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Things to do in Egypt that you can never miss out on

by Pilar Dujan | July 11, 2019
Booking a felucca ride is one of the things to do in Egypt popular with tourists

Egypt is a country with a rich history. You will be hard-pressed to find another place that can compare: there are so many things to do during an Egypt trip. From the Valley of the Kings to the Giza Necropolis and the River Nile, there are many remnants of history to admire. Natural and historical beauty awaits! 

While you’re planning your trip, you should be aware of an important fact about the landmarks I’m going to mention: many of them have gone completely cashless, which means that you can only buy a ticket using a bank card. For more information, read our guide about the Egypt currency.

Things to do in Egypt

Exploring Cairo’s many attractions

Cairo, the country’s capital, is one of the major cities of Egypt (if not the most important). In terms of tourist attractions, Cairo is pretty much unmatched. A visit to this city will allow you to see the only Wonder of the Ancient World still standing: the Pyramids of Giza. Right next to them sits another famous display of Egyptian history: the Sphinx.

Other famous things to do in Egypt that you can find in Cairo include the Egyptian Museum, Coptic Cairo and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, amongst many others.

In this city there are many bazaars and souks to shop in, such as the Khan el-Khalili souk in the El-Gamaleya district. You can find many interesting souvenirs and keepsakes in the souks, such as incense sticks or hand-crafted trinkets.

There are also a variety of restaurants where you can try traditional Egyptian cuisine, with dishes like shawarma, baba ganoush, halva, couscous and hummus. 

Hiking Mt. Sinai

Mount Sinai, also known as Mt. Moses, is more than just a tourist attraction: it’s a sacred place for Islam, Christianism and Judaism. It’s the location where Moses received the Ten Commandments, as told in the Bible. Tourists can hike to the summit and enjoy the beautiful sights. It’s a common activity for those staying in Sharm el Sheikh since it’s only a 3-hour drive away. 

The starting point for the hike is usually Saint Catherine’s Monastery, which is an attraction worth seeing on its own. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest working Christian monastery (it was built in the 6th century by order of Roman emperor Justinian). It’s also famous for housing the Burning Bush, where God appeared to Moses, and the Well where he met his would-be wife. If you’d like to explore this landmark, you should know that it’s only open until 11:30am.

There are two main paths to the summit of Mt. Sinai: the Camel Path (easier) and the Steps of Penitence (steeper). The way to and back takes around 4 hours: 2 to go up, 1 at the top and 1 hour to go down. 

View from the top of Mount Sinai, Egypt

The most common way to hike to the top of Mt. Sinai involves starting in the middle of the night to see the sunrise from the top. Although it’s beautiful, it can get incredibly crowded. You can book a private tour to start later and enjoy the stunning views pretty much by yourself. Some people also rent a camel to carry their bags, but you should know that they can only go so far so pack lightly. 

Something that took me by surprise is that there are several bathrooms along the way. Bring toilet paper! I promise you will never find a bathroom so scenic as the one at the top.

The last thing you need to know is that you can’t do this hike on your own: you’ll need to book a tour even if you don’t want to. This is because you need a permit for the activity, which is taken care of by the tour provider so you can go through the many checkpoints you will find on route to the base of Mt. Sinai.

Discovering Egypt’s pyramids 

Besides the previously mentioned Pyramids of Giza, there are many other important monuments of the same kind scattered across Egypt. 

Two monuments you can’t miss are the Bent and the Red Pyramids. They’re located in Dahshur, an hour drive away from Cairo. 

The Step Pyramid is also within this area. Built in 2630 BC, it stands out for being the oldest stone building complex in the world.

They are all open to the public. These pyramids usually receive less visitors than the ones in Giza, so you can expect a more peaceful excursion.

Step Pyramid, Egypt

Hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings

One of the top 5 things to do in Egypt is to book a hot air balloon ride in Luxor. You will get a bird's-eye view of the Valley of the Kings and Queens, a unique point of view that will allow you to enjoy the surroundings in the best way possible.

Most companies start the activity at dawn so you can see the sun rise over the temples and the surrounding desert. It usually lasts about an hour and it has a cost of approximately 60 EUR. 

Camping in the White Desert

Booking a camping trip to the desert is one of the top 5 things to do in Egypt. It’s a unique experience, and one you will never forget! 

For safety, it’s always done with a team of professionals. You can find some useful information about this excursion in our travel tips for Egypt.

Things to do in Egypt with family

Attend a Sound and Light show

Sometimes it’s hard to keep kids entertained, but that won’t be a problem in Egypt. One of the most unique things to do in Egypt with family is attending a Sound and Light show, an activity that’s both fun and educational.

Egypt has several shows to offer, each set in a different tourist attraction: the Pyramids and the temples of Karnak, Philae, Edfu and Abu Simbel. 

These shows, available in 10 languages, tell the story of the place and of Ancient Egypt. The ticket price is 20 USD (900 EGP) for adults and 11 USD (500 EGP) for children. You can select the location and purchase your tickets here. Just choose your favorite and enjoy! 

Temple of Edfu at night in Egypt

Children’s tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum

The Grand Egyptian Museum has been in the works since 2002, and its grand opening is rapidly approaching. Even though it’s not completed, some areas are already open to the public. 

Currently, there are available tours for children aged 6-12 so they can learn about Ancient Egypt. The tours are in English and Arabic, and the cost ranges from 150 to 500 EGP depending on the nationality of the visitor. 

It’s located in Giza, just 2 km away from the Pyramids, so you won’t have any trouble fitting it in your daily itinerary while in Cairo. 

Look for whale fossils

This is one of the most unique things to do in Egypt. Deep in the Sahara desert lies Wadi al-Hitan (Whale Valley), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stands out for housing fossils of prehistoric whales. They show the transition of whales from land to water animals, an incredibly interesting proof of evolution. 

They are in a remarkable state of conservation considering their age (more than 50 million years!), and they are inside of a protected area that has been receiving an increased number of visitors each year. 

You can get there as a day trip from Cairo to Fayoum. It’s an educational activity that kids and adults won’t be able to enjoy anywhere else! 

Whale fossil at Wadi al-Hitan or Whale Valley, Egypt

SOHO Square

SOHO Square is one of the ideal things to do in Egypt with family if you’re visiting the Red Sea. It’s an entertainment center located in Sharm el Sheik. There you’ll find a kids’ zone, a dancing fountain, countless shops, you can partake in activities ranging from bowling to ice skating, attend live shows, and so much more. The kids can also have fun while learning at the Culturama, an interactive show depicting the history of Egypt. 

But SOHO Square has plenty of attractions for adults as well. For example, there are nightclubs, bars and lounges, a tennis and squash center and more. All in all, there’s something for everybody! 

Fun things to do in Egypt

Diving in the Red Sea

I bet that if you think about visiting Egypt, your mind pictures pyramids and camels walking around sandy dunes. But what if I told you that Egypt is a great beach destination as well? Eastern Egypt borders the Red Sea, and the cities along the coast are prime spots for scuba diving and snorkeling. Remember that, as anywhere else in the world, you’ll need to be a certified diver to partake in that activity. If you’re not, it’s not a problem: snorkeling is available and fun for everybody! 

For example, if you travel to Hurghada, you can visit Ras Muhammad National Park, the first national park in the history of the country. There you’ll be allowed to explore the Red Sea reef, mangrove forests and fish of every kind you could imagine. 

Two divers in the Red Sea surrounded by corals and small fish

Cruise on the Nile

One of the most beautiful and relaxing things to do in Egypt is taking an Egypt cruise or felucca ride (the ubiquitous Egyptian sailboat). You will get to see exciting wildlife: crocodiles, lizards, turtles and many species of fish, amongst others. You can also find interesting plants along the banks, such as palm trees and papyrus, which ancient Egyptians used to make paper and cloth.

You can also go swimming in the Nile, however it is important to ask your tour guide or locals to check if the waters are clean and safe in the area you’re in before you dive in. 

Sun festival at Abu Simbel

Exploring the temple of Abu Simbel any day of the year is one of the essential things to do in Egypt. But there are two dates when this excursion gets even more exciting than usual: 22/2 and 22/10

These dates are known as the Sun festival, when the sun is in perfect position to illuminate the inner sanctum of the Great Temple, the most sacred room in the complex. The construction, ordered by Ramses II, was so well thought out and precise that out of the four statues in the room, the one dedicated to a god of the underworld remains in darkness even in these dates. 

Outside of the temple, thousands of people gather to celebrate with music, dancing and traditional food. It will be crowded, of course, but if you find yourself in Egypt during these two days, the Sun festival is something you simply can’t miss.