Types of Egyptian Vacations and Tours
We receive any number of emails from individuals who wish to travel to Egypt, but have no idea what sort of tours or holidays are available. Actually, people go to Egypt for many different reasons and for many different types of vacations. And vacations to Egypt do not have to fall under a specific type of travel, as many visitors mix and match various types of travel.
Classical Holidays to Egypt
The classic tour of Egypt is mostly Pharaonic (Ancient Egypt), though most of the time this will also include some religious and Islamic sightseeing. The most common classic tour is usually 10 to 14 days, and generally includes Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, though not particularly in that order. Classical tours are often arranged with, or without a Nile Cruise. Typically, such a tour will begin in Cairo, as that is the major airport where most tourists enter Egypt. However, tours of the Cairo area are frequently split between the beginning and end of the trip. For example, a tour might cover the Giza Pyramids (Great Pyramid), as well as Saqqara (Step Pyramid) and even the Egyptian Antiquities museum on the first day of the tour.
Then, after traveling to Luxor and Aswan and returning to Cairo, tours will often visit the Citadel and Khan el-Khalili market in Islamic Cairo and the churches and Coptic museum in Old Cairo. Of course, the tours may not be in this specific order. After the first day or two in Cairo, such tours usually move on to either Luxor or Aswan, usually by air but possibly by train. However, other forms of travel are often arranged, including bus travel. If this is the case, the bus may stop at antiquity sites along the way, such as some of the antiquities near the Fayoum. The next leg of the tour usually begins in either Luxor or Aswan. Luxor is often arranged as either a one or two day tour. In the morning, or one day of a two-day stay, the tour visits the West Bank where many monuments and tombs are to be found, including some of the finest in Egypt. This usually takes place in the morning in order to avoid the heat of the afternoon.
Then, one afternoon or one day will be reserved for the east bank, where the Luxor and Karnak temples are located, as well as the excellent Luxor museum. Other activities might include a visit to the local bazaar. For Aswan further south in Egypt, a day tour is usually sufficient for many, and may include visits to Elephantine Island, St. Simeon's Monastery, the unfinished Obelisk, the Nubian Museum, the High Dam and Philae Island, though time may not permit most standard tours to visit all of these sites. However, a frequent addition to the standard classical tour is the temples at Abu Simbel. This will usually add a day to the Aswan tour. Most tours fly to Abu Simbel and back in one day, leaving some of that time open to expand on the visits to Aswan sites. Other less common tours may bus to Abu Simbel, possibly with a stay in a local hotel there.
If, after Cairo, a tour first ends up in Luxor, the next destination will usually be Aswan, or if Aswan is the first stop, the next destination will usually be Luxor. The most common forms of transport between these two destinations are tour bus or Nile Cruise boat. While one may take a train or even fly between the two destinations, this is usually not done due to the antiquity sites such as the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu, which are located between the two cities.
One might say that there are four different types of Religious Tours. The first type might be considered Islamic tours, but this is outside of the scope of most westernized tours. While westerners frequently visit a few ancient mosques, they usually do not plan an entire tour around Islamic monuments. The other three types of Religious tours include the Holy Family Route, the Exodus Route and unstructured religious tours. Unstructured religious tours simply have no grand plan, such as following the Holy Family or Exodus Route. On the other hand, they may present a more balanced survey of all religious sites in Egypt, including those of both the Holy Family and Exodus Routes. Simply put, the Holy Family and Exodus tours attempt to follow the routes of these holy journeys, while unstructured religious tours may cover a spectrum of religious sites including those on both the Holy Family Route and Exodus Route. In any event, many such religious tours can and often do include visits to the most important pharaonic sites such as the Pyramids and the Egyptian Antiquity museum. Furthermore, unstructured religious tours and the Exodus tours will often include the Sinai, so even a short beach stay might be included.
Adventure and Specialty Tours
Adventure and specialty tours are very often combined with a classical pharaonic tour, though they need not be, and in some specific cases, rarely are. However, some specialty tours are in fact classical tours with a twist. These types of tours very considerably and we cannot probably name every variety possible. However, they include:
Golfing tours almost always include a classical element. This is not a traditional tour at all, so it is difficult to say what the normal tour will include.
However, most usually they include one or two courses in Cairo, then perhaps Luxor and possibly the Red Sea coast or the Sinai. Many such tours are set up for a morning or afternoon of Golf, with the remainder of the day spend sightseeing. However, getting in a round of golf in Egypt does not necessitate taking a golfing tour. A round of golf may be arranged at several locations on a classical tour, or for that matter most any other type of tour, as there are now a variety of courses spread out over Egypt.
One may, of course, fish most anywhere along the Nile, and visitors will see Egyptians doing so even on the bridges and banks in Cairo. However, of growing popularity, as well as being unique, is Lake Nasser fishing. Here, one may find some of the largest fresh water fish in the world, and there are regular fishing expeditions. Because Lake Nasser is just south of Aswan, fishing expeditions to the area may include some classical sightseeing, though often they will not. While somewhat rare, there are also deep sea fishing opportunities in the Red Sea, though one must look around to find them. Specifically, we know of deep-sea fishing boats in Hurghada on the Red Sea Coast and Nuweiba in the Sinai.
Bird watching has been more and more popular in Egypt, as Egypt is on the migratory path of many species of birds. While birds may be found throughout the Nile Valley and the Sinai, the most popular areas appear to be near Aswan, and the Northern Sinai. Bird watching around Aswan is almost always accompanied with a classical tour, and may simply be an addition to a standard classical tour. However, there are few ancient monuments in the Northern Sinai, so these tours rarely involve a classical component.
Most commonly, nature treks occur in the Sinai, and specifically in the mountainous region of middle southern Sinai. Actually, such treks in the Sinai mountains are as much spiritually oriented as nature oriented.
Simple holidays in Egypt are a European tradition dating back over 100 years, when people would visit Aswan and Luxor not for the antiquities, but simply to relax around a pool in a nice hotel and watch the traffic slip down the Nile. Obviously, it would be simple to include a classical element to such holidays, but many people who come to Egypt for this purpose have seen the sights before. They usually come for the warm, dry climate and they include mostly mature adults and families. A good example of a hotel that caters to these vacationers is the Movenpick Jolie Ville in Luxor, which is a complete resort including a golf course.
We currently believe that more people come to Egypt for beach vacations then for any other reason. This might be a surprise to many who would believe that classical tours would lead the pack. But for many Europeans, Egyptian beaches offer the least expensive means of a sand and sea holiday.
Traditionally, the Sinai and Sharm el-Sheikh specifically was for wealthier vacationers, while the Red Sea Coast and Hurghada provided the low-end resorts. However, El-Gouna, just north of Hurghada, has provided the Red Sea Coast with a high-end draw. While these locations are packed with vacationers, a less frantic upper crust vacation can be had in locations such as Soma Bay on the Red Sea, or Taba on the Sinai. Less crowed budget areas include Safaga on the Red Sea and Nuweiba and Dahab on the Sinai. It is not uncommon for beach vacations to include some classical or religious sightseeing. Many beach goers in the Sinai will take some time to visit St. Catherine's Monastery, as well as some of the other religious monuments located on the peninsula. And from either the Sinai or the Red Sea coast, visitors often arrange day or two-day tours to Cairo, Luxor and/or Aswan.
Egypt's Red Sea has some of the best scuba diving in the world, and people come from everywhere to explore the underwater wonders, including pristine reefs and many shipwrecks. Most destinations for scuba diving are the same as for beach vacations. In Sharm el-Sheik, Taba, Dahab and Nuweiba on the Sinai and El Gouna, Hurghada, Soma Bay and Safaga on the Red Sea coast, one will always find dive shops as well as great places to dive. We have also found that many, many people come to Egypt to receive either initial or advanced diving training. Obviously, scuba diving holidays can and usually do involve an element of a standard beach vacation, and most everything pointed out above about beach vacations can be applicable to a scuba diving vacation. The Importance of Add On Tours What makes Egypt really special is the ability to mix and match add-on tours. One may come to Egypt for a classical pharaonic tour, but add a wonderful beach vacation to the itinerary, or come for scuba diving and add a Kenya Safari. Many tour operators are set up to provide almost an endless variety of add-ons to their standard tours. Add-on tours are most common for either classical or religious tours. However, most any tour or vacation to Egypt may have an add-on, and some add on tours end up being complete tours for some people. Add on tours usually involve a specific destination. They include:
Western or Eastern Deser
t The Western desert is becoming more and more popular with tourists. The current rage is the Bahariya oasis, where the valley of the golden Mummies was discovered not too long ago, and where new discoveries seem to be cropping up almost continuously. However, the Siwa Oasis where Alexander the Great visited the Oracle of Amun in 331 BC has been for many years a consistent favorite among the oasis. While the Western desert is sometimes the primary destination for tours, it is more often an add-on for the more common classical tours. The Eastern desert is virtually never a primary destination for tours.
The Sinai is often a primary destination for beach vacations and even occasionally for complete religious and trekking tours. However, it is also often an add-on, particularly for religious tours, to various other tours for the same reasons.
Add-on tours to Petra in Jordan are common, and usually involve only a day or short tour from Egypt. Jordan is very hospitable to tourists. Tours to Petra are most often an extension of a classical tour.
Surprisingly, more than a few people who come to Egypt arrange for a Kenya safari, either before and or after the Egypt leg of the trip.
In the past, Israel as often been an add-on for Egyptian tours, and sometimes Egypt has been an add-on for Israeli tours. Obviously the two locations go hand in hand when considering a Holy Lands tour. However, with the recent political problems in Israel, few tourists are scheduling this particular add on.
Last Updated: June 13th, 2011