When I was a child, I used to look up at the intricate, fading images of the Egyptian papyrus paintings my parents had picked up on their travels – wondering about the mystical civilisation depicted in them. These figures, with heads of animals and bodies of men, spent their lives dedicated to preparing for the after-life, believing they would be forever in an eternal bliss if they succeed.
I never stopped thinking about the day I would arrive in Egypt, knowing that it would be a place that will forever hold great meaning to me. Although I knew that everything would be wonderful in the Land of the Pharaohs, I was definitely afraid to do this trip solo, as with the recent revolution and turmoil within the country it had been listed as a risk zone. This is where Travel Talk Tours came in.
I have previously travelled to Morocco on the most epic group tour of my life with Travel Talk, so when the opportunity came to hop on board their 10-day Felucca Odyssey trip, I couldn’t resist! The 8-day itinerary (with 2 days either side for flights) is jam-packed with sights, experiences and even a 2-night Nile cruise; that made travelling Egypt in a week seem like an easy task. So here it is…. The best way to maximise your time in Egypt!
DAY 1-2 : Arrival in Cairo, the Pyramids and making your way south.
Today is the day you land in Egypt. I suggest starting in Cairo, as it is the largest and most accessible airport. Getting to and from the airport by taxi/car is about a 45 minute journey. I suggest getting a car service to take you to and from the airport as it is very cheap. Please be very, very careful and pre-book your taxi or transport. Never say your name or destination to the men waiting at the airport exit unless they have a sign. They are very good at convincing you to get in their car as they are your ‘pre-arranged’ transport, just for you to find out they are not – this is their scam! Tours such as the one I did with Travel Talk include transfers, so it makes it a lot easier.
Once you unwind post-flight, I suggest heading straight for the pyramids at sunset (look the time up on google first, we were surprised it was early!). They close the pyramid viewing plateau at about 4pm for the sound and light show. If you head towards the entrance near the Sphinx, there are rooftop bars that overlook them, or you can try and find a local who will take you up the desert plains for a view you will never forget! We were lucky enough to have a local Egyptian that was able to talk his way into a camel and horse journey to the dunes – something I will never forget.
Travel Talk also has optional extras, such as a belly dancing cruise this night that you can take – or simply use the time to unwind.
The next morning, we began our explorations of the Great Pyramid and Giza Plateau. Once your inside the UNESCO site, make sure you have a guide that can explain the extravagant history and mysteries that surround these gigantic monuments. Like most tours, our guide Adham was with us the whole journey, and as a trained Egyptologist, he was the perfect companion! Here, you can also choose to ride a camel or purchase some local goods. You can also visit nearby Sakkara, the former capitol of Ancient Egypt And King Zoser’s funeral chambers.
Tonight, it’s time to make your way to the south – Luxor – where you will spend either 10-12 hours on a bus getting htere, or the overnight sleeper train (which often gets delayed for up to 16 hours – not recommended).
DAY 3 – 4: Luxor & the Nubian Villages
Today, it’s time to head into the Valley of The Kings where you will uncover the secrets of King Tutankhamen’s tomb and the ancient Valley itself. Here, among the grand limestone cliffs, are an abundance of burial chambers, including those of Ramesses III, Ramesses IX and Thuthmose IV. Spend some time exploring the tombs inlaid into the rock – but be aware it can soar up above 40 degrees celsius here – so take water!
From here, we headed back out to the Valley entrance, were our donkeys were waiting. Trotting down the road, we entered the second part of the Valley, where we waved at the local villages and had a little race. My Donkey, Bob Marley, was too chilled to compete… typical Marley style. After leaving our mules, we drove the remaining length into Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. With such an intense story to her rule, with deceit, lies and family feud’s galore – this is a site that really blew me away.
After a long day of tomb explorations, it’s time to drive the 6-7 hours to Aswan, which is a nice break from the scorching heat of the desert. Make sure your rides are always air-conditioned and you have enough snacks, water and toilet stops. It is always good to speak to your guides and drivers first about what you expect on long rides, as in Egypt stopping for breaks isn’t normal – so you will suffer!
Tonight, I would suggest taking a break and enjoying the lovely hotels that Aswan offers for incredibly cheap rates. Travel Talk offers an optional Nubain village dinner, but I highly suggest taking the next day to head here as it is so beautiful in the day time and the villagers are more than happy to show you around!
Waking up bright and early on day four, you simply must head to Abu Simbel – one of the most wondrous temples in Egypt. Carved into sandstone cliffs, this grand structure was designed for Ramses II and Queen Nefertiti, depicting images of the Gods Hathor and Amun-Ra. The temples lie near the Sudanese border, south of Aswan and each stand over 20m high!
This afternoon (after visiting Abu Simbel), I would head to the Nubian villages, which are simply incredible. Brightly coloured houses, made from mud and sticks, bright eyed locals, stunning Nile views and an authentic African experience not to miss. Travel Talk didn’t include this side trip, but they do offer the dinner (night before) and visits to the Aswan Dam and Philea temple – both coming recommended from my fellow travellers.
Day 5-6- Felucca down the Nile!
Get ready kids, this is the best part of Egypt… the Nile cruise! Sit back, relax and absorb the lazy lifestyle of the Nile on one of the traditional felucca’s. Give yourself at least two nights on the Nile, it really is such a great experience and you will need the downtime after so many days of tomb raiding! Our tour included this boat journey, which was a huge plus for me during my time in Egypt.
A felucca is pretty much just a mattress with a sail, which has a crew of about three. Our crew was amazing and with us the whole time, spoke fantastic English and made sure we were always taken care of. Trust me – this is the most chilled experience of the trip – and one you won’t want to end. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served on board and regular swim stops are included. At night, you dock bank-side and may even be treated to a campfire singalong.
Day 7-8: Edfu and back to Luxor
Leaving the felucca completely refreshed, it’s time for a little more sightseeing and ruin explorations at the beautiful Edfu temple. Dedicated to the mighty falcon god, Horus, this is the best-preserved site in Egypt! We sailed between Aswan and Luxor, so no need for lengthy bus journeys back.
As you make your way back into town, be sure to stop at Luxor Temple after hours, as seeing one of the ancient sights by night is something really special.
The next morning, we had the option to take an incredible hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings, which we had seen at the start of our expedition. I can’t recommend this enough – it was truly breathtaking and I even had tears welling up!
After your ride, stock up on some brekky and get ready to see my favourite temple in all of Egypt – Karnak. So enormous, so intricate and so beautiful, Karnak is simply incredible. This monumental structure is made of three ruined temples – Monthu, Mut and Amun. This was a real highlight and a place that you won’t forget any time soon!
Tonight, utilise your time in the afternoon to train or bus back to Cairo, so you have a full day to fill!
Day 9 – 10: Back to Cairo and your flight home
Your final full day should be spent in Cairo, visiting the Egyptian Museum (reopening fresh in 2018!), Hanging church, Citadel and night bazaar. Take in the last bit of history as you explore the glorius, busy city before preparing yourself for the following days flight.
As I mentioned, you want to organise transfers which your hotel will be able to sort out. Any good tour, such as Travel Talk’s, will include transfers for you.
For those looking to see the absolute highlights of Egypt, with minimal time wasted, this itinerary is for you. It is non-stop, with three cities, a felucca (traditional boat) cruise, 10 + temples and monuments, lengthy bus trips and short-but-sweet stops at local workshops, so be prepared for some early mornings, late nights and a lot of history for just one short week!
I was welcomed on Travel Talk’s tour as a guest, however all opinions, as always, are my own. I would like to thank our guide, Adham, in particular for always being patient with us and giving us a wealth of knowledge to leave with!