiful Abdeen Palace, a rare gem transformed into a museum showcasing artifacts and history from the royal ages. Next, explore the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, a pyramid-shaped memorial located in the suburb of Nasr City, dedicated to Egyptian soldiers who lost their lives in past wars. Grab a drink or coffee at the glamorous Al-Fishawi Cafe, one of Cairo's oldest, most famous coffee shops, then end the night back on Al-Muizz Street to see this open-air museum full of architectural treasures lit up under the night sky. 

Day 13: Visit Al-Manial Palace & Cairo Tower, Depart Cairo

Manial Palace and Cairo Tower
Visit the sites of Roda Island on your final morning in Cairo

Your final morning in Egypt starts with a visit to Al-Manial Palace and Museum, located on Roda Island in the middle of the Nile River. Completed in 1929 by Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik, it's now a museum with beautifully preserved rooms full of ornate tilework and priceless artifacts. Discover the former throne room, the extensive gardens, and, if you're interested, the Mummified Animal Museum.

While on the island, don't miss the famous Nilometer. Priests and kings used this device (dating to 861 CE), made of a marble column and a well, to monitor the water levels of the Nile. Then, visit the Cairo Tower (El-Gezira Tower or Burj el-Qahari) to savor the panoramic Nile views. One of the most prominent features of the Egyptian capital, the tower's partially open latticework design is intended to evoke a lotus plant. When the time comes, your driver will be waiting to transfer you to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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