Day 1 - Cairo
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Egypt. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can be symbolised by two imposing landmarks – the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. In free time perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts, where you can see donkey carts and expensive cars, medieval slums and modern shopping malls. If you have time, perhaps travel along the river by felucca (a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails) or head out to explore the markets. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, the Christian Coptic sector is well worth a visit.
Day 2 - Cairo
This morning after breakfast you’ll see some of the world’s most iconic sights. You’ll visit Giza’s Pyramids and Sphinx – instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is amazing. Explore these structures that have stood tall for 4,500 years, and for an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), although occasionally it may be closed to visitors. Please note that you'll be required to walk around the Pyramids complex. It can be very hot in the summer months, so be prepared for little shade and pack appropriate clothing, sun protection, and carry lots of water. Afterwards, make your way to the Egyptian Museum (optional), home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the museum, and make sure to check out the Mummies Hall (optional) for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. Later in the evening, meet your leader and travel to Giza station, where you will board a sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours). Bedding and air-conditioning are provided.
Notes: Western-style toilets are located in each carriage, but we recommend bringing additional toilet paper. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. An included dinner and breakfast are served on board. You may want to purchase something extra beforehand to supplement your meal, particularly if you're a vegetarian as only a single type of meal is served for dinner, which always includes meat. In rare circumstances you may be paired in your cabin with a group member of the opposite sex, depending on the group configuration. On other occasions, you might be sharing with another traveller of the same sex who may not be part of our group, again determined by the group configuration.
Day 3 - Aswan
The Nile, Elephantine Island and white-sailed feluccas: welcome to Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city. Its easy-going charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Today is a free day so take the opportunity to see such Aswan sites as the unfinished obelisk or the High Dam. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is top of many visitors’ lists. Highly recommended is the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan's 'corniche', runs alongside one of Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. Watch the waterfront come alive at dusk, with families out strolling, socialising and relaxing along the corniche.
Day 4 - Aswan
Today perhaps head out of Aswan and visit stunning Abu Simbel this morning. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Please note this optional activity has a very early start (but it’s totally worth it) - departure will be between 5am and 6am. You can get there by flying, or by the cheaper option of renting a minivan with a group and leaving very early (flights do not operate daily). The journey by land is 3 hours each way. It's best to visit at sunrise to avoid the heat. The rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular afternoon option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively, take a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply relax and take in the beauty of the Nile, or do some shopping in the friendly bazaar.
Day 5 - Nubian Homestay
This morning you’ll board an iconic traditional Egyptian sail boat board, a felucca, for a morning sail until lunch. After lunch aboard the felucca, arrive at a Nubian homestay on the West Bank of the Nile. Explore the Nubian way of life here with a walk through the surrounding countryside and agriculture fields to reach the homestay. The tranquillity of the location is indescribable. The house is in the Nubian style, with a sandy courtyard in the middle where the family gathers for meals, and to the sides are the rooms where they sleep. These are also the rooms that you’ll be staying in for the night. Get into the swing of Egyptian life by lending a hand in the kitchen to help cook dinner, or maybe kick around a football in the courtyard with the kids. There are few better ways to understand a country and its people than with a local homestay.
Day 6 - Nile Felucca
Board a felucca and spend a day out on the river, watching rural Egyptian daily life play out on the banks, then spend a night under the stars. Your Nubian sailing crew provides all the meals, which are hearty and delicious. Being a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails, your felucca offers some shade and protection from the elements. However, there is no cabin or enclosed section. Nonetheless, watching the sun setting across the Nile in the evening is a sight you won't forget. This is the absolute highlight of the trip for many.
Notes: Conditions will be basic during your felucca trip. If you are prepared for this, you’re sure to have a memorable adventure. You'll sleep outside on the deck of the felucca on a mattress. While blankets are provided, a sleeping sheet is recommended. During the colder months (October to March) temperatures can get as low as 5°C at night, so a sleeping bag is highly recommended. Slight alterations may have to be made to the Nile itinerary throughout the year, depending on winds and currents. As the felucca is a sailing craft without any outboard engine, if there's no wind we won't travel very far.
Our Felucca does have a shared bathroom facility on board
Day 7 - Luxor
After farewells to the felucca crew, take a private van to Luxor (approximately 3.5 hours). Today you’ll visit the Intrepid Foundation's local project ACE (Animal Care in Egypt). It’s a great chance to see the holistic approach the project takes towards animal welfare, and to raising awareness among the locals. You’ll also explore the magnificent Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient Pharoahs' monumental works. One of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, Karnak is a house of the gods built over a period of some 200 years. Your guided tour of this vast temple of impressive pylons, obelisks and chapels will reveal its finest sections, such as the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Great Temple of Amun. The rest of the day will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Day 8 - Luxor
Rise early this morning and head into the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. With your leader, explore this sprawling and spectacular place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made. Your group leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, their funerary rites, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics, still well preserved in the deepest tombs. You will visit three of the most interesting royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a stunning colonnaded building set against high cliffs that create a spectacular natural amphitheatre. One of the Egypt’s greatest queens, she built this temple to prove her importance among the ancestors.
Notes: Tutankhamun's final resting place is also located here – it’s not included but can be arranged in advance through your leader.
Day 9 - Hurghada
Today you farewell the Nile and drive east to the beachside town of Hurghada (approximately 5 hours). The green Nile valley is soon left behind as you head out into the barren Eastern Desert. Passing through rocky hills, the glittering waters of the Red Sea soon come into view and the rugged bulk of the Sinai Peninsula looms through the haze on the opposite shore. A vibrant beach resort, Hurghada is by no means a typical ‘adventure destination’. After checking in to your hotel, take a walking tour with the leader to get your bearings, and check out some of the local restaurants and eateries.
Day 10 - Hurghada
Transfer to the Hurghada Marina and climb aboard your boat for a trip out to Giftun Island, part of the Red Sea National Parks, where you’ll spend a relaxing day on the stunning white beach of Mahmya. While here, you have the opportunity to take a snorkelling excursion by boat to one of the most magnificent reefs in the Red Sea – fine reef walls, lovely fan corals, and colourful fish – and explore the extraordinary ecosystem. Your snorkelling gear is provided. After a buffet lunch in one of Mahmya’s open air sea view restaurants, there a plenty of activities to choose from, such as volleyball, soccer, or simply lazing on the beach. After a great day, you’ll head back to Hurghada in the late afternoon and transfer back to the hotel.
Day 11 - Cairo
Check out of your hotel this morning and then catch a flight back up to Cairo (approximately 1 hour). On your return to Cairo, visit the Islamic parts of the city and the frenetic backstreets of the local bazaar (Khan el-Khalili) with your trip leader. A labyrinth of narrow streets and passageways, Khan is one of the biggest and oldest markets in the world. The 'Khan', sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. It retains a distinctly medieval feel. You might explore the gold market, ‘Perfume Street’ and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth (which can be purchased next door in the cloth market).
Day 12 - Alexandria
Jump in a private van today and drive following the ‘desert road’ to the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria (approximately 3 hours). Egypt's second largest city and main port, locals call this vibrant city the Bride of the Mediterranean Sea. On arrival in Alexandria, take an orientation walking tour with your leader. The Greek architect Dinocrates built Alexandria in 331 BC under the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalising Alexander's name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual, political and economic metropolis. It was the renowned capital of Ancient Egypt's last royal dynasty, the Ptolemies, and the site of the Pharos. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this lighthouse acted as a beacon, guiding sailors away from this notoriously treacherous stretch of coastline. Take some time to stroll along the Corniche and take in some fresh Mediterranean air. Alexandria at night is not to missed, with the whole city lighting up.
Day 13 - Alexandria
Today you’ll head back to a more recent period in Egyptian history with a visit to El Alamein and the war museum located there. El Alamein sits on the Mediterranean Sea, 106 kilometres west of Alexandria, and it played an important role in significant World War II battles. The area was a turning point in the North African campaign, where the Allies held out against, and eventually pushed back and defeated, the Afrika Korps of Rommel. The importance of El Alamein was highlighted by Winston Churchill, who said “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.” The area contains a number of memorials from the countries who lost soldiers here – Greece, South Africa, Australia, Italy – as well as a war cemetery that’s home to the graves and names of the thousands who lost their lives, from places as diverse as Britain, India, Melanesia, Malaysia, and New Zealand. In the museum, discover the story of what unfolded here, and then return to Alexandria. The city is also known for its seafood, so don't forget to feast on some fresh fish while you're here.
Day 14 - Cairo
This morning, head underground and delve into the mysteries of the Kom ash-Shuqqafa catacombs. This Roman burial site is the largest of its kind in Egypt and was discovered, quite accidentally, by a hapless donkey. The crypts are 20 metres below street level, and what probably began as a small family tomb grew into a labyrinth of chambers that could accommodate more than 300 bodies. Murals and reliefs inside show how Alexandria was a place where Egyptian and Greek funerary myths coexisted. Stop by the strikingly modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina, inspired by the original great library of Alexandria and built to hold over 8 million books. Your last included visit today is el Morsi Abu El Abbas Mosque, the largest in the city. In any free time, perhaps take the opportunity to see the Citadel of Qaitbay, a fortress overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, where the famous lighthouse once stood. You’ll then leave Alexandria and return to Cairo (approximately 5 hours), arriving around 4 pm. The afternoon is yours to spend as you please. Take the chance to visit Khan Khalili for some last minute shopping in the evening. Then maybe gather together you fellow travellers for a celebratory kebab, kofta, or sheesha as this Egypt exploration comes to an end.
Day 15 - Cairo
This trip finishes today after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day, and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money