The land of the Pharaohs has always attracted intrepid travellers eager to learn about its rich history, admire its beautiful temples and be enchanted by its world-famous pyramids. But anyone who thinks Egypt is only worth visiting to add these golden beauties to your Insta feed is sorely mistaken! When you backpack through Egypt, you’ll soon discover that there’s so much more to enjoy about this magical country, its welcoming people and fascinating culture. Sun-kissed beaches, clear waters, endless sandy deserts, dreamy oases and buzzing cities offer endless opportunities for the perfect trip. In order to make sure that you don’t miss anything essential along the way, I’ve collected the best things to do in Egypt – yalla beena!
Discover the mysteries of the pyramids
No visit to Egypt would be complete without a visit to The Pyramids of Giza. It’ll blow your mind to think that these impressive constructions were built thousands of years ago. Scientists have been racking their brains over how the ancient Egyptians were able to achieve this without modern technology for centuries! The architectural masterpiece and biggest pyramid – the Great Pyramid of Giza – is the only ancient Wonder of the World that still exists. If you don’t suffer from claustrophobia you must climb into the pyramid and get a glimpse of the maze from within.
Get your culture fix at the Egyptian Museum
If you’re interested in the ancient history of Egypt – which I’m guessing you are – then this is the place to be! Right by the Tahrir Square in the middle of bustling Cairo you’ll find the impressive Egyptian Museum, which holds the biggest collection of ancient Egyptian art worldwide. Whether you have an obsession with ancient jewellery, are fascinated by mummies or want to come face to face with King Tutankhamun’s mask, you’ll find it all and more among this trove of wonders.
Watch the sunset from a Felucca on the Nile
There is no better way to escape the noisy street sounds of Cairo than by catching a felucca. Feluccas are traditional wooden sailing boats that can be rented in Cairo and offer a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Nile away from crowds and noise. Grab your new-found hostel friends, some food and have a little picnic while watching the sun set over Cairo’s skyline – it doesn’t get much better than this.
Stroll around Khan el-Khalili
Khan el-Khalili is one of the biggest bazaars in Cairo’s Arab region and offers pretty much anything you could imagine: souvenirs, exotic spices, leather items, beautiful lamps, carpets, jewellery… seriously, anything! It’s impossible to cover all of its narrow streets and alleys, but if you get lost you’ll only end up discovering some hidden treasures – so go for it! And even if you don’t have shopaholic tendencies, the bazaar is perfect for trying some traditional food, smoking a shisha, strolling around and getting to know the old city. Make sure you visit the Ibn-Tulun-Mosque, the Gayer-Anderson-Museum and Bayt-el-Suhaimi, all beautifully maintained Ottoman buildings in the nearby vicinity.
Try traditional Egyptian food
If you’re into Middle Eastern cuisine then I hope you’ve brought your eating pants – if not, you better grab a pair at Khan el-Khalili! Whether you need your meat fix with some juicy shawarma or kofta, or you’re looking to try delicious vegetarian dishes like mahshy (rice-stuffed vegetables) or molokheya (a soup-like plant dish), Egyptian food offers something for everyone that’s guaranteed to leave your belly feeling happy. One dish you should absolutely not miss is koshary, the national Egyptian dish. While it sounds simple – rice, noodles, lentils, roasted onions and tomato sauce – you’ll be surprised by how flavor-packed it is. It’s usually served on the street, so it’s tasty for your wallet too!
Explore the Sinai Peninsula
Mighty mountains, sandy beaches and clear blue waters make the Sinai Peninsula a little paradise on earth. Spending an evening lying on its beaches and gazing up at the clear, starry sky is an out of this world experience that’ll have you falling in love with Egypt all over again.
In the south of the region is Mount Sinai, a place of religious significance and exceptional beauty where it’s believed Moses received the 10 commandments from God. For unforgettable views and a truly spiritual experience, I’d highly recommend climbing it. Make sure you get up early and start the hike from St. Katherine’s monastery in time to reach the top of the mountain before the sun comes out. Yes, I know, getting up early is no fun. But your discipline and effort will be rewarded with a sunrise that you’ll never forget.
Travel to the past in Luxor
Luxor is often called the biggest open-air museum in the world, so prepare to be transported back to the time of the Pharaohs. On the Nile where Thebes (the former capital city of the Egyptian Empire) was situated, numerous ancient temples still shape the city’s appearance and invite you on a magical trip to the past. Discover the temple of Karnak, the Luxor temple, the temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon – the size and beauty of these structures will leave you speechless. On the other side of the river you can discover the Valley of the Kings, a collection of hidden underground mausoleums where numerous Pharaohs and their relatives have been buried. Even though most graves were robbed by thieves before they were discovered by scientists, the paintings on the walls remain and the valley stays as impressive and mysterious as ever.
Try out kitesurfing in El Gouna
El Gouna is a popular kitesurfing spot that’s perfect for all abilities – even newbies. There are several schools that offer beginner courses here, so hop on the board and let’s get started! After your daily training, El Gouna is the perfect place to spoil your sore muscles. White sandy beaches, turquoise water and beautiful lagoons invite you to just relax and forget about your daily worries. No wonder El Gouna is often called the Egyptian Maldives!
Spend a night in Farsha Mountain Lounge in Sharm El Sheikh
What could be better than finishing your day with a shisha and a good cocktail on some cosy cushions while enjoying a sunset over the sea? Farsha Mountain Lounge is one of the most beautiful cafés in Egypt with a traditional vibe. Its location is breathtaking, as it’s built into a cliff with a fantastic view of the ocean. It’s also a great place to meet other travellers as you’ll normally share a table with some strangers – before you know it you’ll find yourself caught up in conversations, making new friends and wishing the night would never end.
Dive and snorkel in the Red Sea
Whether it’s in Hurghada or Marsaallam (or any of the countless beautiful spots on the coastline), the underwater world of the Red Sea is marvellous and should not be missed on your Egyptian backpacking trip. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into diving or prefer staying close to the surface with a snorkel, you’ll be enchanted by the sheer diversity of the underwater world here. Colorful corals, fish of all shapes and sizes, sea turtles, rays, dolphins – you’ll never get enough of the natural beauty living just beneath the surface of the Red Sea.
Steady winds and calm waters make the Red Sea a perfect spot for windsurfing! For beginners it’s much easier to learn than kitesurfing, so you can probably get a hang of the basics in a day. Spend the rest of your time maneuvering over and falling into the water, enjoying the sun and learning new tricks.
Sandboarding in the desert
Endless plains, high sandy dunes – yep, the Egyptian desert is perfect for sandboarding! The desert close to the Bahariya Oasis is a popular spot for travellers to hop on the board and glide down the dunes. See if you can get all the way down without falling off! When in Bahariya, try to visit the White and Black Deserts, two beautiful deserts that are characterised by the special stones and chalk rock sculptures that can be found there.
Enjoy the simple life in Siwa
A bit isolated from the rest of Egypt, the Siwa oasis lies in the West of the country. But the long journey is more than worth the effort! Beautiful landscapes, an epic salt lake, breathtaking sunsets, starry skies…there are so many reasons to come to Siwa. Many eco-lodges here only offer the absolute necessities, which means the perfect opportunity to disconnect from social media and reconnect with nature. Siwa is the home of the indigenous Amazigh people who are famous for their traditional arts craft. If you want to support this special community, make sure to check out their beautiful embroidery and jewellery!