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Top 10 Things to do in Egypt

Do you dream of going to Egypt, to the land of the pharaohs? From Cairo on, we hit the major Egypt landmarks and ticked them off of our bucket list. We found the best things to do, places to visit, and things to eat in Egypt, and you can too. Click here to reveal all the things associated with Egypt.

In the U.S., we grew up learning about ancient Egypt, the pharaohs, Cleopatra, the Egyptian pyramids, the flooding cycle of the Nile, all of it. All my life I looked forward to visiting the land of the pharaohs.

It was with rabid excitement that I stepped off the plane to walk through a chaotic customs. I reveled in the queue, the stamps, the smell, and the run-down look of everything.

I could not wait to get out into the frenetic city of Cairo and start exploring. The country was definitely full of my bucket list items, and I couldn’t wait to get started checking out all the historical places in  and all the best places to go, finding the ultimate list of things to do in Egypt.

Statue in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt.
Egypt had been on my bucket list since I was a kid. I couldn’t believe the fantastic trip we planned, and the historical sites of Egypt really lived up to my expectations.

Bucket List Egypt- What are the Best Things to Do in Egypt?

Located in Northern Africa, Egypt has been in the news in recent years, and it’s natural for folks to ask, “Is Egypt safe?” or “Is Cairo safe?”  Well, yes it is.  It’s as safe as anywhere else. 

Chances are you will not meet anyone that makes you feel threatened. Probably the most unsafe you will be is crossing the road. Street traffic can get a little crazy.

Luckily, you really don’t have to drive in Egypt, because there are plenty of ways to travel through the country whether you are on an organized Egypt tour or not.  While we were there, we took a car taxi, a boat taxi, rode a felluca, a horse-drawn carriage, horses, camels, and the overnight train.  It wasn’t very difficult and we always felt quite safe.

The Nile River with a Nile cruise boat and some fellucas.
You just can’t go to Egypt and not experience the Nile. Whether you take a Nile cruise or you hire a felluca for a ride, like we did, this is one of the best things to do in Egypt.

Top Sights in Egypt

1. The Nile River

With its crocodiles and hippos, we couldn’t wait to see the Nile.  We took a trip to the banks just to look not long after we arrived.  We also went straight to the train station to arrange our tickets to Luxor where we would ride a felluca on the river.  

Some people take Nile cruises on large boats, and some people take a few days on a felluca.  Regardless what works for you, spending some time on the life-giving waters of the Nile is a must!

Karnak Temple Statue.
Karnak Temple in Luxor is one of the most famous sights in Egypt…and with a good reason! It was one of my favorites of the entire trip!

2. Karnak Temple

By far one of our favorite sites, Karnak Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)  is everything we expected and more.  Tall majestic statues, lines of lions, scarabs, palms, and lots of frescoes and carvings, it is a marvel.  

To think it was erected two thousand years ago just boggles the mind.  A very important temple in its day, it was dedicated to the God Arun.  Each year it hosted a festival to realign the chaos of the Nile flooding.

Temple at Abu Simbel, Egypt.
Visiting Abu Simbel is one of the most unique things to do in Egypt. We opted to go by van on a private Egypt tour.

3. Abu Simbel

If it wasn’t impressive enough when it was built to honor Ramses II, the whole temple complex was moved when the Aswan High Dam was built in 1968.  What a feat!  

Getting to this world heritage site, Abu Simbel, is half of the adventure.  Unless you fly in, you must attach yourselves to a tour group that leaves extremely early in the morning and drives as a caravan through the early morning desert.  

The huge stone temples are so big that it is a bit overwhelming.  The first thing you notice are the four colossal statues carved into the temples that stand over 20 meters high.

Giza pyramid and other Egyptian ruins.
There’s no question that when visiting Egypt you are going to go to the pyramids of Giza. What an experience!

4. The Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza

It would be very surprising to find out someone had visited Egypt and did not visit the pyramids at Giza since they are within the Cairo area, and they are one of the most famous things to do in Egypt. That is why the site is completely set up for tourists. There are guides, horses, camels, horse carts, photographers, and of course souvenirs.  

It is a bit much to take, and it is usually crowded, but visiting the pyramids is still a must. You can enter some of the pyramids, like the Great Pyramid of Khufu for an extra fee.  It is dark, narrow, and claustrophobic as you ascend the small wooden walkway to get to the central chamber.

A relief statue inside King Tut's tomb.
The Valley of the Kings, and especially King Tut’s tomb, is a must-see!

5. The Valley of the Kings

On the west side of the Nile, near Luxor, is the Valley of the Kings (also a world heritage site). Located in a natural wadi (valley eroded by water), archaeologists have located 63 tombs for the kings and royalty of the New Kingdom.  

Many had been robbed, but many like the most famous one of King Tut were left untouched and full of treasures for thousands of years.  Each tomb is completely different, and it is worth paying extra to see them since only three are included in the entry price.

Customers shopping in Khan el-Khalili in the historic center of Cairo.
Shoppers at the Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo.

6. Cairo and the Khan el-Khalili Market

Cairo is a huge, bustling, chaotic city, but well worth spending some time in.  The market area is especially interesting.  Spices, souvenirs, food, really all kinds of things can be found and bought there.  

Even if you’re not a shopper, though, people-watching is always best at a market.  Here you can find a tea or hookah cafe and while away the hours watching the vendors and customers alike.

Cairo also is the home of the Egyptian Museum which, along with all of its other treasures, houses the contents of King Tut’s tomb.  Full of gold, sarcophagi, and all things Egyptian, it is well worth arriving there first thing in the morning and planning on taking some time. And don’t miss the mummies!

Additional Reading:
Egyptian Food Guide Must Eat Foods When Visiting Cairo, Egypt
Egypt Budget – How Much Does a Trip to Egypt Cost?

Egyptian Hieroglyphics at Abu Simbel.
Every inner child wants to break the hieroglyphics code. Luckily you can practice at any of the Egyptian historical sights.

7. Hieroglyphics

Deciphering the ancient writing of the Egyptians is fun and entertaining for visitors of all ages.  There are coloring books and informational texts that will aid in translation, but it is so much fun to wander through a temple and see how extensive the writing was.  It is on carvings and frescoes, walls, columns, everywhere.  Can you read it?

Three camels laying down in the in the desert near Luxor.
Riding a camel may be a bit cliché, but it is an absolute must-do! We skipped riding them in Giza, since it was too touristy and expensive and instead rode them out in the desert near Luxor.

8. Ride a Camel

There are many opportunities to head out to the desert and ride a camel.  Probably the most popular place is in Giza, but if you will be traveling to other cities, cost and time-wise it will be better to wait.  

One fun place to ride is across the river from Luxor.  Camels are rented and ridden on an ancient road to the monastery.  It’s an experience of a life-time, especially when you see plenty of locals on both camels and donkeys sharing the “road” with you.

Colorful buildings in a Nubian village on the other side of the river from Luxor.
Colorful buildings in a Nubian village on the other side of the river from Luxor. What a bonus on our itinerary, because it wasn’t something that we had previously planned on doing, but it was very worth it.

9. Visit a Nubian Village

Unlike the Egyptians, the Nubians are a completely different people. They look different, have different customs, and live in colorfully painted villages.  

Walking around a Nubian village is like being transported to another country and time altogether.  One of the easiest ones to visit is across the river from Luxor, and all you have to do is take a water-taxi to get there.

Stuffed grape leaves, salads, and Egyptian bread.
The food of Egypt was varied and delicious. I love stuffed grape leaves and their puffy bread.

10. Eat!

No trip is complete without sampling the local delicacies.  From sugar cane juice to tea, from kebabs to stuffed vegetables there is a lot to try and a favorite dish for everyones’s palate.  In Cairo you will find fast food sandwich stalls that are quick and tasty.  Some of our favorites were the liver sandwiches, the stuffed grapeleaves, and of course the many spreads like Baba Ghannoug to smear your bread with and savor.

Temple of Philae on an island in the Aswan Dam reservoir Egypt.
Temple of Philae.

Practical Information:

Like many countries there is a difference in price for Egyptians and tourists, a big difference.  Be prepared to pay for your opportunity to visit many of the tombs, pyramids, and temples.  

In almost every case, there is an overall entry price which allows you admission to the site as well as some of the lesser known tombs and areas, but for the big names there will be an additional cost, sometimes rather exorbitant.  King Tut’s tomb is probably the best example of this.

Photography is not allowed inside the tombs and temples, but of course you will see plenty of people taking photos nonetheless.  Often a guard will look the other way when offered “baksheesh” (a tip).   If you are allowed to take photographs, please remember that the flash deteriorates the frescoes, so it is much better to take the photos with whatever light is available.

Getting around Egypt takes a little bit of effort, but is completely doable. There are domestic flights that are reasonably priced as well as trains that traverse the majority of the country.

The cheapest way to get around is by bus. If you plan on taking private cars or taxis, you will pay for the privilege. Day tours provide a driver and guide which will help you negotiate throughout.

Have you visited Egypt?  What is on your top 10 list?

Top 10 Things to Do in Egypt.

Jody C

Monday 2nd of January 2017

The Colossi of Memnon, Unfinished Obelisk, solar boat, Saqqara, Cataract Hotel (Agatha Christies Death on the Nile), WissaWassa for local crafts( got some awesome batik works there). It's been about 10 years since I was there but lots of beautiful memories.

Corinne Vail

Monday 2nd of January 2017

Jody! Great additions. Thanks


Monday 17th of October 2016

Egypt is so larger than life and its sights are really massive and magnificent. I am always fascinated by the Egyptian culture and its history. The temple of Karnak is really awesome, what a great structure, really breathtaking.

Corinne Vail

Monday 17th of October 2016

Vyjay, I think Egypt has an amazing history. We loved seeing all the objects we'd see in history books. Wonderful.

Abel Tewolde

Wednesday 7th of September 2016

Hi Corinne Vail,

Great choices and I love the photos! I'd love to visit Egypt someday. Egypt was definitely full of interesting sights! I like how you covered the main tourist attractions and the ones off the beaten path too. Egypt has long been on my travel wish list. I can't even begin to imagine how it would feel to finally see those temples up close. They are some of the most amazing attractions across the entire world. I just love them.

Thanks For Sharing Keep Posting More.....

Corinne Vail

Thursday 8th of September 2016

Abel, Egypt is a country filled with wonders.


Friday 13th of March 2015

i went there several times and spent there the most beautiful holidays!!

Corinne Vail

Friday 13th of March 2015

Ale, It is beautiful in Egypt!

Milosz Zak

Wednesday 11th of March 2015

I had absolutely no idea you wrote so much on Egypt! We'll be sharing it all soon on Egyptian Sidekick!

Corinne Vail

Thursday 12th of March 2015

Milosz, Thanks!