Egypt is one of the most incredible destinations for anyone interested in ancient history or culture. With one of the oldest civilizations in the world, which accomplished feats of engineering we still don’t understand today, there is so much to see and experience.
We’ve found some of the best things to do in Egypt, for those interested in historic monuments and ancient sites, as well as more modern cultural landmarks; and, of course, a little wild African adventure! So no matter how you like to travel, you’ll be able to put together the perfect Egypt itinerary.
Egypt can be a difficult place to travel to, because you need to choose between dense crowds of tourists or uncomfortable desert heat. There’s no easy shoulder season to book a flight in. Despite this, it’s well worth it, even if just for the staggering, immense monuments and unique nature.
Historic Egypt Attractions & Sites to See
Some of the best stops for history lovers and aesthetes (and honestly, everyone else), these are the ancient sites Egypt is best known for! Here you can learn about their polytheistic religion and the long-standing belief that pharaohs were gods themselves.
Rent a car and tick them off your list, or travel Egypt on a guided tour that stops at every important spot. Either option is a great way to experience this ancient land!
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is one of the world’s most impressive man-made landmarks, tunneling into rock for miles. For almost 500 years between the 16th and 11th century BC, Egyptian pharaohs and nobles had rock-cut tombs built here. Often, work on these places of death would take place throughout the intended resident’s lifetime.
The valley stands on the Nile’s west bank, with tombs that consist of up to 120 chambers! Decorated with relief scenes of mythological figures and the afterlife, this is a phenomenal space to step back in time and experience ancient Egypt’s history and its unmatched list of achievements.
Wear light clothing, as it gets very hot and stuffy in the underground tombs. And keep in mind, there are a number of ways to experience the sacred space, so be sure to get entrance to the tombs you’re most interested in.
Cost: $5 USD + additional tombs
Opening Times: 6 AM – 7 PM
One of the best places to visit in Egypt – Abu Simbel
Located on the bank of Lake Nasser, these two immense monuments are icons of Egypt, towering above those who visit it. Built into the rockface in the 13th century BC, they commemorate one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, Ramses II, and his queen Nefertari.
The two temples were moved in a massive relocation when they were threatened by the flooding of the Nile. The colossal statues of Ramses are a prime example of ancient Egyptian artistry, and will take your breath away as you stand staring up at them.
A world heritage site, Abu Simbel’s two temples are very well-maintained, remaining as beautiful as they were millennia ago. Be sure to join a guided tour so that you can learn all about the history as you walk through.
Cost: $12 USD
Opening Times: 5 AM – 6 PM
Top Egypt tourist attractions – Karnak Temple Complex
The largest religious building ever constructed, Karnak was dedicated to Amun, the sun-god, Mut, the goddess of the sky, and their son Khonsu, the god of the moon. Located near Luxor, it is a truly phenomenal historic site.
The mammoth temple complex has been added to by many Egyptian pharaohs over the millennia. Much has been taken from it by looters, but it stands as a testament to Egyptian faith and skill.
Visit for an opportunity to witness ancient relief sculpture and decorative practices, immense structuring and use of materials. In Egypt’s off-season it is relatively uncrowded, making it an even better destination!
Most who visit the temple complex spend a day here, as this is a place of pilgrimage, with a huge variety of temples and dedications. Don’t miss the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Temple of Osiris and Opet!
Cost: $3 USD
Opening Times: 6 AM – 5:30 PM
What to do in Cairo – Pyramids of Giza
Of course, the world’s most famous pyramids have to be included on any list of things to see in Egypt! With over 100 pyramids dotted around Egypt, these three are the ones the country is known by.
Built over 4000 years ago, the monumental structures are what many think of when remembering the lost technologies of the ancient world. Constructed to endure for eternity, these buildings and their burial chambers once held everything the pharaohs – who would become gods in the afterlife – would need in the next world.
These symbols of the ancient world have accomplished everything their creators intended – inspiring awe for their wealth, power and influence in everyone who visits for much of human history. That fact alone makes these pyramids a staggering spectacle.
Crowds are often large here, as the pyramids border a city and are therefore very easy for tourists to reach. Because of this, it’s best to be here as soon as access opens, to avoid the worst of the crowds.
Cost: $12 USD
Opening Times: 8 AM – 5 PM
Adventure Activities in Egypt
Africa is a continent full of wild adventure and outdoor activities fit for all types of travelers. Egypt is no different, with water-based fun, towering dunes and mountains.
Snorkel in the Red Sea
Few people think of snorkeling when they think of the Red Sea! But with 17 miles of coastline, and some pristine coral reefs, it’s the perfect adventure activity in Egypt.
You can also go scuba diving. The clear warm water and abundance of colorful marine life make for perfect conditions. Ras Um Sid, Jolanda Reef and Sataya Reef are some of the best sites both for snorkeling and diving.
Depending on your budget and traveling style, you can rent some gear, check the map and set out, or you can join a tour. Whichever you choose, be respectful of the environment and ensure that you don’t step on or break the coral.
Go sandboarding in Egypt’s desert dunes
Egypt has plenty of sand dunes – being a desert country and all. You can rent a board, or just grab a big piece of cardboard, and hit the slopes. It’s an exhausting activity, as you’ll have to walk or run back up the large hills of sand every time you fly down them. But still, you literally fly down them. It’s a huge adrenaline rush.
You can stand on the board, or if it’s cardboard, more likely sit. The dunes are easily accessible from most cities in Egypt – just ask a local.
Of course, if you’re keen on the dunes but not on walking up them, you can also go on a quad biking adventure or a camel ride. If you do, make sure that you choose a tour company that follows a set route. Diversions cause damage to the desert ecosystem which, despite the way it looks, is very much alive with dung beetles and other wild creatures.
Cruise along the Nile
There are a great number of ways to experience the Nile! And you’ll want to – this river is the reason Egypt has existed for millennia, providing the desert landscape with fertile soil and facilitating trade. It’s also beautiful, and stretches on for thousands of miles.
If you’re staying at one of the cities on its banks, like Cairo or Luxor, you’ll be able to find an Egyptian Felucca to take you on the river. You can also join a tour, and relax while you stop at various landmarks and places of interest.
The banks of the Nile remain fertile and flourishing. It’s quite an experience, cruising outside of the cities and observing rural farming and wildlife. In fact, if you want to experience more of Egypt’s wild side, you can rent a boat and go on a weeks-long adventure on the Nile. It winds its way through eleven African countries!
Hike Mount Sinai
Whether on a pilgrimage or an exciting trek with incredible views of the surrounding landscape, a hike up Mount Sinai is one of the most fun things to do in Egypt.
The mountain is considered a holy site by Abrahamic religions, as it’s mentioned multiple times both in the Bible and the Quran. It’s also called Mount Moses. There’s a chapel and a mosque on top of the mountain, where many pray while overlooking the mountainous surrounds.
However, it certainly isn’t only a trip for the religious. Those views are worth it for everyone!
The hike to the summit takes 3-4 hours. The late afternoon is an incredible time to hike the mountain, as you can watch the sunset. It’s a magnificent view, and there are far fewer people than at sunrise because tours operate in the morning. Bring a torch, as navigating downhill can get tricky in the dark.
Culturally Important Places to Visit in Egypt
Beyond the monumental ancient structures, there is much to experience of both Egypt’s history and more modern culture! From mummies and art to local cuisine, you can try it all.
Museum of Egyptian antiquities
With the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world, the Cairo museum is a top Egypt attraction. Particularly for those of you without the time to travel across Egypt visiting the ancient sites.
You’ll see exquisite ancient jewellery worn by pharaohs and queens, real mummies (!) and sculptures. Egypt’s rich heritage comes alive here, and even a full day wouldn’t be enough time to see it all.
You can join a guided tour, as the displays themselves are not very informative, and somewhat dated. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide will help you to learn about the various artifacts and the general history and beliefs!
Cost: $8 USD
Opening Times: 9 AM – 5 PM
Modern day Egypt – Khan El-Khalili Market
This bazaar in Cairo is the epitome of modern Egyptian vibrancy. You are guaranteed to get the full Egyptian experience! The busy bazaar is beautiful, set in a neighborhood built in the 14th century, with sandstone awnings and decorations.
The open-air bazaar is colorful, chaotic and noisy, always full of people bustling about, shouting their wares, bargaining and arguing. You’d be well advised to bargain too, as the starting price here is never the final one.
With an interesting blend of traditional wares and modern people, the market feels like a whole society stepping back in time, like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel. Explore the alleyways and find the best prices on a few perfect souvenirs.
Old town, Cairo
While you’re in the area after the market, you can easily spend the rest of the day exploring Old Cairo, or historic Cairo. It’s a fascinating part of the city, with many different eras represented in its architecture and atmosphere.
Here you’ll also find some of the best cuisine in Egypt. You can embark on a little food tour and taste everything you can, from Egyptian falafels and kebabs to ful medames and besarah. There is so much to try.
This historic place is one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities, founded in the 10th century. The narrow streets and alleys wind through fascinating areas, and you’ll spot many beautiful mosques and churches. Reminding you once again of Egypt’s interesting, and sometimes difficult, dichotomy of religions.
Showcasing and inspiring contemporary knowledge-systems, the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina pays homage to the original Library of Alexandria. This was the world’s biggest store of knowledge in its time, and many mourn what was lost when it was burnt down in 48 BC by Julius Caesar.
The modern library is immense, and you can learn a lot about Egypt’s more recent struggles and successes, and their continued pursuit of knowledge. In addition to millions of books, it has four museums, and even a planetarium. No matter what you’re interested in, a day spent here is a day well spent.
Cost: $4 USD
Opening Times: 10 AM – 7 PM
Conclusion – The Best Places in Egypt
A country so rich and unusual in its history, it’s difficult to decide what to do in Egypt. There is so much that is not on this list! But these are the unmissable Egypt attractions and points of interest.
Plan your holiday well so that you don’t miss any of the important stops, and avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds! If you do it right, Egypt is a magical destination, able to inspire wonder and awe on every day of your trip.
Don’t forget your camera, your strongest SPF sunscreen, and a hat.