Though I suspected it to be true (and booked the 13-day King Ramses tour to investigate for myself!), nothing prepared me for the sheer quantity of breathtaking historic sites in Egypt. I was spoiled for choice and so overwhelmed with the grandeur of each temple and pyramid. Here are my top picks out of all the classic spots in Egypt. What are your favorites?
The Pyramids of Giza & The Great Sphinx
The oldest of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the three main Pyramids of Giza are the focal point of the Giza necropolis, and pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure were interred within in the 3rd millennium BC. Even before you arrive, you know they’re going to be big, but you can’t imagine just HOW impressive the Pyramids of Giza are once they pop into view. With the Great Sphinx keeping watch, it’s no wonder these magnificent structures have remained intact for thousands of years. For an unforgettable photo opportunity, hire a camel and wander around the surrounding desert for a bit. You’ll feel like a pharaoh and will have some great shots to share on Facebook!
Queen Hatshepsut’s Tomb & Valley of the Kings
Queen Hatshepsut is regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs Egypt ever had, and most notably, she was one of ancient Egypt’s most prolific builders. Her most recognizable legacy is her tomb which was the first to be carved into the Valley of the Kings on Luxor’s outskirts. While I enjoyed wandering around her symmetrical tomb one afternoon, the view was most unforgettable at sunrise from a hot air balloon.
In the Valley of the Kings, a number of the 60 excavated sites are open for visitors, including King Tut’s infamous tomb. I was surprised at how vivid the colors are on the hieroglyphs inside, probably due in part to the fact that photography is not allowed.
Following construction of the first Aswan Dam in the early 1900s, the original site of the Philae Temple was often flooded and its original colors were washed away. Enter UNESCO, who spearheaded a project to create a dam around the island, pump all the remaining water out, then move the temple, brick by brick, to a nearby island that would never flood. The temple as it stands now is reachable only by boat. On site, you’ll find the Temple of Isis, the Gateway of Diocletian and the Chapel of Osiris.
For a different perspective, visit Luxor Temple at night, when the lights and shadows make it just a tiny bit spooky. The temple, situated on the east bank of the Nile, is actually a large complex consisting of contributions from Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis II, Tuthmosis III, Amenhotep III, Alexander and Rameses II. During Roman times, the temple served as headquarters for the Roman government. There are remains of a mosque and a Christian church on site, as Luxor Temple has been used as a place of worship for thousands of years up until almost present day.
Edfu & Kom Ombo
Between Aswan and Luxor, the preferred mode of transportation is felucca, a small sailboat not unlike a floating bed. As you leisurely travel north on the Nile, don’t forget to stop at the temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo. Edfu is a Ptolemaic temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Horus, and it’s his temple here that’s known as the best preserved in classical Egypt.
In the second century BC, Kom Ombo was constructed on the banks of the Nile. Special features include temples to Apollo and Isis, a crocodile pit, a Nilometer used to measure the river level and engravings of surgical medical instruments like scalpels dating from the days of Roman Egypt.
Thanks Angie! Stay tuned for more tales from Egypt.