Egypt, the land of Pharaohs, is a country steeped in history and culture. With its ancient pyramids, temples, and other historical landmarks, Egypt has long been a popular destination for travelers seeking to experience its rich history and culture. From visiting the famous Pyramids of Giza to exploring the temples of Karnak, there are plenty of incredible things to see and do in this fascinating country.
Whether you're interested in ancient history, outdoor adventure, or simply soaking up the local culture, Egypt offers something for everyone. Here are the 20 must see destinations in Egypt.
1. The Great Pyramids
Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramids of Giza are a no brainer to top this list. About a 30 minute drive from Cairo, these pyramids were built over 4,500 years ago and are some of the most recognizable structures in the world.
The three main pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, still stand today and offer a unique glimpse into the history and culture of ancient Egypt. The Great Sphinx is located next to the pyramids so they can both easily be seen in a visit. One of the Most Unforgettable Experiences to do in Egypt is to ride a camel through the desert to get the best view of all 9 pyramids. For more information on how to visit the pyramids, check out The Great Pyramids of Giza: The Ultimate Guide.
2. Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel is an ancient temple complex located in southern Egypt, near the border of Sudan. It was built by Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century BC and is considered one of the most impressive and well-preserved monuments of ancient Egypt.
To get here is a bit of a journey - a 3.5 hour bus ride through the desert from Aswan - but the reward when first seeing Abu Simbel is well worth the trek. The two massive rock temples of Abu Simbel are famous for their massive size and grandeur, which include 4 67-foot statues of Ramses II carved from a mountain. This was my favorite temple in Egypt and a must visit for anyone venturing to Egypt. For more information check out the Ultimate Guide to Visiting Abu Simbel.
3. Nefertari’s Tomb at the Valley of the Queens
Nefertari's Tomb, located in the Valley of the Queens, is believed to have belonged to Nefertari, the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Ramses II. It features a long corridor, several chambers, and intricate paintings depicting Egyptian mythology, daily life, and religious rituals.
Nefertari's Tomb is in pristine condition and is regarded as the most well preserved tomb in all of ancient Egypt. The tomb is air sealed and visitors are only allowed to be inside for 10 minutes. The colors are incredibly intact. If you are in Luxor, a Visit to Queen Nefertari's Tomb in the Valley of the Queens is a must.
4. Karnak Temple
Karnak Temple is a massive ancient temple complex located on the east bank of Luxor, Egypt. It was dedicated to the god Amun and was the largest place of worship in the ancient world, containing a vast array of temples, obelisks, and even a lake, Lake Karnak. The temple complex is massive: my friends and I lost our tour guide and were alone wandering the temple for 30 minutes before we found him again.
Karnak Temple is known for its impressive columns, grand hallways, and intricate reliefs and is considered one of the most impressive examples of ancient Egyptian architecture and religious devotion. Karnak Temple is a must see while in Egypt and is one of the Top Temples to Visit in Egypt.
5. Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings, located in Luxor, is a site where you can enter the tombs of over 60 ancient Egyptian Pharaohs of the New Kingdom period. The elaborate tombs are decorated with stunning wall paintings, reliefs, and hieroglyphs that provide a glimpse into the life of ancient Egypt. It's a once in a lifetime experience to enter the ancient burial chambers.
The Valley of the Kings is considered one of the most significant historical sites in Egypt, attracting visitors from around the world who come to see its remarkable treasures and learn about the rich history and culture of this fascinating civilization. Some of the most notable tombs to visit include Ramses V & VI, Seti I, and the tomb of King Tut - where his mummified remains are on display. For more information, check out A Visit to Egypt's Valley of the Kings.
6. The Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx is located in Giza, Egypt, just next to the Great Pyramids. It is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, likely depicting the pharaoh Khafre.
The statue is believed to have been built during the Old Kingdom period, around 2500 BC, and is one of the largest and oldest monolithic statues in the world. The Sphinx is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of ancient Egyptian culture and mythology. Despite being weathered and eroded over thousands of years, the Sphinx remains an impressive and awe-inspiring work of art that continues to capture the imagination of people around the world.
7. Luxor Temple
Luxor Temple is a massive ancient temple complex located in the city of Luxor. It was dedicated to the god Amun and was once part of a vast religious complex that included the nearby Karnak Temple. The obelisk in front of the entrance is one of the most fascinating structures in Egypt and makes this one of The Best Things to do in Luxor.
Luxor Temple is known for its impressive columns, grand hallways, and intricate reliefs, which provide a glimpse into the religious beliefs and architectural achievements of ancient Egypt. Visiting a temple at night is a special experience, so try to plan for that if you are visiting Egypt.
8. Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple
Queen Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple, located on the east bank of Luxor, was built by the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut and dedicated to the god Amun. It is known for its unique design of rising terraces and impressive reliefs and paintings depicting Hatshepsut's reign. Its architecture is among the most impressive of the ancient Egyptian temples and the structure is well in tact. Visiting this temple should be a priority when in Luxor, and is included in The Best of Luxor in 2 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary.
9. Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a world-renowned museum dedicated to the art and artifacts of ancient Egypt. It houses over 120,000 items, including mummies, jewelry, sculptures, and artifacts from the Pharaonic, Greek, and Roman periods. A highIight is the King Tut display room which includes his golden sarcophagi, his gold dagger, and the one of the world's most famous treasures: his golden burial mask.
The museum is considered one of the most important sources of information about ancient Egyptian civilization and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history and archaeology. To see the best the museum has to offer, check out Visiting The Egyptian Museum.
10. Edfu Temple
Edfu Temple is located in the city of Edfu, which is on the Nile river between Aswan and Luxor. The temple is dedicated to the god Horus and is considered one of the best-preserved temples from the Ptolemaic period.
Edfu Temple is known for its grand entrance, well-preserved reliefs, and stunning inscriptions. For a wild experience, ride in a horse carriage through Edfu to the temple for sunrise.
Saqqara is an ancient Egyptian necropolis located in the Memphis region, just south of Cairo. It is considered one of the largest and most extensive burial grounds in the world, with a history spanning over thousands of years. Saqqara is best known for its Step Pyramid of Djoser, which dates back to the 27th century BCE and is considered to be the first pyramid ever built.
The site also contains many other notable structures, including the mastaba tombs of the nobles, the Unas and Teti pyramids, and the Saqqara Serapeum, a vast underground complex of chambers and passages that were used to bury sacred bulls. Saqqara is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ancient Egyptian history and can easily be combined with Memphis and Dahshur for a day trip from Cairo. For more information on how to do that, check out Exploring Saqqara, Memphis, and the Pyramids at Dahshur.
12. Pyramids at Dahshur
The Pyramids of Dahshur are located near Cairo and are significant due to their unique shape and innovative building techniques. The most famous of these pyramids is the Bent Pyramid, which was built during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu and is considered to be the first successful attempt at building a true smooth-sided pyramid.
The Red Pyramid, also built by Sneferu, is considered to be the first successful attempt at building a true, straight-sided pyramid. You can go inside both of the pyramids and enter the empty tombs. Note: it can be quite physically demanding as the passageways are very steep and narrow. These pyramids offer a fascinating glimpse into ancient Egyptian history and architecture, and were the prototypes for the Great Pyramids of Giza.
13. The Temple of Isis at Philae Island
The Temple of Isis is located on the island of Philae in the Nile river near Aswan, Egypt. It was dedicated to the goddess Isis and is considered one of the last monumental temples of ancient Egypt. Just a short boat ride to the island from Aswan, this temple is much less crowded than other temples such as Karnak and Edfu.
The temple is known for its stunning columns, intricate carvings, and well-preserved inscriptions, and is considered a significant example of the fusion of ancient Egyptian and Greek architectural styles. If you are in Aswan you must visit this temple as the surrounding scenery of the Nile river is also beautiful.
14. Medinet Habu Temple
Medinet Habu Temple is located in the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt. It was built by the Pharaoh Ramses III and dedicated to the god Amun. Medinet Habu is known for its well-preserved reliefs and inscriptions, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the religious beliefs, customs, and military victories of ancient Egypt. The temple receives a fraction of the tourists compared to the other temples in Luxor, but it has some of the most impressively preserved colors of any of the temples I saw while in Egypt.
15. Saladin Citadel
The Saladin Citadel is a historic fortification in Cairo that was built in the 12th century by Saladin as a symbol of power and protection against invading Crusaders. Inside the Citadel is the stunning Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Today, Saladin Citadel is a popular tourist attraction, offering panoramic views of the city and showcasing the unique blend of Islamic and military architecture that characterizes this historic site.
Located in southern Egypt, Aswan is a popular starting (or ending) point for a Nile River Cruise. It is also famous for its Nubian culture, and visitors can experience this unique blend of ancient and modern influences with a visit to the Nubian villages that dot the region.
Getting out on the water is one of The Best Things to do in Aswan, whether that be sailing in a felucca boat, taking a motorboat to a Nubian beach or village, or taking a cruise down the Nile river to Luxor. Attractions in Aswan include an unfinished obelisk, the Aswan High Dam, and the Temple of Isis at Philae Island. It's also the starting point for Visiting Abu Simbel.
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is a bustling city with a rich cultural and historical heritage. Known as the "City of a Thousand Minarets" for its numerous mosques, Cairo is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the country, including the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the Saladin Citadel, and the Egyptian Museum. A day trip to visit Saqqara, Memphis, and Dahshur is also possible from Cairo.
The city also offers a vibrant and bustling street life, with markets such as Khan Al-Khalili, selling everything from spices and textiles to jewelry and antiques. Cairo is the gateway to visiting the sites of ancient Egypt, so you will most likely start and end your trip in this city. If you are planning to visit, check out The Ultimate 3 Day Cairo Itinerary.
18. Kom Ombo
Kom Ombo Temple is located on the Nile river between Aswan and Luxor, and is dedicated to two gods, Sobek and Haroeris. It features two parallel sanctuaries and has a double entrance, reflecting its dual dedication.
Nearby is a Crocodile Mummy Museum which has a ton of... you guessed it, crocodile mummies. It's a quick, fascinating visit after checking out the ruins of Kom Ombo.
19. Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues located in the Theban Necropolis in Upper Egypt, near Luxor. They are believed to represent Pharaoh Amenhotep III and date back to the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt. The Colossi of Memnon are approximately 18 meters tall and are among the largest and most well-preserved monuments of their kind. They are a popular tourist destination and are considered to be one of the most iconic landmarks in Egypt, attracting visitors from all over the world to admire their size and beauty.
Memphis was the ancient capital of Egypt and was known for its monumental architecture, cultural achievements, and rich history. The city was a center of religion, politics, and culture for over three thousand years.
Today, the ruins of Memphis offer insight into ancient Egyptian history and culture. The most impressive ruin is a massive unfinished statue of Ramses II that rests on its back in an open air museum. A visit here can easily be combined with Dahshur and Saqqara for an incredible day trip from Cairo.
Egypt is a country full of rich history, stunning architecture, and incredible natural beauty. From the iconic Pyramids of Giza to the Valley of the Kings, the temples of Karnak, Luxor, and Abu Simbel, the Egyptian Museum, and the vibrant city of Cairo, there is so much to see and do in this fascinating country. Whether you're an archaeology buff, a history lover, or simply someone looking for an unforgettable travel experience, Egypt offers something for everyone. So why not plan your next adventure and discover the many wonders of this ancient land for yourself?