Day 1 Cairo
You are welcome to arrive in Cairo at any time, as today is a designated arrival day with no planned activities. Please note that there will be an important welcome meeting this evening at our joining hotel. Please check the hotel notice board for more information on the location of this meeting or ask at reception. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to this meeting, as you will be required to fill out some important pre-trip admin documents.Your tipping kitty will be collected as this time (please refer to the "tipping" section of these notes for more information). After learning more about our tour and plans for the following day, you are welcome to join our leader and your travelling companions for an optional dinner nearby. If you arrive early there are plenty of things to see and do in this amazing city. Visit the Saladin Citadel of Cairo one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, or to really get a feel for the place, get lost in the bazaars and join the locals for a coffee in a local cafe.
Day 2 Cairo/Alexandria (1B)
We begin Day 2 with one of the real highlights of any visit to Egypt, the Great Pyramids of Giza. While once located in remote desert, they now touch the suburbs of modern Cairo. No matter how many photos or documentaries you have seen, your first glimpse of these marvels of the ancient world will take your breath away. As a qualified Egyptologist, your tour leader is able to expertly explain the facts and myths behind these three mammoth works of art. You will also visit the mysterious Sphinx, with its lion’s body and man’s face. Time permitting, there may be the chance to see inside one of the two smaller pyramids, take a ride around the pyramids on camel back or visit the fascinating Solar Boat Museum, which displays on of the pharaoh’s funerary barges - it may just be the oldest boat in existence! (NB extra entrance fees apply for all of these sites/activities). This afternoon we drive by private bus to Alexandria, where we will spend the following two evenings. Estimated Travel Time: Cairo to Alexandria, 4 hrs
Day 3 Alexandria (1B)
On Day 3, we have plenty of time to explore all the incredible sites this ancient city has to offer. Founded by Alexander the Great around 331BC, Egypt's only Mediterranean city is characterized by a distinctly European atmosphere and refreshing sea breezes. Fort Qaitbay was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the fifteenth century AD. Situated at the entrance of the eastern harbour on the eastern point of Pharos Island, it was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the fourteenth century there was a very destructive earthquake and the whole building was completely destroyed and the fortification you see today was built in its place. Our next visit is to Pompey's Pillar. The name "Pompey's Pillar" is actually a misnomer, as it has nothing to do with Pompey, having been erected in 293 for Emperor Diocletian, possibly in memory of the rebellion of Domitius Domitianus. Next we head to the Catacomb of Komel-Shokafa. These tombs were tunneled into the bedrock in the age of the Antonine Emperors (second century AD) for a single wealthy family still practicing the ancient religion. They represent the last existing major construction of the old Egyptian religion. Our final stop is the new Alexandria Library. The Ancient Library of Alexandria was probably the largest and certainly the most famous of the libraries of the ancient world. It flourished during Greek rule and functioned as a major centre of scholarship, at least until the time of the Roman conquest of Egypt, and probably for many centuries thereafter. The old library was destroyed in a fire around the first century BC. The magnificent new Library was opened in 2002 very near the site of the ancient one. Don't miss the chance to enjoy a seafood dinner at one of the city's many outdoor seaside restaurants this evening.
Day 4 Cairo (1B,1D)
On our return to Cairo we will make a stop at the monasteries of Wadi Natrun. The history of the Wadi and its importance to Coptic Christians dates back to the fourth century AD and they constitute some of the earliest Christian monasteries in the world. Please note that you should be modestly dressed this morning with shoulders and knees covered for our visit to the monastery. There will be time to grab a quick lunch before our afternoon visit to the Egyptian Museum. With over 10,000 pieces from every period of Egyptian history, including the treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the display can be a bit daunting. Your tour leader will direct you to the most important and magnificent items. There is also plenty of free time for you to explore on your own, including a chance to visit the famed Mummy Room where you can view the ancient remains of some of Egypt’s most important rulers (NB Extra entrance charges apply). In the evening, we will transfer to the railway station to board our first class sleeper train. Our accommodation will be in comfortable twin-share bunk-bed compartments with lockable doors. The beds convert into seats when not in use and luggage is stored under the bottom bunk. Bedding is provided and there is a small wash basin with soap and towel provided. Shared toilet facilities are at the end of each carriage. A simple “airline style” dinner is provided, but most guests prefer to eat before boarding the train. Non Alcoholic Drinks are available to be purchased and there is a bar car for socialising. In the morning you will be brought a simple continental style breakfast around two hours before arrival. Estimated Travel Time: Alexandria to Cairo, 4 hrs (private van) Cairo to Aswan, 12 hrs (overnight train)
Days 5-6 Aswan (2B,1L,2D)
Aswan has a distinctively African feel to it. Small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Spend time strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the sailboats etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish. Late in the afternoon, we will board a local boat, known as a felucca, to take a trip along the Nile with views of the Agha Khan Mausoleum and Kitchener Island. Named after the British general Horatio Kitchener, the island is known for its botanical garden and the exotic plants he planted there 100 years ago, which continue to flourish today. Our final stop is the home of our felucca captain and the largest of the Nile islands in this area, Elephantine Island. We take a walk through the village and fields to learn more about the life of the Nubian people, before enjoying a traditional dinner at a local home. Early on the morning of Day 6 we travel by plane to the magnificent temple of Abu Simbel. It is hard to believe that this marvellous temple, built by Ramses II between 1274 and 1244BC, would now be under Lake Nasser if modern engineering had not been put to work. These are perhaps Egypt's most splendid temples! In the afternoon, we return to Aswan. In the afternoon we will check-in to our Nile cruise boat, your home for the next three days. Our cruise boat is modern and comes prepared with everything you need for an enjoyable few nights on the Nile. The cabins are twin-share and comfortably equipped with air-conditioning and full ensuite bathrooms. There is a dining room and a very small gym. The entire top deck of the boat is for lounging, swimming in the rooftop pool or just relaxing and watching life on the Nile go by. The ship actually covers remarkably little distance as all ships must, by law, dock each evening. It is more in line with a "floating hotel" than a traditional cruise. Overnight in Aswan hotel night 5, night 6 is aboard your Nile Cruise boat. Estimated Travel Time: Aswan to Abu Simbel, 25mins each way (flight time)
Days 7-8 Nile River Cruise (2B,2L,2D)
Following breakfast on Day 7, we set sail. Before too long it is time for our first shore excursion, with a visit to Kom Ombo, a temple dedicated to Sobek the Crocodile god and which still contains an ancient mummified crocodile. After returning to the boat we take our lunch and continue sailing. In the afternoon, we will have another excursion in Edfu, travelling by horse-drawn buggy to visit the well preserved Temple of Horus. Day 8, Our boat will moor overnight just outside of Luxor this evening.
Days 9-10 Valley of the Kings/Luxor (2B,1D)
After checking-in to our hotel, our day starts with a visit to the exciting ancient sites located on Luxor's West Bank. We begin with the two mammoth statues of Amenophis II at the Colossi of Memnon. These statues used to stand at the front of a temple, which is no longer in existence. They were famous since Greek times as they used to make a unique "singing" noise. You can even see ancient graffiti discussing this on the statues, from travellers of old! Next stop is the famous Valley of the Kings. While the treasure has now all gone, the tombs contain the most incredible paintings of the life of their encumbent and stories from the Book of the Dead. There is also the option to visit the the Tomb of Tutankhamun, whose treasures you saw at the Egyptian Museum. We finish our tour with the spectacular temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a reminder of the power women held in the Ancient Kingdom. We also have an included visit to a Planeterra-supported library and community education centre. Feel free to bring along books in English or Arabic to donate. Also enjoy an excursion to the magnificent temple of Karnak and dinner in a local families home. Luxor has so many activities to offer. Don't miss the small but beautiful Luxor Museum or the interesting Mummification Museum, teaching you everything you ever wanted to know about this ancient art and including a great collection of animal mummies. Stroll along the Nile corniche and shop for a bargain in Luxor's bazaar. Haggle hard though, as Luxor locals are famous for their business skills! In the evening, we return to the boat for dinner and a final night onboard. *If you have pre-booked the Valley of the Kings Hot Air Balloon Ride you will be flying on Day 9.
Day 11 Cairo (1B)
After breakfast we will transfer to Luxor Airport for a short flight back to Cairo. Upon arrival in Cairo, the choice is yours. Visit the Khan El Khalili Bazaars, legendary for fine brassware, copper, perfumes, leather, silver, gold, antiques and more; head out to Cairo's most ancient area, Coptic Cairo; or perhaps relax by the hotel pool. An optional farewell dinner and show on one of Cairo’s famous floating restaurants is available and highly recommended as a great way to round off your visit. Estimated Travel Time: Luxor to Cairo, 1hr (flight time)
Day 12 Cairo (1B)
You are free to depart at any time today. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage facilities are available. We are able to organise extra post-trip accommodation if you wish to extend your stay for a few more days. Please ask at the time of booking.