Egypt is a country full of culture, history, and great sights and therefore worth a visit. In early 2018, I backpacked Egypt from Cairo along the Nile to the south, to Luxor and Aswan and to the border with Sudan. I will tell you about some of the greatest sights while backpacking Egypt that I saw on my trip!
Backpacking Egypt – Places to Visit in Cairo
• The Pyramids of Giza (Cairo)
The Great Pyramids of Giza are of course the absolute top attraction of Egypt and my expectations were not disappointed. You can reach the pyramids in the best and cheapest way with an Uber. The entrance to the pyramids is very cheap (about 2 €), but if you want to see the pyramids from the inside you have to buy an extra ticket right at the entrance. Everything is very crowded right by the pyramids, but I was surprised to see only a few foreign tourists, most of the other tourists were from Egypt. Of course you will be addressed continuously as everywhere in Egypt the dealers want to sell camel rides, tours, etc.; however, you can also explore the grounds by foot alone.
Highly recommended is the viewpoint behind the pyramids in the desert, which can be reached by foot in 20-30 minutes and from which you have a great panorama of all the pyramids.
• The Muslim Quarter of Cairo and the Al-Hakim Mosque
The Muslim district in Cairo is probably the most interesting sight of Egypt’s capital for me. There are narrow streets, beautiful mosques, colorful markets – everything, with which one associates Egypt! Especially the beautiful Al-Hakim Mosque which is located near the Muslim district in Cairo and which is definitely worth a visit. The mosque is a place of rest and it’s perfect to recover from the noise and stress of Cairo.
• The Citadel of Saladin
Saladin’s impressive Citadel is higher up in historic Cairo and offers great views over the city. The visit is worthwhile especially at sunset. In the Citadel complex, there is also a large and beautiful mosque.
Backpacking Egypt – Places to Visit in Luxor
• A ride in the hot air balloon in Luxor
The best view of Luxor is from the top! A hot air balloon ride was one of my best experiences backpacking Egypt. The flight will start early in the morning and you will enjoy great views of some of Egypt’s best sites, including the Valley of the Kings and the famous Hatshepsut Temple. From above you can see Luxor along the Nile with the green fields around it, as well as the barren and dry Sahara desert right next to it. There are many different providers for a hot air balloon flight in Luxor, I decided, after some research, for Magic Horizon. This company has a lot of positive reviews, nice and competent pilots and I can only recommend them. While other providers already started landing after half an hour, we were almost twice as long in the air with Magic Horizon!
• The Valley of the Kings and Queens in Luxor
On the west side of the Nile at Luxor are the two famous valleys full of burial chambers, of which unfortunately no photographs are allowed. With the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, you can look at 3 burial chambers from inside. In the Valley of the Queens, the tomb of Nefertiti is considered the most beautiful of all tombs – though you have to pay extra, the paintings are so well preserved that it is difficult to imagine that the tomb is several hundred years old. Very important – if you have a student card, take it with you, you get 50% discount everywhere and your budget for backpacking Egypt will be much lower.
• The temples around Luxor
The various temples in and around Luxor are some of the greatest Egyptian sights and worth a visit. Right in the city’s center is the Luxor Temple, which is especially worth a visit at night because of its lighting. Just north of the city center, visit the Karnak Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in the world! On the other side of the Nile, near the Tale of the Kings, is the Hatshepsut Temple walled in the rock, which I was allowed to admire during my hot air balloon ride from above.
Backpacking Egypt – Places to Visit in Aswan
• The Tombs of Aswan
The tombs of Aswan are much worse preserved than the tombs in Luxor, but they are worth the short boat trip to the other side of the Nile and the climb to the graves thanks to the great view. From the top of the sand dunes, you can enjoy an amazing view of Aswan, the Nile, and the Sahara right next to it.
• The Temple of Philae
The Temple of Philae (ISIS Temple) is located just outside of Aswan on an island. The temple complex is beautifully preserved, but I had a not-so-nice experience – the temple is only accessible by boat and I wanted to share the boat with friendly Egyptians. However, this was forbidden because I was a foreigner – I should not share a boat with my friends, but I have to take my own boat (which of course costs twice as much as usual). This brazen rip-off (especially since I already paid a lot more than Egyptians for the temple ticket) left a bitter aftertaste in my backpacking trip in Egypt.
• Abu Simbel
The temple complex of Abu Simbel is far to the south of Egypt, near the border with Sudan and therefore a bit off the beaten track, but worth the visit all the more. Unfortunately, you are dependent on organized tours from Aswan, the early morning start at 5 o’clock and fortunately quite cheap (about 8 euros). In the minivan, it goes through the desert to the south, so that you arrive in the morning, at 8 o’clock, at the Abu Simbel temple. There you have about 2 hours (more than enough) to explore the two temples of Abu Simbel, before returning to Aswan, where you arrive around noon.
The only problem with the tours is that all the tour operators actually arrive at Abu Simbel at the same time and it is extremely crowded at that hour, which makes beautiful photos in front of the temple almost impossible. The alternative is either a private tour at a different time or to spend one night in the village of Abu Simbel to be able to visit the temple flexibly.
As you can see, backpacking Egypt is definitely worth it and you must not miss these sights on your next holiday in Egypt! Have you backpacked around Egypt already? Which attraction impressed you the most?