Planning a trip to Egypt is one of the best travel investments you can make. The country is rich with archaeology and history from top to bottom, so be sure you get a well-rounded itinerary to cover all the bases. Here's how to get started:
Cairo and Giza. The first stop will be Cairo from the international airport in Heliopolis. You will need at least a couple of nights here to fully explore the city and surrounding desert monuments. Some of the activities are easily combined into a half day's sightseeing. On your first full day in Cairo, try a three-hour excursion to the Giza Plateau for the Pyramids and the Sphinx, then southward to the Step Pyramid by Zoser in Sakkara. There you may wander through Zoser's funerary complex, but interior access to the pyramid is forbidden.
Other notable attractions in Cairo include The Egyptian Museum, Papyrus Institute, shopping at the 1300 year old Khan el-Khalil open-air souk, lunch or dinner cruises on the Nile, The Citadel mosque in Old Cairo and plenty of Oriental dinner shows at the hotels.
Your next stop is Aswan, located on the most southern point of the Nile. Here you will find exotic perfumes and spices to fill the air, unique shopping for hand-made crafts and some of the most beautiful scenery in Egypt. Try a short flight to Abu Simbel for a walk-through of the Temple of Ramses ll. In addition, Aswan is a major boarding site for the Nile cruise ships. You may book a 3- to 7-night cruise traveling toward Luxor, with stops in Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna.
Luxor and Valley of the Kings. This is the prime destination for every Egypt traveler, so be prepared for some hefty crowds. Cruise ships will disembark, giving passengers a full day to explore this ancient and well -preserved city. Your cruise ship itinerary will include admission into the Valley of the Kings, with at least 3 tickets to enter the tombs. Tutankhamun's tomb is located right in front, but requires a separate admission. Notable tombs for size and preservation of color are Amenhotep ll, Ramses lV and Ramses Vl. As of this date, the tomb of Seti l is closed for renovations, but it's scheduled to reopen by 2010.
After a week of visiting the dynasty period of Egypt, a trip to the pristine waters of the Red Sea is in order. There are several built up seaside towns, but the two towns most prepared for tourism are Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. Prices are reasonable for sea view rooms, and the activities will keep you busy for a week or more. Both cities have glass bottom boats, exceptional diving facilities, windsurfing, water skiing, snorkeling, and boating. Meals are bit pricey in this part of the country, but budget-friendly restaurants are plentiful outside of the hotels.
Both Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh have international airports, but for faster and more efficient airline service out of the country, Cairo books the most flights. If you have more time for your trip, you may wish to drive or take the train to Alexandria. There you will find monuments from the Ptolemy period, including one to Cleopatra Vll. The architecture in Alexandria is very different from that in Cairo, and you will find the atmosphere more relaxed. Most of the 5 star hotels lie on the Mediterranean coastline and offer splendid sea views for a moderate price.
To fully explore and appreciate Egypt, allow yourself at least three weeks. A two-week compacted tour is offered by many travel companies, but most do not include the Red Sea or Alexandria. Egypt is a place that you may never get enough of, as most travelers have been multiple times and intend to go again. Just one trip to this magnificent country is all it takes to start a lifelong love affair.