On arrival at Cairo International Airport, for those on the group transfer, a local representative will meet you just before you enter the baggage hall.
Today we visit the incredible Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which contains relics dating back to 4000 BC, including the fantastic riches of Tutankhamun's tomb. Here is the unique opportunity to survey the many fabulous treasures of Egypt in one place and to set the scene for the rest of the tour. After lunch we continue with a visit to Cairo's Citadel and lively Khan El Khalili bazaars.
A memorable day tracing the history of Pyramids. The day (and story) starts at Saqqara where we visit the Step-Pyramid that was constructed in 2780BC. From here we head to the little-visited pyramids at Dashour. In particular we will concentrate on the Red & Bent Pyramids - the first 'true' pyramids. In the afternoon we visit the best-known site at Giza on the western outskirts of Cairo. Home to the Great Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus and the timeless and enigmatic Sphinx, these great monuments to the afterlife defy the imagination. Only the throng of sightseers, Egyptian and foreign, milling around their huge foundations keep the viewer in the 21st century. This evening we travel by sleeper train to Aswan. Please note that dinner is served on the sleeper train this evening.
We arrive at Aswan, the most southerly city in Egypt and the traditional trading post linking Nubia and Black Africa with the Nile River. The desert sands come almost to the water's edge in this quiet but ever- growing city. After we disembark the train and check into our hotel, we take a felucca ride to the botanical garden on Kitchener's Island and to the West Bank for excellent views over the Nile to the city. In the afternoon there is time to relax by the pool or for optional visits to Aswan's Nubian museum (close to the hotel).
Today many people will take the chance for an optional visit Abu Simbel, 300 km. to the south through the Nubian Desert. Built by Ramses II the two temples are certainly some of the most spectacular in Egypt. Originally on the banks of the Nile, the temples were raised to a new site above the lake in the late 1960s, as the waters from the new Lake Nasser rose behind the Aswan High Dam. The four great-seated statues of Ramses II now stare east towards the rising sun. Please note that the excursion to Abu Simbel can be a very early start (3/4/5am) but the exact time depends on the flight or convoy departure times from Aswan. These vary from season to season.
This morning there is time to visit the Nubian bazaar or to stroll along the corniche. We can also offer an excursion to see the beautiful Philae temple and the impressive Aswan high dam. In the afternoon we board our 5 star cruise boat.
We will spend this time on our cruise boat, which travels downstream on the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. Exact sailing and excursion times cannot be guaranteed for each individual trip but we will visit the temples of Edfu, famous for its roofed inner temples and huge Pylon, and Kom Ombo. The cruise boat has good facilities: a sundeck with sun loungers, bar and small pool, restaurant, gift shop and library - these can all be taken advantage of when the cruise boat is docked or during sailing. The sunsets over the Nile are truly stunning and travelling from Aswan to Luxor, watching traditional Egyptian life pass by and the beauty of the verdant lush landscape make this journey special. Please note that we may arrive in Luxor on day 8 depending on cruise itinerary.
Day 8 - 9
This morning we disembark our cruise boat and head to the East Bank. We visit Luxor Temple and the huge Karnak Temple Complex. Built over 1500 years, Karnak is a confusion of pylons, courtyards, halls and sanctuaries. Its Hypostyle hall has 134 columns, 23 metres high and 15 metres in circumference! There will be some free time in the afternoon to explore at your own leisure.
We cross the Nile in the morning to the West Bank. Here we see the Valley of the Kings, which contains the once hidden tombs of over 60 Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Seti I, Ramses III and IV. A discreet entrance in the hillside takes the visitor underground, through a series of corridors and anti-chambers that lead us down to the burial chamber and sarcophagus. The walls are covered in brightly painted images and hieroglyphs - a map of the afterlife to ensure the king's safe passage. One ticket allows us to see three tombs. Visits to tombs are now strictly controlled to halt further deterioration of wall paintings - each tomb is periodically closed for a number of weeks. Our guide will attempt to choose three tombs, which represent a range of styles. Tutankhamun's tomb is visited with a separate ticket. We then drive to Queen Hatshepsut's Temple at Dehr El Bahri. Cut from an east-facing cliff, the temple is famed for its carved reliefs and paintings, as well as its impressive proportions, best viewed from above. The half-day finishes with a visit to the Colossi of Memnon and a view of the Ramesseum - a now fittingly dilapidated epitaph to Ramses II, who built so much for his own glory. The late afternoon will be free to relax after the busy morning.
In the early morning leave the Ancient Egyptian sites behind and head along the Nile valley to Qena. We then turn into the Eastern Desert and travel through a dramatic range of mountains on to the Red Sea coastal resort of El Gouna - a total distance of about 300 km (approximately 4-4½ hours).
El Gouna is a small resort on the Red Sea offering access to the reefs, coral islands and beaches of the Red Sea. El Gouna has a relaxed feel. We stay in a small hotel close to the marina and there are some nice restaurants and cafes close by. The hotel has pool access and the beach is a short walk from the hotel. Our day is free for relaxation or you can join an optional full day's snorkelling trip to a coral island and reef, with lunch of salad and fish freshly cooked on board. With respect for the environment, we would ask that passengers are very careful not to damage the reef and refrain from removing or taking home any coral. Snorkelling equipment of variable quality is available locally. Qualified divers should bring their BSAC or PADI certification card and logbook if they want to dive.
El Gouna is 30mins from Hurghada and its international airport. For those on group flights, these depart in the afternoon and will arrive in the UK the same day.