2 Weeks in Egypt: The Ultimate Local Itinerary
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
We’re asked all the time about how much time is ‘enough’ to see Egypt. This obviously is not a real, answerable question because God knows we’ve been living in Egypt for 20+ years and haven’t seen all of it.
But enough of the pedantics slash semantics, and let’s get down to the answer you actually want to hear. A month, give or take, is a nice chunk of time that would really let you make a dent in what Egypt has to offer. But because a month isn’t feasible for most people, we squeezed as much as we could into a diverse and action-packed 2 week itinerary. Disclaimer: this obviously won’t include all of Egypt’s claim-to-fame spots, but we tried to make it as fully-immersive as we could.
Our itinerary is a mix of ancient Egypt, urban cities, early Christianity, medieval Islam, desert, river and two different seas. There will be camping, river cruises, beach bumming and a whole lot of sightseeing, so fasten your seatbelts and let’s get started.
Summary of itinerary:
2 days - Cairo
1.5 days - Alexandria
1.5 days - Desert camping
5 days - Luxor & Aswan
3 days - Red Sea
1 day - Cairo
DAY 1: CAIRO (Pyramids & Cairo Museum)
Start off your day by being at the Pyramids in the early morning before all the tourist buses roll up. You’ll see the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the rest of the Giza necropolis. A general ticket will gain you admission to the plateau, and you can buy an extra ticket to go into the pyramids or see the Solar Boat Museum.
You can have lunch at the nearby Marriott Mena House, which has awesome pyramid views. You can read more about the iconic Mena House at 11 Historical Hotels in Egypt You Can Still Stay At Today.
After lunch, head to the Cairo Museum at Midan Tahrir in Downtown Cairo to see over 120,000 ancient Egyptian artefacts.
For more awesome museums in Cairo, head here.
DAY 2: CAIRO (Coptic & Islamic Cairo)
Head to Coptic Cairo, an area of Old Cairo established around 400 AD. There you’ll find several 1000+ year old churches, like Mar Girgis, the Hanging Church and Abu Serga. Coptic Cairo is also home to the Coptic Museum, Ben Ezra Synagogue and Amr Ibn Al-Aas mosque, the first mosque ever built in Egypt.
You can then head over to Islamic Cairo, another section of Old Cairo, home to Cairo’s oldest and most impressive mosques. Make sure to visit Ibn Tulun mosque and the neighboring Gayer-Anderson museum for a cool look at one of the best-preserved homes from the medieval Islamic period.
Then head over to the nearby Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrassa and Al Rifai mosques, two towering marvels of Islamic architecture. For more awesome mosques in Egypt, head here.
You can finish off the night at Moez Street, a 1 km pedestrian street with the greatest concentration of medieval Islamic architectural treasures in the world: here's our detailed local's guide to Moez Street. Adjacent to Moez Street is the world-renowned bazaar and souq, Khan el Khalili (full guide here).
More useful Cairo info:
DAY 3: ALEXANDRIA
In the early morning, catch a train from Ramses Railway Station in Cairo to Alexandria (you can also arrange a car service to drive you).
Visit the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa (for more barely-known awesome Egypt sites, head here), Pompey’s Pillar and the Roman amphitheatre. Then head to the medieval Citadel of Qaitbay, where you can have lunch at the nearby Greek Club after.
After lunch you can check out the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern nod to the ancient wonder of the world, the Library of Alexandria, and a local treasure.
You can also visit the impressive centuries-old mosque, Abu Abbas Al Morsi. After, have a seafood dinner and relax on a hotel rooftop bar, like the Windsor’s, with spectacular Mediterranean Sea views.
Find more Alex inspiration in our Alexandria Sightseeing Guide.
DAY 4: ALEXANDRIA - CAIRO (spend half a day in Alexandria then take the train back to Cairo)
Head to Montazah, the summer palace and royal gardens of the former Egyptian monarchy, where you can walk through the park and enjoy the greenery and view of the Mediterranean Sea. You can also see the Montazah Palace from the outside (the inside is unfortunately closed to the public currently).
Have lunch at one of Montazah's restaurants and cafes and then head to the train station for your trip back to Cairo.
Make sure you get a good night’s sleep because you’ll be camping the next day!
DAY 5: DESERT CAMPING (either in Fayoum or the White Desert)
For a one night camping expedition, you have two options: you can either go to Fayoum, about 2 hours away from Cairo, or the White Desert, about 6.5 hours from Cairo. The White Desert, with its alien-looking white chalk formations is spectacular, but the drive time might be too much for some people for just one night -- it’s really up to you.
If you do go to the White Desert, you can also visit the nearby Black Desert, which got its name from a layer of ancient black volcanic material on the sand.
In Fayoum, you’ll be camping on sand dunes close to the Fayoum Oasis (Lake Qaroun) or the Magic Lake (named for its changing water color depending on time of day).
Whether you go to Fayoum or the White Desert, you’ll be camping in the remote Egyptian desert with a startling amount of stars in the sky.
For more details about the White Desert and Fayoum and how to arrange camping there, read our full Egypt camping guide here.
DAY 6: Head back to Cairo, then Aswan
Once you wake up from your camping excursion, get ready to head back to Cairo to either catch your night flight to Aswan or your night train.
The flight to Aswan is around an hour and 20 minutes, and the overnight sleeper train takes 12 hours (you can either get a seat or a sleeper compartment).
DAY 7: ASWAN (Nile cruise starts)
Welcome to Upper Egypt! Your Nile cruise that’ll take you back thousands of years is about to start.
Now, there are a bunch of different cruise operators that organize tours between Aswan and Luxor or vice versa, and the duration, price and exact itinerary differs from one to the other. We recommend a 4 day, 3 night cruise so that you’re not too rushed but also so you don’t get bored.
Basically how the cruises work is that they take you to different locations of interest between Luxor and Aswan, and allow you to disembark and explore with a tour guide. You’ll sleep and have all your meals on the cruise ship, and the higher end ones come complete with swimming pools and spas.
Usually on the Aswan leg of the cruise you’ll see the Philae Temple Complex, the Aswan High Dam and the Unfinished Obelisk.
Local tip: Abu Simbel is not included on these Aswan-Luxor cruises because it’s on the other side of the High Dam, towards the bottom of Lake Nasser. If you want to see Abu Simbel, consider adding another day or half day to Aswan.
DAY 8: NILE CRUISE (Kom Ombo, Edfu, Esna)
Usually on the second day of the 4 day cruise, you’ll stop by the ancient Egyptian temples on the Nile between Aswan and Luxor -- usually Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna.
DAY 9: LUXOR (cruise reaches Luxor)
On the third day of the cruise, you’ll reach Luxor. The sites that the tour guide will bring you to are most likely Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepshut (Deir el Bahri), Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.
DAY 10: LUXOR (end of cruise) - RED SEA
After breakfast, you’ll check out of the cruise. You have the option of continuing the rest of the day in Luxor and exploring anything the cruise didn’t cover (for example, Deir el Medina -- the ancient village of the workers and artisans who worked at the Valley of the Kings and Queens), or you can head on straight to your next destination -- the Red Sea!
That’s right, after 10 days of nonstop go-go-go action, it’s time to relax on Egypt’s white sand beaches.
You have a lot of different Red Sea Riviera destinations to choose from (for more details, read our full local guide about where to stay in the Red Sea Riviera).
We suggest either staying in the Hurghada area of mainland Egypt’s Red Sea, or Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula.
Hurghada is easier to reach from Luxor; it’s about 4 hours away by bus (you can also fly from Luxor to Hurghada, but there’s only one weekly direct flight, otherwise you’ll have to transit in Cairo).
There’s also only one weekly direct flight from Luxor to Sharm el Sheikh as well; the daily flights will have a transit in Cairo.
If you choose to go to the Hurghada area, there are lots of different places you can stay: Hurghada city proper, or its neighboring resort towns like El Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh, Makadi Bay and Soma Bay; read our full Hurghada guide for first-timers to understand more.
DAY 11 - HURGHADA (relax at beach resort)
Whether you’re staying in Hurghada city or a neighboring resort town, our itinerary is exactly the same: relax and enjoy your hotel’s beach and pool.
That’s right, enjoy a full day of not moving from spot to spot to spot and just enjoy the sea, sun and weather that Egypt’s Red Sea is famous for.
DAY 12 - HURGHADA (Red Sea islands)
The Red Sea off Hurghada’s coastline is known for some fantastic tropical islands (for a list of Egypt’s best tropical islands, head here).
Take a boat from the Hurghada harbor to Giftun Island, where you’ll find beach havens like Mahmya and Orange Bay -- daytime island destinations that offer fantastic swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and a restaurant and bar.
DAY 13 - HURGHADA (diving or exploring)
If you’re a diver, then you absolutely must dive while in Hurghada -- the Red Sea ranks in the best worldwide dive spots year after year. Your hotel or nearby dive centers can arrange the whole dive trip for you.
DAY 14: BACK HOME
If your return flight home is from Cairo, then the best way back to Cairo from Hurghada is by plane (they have several daily flights, all about 45 minutes). If you live in Europe, then check the option of flying straight back from Hurghada, because Hurghada Airport operates a lot of cheap flights to and from Europe.
So that’s it, our full local 2 week itinerary -- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Egypt’s North Coast, the oases, Sinai mountains, bohemian beach camps, Marsa Alam & the Deep South and so much more are still waiting to be explored…
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