Ancient temples, pharaoh tombs, and mysterious pyramids. Egypt is a once in a lifetime trip that every traveler should have on their bucket list. But besides seeing the main sites, what are some of the most memorable things to do when visiting Egypt? Here’s a list of ten unforgettable experiences I had when I visited Egypt.
1. Ride in a Hot Air Balloon at Sunrise
Talk about bucket list experiences, treat yourself with the incredible opportunity to see Ancient Egypt from above during the sunrise. Departing from the west bank of Luxor, wake up bright (or still dark) for a chance to see some of Egypt’s most iconic sites from the sky.
I rode in a hot air balloon over Thanksgiving 2022 and we took off around 5:50am, and flew for about 45 minutes down the west bank in Luxor. You can’t put a price tag on the joy you will feel serenely floating over Egypt (ok, it was $110 USD). You will see aerial views of sites such as Hatshepsut's Temple, Valley of the Kings, the Ramesseum, and Medinet Habu Temple at sunrise. To see all the other hot air balloons floating along with you adds to the magical morning you will have and will be one of the most unforgettable things you can do in Egypt.
2. Go Inside a Pyramid at Dahshur
You’ve flown from halfway across the world to see the pyramids - but did you know that you can go inside of them? While most people opt to go inside the great pyramids, our guides all claimed it was a waste of time - and money - as the tombs and tunnels are empty and just filled with other tourists.
If you are wanting to go inside a pyramid, make it the Red Pyramid in Dahshur. For a fraction of the price and crowds, my friend and I entered the Red Pyramid and were the only two in the entire pyramid the whole time we explored it! It was a very narrow, tiny passage way down to the tomb, which made it a bit more thrilling. Inside, you can see the tomb which is believed to be where King Sneferu was buried. There are no hieroglyphs, but the thrill of navigating our way through a narrow passage into an empty pyramid was a very memorable experience.
You can also enter the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur but it is a brutally deep and narrow walk down into the tomb - our guide suggested not doing this one as we would be sore all week after going down and back up.
3. Visit Nefertari’s Tomb at the Valley of the Queens
The Valley of the Kings gets all the hype, and rightfully so, but the most well preserved of all the ancient tombs is Queen Nefertari’s tomb at Valley of the Queens. Receiving a fraction of the tourists as Valley of the Kings, the nearby Valley of the Queens only has a 100 Egyptian Pounds price tag. The kicker is that to visit Queen Nefertari’s tomb, you will be paying about 1400 Egyptian pounds ($56 USD). The reason for this steep price is to discourage tourism - as the site needs to be maintained to keep its pristine condition. The tomb is air sealed and you are only allowed to spend 10 minutes inside the tomb. This all seems like a lot, but I promise you this is one of the most incredible things you can see in all of Egypt.
I couldn’t believe how intact all of the hieroglyphs and paintings were - they seemed brand new. The colors are beautiful. The imagery is striking. And best of all, there was no one else in the entire tomb. Me and my two friends had it all to ourselves. It was a magical feeling - and a bit eerie - to be in this perfectly preserved ancient tomb all alone. If you are going to Luxor, you should definitely prioritize visiting Queen Nefertari’s tomb as there is nothing else like it on earth.
4. Ride a Camel at the Great Pyramids
It may sound cliche, but when you’re at the pyramids, you’re going to want to ride a camel for a few reasons. First off, it gives you one of the best views of the pyramids. The camel will take you to the spot where you can see all 9 pyramids in a row - a unique view and incredible photo opportunity.
This area is inaccessible by car or by walking. You can only get there by riding a camel, or taking a horse carriage - which is a good alternative if riding a camel is not your thing or seems too daunting. Once you’ve reached the viewing point of the 9 pyramids, the person guiding your camel will take some photos of you on the camel in front of the pyramids. An iconic view, great photos, and another great reason to ride a camel at the pyramids.
Finally, riding a camel is quite an experience in itself. They are massive, beautifully odd creatures that you can get an up close encounter with. You will learn quickly that you need to keep at least one hand hanging on during your ride. Most people held on with both hands, but I tried to capture as much content as I could while on the camel. I don’t suggest it unless you feel comfortable, but I managed to record video as well as take photos while riding my camel (make sure your shutter speed is high!).
Your legs and arms may be sore after riding, but it’s worth it! I’d also suggest wearing long pants to avoid chafing on your legs since the seats are a bit hoarse.
5. See King Tut’s Mummy in the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is one of the most popular attractions in Egypt. But did you know that King Tut’s actual mummy resides in his tomb? Located on the west bank of Luxor, almost all tour groups will make a stop to the famous Valley of the Kings - an area where over 60 pharaohs were buried in elaborate underground tombs. While your main entrance fee includes 3 tombs, you will have to pay extra to visit King Tut’s tomb. But for only $16 USD, seeing Tutankhamun’s tomb is an experience worth spending a little extra to see.
The tomb itself doesn’t have many hieroglyphs or artwork on the walls like some of the other tombs (such as Ramses V & Ramses VI and Seti I) - but you have a chance to go inside one of the most famous tombs in history. This is the location where Howard Carter discovered all of Tutankahmun’s famous treasures including his golden sarcophagi and burial mask fully intact. King Tut’s carved stone sarcophagus still rests inside the space.
King Tut’s mummy is also located inside the tomb, which is worth paying the extra fee in and of itself. When I visited, I couldn’t believe how little people were actually going inside his tomb compared to the free tombs. You have the opportunity to look at the mummy of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh from 3300 years ago. If you are visiting the Valley of the Kings, set aside $16 to see one of the most famous locations in the world.
6. Visit the Magical Abu Simbel at Sunrise
Egypt is filled with stunning ancient temples, but Abu Simbel stands out as one of the most unique. Carved out of the side of a mountain, Ramses II orchestrated the creation of Abu Simbel. Located in ancient Nubia, the temple served as a warning to Nubians that they were now entering Egyptian territory. The intimidating temple has four 67-foot statues of Ramses II guarding the entrance, carved from the mountain. One of the most impressive parts about Abu Simbel is how UNESCO moved the entire temple complex to prevent the overflowing Lake Nasser from destroying it.
When I was in Egypt, seeing Abu Simbel was a must for me. We had an ungodly wake up time of 2am to get on the road by 3am. From Aswan, we rode in a charter bus for 3 hours through the desert in pitch black to arrive at Abu Simbel just after sunrise. The sheer scale of the temple, specifically the Ramses II statues out front, was mind boggling. The inside of the temple was just as impressive, as you walk through a corridor lined by giant statues and a labyrinth of side rooms lined with hieroglyphs. Another impressive temple sits next to the main temple, which has 6 statues carved into the mountain: 4 of Ramses II and 2 of his beloved Queen Nefertari. It might take a little work to get there, but if you are in Egypt you need to make a visit to Abu Simbel.
7. Take a Horse Carriage ride at Sunrise to Edfu
One of the more intense, yet beautifully wild experiences I did when I was in Egypt was taking a horse carriage ride to Edfu Temple at sunrise. We woke up at 5am and left our cruise ship in complete darkness to an area where our guide was choosing which drivers would be taking us to Eduf. This was a crazy spectacle in itself, as the drivers were basically pushing and arguing with each other to be chosen. After our guide found us a driver, me and two of my friends hopped up in the wobbly carriage and we were off.
The horse took us through this tiny Egyptian town to arrive at Edfu temple by sunrise. The driver even let my friend take the reins for a bit. We had the same driver on the way back, where we really got to see the town in daylight. This was easily one of the most memorable moments of my Egypt trip. And best yet, the whole ride only cost about $2 USD.
8. Take a Nile Cruise
One of the quintessential things you can do in Egypt is to cruise up the Nile river. Most tour companies will offer this experience, as you will see most of ancient Egypt’s gems on this cruise. Starting in Aswan, cruise north, passing by the iconic temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu, before arriving in the old capital of ancient Egypt, Luxor. Luxor is filled with a treasure trove of historical sites including Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kings, and Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. Before your cruise in Aswan, you can take a day trip to Abu Simbel, and see the Temple of Isis at Philae Island.
Riding on a cruise boat is half of the way, and the best way in my opinion to explore Egypt. You will pass by so many interesting tiny villages along the Nile, all from the comfort of your ship. Our cruise ship had a pool and bar on the sun deck roof, and the inside decor was the perfect amount of tacky. We had a 3 night cruise from Aswan to Luxor, which was the perfect amount of time to be on a cruise boat.
9. Visit a Nubian Village
When I visited Egypt, one of the most underrated things I did was visit a Nubian village outside of Aswan. We took a motorboat through a very scenic area of the Nile river which led us past Surrounded by feluccas, we took a motorboat though a very scenic area of the Nile river and saw a surprising amount of bird life including king fishers, herons, and ibis.
We stopped at a beach area where we were able to swim in the Nile river before continuing on our journey where we reached a string of colored Nubian houses set against the backdrop of sand dunes. Once we arrived at the village, we were taken to a beautiful Nubian house where we were able to try their homemade bread, jams, and tea.
If you are on a tour of Egypt and are stopped in Aswan, you will likely have the option to do this experience - and I highly suggest it. We left as the sun was going down, leaving us with a very memorable sunset from the boat as we cruised back on the Nile to our cruise ship.
10. See King Tut’s Golden Mask at the Egyptian Museum
One of the most famous artifacts in the entire world, King Tut’s golden burial mask can be seen at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. When Howard Carter discovered King Tutankahmun’s fully intact tomb in 1922, we were able to get a real glimpse at how beautiful and impressive the items left behind for the ancient Egyptian kings were. Highlighted by golden sarcophagi, jewelry, and a golden dagger, none are more iconic than King Tut’s golden burial mask. Photos are not allowed in the exhibit, which makes the experience all the more unique as you are forced to take in everything with your eyes. These items are no longer able to leave Egypt, so a visit to the museum is the only place to see them. A visit to the Egyptian Museum is a must when in Egypt, and King Tut’s treasures are the main attraction.