|Region||Middle East & North Africa|
Day 1 - Starting: Cairo & Finishing: 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 in the evening. 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.
Day 2 - Starting: Cairo – overnight train & Finishing: Cairo – overnight train
After breakfast, visit the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities; it exhibits many of the region's treasures and is the perfect introduction to your tour. Your expert guide will take you through Egypt's rich and fascinating dynastic history. Afterwards you'll have some free time to explore on your own. You may wish to visit the Royal Mummy Room, home to some of the country's most important queens and pharaohs from 1650 to 945 BC (this is optional and at extra cost). Your next stop is 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, these pharaonic tombs are incredible to see up close. There's the option of going inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), although occasionally it may be closed to visitors. Return to your hotel, freshen up, pack your things and transfer to the station for your overnight train to Luxor (approximately 10 hours). Notes: Sleeping berths (beds and linen) are provided in private cabins and an airline-style dinner will be served. It is worth bringing additional snacks; your tour leader can help you arrange this. Facilities are located at the end of each carriage.
Day 3 - Starting: Luxor & Finishing: Luxor
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. 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. Later in the day you will a take a horse-drawn carriage 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. 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. Notes: Audits were carried out on balloon operators within Egypt to confirm the safety of their operations, unfortunately we were not able to ascertain the safety standards of these balloon operators- therefore, we are not able to recommend or assist in the booking of any balloon excursions.
Day 4 - Starting: Valley of the Kings – Luxor – Nile Cruise & Finishing: Valley of the Kings – Luxor – Nile Cruise
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. Notes: Entry to Tutankhamun's small tomb is quite limited and incurs an additional cost.
Day 5 - Starting: Nile Cruise & Finishing: Nile Cruise
Morning finds you moored near Edfu, a beautifully preserved temple dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god. You will disembark and explore the temple, and get acquainted the lively town centre. Returning to the cruise boat, 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. After arriving at Komombo around 4 pm, your short walk around the Temple of Sobek (the crocodile-headed god), which sits picturesquely ruined on the river's edge, provides an interesting insight into the Greco-Roman period. Board your boat again at around 6 pm and continue to Aswan, arriving at around 9.30 pm.
Day 6 - Starting: Aswan & Finishing: Aswan
Explore Aswan today, Egypt's southernmost city. Its easygoing charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Depending on your arrival time, you may visit the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island (alternatively you will visit it tomorrow). It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. The rest of your day will be free to wander, and Aswan is a great place for it. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is recommended by many. 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 7 - Starting: Aswan & Finishing: Aswan
Disembark the cruise boat and check into your hotel. A highly recommended optional activity is to visit Abu Simbel this morning. 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, take a camel ride 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 friendly bazaar. In the evening you will visit a Nubian village and enjoy the warm hospitality (and cuisine) of these locals. You will also be treated to some Nubian dancing, and may even have the chance to try some moves yourself. Notes: The departure time for Abu Simbel is between 5am and 6am.
Day 8 - Starting: Cairo & Finishing: Cairo
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 and the Gayer-Anderson Museum. 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. Its perfectly proportioned courtyard and distinctive minaret make it a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. Nearby stands the Gayer-Anderson Museum, housed in two fine old villas and vaunting a fascinating collection of Arabic artefacts, furniture and memorabilia. This evening you will get to share an authentic Egyptian meal with a local family. Visit a family home, chat with the local family members about life in the Middle East, and learn some of your favourite traditional Egyptian dishes while enjoying a delicious dinner
Day 9 - Starting: Cairo & Finishing: Cairo
Your trip will come to an end today after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Cairo.View Dates