Egypt’s Famous Five
Attractions not to be missed and tips to help you best navigate them
Egypt is a treasure trove of history and culture, that has fascinated curious travellers for hundreds of years. From world famous historic structures, bustling cities and stunning desert landscapes, to the lush greenery and mysterious temples of the Nile. With so much to see and experience, fitting it all in can seem daunting, this blog aims to tell you about the true Egyptian ‘must see’s’ and some travel tips to help along the way.
1. The Pyramids of Giza
For many the mention of Egypt immediately conjures up images of these towering stone peaks and for good reason, the pyramids are one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks on the planet, being the last surviving ancient wonder of the world. An interesting fact to highlight how ancient these enduring structures really are is that at the time of their construction Woolly Mammoths still roamed the earth, almost unbelievable but true!. Alongside the pyramids themselves is the great Sphinx that stands guard nearby and is also undoubtedly worth seeing with your own eyes.
Given the fame of this attraction the surrounding area can become extremely busy at peak times slightly taking from the experience and immersion, therefore its recommended to go as early as possible to beat the crowds, the temperatures will also be cooler and provides the opportunity to take photos without crowds in the background. Also, its recommended to wear practical and comfortable footwear, despite being near Cairo the area around the site is very sandy and rocky.
2. Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel is an historic UNESCO world heritage site in southern Egypt and can be considered one of the pinnacles of ancient Egyptian civilisation, the site consists of two massive rock temples – the Great Temple of Ramses II and the Small Temple of Nefatari. Despite its remote location the historic pilgrimage is worth it, you will be stunned by the four towering 20-metre-tall statues adorning the temples entrance and the winding tunnels and chambers found within. Interestingly the Temples themselves actually had to be relocated in the 1960s to avoid flooding, with the government actually deconstructing and reconstructing each block at higher ground – an astonishing logistical and engineering undertaking.
Despite being a roughly 6 hour journey, many claim this site is the highlight of the trip so the journey is definitely worth it, there are a number of ways to reach Abu Simbel, you can opt for a private transfer however it is also possible to take a one hour flight instead, and if you are lucky enough to be on the left side of the plane you can even get an Ariel view of the temples as you fly over.
3. Luxor Temple and the Avenue of Sphinx’s
Luxor Temple itself is stunning, with intricately carved stone pillars and statues of vast proportion that are impressive for even modern standards, let alone the time of its construction by pharaoh Amenhotep III in 1390 BC. Wandering through its courtyards and avenues really take you back in time, unlike some of the other attractions on this list, Luxor Temple is very conveniently located right in the heart of the city meaning you can visit it any time during your stay in the region without much planning necessary. Interestingly towards the back of the temple you can visit a wall where Alexander the Great once carved his name during his conquests. Outside the temple is a long avenue that was recently discovered hiding under the sand, it is lined by over 1000 individual sphinx statues and makes for quite the memorable stroll.
It is highly recommended to visit the temple at night, after dark they illuminate the complex’s various structures with lights which creates an even more dramatic and atmospheric experience. Feeling the cool Egyptian evening breeze as you stroll down the lit-up avenue of Sphinx towards the towering Obelisks at the front of the temple is not something you are ever likely to forget.
4. The Valley of the Kings
The Valley is located on the West Bank of the River Nile near to the ancient city of Luxor and serves as the famed resting place of many of Egypt’s Pharaohs, with 63 known tombs dotted all over the place all within walking proximity of one another. It’s possible to enter and explore many of these tombs which have intricate carvings and paintings adorning the walls, that were once sealed in, preserving them from the test of time. There is something very exciting about escaping the Egyptian sun as you descend into the steep and twisting tunnels of the tombs, it almost feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. This is also where the resting place of Tutankhamun and the accompanying treasures were discovered, with his tomb being of particular importance due to it going undetected by tomb robbers and still containing items such as a solid gold mask and chariots at the time of its discovery.
It is important to plan ahead before your visit to the Valley of the Kings, this is because there are a huge number of different tombs to visit however standard entry tickets only permit the entrance to 3 different tombs per person, therefore it’s advisable to decide which tombs you are most interested in seeing in advance to make the most of your visit.
5. Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
Enveloped by towering limestone cliffs, this Temple dramatically blends into its surrounding scenery, composed of pillars and statues set across multiple tiers this structure is considered one of the most beautiful and well preserved in all of Egypt. It was constructed during the reign of Pharoah Hatshepsut from 1479 to 1458 BC, who was one of the few female Pharaohs to ever rule. She interestingly declared herself to be a man, portraying herself in statues with a male body and a false beard, she is praised for bringing a period of prosperity and stability. The temple itself is designed to resemble a palace and its design is unique within Egyptian architecture. The Temple itself is located right next to the Valley of the Kings which puts in a convenient position to visit in one trip alongside the tombs.
When visiting the Temple, you will have to pass through a mini souk in order to reach the site itself, expect a very enthusiastic welcome from the vendors who are very insistent on you purchasing their wares, so unless you are in search of an overpriced plastic pyramid its best to keep your head down and keep walking, they will eventually lose interest.
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