In our last article, we already introduced you to the vegan delights of Egypt. This one is about highlights as well – but about the touristic ones. We’ll tell you which cities and attractions to visit away from the all-inclusive facilities and which ones we liked best. Because Egypt has much more to offer than just the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza!
All Places at a Glance
For a better overview, we created a map with all the recommended cities (gray) and sights (yellow):
The Ideal Travel Time
As you can see from our route, we were in Egypt from late January to late March. Why we chose this destination, you could already read in our last post. For starters, we landed in Hurghada, the most touristic place of Egypt par excellence.
Finally, the 40-kilometer-long (25 miles) stretch of coastline on the Red Sea, with 8 to 9 hours of sunshine a day, offers guaranteed sun even in winter. Rainfall hardly ever occurs in this part of Egypt, the daytime temperatures vary between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius (68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and the sea – at around 22 degrees (~72 degrees Fahrenheit) – is suitable for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Only at night, temperatures can drop to 10 degrees (50 degrees Fahrenheit). Overall, the subtropical desert climate is much more enjoyable in winter than in summer, when temperatures are likely to climb over 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
So if you want to spend a pure beach holiday on the coast of Egypt and do not shy away from very high temperatures, the warmer months from April to November are ideal for you.
On the other hand, if you want to travel the country as a whole, without attracting attention with short clothing or suffering a heat-collapse, prefer traveling during the cooler winter months from December to March. Even in these months, there are enough warm days to take a boat trip to the stunning Giftun Islands, for example.
Caribbean Feeling on the Red Sea
Founded only at the beginning of the 20th century, Hurghada was a small, unknown fishing village until the late 1970s. You can partly see this in El Dahar, the oldest district, which is also known as Downtown Hurghada. The typical Egyptian life still takes place here in the many souks (Arabian markets).
However, the rest of the city has changed a lot due to the many package holiday-makers coming from the international airport: in the south of Hurghada countless hotel resorts line up along the beaches along the coast. Also in the new town of Al-Sakalla there are many hotels, as well as very touristy restaurants and shops, where – as in all of Egypt – haggling and bargaining should not be forgotten!
Here, right next to the proper port of Hurghada, is also Hurghada Marina, a yacht harbor with a promenade, which is full of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. From here, you can already see the two minarets of the El Mina Mosque completed in 2012. The example of modern Arabic architecture is just a few steps north of the marina.
In Hurghada, we can highly recommend a snorkel trip to the Giftun Island National Park! The islands, which are only a few kilometers away from the mainland, seem downright paradisiacal with their gently sloping sandy beach and the crystal-clear, turquoise waters.
Although we had read that unfortunately many of the corals around Hurghada are already destroyed, we were still able to see some plants, fish and other marine life under water, which we previously only knew from photos.
We booked the trip at Golden Rose Hotel for 10 euros, other participants paid a lot more in their hotels for exactly the same trip. Later we booked another snorkeling trip at Zak Apartements for about 8.50 Euro, where we even saw dolphins in the open sea.
Also not far from Hurghada is El Gouna, the flagship project on the Red Sea. In the modern resort with numerous artificial lagoons, coral reefs and sandy beaches, environmental awareness is a main topic. For example, there is a separate seawater desalination plant and a well-organized waste separation.
In addition to the many villas and hotels, the 22,000-inhabitant city offers schools, a hospital, spin-offs from well-known universities (including the TU Berlin) and a German tourism school. You can move around either in a tuk-tuk or by water taxi, which can bring you almost everywhere through the many channels. Therefore, El Gouna is also called the Venice of Egypt.
Due to the high price level, we did not stay here, but made a day trip from Hurghada. From Dahar Square in Hurghada, a GoBus leaves to El Gouna every fifteen minutes for 10 Egyptian pounds.
With Marsa Alam, there is another popular resort just 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Hurghada on the Red Sea. However, it could not convince us. Due to its quite huge reputation we wanted to mention it here anyway.
The city of Qena, also written Qina, can be reached from Luxor by train or bus. Here, you will find one of the most important temple sites of Egypt: the Temple of Hathor. As the name indicates, it is dedicated to the goddess Hathor. However, the Hathor pillars, the symbol of the temple, were badly damaged by early Christians to obliterate the images of the pagan goddess.
The hall ceiling, in which the paint is still visible, carries a complex and finely crafted star chart with signs of the zodiac and images of the goddess of the sky, Nut, who devours the sun disc in the evening and bears it back to the world in the morning. The today’s temple complex is one of the best preserved Egyptian temples of that time.
The then Ipet reset functioned in ancient Egypt as a temple district, which was part of the ancient Egyptian royal capital of Thebes. Today, Luxor – “the city of palaces” – is a tourist center and the largest Upper Egyptian city.
Here, you can find some of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt: for example, the Luxor and Karnak temples in the center and north of the city, as well as the Valley of the Kings and the ancient Egyptian temple ruins in Thebes West, the western bank of the Nile. There are also the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon.
To get to the other bank of the Nile, it’s best to use the National Ferry, which costs only 1 pound (about 5 cents) per person per way. There is no set timetable: ferries depart when they are full or when a decent period of time has passed.