Traveling to the land of the pharaohs means discovering one of the oldest civilizations in the world, its vast history, its majestic pyramids and temples and its imposing desert landscape where the Nile is the absolute protagonist. Its capital, Cairo, is a city of contrasts. These are the best tours to discover Cairo and its surroundings:
1. Private tour: pyramids and sphinx of Giza, Egyptian Museum and Khan el-Khalili bazaar
Accompanied by an Egyptologist guide, this 6-8 hour private tour in English, starting at $143, will take you to the highlights of Cairo in a flexible tour that can be tailored to your interests.
Nothing compares to the experience of seeing the pyramids of Giza in person, the only one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world that survives today. The emotion overwhelms you when you see these impressive funerary constructions that were built under the orders of pharaohs Cheops, Kephren and Mycerinos belonging to different dynasties.
Next to the pyramids is located another of the emblems of Egypt, the great sphinx of Giza. A sculpture of more than 20 meters high with the body of a lion and a human head that symbolizes the union of intelligence and strength for the ancient Egyptians.
If you have always dreamed of entering one of the pyramids, with this private excursion you can do it. Although it requires an additional cost, living this experience is something unique and unforgettable and therefore, highly recommended. You can learn more about the mysteries of the culture of the pharaohs at the Egyptian Museum and finish the tour in the lively Khan el-Khalili bazaar where you can interact with the locals and buy souvenirs.
- Your adventure will begin at 9:00 a.m. and you will be driven by private vehicle to the Giza Plateau, 18 kilometers from Cairo.
- Upon arrival, you will see for yourself that the three pyramids of Giza live up to their fame. This tour offers a guided introduction to the pyramids to learn why they were built and how, as it is an enigma how such perfect structures were built at that time with such rudimentary means.
- If you wish, you will have free time to enter one of the pyramids and feel like an intrepid archaeologist exploring its empty inner chambers independently, as the guide is not allowed to enter with the group. Are you up for the adventure?
- Near the pyramids of Giza is the colossal sphinx of Giza, one of the great mysteries of the ancient world, as there is still speculation about its origin, its date of creation or its function. However, the most widespread theory is that it was erected around 2,500 BC as part of the funerary complex of the pharaoh Chephren in order to become the guardian of his tomb.
- You can take an optional visit to the Solar Boat Museum, home of Khufu's funerary boat, which has an additional cost. On the other hand, if you are passionate about Ancient Egypt, you may be interested in the Papyrus Institute.
- To learn more about ancient Egypt, the next stop on the tour is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Here you can admire statues, reliefs, funerary elements and paintings among numerous other objects of great historical value, although the Tutankhamun room and the mummy room are the two main attractions that stand out from the rest of the exhibits.
- The tour's Egyptologist guide will explain everything you need to know about the Egyptian Museum's most important pieces before giving you some free time to explore the halls at your leisure and be entertained by the 165,000 exhibits on display. Particularly impressive is the Tutankhamun's death mask, the star attraction.
- The last stop is a visit to the Khan el Khalili Bazaar. Here you can not only practice your bargaining skills and buy some bargains but also stroll through its maze of streets and breathe the bustling atmosphere of Cairo's main souk.
2. Full day tour to Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza
If you want to take a tour of Cairo that brings together ancient and modern Egypt, this day tour of Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza is the one for you.
You will see the pyramids and other monuments and museums related to this archaic civilization as well as visit Tahrir Square, Khan Khalil Bazaar and have lunch in a local restaurant where you will taste some of the best dishes of the Cairo cuisine. A private guide and a vehicle will ensure you a personalized experience in the capital of the country!
Itinerary in the pyramids
- Your tour guide will be waiting for you at 8 am in the lobby of your hotel to start the tour.
- The first stop is on the Giza plateau, a short distance from Cairo. Here are located the three pyramids of Giza, the only one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world that has survived to this day.
- Walking around the plateau and contemplating these ancient constructions is an exciting experience that every traveler has to live.
- My recommendation is that you pay extra to see the pyramid of Chephren from inside because it is a feeling that can not be described in words. Walking through its narrow passages to access the small chambers inside you will feel like an adventurer. Get ready for action!
- Guarding the pyramids is the Sphinx of Giza, which was apparently built to protect the tomb of the pharaoh Chephren. A mythological sculpture of more than 20 meters high, half human, half lion that has become the icon of Egypt and with which you will surely want to take several pictures.
- During this part of the visit, the tour guide will explain all the secrets of these famous monuments and the enigmas surrounding their construction: why were the pyramids built, how did they move and lift the huge blocks, what did they put in the burial chamber for the afterlife?
- You can also visit the temple of the valley of Kephren, a construction connected to the pyramid of Kephren by a causeway where the mummy of the pharaoh was purified before burial. It is the only temple of the three pyramids that is still preserved.
Already in Cairo
If after visiting the Giza plateau you have been left wanting to know more about ancient Egypt, in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo you can soak up this important civilization making a trip back in time through the rooms of this building to meet the treasures of Tutankhamun and other great pharaohs, the rite of mummification and various everyday objects and funerary. Inaugurated in 1902, it is the most notable museum of its kind in the world.
After finishing the tour of ancient Egypt, the next stop is to discover its modern side by mingling with the locals in Tahrir Square and Khan El Khalili souk, the most famous market in the Middle East.
Tahrir Square is located near the Egyptian Museum and is the political epicenter of Cairo. Here took place the events of the Arab Spring that culminated in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. In its surroundings there are shops, government offices and institutional headquarters.
The Khan El Khalili souk is located in a walled area of medieval air in the heart of Islamic Cairo. It has more than 900 stalls selling all kinds of fabrics, jewelry, handicrafts, perfumes, spices and musical instruments. My advice? Take advantage of the visit to have a tea or smoke a shisha in one of its old and charming cafes.
3. Private tour of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with lunch
Located near Tahrir Square, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is housed in a spectacular neoclassical building opened in the early twentieth century to house collections related to ancient Egypt. Since it opened its doors in 1902 its collections have been gradually expanded with the discovery of new pieces and the recovery of many objects plundered during the wars or that were in museums and private collections abroad.
If you have always been fascinated by this archaic Mediterranean civilization, this private tour of the Egyptian Museum is one of the essential things to do during your visit to Cairo. Accompanied by a qualified Egyptologist guide, you will visit its rooms to immerse yourself in this captivating culture in a 5-hour itinerary that will begin at 9 am.
About the Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum is divided into two floors: the ground floor rooms exhibit papyrus, coins, jewelry, statues, reliefs and sarcophagi, among other objects, while the upstairs rooms display the treasures of Tutankhamun's tomb, such as his funerary mask, among other pieces found by Howard Carter in 1922. There are also two rooms dedicated to the mummies of kings of the New Kingdom and other artifacts discovered in the Valley of the Kings.
It is not surprising that this is the second most visited tourist attraction in Cairo after the pyramids because of the importance of the treasures it houses. It currently displays over 136,000 artifacts but the overall collection is made up of some 150,000 items that cannot be displayed in the facility today. That is why the Great Egyptian Museum is under construction, which will complement the present one by becoming the largest archaeological museum on the planet.
The duration of this private tour of the Egyptian Museum is 5 hours (approx.) and can be done in English.
Why do I like this tour?
What I liked about this private tour is that in addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the history of Egypt, before returning to the hotel in a minivan, you have the chance to savor a rich traditional local lunch composed of Egyptian koshary. A most complete dish that mixes rice, lentils and macaroni with tomato sauce and other ingredients. It is, without a doubt, another delicious way to get to know Cairo.
4. Half day tour in Cairo in ancient markets and local souks
Cairo is a sometimes chaotic city where the experience of shopping in its stores can be somewhat disconcerting for foreigners if you don't know the unspoken rules of bargaining. What makes the difference between an overwhelming experience and one where you have a really good time is to have the help of a good private guide to show you this fascinating side of local daily life.
If you want an authentic shopping experience in the markets and souks of Cairo, we recommend that you take this half-day tour accompanied by a private guide: he will show you the necessary skills for shopping in Egypt.
As information of interest, it is important to wear comfortable shoes for the tour and a casual dress code is required.
- At 8:00 a.m. this adventure through the streets of Cairo will start with a shopping tour in the markets of the old city center.
- Then head to El Ghorya market, a typical Egyptian market in beautiful Fatimid Cairo where you can meet the vendors and get acquainted with their products.
- Continue the tour through Gamalia Street, next to Khan El Khalili and El Azhar Mosque which is the second oldest Islamic university in the world and the most important in the teaching of Shari'a law. Then head to the traditional area of Bab Zuwayla, Bab al-Fatah and Bab el Nasr, three impressive 10th century A.D. stone and brick gates leading to the Fatimid compound.
- Stop for lunch, as this tour includes snacks and drinks, and recharge your batteries for further exploration of the souks.
- Next stop is El Mosky, a busy Egyptian bazaar that has everything at a good price. However, the crown jewel of the capital's markets is Khan el Khalili. The oldest and most famous in the whole country.
About El Mosky Bazaar
Its origin dates back to the 14th century, when the Mamluk Sultan Djaharks el-Khalili decided to build on the ruins of an ancient Fatimid cemetery a resting place for merchants. Your private guide will explain in detail the history of this busy place as you stroll through this walled area with a medieval feel.
What to buy in the souks
Perfumes, jewelry, fabrics, handicrafts, colorful lamps, spices and musical instruments are some of the products you can buy as souvenirs of your Cairo tour. There are said to be more than 900 stalls to reach through narrow streets so the help of your private guide will be essential to show you the best stores in the market and to give you tips on how to bargain with the merchants.
Close the tour with a typical snack
Once you have done your shopping, you may want to close the tour with tea and typical sweets sold in street stalls or in some cafes in Khan el Khalili. At the end of the half day tour in Cairo you will return to the hotel to rest and upload the best photos of the day to your social networks. The duration of this tour is 4 hours (approx.) and it is available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Japanese.
Why do I like this tour?
Through this half-day tour in Cairo I found the visit to the Cairo markets very easy and enjoyable, because if I had done it on my own it would have been a bit more chaotic and I would have missed details that as a visitor I was unaware of. Thanks to the private guide we learned about the most prominent markets, their history, the products being sold and how to interact with the vendors to get a bargain.
In addition, as you walk the streets, this tour also allows you to admire the unique architecture in which these markets are nestled, which is fascinating.
5. Half day private sightseeing tour of Saqqara and Memphis from Cairo
As an Egyptology enthusiast, a trip to Cairo will not be complete without a trip to Memphis, the coronation city of the pharaohs, and Saqqara, the most relevant necropolis of Memphis from the first dynasty to the Christian era.
However, extending sightseeing from Cairo to these sites independently is difficult. Cabs are the only option but once there, there is no guide to accompany you during the tour. Therefore, this half-day private tour of Saqqara and Memphis from the capital is the best way to enjoy the experience to the fullest and without worries. Of course, travelers must be in average physical condition to do so.
With the assistance of a private Egyptologist guide who will pick you up at your hotel, you can learn about the history of Memphis and Saqqara and get detailed information about the treasures that both sites hold in a fully personalized experience.
- Visit of Memphis: This tour starts at 9 a.m., once the private vehicle and your tour guide pick you up at your hotel to depart for Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt.
- Visit the ruins of Saqqara, the necropolis where the world's first pyramid, the step pyramid of Zoser, is located.
It was founded around 3100 BC by Narmer, the first pharaoh of the country. During its more than 3,000 years of history, Memphis was an important religious and political center where the pharaohs were crowned. It is believed to have been the most populated city in the world until 2250 BC and was nicknamed the "balance of the two lands" as it was located between upper and lower Egypt. When Thebes replaced it as Egypt's capital, Memphis began its decline until centuries later it was abandoned.
Today, Memphis is an open-air museum housing many relics of the country, including the Colossus of Ramses II and the Alabaster Sphinx attributed to Queen Hatshepsut.
About the pyramid of Zoser
During the rule of the pharaoh Zoser around 2,630 BC the architect Imhotep, the first recognized in history, erected this spectacular pyramid of 60 meters high as part of the funeral complex of the sovereign.
The importance of the pyramid of Zoser lies in having been the origin of the construction of the rest of the Egyptian pyramids, including the pyramids of Giza. Undoubtedly, visiting Saqqara is a highly recommended experience to know in depth this chapter of the history of ancient Egypt and be amazed with the ability that the Egyptians had thousands of years ago to build this architectural marvel with such scarce means.
The archaeological complex covers 9 square kilometers where you can also visit the causeway of King Unas, the tomb of Kagemni and the pyramid of King Teti with pyramidal texts inside.
Why do I like this tour?
It is a good idea to choose this half-day private tour of Saqqara and Memphis from Cairo to complete the experience about ancient Egypt and the trip to the country's capital in general terms. It also includes a light lunch consisting of falafel and foul, the Egyptian national dish made from fava beans, so as a traveler you get to experience the historical heritage of the country as well as some of its cuisine. I loved the plan!
6. Private Day Trip to Alexandria from Cairo
Founded by Alexander the Great himself in 332 BC, Alexandria was the main cultural center of the ancient world and although the great historical claims that made it famous disappeared centuries ago, this cosmopolitan Egyptian city still retains that aura that makes it special and different. So a visit to Alexandria during your trip to Egypt is a must.
Are you seduced by the plan? Explore the country's second largest city aboard a comfortable minivan on this day trip to Alexandria from Cairo. On this itinerary you can make as many stops as you like as this is a personalized and flexible tour. You will be accompanied by an Egyptologist guide who will reveal all the secrets of this legendary Mediterranean city. This tour includes lunch during the trip.
- This adventure begins at 7:00 a.m., in a minivan that will pick you up at your hotel, with your tour guide, heading north to the coastal city of Alexandria.
- On the way there you will have the opportunity to contemplate the scenery and chat with the guide, who will give you a preview of what you will see during the excursion and you will be able to exchange experiences about Egypt. You can even ask him for recommendations of other interesting places to see in the country.
- In Alexandria you will visit the Roman burial catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa discovered in 1901, whose present location was once known as Rakotis, a village that preceded Alexandria. They were excavated in the rock and descending into the tunnels you can see the shelves on which the corpses were deposited as well as carvings and sculptures of Egyptian and Greco-Roman influence.
- Walking through the corridors you will also find the hall of Caracalla, where the bones of ancient Christian soldiers were found.
- Next to the catacombs is the column of Pompey, 25 meters high, dedicated to the emperor Diocletian who liberated the city when it was under siege.
- The visit continues to the Roman amphitheater, which was discovered in 1960 and dates back to the second century AD and is in a good state of preservation along with other vestiges of the period. In the area of the amphitheater were also discovered Roman baths and a residential area, where there is a house known as "the villa of the birds", which has beautiful mosaics.
- Stop for lunch included in the excursion at a great Mediterranean restaurant.
- Finally, you will visit the new library of Alexandria. A spectacular architectural work that was completed in 2002 and serves as a tribute to its predecessor, the mythical library of Alexandria that was destroyed in strange circumstances centuries ago. Accompanied by your guide you can tour the interior of the modern library, see its exhibits on the history of Egypt and, if you wish, the exhibition of rare ancient books which has an additional cost (but is highly recommended!).
7. 4-day Nile Cruise Aswan to Luxor and sleeper train round trip
A trip to Egypt could not be complete without embarking on a cruise on the mythical Nile River, an absolutely essential and unforgettable experience, especially if you have never done one before. What better place than legendary Egypt to make your debut?
This is one of the most common activities to do in Egypt to get to know some of the most iconic sites in the country such as Aswan, Edfu and Luxor. Particularly, in this 4 days cruise from Luxor to Aswan you will visit the most outstanding temples of Egypt accompanied by a guide for a group of 12 travelers.
With this cruise you will avoid flight and travel expenses to the south. You will take an overnight train to Aswan and later board a 5-star ship for a three-night Aswan-Luxor cruise with full board. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it's even better to experience it in person!
- Day 1 - Cairo to Aswan: On the first day of the tour you will go in the afternoon to Cairo train station to take the Sleeper overnight train to Aswan. Overnight on the Sleeper train.
- Day 2 - Guided day tour to Aswan: On the second day you will stop at the Aswan Dam, Phialea Temple by boat and the unfinished obelisk. Overnight on the Nile cruise.
- Day 3 - Sailing to Kom Ombo Temple: On the third day of the Nile cruise you will set sail for Kom Ombo Temple after breakfast to visit it accompanied by your guide. You will then return to the cruise ship to continue your journey to Edfu. Overnight on the Nile cruise.
- Day 4 - Guided tour Edfu - Luxor East Bank: On the fourth day of the activity you will visit the temple of Horus in the morning and cross Esna Lock to sail to Luxor. Upon arrival in Luxor, you will start the afternoon tour to visit the East Bank of the Nile, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and the Obelisk of Ramses II. Overnight on the Nile cruise.
- Day 5 - Guided tour of Luxor West Bank: One of the most exciting days along with the fourth will be the fifth, when you will visit the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon, two huge stone statues representing the pharaoh Amenhotep III located in front of the city of Luxor, on the banks of the Nile River. At the end of the visit, you will head to Luxor train station where you will sleep on the Sleeper train to Giza train station.
- Day 6 - Arrival in Cairo: Upon arrival at Giza train station, you will be met and transferred to your hotel to end your Nile River adventure.
When booking this Nile cruise you should note that entrance fees and some meals are not included. Optional tours such as Abu Simbel or hot air balloon ride are available for an additional amount.