20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Egypt

Jul 22, 2021

Another great reason to visit Egypt is to experience the phenomenal ancient sights that Egypt's been famous for for millennia, like the pyramids of Giza. Egypt has something for everyone. Start at the top of the list with a stop at the pyramids of Giza, which cover more than 13 square kilometers. Then take a leisurely drive through the dry deserts, before visiting Aswan, the colorfully-dressed fishermen on the Nile River, and the Suez Canal, the continent's largest man-made structure.

You can also explore the Nile Valley, where scenes from the Great Egyptian Revolution played out. In Aswan, witness the great temples and monuments built during Egypt's Old Kingdom era, while in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, see incredible tombs of the Ancient Egyptians.

See why Egypt was declared a World Heritage Site, and visit Egypt's many colorful marketplaces. We're sure you'll find a reason to visit Egypt. Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions in Egypt.

Alexandria

Photo of Alexandria
Alexandria: en.wikipedia.org

Being Egypt's most cosmopolitan city, Alexandria is characterized by an ever-present sense of calm, owing to its strict Islamic laws. The city has always played a role in Egyptian culture, as it was the center of learning in the Byzantine and Islamic worlds, and the home of Hellenistic Alexandria's flourishing trade and maritime centers. In recent years, new waves of immigrants have made Alexandria what it is today, a cosmopolitan Arabized city whose cultural appeal extends from jazz clubs and Italian restaurants to vibrant street markets. There are a number of free city museums that you can visit, including the Military Museum, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and the Alexander Balakirev Gallery. If you are in need of a bit more excitement, a visit to the giant Pyramid of Giza will be sure to please. Also of interest is the magnificent Valley of the Kings, which offers the opportunity to view some of the tombs of pharaohs and various structures and statues of the Ramessid dynasty. Alexandria is situated on the Nile Delta, and both are connected by the Catamarans to Cairo, the Great Pyramids, the Suez Canal, and the Red Sea.

Abu Simbel

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Abu Simbel: en.wikipedia.org

Abu Simbel is one of the world's most remarkable archeological sites. After the Egyptian army under Thutmose III captured the cities of Thebes in the 15th century BC, the pharaoh was determined to outdo the glorious and famous funerary temple of Ramses II on the east bank of the Nile River. So he built a structure that would be his colossus in the afterlife. The ruined temples at Abu Simbel are breathtakingly beautiful and evocative of the stone temples of the 12th to 15th centuries BC. Ancient Egyptians have been making the sacrifices to the gods at the temples for over 5,000 years, and thousands of sculptures, including the colossal statues of the pharaohs, were carved from the pink sandstone, and later added to and restored, since the 8th century BC. The marvelous monuments have been in the news a few times in recent years, most notably in the summer of 1999 when a collapsed doorway caused a small part of one of the three largest temples to collapse, but Egyptian archeologists quickly blocked the passage with scaffolding to protect the ruins and ensure they continue to be well preserved. Things to do in Abu Simbel include visiting the temples of the three "Great Kings," Ramesses II, Seti I, and Ramesses III, and viewing the sacred wooden burial chamber.

Pyramids of Giza

Photo of Giza pyramid complex
Giza pyramid complex: en.wikipedia.org

Overlooking the Great Pyramid of Cheops, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is the imposing 3,000-year-old step pyramid of Djoser, built by Egypt's famous Step Pyramid King (also known as Cheops, or Khufu). Constructed from roughly cut limestone blocks, the base of the pyramid measures 330 by 125 meters (1067 by 406 feet) and rises 165 meters (540 feet) to its apex. More than 2 million limestone blocks (with an average weight of 4,200 pounds) were used to build the pyramid. Today, the Great Pyramid of Cheops is the tallest of the three pyramids and a popular site for visitors. Within its shadow stand the two smaller pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, and next to them the badly weathered white Pyramid of Menkaure, known for its Roman temple. Both the Great Pyramid and the Step Pyramid are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Aswan

The most famous of all Egyptian pyramids is located in Aswan. Rising out of the flat desert, this 200-meter-high tower of rock has long been one of the highlights of any visit to Egypt, especially when the Nile glistens in the mid-afternoon sunlight. Built by a now-famous pharaoh during the early 4th millennium BC, the limestone edifice dominated the architectural landscape of the region. Unfortunately, after nearly 5,000 years, the once-solid pyramid was toppled and overgrown in the Middle Ages, but was subsequently restored. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and attracts thousands of visitors a day. Aswan is also a major tourist and administrative center, and the summer months of June, July, and August are particularly busy with people. Evenings are the best time to visit the area and experience its well-established bar and nightlife scene, especially in the vicinity of Nubia. However, visiting Aswan at other times of the year can be just as interesting and you get much less tourist noise. Another historical attraction in Aswan is the museum of the ancient, Nubian granite quarries of Abu Gamal. Only the remains of about forty quarries are still in existence.

Thebes

Photo of Thebes, Egypt
Thebes, Egypt: en.wikipedia.org

Thebes is the largest of Egypt's historic capitals, and was the center of ancient Thebes, the area of ancient Thebes within the modern-day town of Luxor, where a number of the sites referred to in the Bible are located. Ancient Thebes was sacked in the First Cataract War in about 600 BC, and again in 146 BC. The present city was founded in the 9th century AD by the Arab King Asadullah I, who called it Nawaif ("New Thebes"), and it is commonly known as Arab Thebes to distinguish it from older Thebes in the valley. Today, Thebes is largely a tourist destination, although it has an impressive old city wall. Known for the Theban Mummy Hall, Thebes has a large open-air museum of artifacts from the original site, along with an assortment of catacombs and chapels of various ancient Theban rulers. Asadullah's successor, King Farouk (King Farouk), used a number of his successors as a palace for himself, employing the German archeologist Ernst Sellin to restore and excavate several ancient sites in the Valley of the Kings. Sellin also opened the valley's archaeological museum, at the foot of the Karnak Temple complex, which today houses several exhibitions of artifacts from the nearby sites. The largest number of exhibits in the museum, however, are excavated finds from the Theban tombs.

Islamic Cairo

Photo of Islamic Cairo
Islamic Cairo: en.wikipedia.org

Ajami means "eastern" in Arabic, a name the people of Egypt took on in reference to the Arabic spoken in the Levant, and Cairo today is known as Al-Qahira al-Munata' al-'Ajamia, meaning "the city of the Easterners." Ancient Memphis, around 300 kilometers east of Cairo, is the oldest city in the world and home to the famed Pyramids of Giza. Located in the eastern province of Cairo are the Blue and the Red pyramids, as well as Saqqara, a vast necropolis cut into the desert, where the mighty Great Pyramids of Giza, the highest and most spectacular of all ancient Egyptian pyramids, stand serene and white in the sand. These four monuments, created between approximately 2600 and 2450 BC, are the largest in the world. Modern Cairo, or el-Qahira al-Badriyaa, has changed considerably in its many centuries of existence. Built on the once great necropolis of Saqqara, the city extends from the west bank of the Nile and includes the banks of the Nile, Tahrir Square, Cairo's Italianate core, the city's High Dam, modern bridges, Giza, and Heliopolis, a sort of mini-Eiffel Tower that leads to Qasr al-Nil bridge. Giza is where many of Egypt's ancient monuments are located, including the Giza Necropolis and the pyramids.

St. Catherine's Monastery

Photo of Saint Catherine's Monastery
Saint Catherine's Monastery: en.wikipedia.org

A staggering adventure awaits those who make the trip to the remote, remote island of Sinai. Although only 100 kilometers off the Mediterranean, this is one of the hottest places in the world, peaking as high as 52 degrees Celsius in the summer. Located in the mountains in the Sinai Peninsula and encircled by snow-capped mountains, this desert oasis is one of the oldest places of Christian worship, founded in AD 350. Since January 6, when Pope Francis made a visit to the monastery, it has been closed to the public. Visitors can now view the monastery either from the town of Saint Catherine or from a local hotel by booking several days in advance, but must arrange to join a group.

Sinai

Photo of Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai: en.wikipedia.org

From the capital Cairo to the Red Sea coast, Egypt's deserts, mountains, and islands provide some of the world's most spectacular sights. The highlight is the beauty of Sinai's nature, famous for its starkly beautiful salt deserts, desert mountains, and charming little resorts and cities, including Sinai's most popular city, Dahab, and quaint Saint Katherine, located on a sandy island off the Red Sea coast. Sinai is linked to Egypt's mainland by a 230 km (143 mi) tunnel, and is the site of one of the world's longest suspension bridges, the 3.5 km (2.2 mi) Aswan-Luxor railroad, that connects to Aswan and the Red Sea cities of Al-Arish and Hurghada. To visit the Biblical pyramids of Giza and Luxor, take a special Nile cruise and visit the Mediterranean Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, an ancient center of Buddhist learning and still renowned for its scuba diving and fishing.

White Desert

Photo of Western Desert (Egypt)
Western Desert (Egypt): en.wikipedia.org

The most scenic of Egypt's Red Sea coast is the 400-square-kilometer (157-square-mile) Great White Desert (Hajar el Dawasir), which has some of the highest and most dramatic cliffs in the world. White Desert is home to at least 200 species of birds, including hawks, buzzards, eagles, and vultures, which give the stark landscape an eerie, almost unreal quality. Great White Desert and other Red Sea locations can be reached by air, along with Egypt's other Red Sea tourist destinations, in only two hours from Cairo's international airport, which also has a rail link to several of Egypt's main cities.

Cairo

Cairo is not only one of the world's oldest capitals, it's also among the most interesting and fascinating. While parts of its grand historic buildings have gone under the wrecking ball, sections of old Cairo have been preserved and turned into museums. What makes Cairo so unique is the fact that the ancient and modern mix together to create a fascinating experience. Though the presence of these ancient landmarks is a huge part of the city's appeal, Cairo also has a modern, bustling heart, centered around the Nile River. In the downtown areas, bustling bazaars teem with all sorts of shops and stalls, and the city's food and tea houses are in the hands of local artisans. Cairo is also known as a great place to shop. Boutiques, fashion stores and fancy food outlets can be found in abundance throughout the city, from the chic international neighborhoods of Zamalek and Gezira to the working-class districts of Imbaba and Sharm el-Sheikh. Cairo is full of surprises, from the rich legacy of the Coptic Christians who created exquisite Byzantine-style churches in the 17th and 18th centuries to the astounding traces of the period known as the Middle Ages, which lasted from the 5th to the 16th century and saw the establishment of an independent Egypt. The only sense of space is given by the soaring green minarets of the city's famous mosques, and the rare sky can be seen through their great domes.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Cairo

Saqqara

Photo of Saqqara
Saqqara: en.wikipedia.org

Built during the 27th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt (1786-1640 BC) to serve as a burial ground for the pharaohs, Saqqara is the world's first step pyramid. Originally built of wood in two steps and topped by a platform of reeds, the vast cemetery was abandoned when the first sandstone step pyramid was built in the 24th Dynasty (2nd millenium BC). Here, you can view the original area of the stepped pyramid, enclosed by mudbrick walls and tombs of Ancient Egyptians.

Luxor's Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings

Luxor is situated in the Nile Delta, the second largest Delta of the world, where it is the only permanent settlement. Its many archaeological sites include the Valley of the Kings, with 26 tombs containing the coffins of the last pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty. Other notable sites include the Karnak Temple, which was the principal temple of the ancient Egyptian kingdom. It is still an active center of religious worship, the holiest site of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Activities in Luxor include visiting the Temple of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and the Valley of the Kings.

Egyptian Museum

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Egyptian Museum: en.wikipedia.org

Just a few hundred meters from the crowds of tourists at the Pyramids of Giza, one can discover an authentic yet unrecognized picture of what ancient Egypt was like. The building in which it is housed is one of the most recent, inaugurated in 1938. Its purpose is to showcase the history of Egypt through archeological findings and natural science. In the vast galleries are exhibits of mummified remains, fragments of paintings and funerary mounds, while interactive explanations and displays relating to each site bring the past to life. There is also a fine set of panels describing the excavations of the great pyramids.

Abydos Temple

Photo of Abydos, Egypt
Abydos, Egypt: en.wikipedia.org

Abydos is a touristic city that many people love because it lies at the heart of the Theban antiquities. The city lies at the foot of the sacred valley of King's burial, between the hills of Todres and el-Hozem. The Abydos is located some 200 kilometers from the capital, Cairo, and was a real wonder during the pharaonic period. It was the ancient capital of Egypt, the center of ancient the Egyptian religion, the site of the first two of the six ancient Memphis. The tomb of Osiris was the most important in the city. In this capital, the city became Egypt's sacred city. The process of its creation takes several periods. Abydos is divided into four districts. The most important are the main city (where Abydos is located), the Valley of the Kings (Wad-Kussef), the Valley of the Queens (Wad-Talat-Selamin) and the area of the sacred lake (Wadi al-Sakat). For the Western visitor, the first aspect to remember is the Temple of Isis, whose construction is dedicated to the patron goddess of Abydos.

Siwa Oasis

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Siwa Oasis: en.wikipedia.org

Rural Siwa is Egypt's most remote oasis, a fabled land of palm-lined wind-washed roads, sand and mud. With its setting, thatched huts and a central park with a zen-like feel, it has an almost timeless air about it. Siwa is best known as the site of the great pyramids of El-Kahira and Miamret and as the place where Al-Hallaj - Muslim mystic and founder of Sufism - took refuge. Its grand Saif al-Dawla, or castle, is the largest of the lot, and features remnants of frescoes from the Qaitbay, a Mamluk ruler. The main town, also called Siwa, features a large gold souq and a central open market with sand dunes, busy all year round. The best time to visit is from May to October, and you can also make a trip to enjoy the desert scenery, watch camel caravans and ride them, relax at the desert and white-sand beaches and visit the tombs of two ancient Egyptian dynasties.

Coptic Cairo

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Coptic Cairo: en.wikipedia.org

Historic Cairo is famous for its impressive mosques, pharaonic pyramids and Islamic architecture, but there is much more to this bustling city than mere monuments. After walking around the historic districts of Sakkara, Giza and Dokki, the Khan el-Khalili area, also known as the "Arab Souks" is located along the Nile about 20 miles south of Cairo. This lively souk, with many shops selling local clothing and souvenirs, has shops selling all kinds of fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs. A visit to Cairo also includes seeing what is arguably the world's oldest church, the beautifully decorated Cathedral of St. Mark, which dates back to the early 4th century. Also worth seeing is the awe-inspiring Mosque of Sultan Hassan, the 16th century minaret of the al-Azhar Mosque, which is home to the most famous Islamic university in the world, and the fascinating ancient Mamluk mosques in the districts of al-Qanatir and Salah ad-Din. The last major sight is the Castel del Monte, which is considered one of the most impressive Arab fortresses ever constructed, which is surrounded by exotic gardens with lakes. Built by King Fakhr al-Din in the 13th century, it was used by the Mamluk Sultan Qansawal as a private residence until the last Mamluk ruler moved out in 1885. Its exterior is decorated with masonry and ceramics and contains some of the oldest frescos and domes in Egypt.

The Valley of the Kings

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Valley of the Kings: en.wikipedia.org

At the time of the pharaohs, an impressive range of structures was built by a succession of rulers in the massive Valley of the Kings in Egypt, covering around a third of the kingdom. This was the resting place for Pharaohs including Ramses II, Tutankhamen, and a number of Pharaohs before them. Spanning 1,564 square miles, the valley was most of the length and breadth of the Nile's river valley and only a short distance from the desert fringe. One of the most significant structures, as well as a great tourist attraction, is the tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy king from 1365-1350 BC. Thousands of visitors pass through each day to visit his burial chamber. There are a number of other smaller burial tombs nearby. They include those of Ramses II, Seti I, and King Intef (1185-1153 BC), who is thought to be the first pharaoh to rule as a male monarch. The tombs are well preserved and include some of the best examples of wall paintings anywhere. A visit to the valley should also include the Valley of the Queens, where more than 30 queens are buried, and the Valley of the Mummy King, where the mummies of more than one million bodies have been found, many of which are still present in the tomb. As well as having its share of ancient history, the area also offers great opportunities for visiting the great archaeological sites of Khafre and Menkaure at Giza and the Sphinx and Great Pyramid of Cheops at Dahshur, just a few miles away.

Memphis

Photo of Memphis, Egypt
Memphis, Egypt: en.wikipedia.org

Not to be confused with the modern city of the same name, Memphis has been around since 5000 BC. Its most famous monuments were built during the reign of the Pharaohs, most notably a funerary temple built in honor of a pharaoh. The temple was home to various priests and other religious workers as well as a large number of sphinxes and other animals and the immense statue of a bull made of red granite weighing 8,600 kg. During the 19th century, the first steamship to Africa arrived in the port, although its original function was as a river ferry. In the beginning of the 20th century, the port was promoted by the Italian government, and it flourished until the 1950s, when it was destroyed in the Suez Canal Crisis. Memphis now mainly serves as a cruise ship port.

Dendera

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Dendera: en.wikipedia.org

Excavated in 1933 and 1936, Dendera is one of the most beautiful examples of Egyptian temple architecture and contains some of the finest examples of both New Kingdom and Late Period architecture. Just north of Luxor, it's about a 10-hour drive from Cairo, although it's much closer to Cairo than Aswan. Dendera's Apis Basin temple, dedicated to the Apis bulls, was built by Ramesses II during the New Kingdom, and consists of an array of stone-and-stucco pylons, standing around 140 meters tall. The most remarkable element is the largest of these (measuring about 25 meters tall), a massive structure known as the Edfu Portal. These distinctive brick pylons were carved with reliefs depicting the royal apkhaur (the equivalent of the modern pharaoh), and on their back walls there are reliefs depicting King Ramesses II lifting the world. The temple of Hathor (12th Dynasty) features a zigzag inner nome (sanctuary), while the Old Kingdom (26th and 27th dynasties) Apis Basin is the home of the massive pylon that bears the impressive statue of the "Chanting Wife of Amun." Her name was carved directly on the pylon when she was still standing (the second, or stela, only exists as a huge slab). Although the site is not open to visitors, it can be visited by boat from the south coast town of Kom Ombo, or by walking through the sand dunes of Qena from the Nile.

The Nile

From Upper Egypt to Lower Egypt, we follow the Nile's path through the Sinai Peninsula, the Middle Nile Delta, and the southern Delta. From ancient times, the Nile has shaped the land and people of Egypt and continues to do so today. The river is the lifeblood of Egypt and the people who live there. The most popular way to see the Nile is to travel from Cairo to Aswan by riverboat, although Cairo has much to offer and should not be missed. Once in Aswan, embark on a guided tour of the spectacular High Dam and Medinet Habu temples. What's not to like about a holiday on the banks of the Nile? Well, that's up to you.