How to have the ultimate Egyptian adventure in 12 days
The Old Cataract makes a great base from which to visit the timeless Philae Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of Isis (Love). The edifice was part of a mammoth rescue mission by UNESCO, who dissembled and reconstructed it 20m higher on nearby Agilkia Island. Also in the vicinity are two unfinished obelisks, one of which is the largest single piece of stone ever handled. With a few days to spare, we would recommend exploring the local market one morning and heading to the ruins of the 7th-century Monastery of St Simeon, where it is still possible to see engravings in the walls by Muslim pilgrims before it was destroyed. We can also arrange for you to meet a family in a Nubian village on the West Bank.
It is possible to experience most of Egypt’s main attractions in just 12 days, from exploring the Pyramids of Giza or temples of Abu Simbel to drifting down the River Nile in a felucca.
Most of the holidays we create begin in Cairo, Egypt’s chaotic but treasure-filled capital. Three nights in the city is plenty, giving you enough time to see the phenomenal Pyramids of Giza, go to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and get a flavour of Islamic Cairo.
Next, fly to Luxor, ‘the world’s largest open-air museum’, home to some of the country’s most glorious ancient sites, including the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. From here, set sail on a five-night luxury cruise to Aswan, stopping at the temples of Edfu, Esna and Kom Ombo along the way.
On your first day in Aswan, visit the famous Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, a 40-minute flight away. Next, enjoy two more days soaking up Aswan’s picturesque surroundings, and taking in the timeless Philae Temple, the Unfinished Obelisk, the vibrant spice market, a nearby Nubian village and the Monastery of St Simeon on the quieter West Bank. The Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan – your home for three nights – is a wonderfully tranquil spot to stop and relax, before returning to Cairo for your flight home the following morning.
Immigration queues in Cairo International Airport are notoriously slow so we recommend VIP and fast-track arrival. This means you are whisked away in a comfortable Mercedes to the VIP waiting lounge to await your tourist visas and luggage. Once in Egypt, we suggest travelling by private car, domestic flight or charter a plane. In addition, most of our clients spend a few days travelling along the Nile by boat, of course, as it is a sensational way to see the countryside.
The best time to go is between October and March, when the weather is warm and sunny. We would advise avoiding June, July and August, when temperatures can soar to a sizzling 45°C or more.
We always suggest travelling with one of our highly knowledgeable and trained Egyptologists rather than using different local guides in each place. This ensures that the same information is not repeated throughout your journey.
If you have time and a sense of adventure, embark on the epic road trip to Adrère Amellal at Siwa Oasis in the country’s remote Western Desert. This secluded lodge – an eight-hour drive from Cairo via Alexandria or a one-hour-15-minute charter flight – has no electricity, so after dark it becomes a romantic, candlelit hideaway. This is the perfect place to switch off completely from the modern world.
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