Day 1: Australia –– Cairo
Depart Australia today to begin your incredible Egyptian adventure!
Please note: Some flights may depart 1 day later
Day 2: Cairo
Arrive at Cairo International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day, so you may arrive in Cairo at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city, but an important welcome meeting will be held at 6pm this evening. Please check the hotel reception for details. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can perhaps be symbolised by two imposing landmarks – the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. In free time perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts, where you can see donkey carts and expensive cars, medieval slums and modern shopping malls.
Hotel: Mercure Le Sphinx or similar
Day 3: Cairo –– Luxor (B,D)
This morning after breakfast drive out to Giza, home to perhaps the greatest iconic structures ever created by man – the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is captivating. For an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), although occasionally it may be closed to visitors (payable locally). The Egyptian Museum is simply one of the world’s great museums, home to a stupendous collection of antiquities and the perfect introduction to your tour, exhibiting many of the region’s treasures. You will head there after lunch and your expert guide will take you through Egypt’s rich and fascinating dynastic history. You will then have some free time to explore on your own.
Afterwards you will return to your hotel before you are transferred to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Luxor.
Accommodation aboard the overnight train is in two-berth cabins which convert to bunk beds. All bedding is provided on board and western-style toilets are located in each carriage. Your bags will be stored in your cabin, where airline-style dinner and breakfast will be served. However it may be worth bringing some additional snacks, especially if you are vegetarian or have dietary requirements. Your tour leader can help you to arrange this.
Day 4: Luxor – Embark on Nile Cruise (B,L,D)
After an early breakfast on board, the train rolls into Luxor. It’s a vibrant place with an excellent bazaar, situated close to some of ancient Egypt’s most important and extraordinary sights. Travel to Karnak, one of the world’s most celebrated temple complexes, built over a period of some 200 years, and some of it dating back to 2,055 BC. Your guided tour of the temple reveals its finest sections. Later you will be transferred to your Nile cruise boat, which will be your home for the next four nights. You can relax by the pool on the boat or explore the town. For the rest of the afternoon and evening you will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local tea house.
Day 5: Valley of the Kings, Edfu (B,L,D)
Rise early this morning and head into the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. Explore this sprawling and spectacular place where discoveries are still being made. Tutankhamun’s final resting place is also located here, and you’ll have free time to visit it. Your guide will explain the funerary rites of the ancient Egyptians and significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics. You will visit three royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre. Your final stop is the Colossi of Memnon – giant statues that were once part of an impressive colonnade. Enjoy lunch upon your return to the boat. There is time to relax on deck or in your cabin before you set sail for Edfu. Generally the journey from Luxor to Edfu is from 1 pm to 11 pm. Departure time may vary, depending on river traffic – please refer to the note regarding cruise schedules in the ‘Other Information’ section. You will pass through Esna Lock, which can sometimes be a slow process depending on the number of vessels waiting to get through, and continue your journey upstream on board your deluxe ship.
Day 6: Edfu, Kom Ombo, Aswan (B,L,D)
Morning finds you moored near Edfu, a beautifully preserved temple dedicated to Horus. Continue travelling upriver, relaxing on the sundeck and taking in the surrounding sights – desert hills forming a backdrop to lush riverbanks, fishermen casting their nets and farmers working their land. This afternoon we will arrive at Kom Ombo temple (about 45km north of Aswan city) which sits picturesquely ruined on the river’s edge and provides an interesting insight into the Greco-Roman period. The temple was built approx. 181BC and is dedicated to 2 Gods; Horus the protection god and Sobek fertility god linked to the Nile Water. The temple consists of 2 identical northern sections the North and South each dedicated to either god. In the Sobek section recent discoveries have been made of mummified Crocodiles, which are now displayed in the Crocodile museum attached to the temple – don’t miss it! Board your boat again at around 6pm and continue to Aswan, arriving at around 9.30 pm.
Day 7: Aswan (B,L,D)
Your day will be free to wander and Aswan is a great place for it. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan’s ‘corniche’, runs alongside one of Nile’s most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. Watch the waterfront come alive at dusk, as families are out strolling, socialising and relaxing along the corniche.
Day 8: Aswan – Abu Simbel – Aswan (B)
This morning disembark from your cruise and board a coach for the drive to visit the iconic Abu Simbel. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt’s most memorable sights. The rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular afternoon option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener’s Island. Alternatively travel to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile’s west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply relax by the hotel pool or do some shopping in the local bazaar.
Day 9: Aswan –– Cairo (B)
After breakfast you will be transferred to Aswan airport for the short flight back to Cairo (approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes) where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Today you will dive into another layer of Egyptian history: medieval Cairo. Head to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo’s oldest mosque
The ‘Khan’, sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. It retains a distinctly medieval feel. You will explore the gold market, ‘perfume street’ and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth (which can be purchased next door in the cloth market). The gorgeous 9th-century Ibn Tulun Mosque is one of the oldest and largest in Egypt, possibly its most beautiful too.
Day 10: Cairo – Alexandria (B)
Today we drive the ‘desert road’ to the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria (approximately 3 hours). Egypt’s second largest city and main port, locals call this vibrant city the Bride of the Mediterranean Sea. On arrival in Alexandria, take an orientation walking tour with your leader. The Greek architect Dinocrates built Alexandria in 331 BC under the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalising Alexander’s name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual, political and economic metropolis. It was the renowned capital of Ancient Egypt’s last royal dynasty, the Ptolemies, and the site of the Pharos. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this lighthouse acted as a beacon, guiding sailors away from this notoriously treacherous stretch of coastline. Take some time to stroll along the Corniche and take in some fresh Mediterranean air. Alexandria at night is not to missed, with the whole city lighting up.
Head underground and delve into the mysteries of the Kom ash-Shuqqafa catacombs. This Roman burial site is the largest of its kind in Egypt and was discovered, quite accidentally, by a hapless donkey. The crypts are 20 metres below street level, and what probably began as a small family tomb grew into a labyrinth of chambers that could accommodate more than 300 bodies. Murals and reliefs inside show how Alexandria was a place where Egyptian and Greek funerary myths coexisted.
In any free time, perhaps take the opportunity to see the Citadel of Qaitbay, a fortress overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, where the famous lighthouse once stood.
Day 11: Alexandria – El Alamin – Cairo (B,L)
Today you’ll head back to a more recent period in Egyptian history with a visit to El Alamein and the war museum located there. El Alamein sits on the Mediterranean Sea, 106 kilometres west of Alexandria, and it played an important role in significant World War II battles. The area was a turning point in the North African campaign, where the Allies held out against, and eventually pushed back and defeated, the Afrika Korps of Rommel. The importance of El Alamein was highlighted by Winston Churchill, who said “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.” The area contains a number of memorials from the countries who lost soldiers here – Greece, South Africa, Australia, Italy – as well as a war cemetery that’s home to the graves and names of the thousands who lost their lives, from places as diverse as Britain, India, Melanesia, Malaysia, and New Zealand. In the museum, discover the story of what unfolded here, you’ll then leave Alexandria and return to Cairo.
Day 12: Cairo –– Australia (B)
After breakfast, the day is at leisure. At the appropriate time, make your way to the airport to board your homeward flight.
Day 13: Australia
Arrive home today.