The Best 7 Day Egypt Itinerary for Cairo and Luxor
Updated: Mar 12
The abundance of life that exists in Egypt is both overwhelming and iconic. From the ancient ruins to the satellite dishes precariously clinging to every building - it’s quite a feast for the senses. It left me wide-eyed, exhausted and energized.
We visited in October and enjoyed perfect weather. The crazy heat had dissipated but still allowed for pool plunges and temperate sightseeing. I had been to Egypt on a previous occasion about 20 years ago and travelled all over the country.
This time, traveling with our 8 year old, we decided to forego the Nile cruise, Aswan and Abu Simbel, and concentrate on Cairo and Luxor. These two cities provide an incredible amount of culture and ancient sites - while allowing for some relaxing pool time with magnificent views of the Nile. Win win.
We flew in to Cairo for two nights and then took an internal flight to Luxor for four nights, returning to Cairo for one night before flying back to Amsterdam.
I will attach our specific detailed itinerary at the end of the blog, and information about the best travel guide, Dina, who can organise a custom itinerary anywhere in Egypt.
Cairo is intense. It is fast paced, very rough around the edges, pushy and exhilarating. You eyes will bulge from their sockets just taking in the drive from the airport. If you’ve never seen a camel galloping the wrong way down a highway, you're in luck here.
There are six lane highways with pedestrians nonchalantly crossing and cars backing up from off-ramps. Stray dogs and cats run wild and mountains of evil plastic are everywhere you look. It is, however, one-of-a-kind and quite the memorable experience.
We stayed at the Pyramids Valley Boutique Hotel which may just have had the very best view of the great pyramids of Giza ever - except for maybe the rooftop terrace of the Pizza Hut next door. I kid you not - there are blogs written about that Pizza Hut!
We did look into staying at the famous and fancy Mena House but it was just too expensive as they only offer double occupancy in their standard rooms and the larger rooms were ever so slightly out of budget.
The Pyramids Valley Boutique hotel, at around $100 per night, with its perfect pyramid views worked out great for us. Sure it’s a bit rough around the edges and the bathroom floor had to be mopped up after every shower - but sitting on that rooftop watching the Sound & Light show taking place at the pyramids for free every night was about as cool as it gets.
The food is pretty good and even though there is no alcohol listed on the menu - they do offer it (cash only for alcohol).
Pyramids of Giza
One of the entrances to the Pyramid complex was a stones throw from our hotel. We later learned though that all tour buses or automobiles now have to enter from the opposite site of the complex. It is a one way deal for all traffic entering the grounds now.
We organized a private tour ahead of time - our 4 hour Giza tour started at the largest pyramid, Khufu. Note: when buying tickets at the ticket office, you must decide then on whether you would like to pay extra to enter into the inner tomb chambers of the Great Pyramid or the second or third largest pyramids.
We paid extra (quite a bit extra if fact) to enter Khufu - when in Egypt! The general entrance fee is about $10 (240 EP), the Great Pyramid (Khufu) entrance fee is $18 (440 EP), and 2nd or 3rd pyramid is $4 (100 EP)
Our guide also asked us to book our camel rides there at the entrance with her which was $20 for adults and $10 for kids. But I think she just took the money off us there and paid the camel guide herself. Either way - the ride was a highlight.
Entering the Great Pyramid
Luckily there wasn’t a large queue as we arrived pretty early. The initial entrance to the pyramid is well lit and you can stand upright. This short passage leads to a rather more narrow square shaped tunnel which will give the thighs a workout as you must crouch somewhat to get through.
There is just about enough room for two people to pass each other (it’s the same way both in and out). This claustrophobic passage doesn’t take long to climb before opening up into a much more spacious cavern and then into the sarcophagus room itself.
It only takes about 5 minutes in all to get to there - and the return journey is a bit easier. It’s definitely Indiana Jones stuff and worth the shaky legs!
Especially up close, the sheer size of the pyramids will astound anyone and the mystery surrounding them is fascinating. It really is a lost civilization of absolute masters and magicians.
At about 4600 years old, and taking 27 years to build, it’s the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Great pyramid stands at 138 meters (454 ft) and was built using 2.3 million large blocks weighing 6 million tonnes. I have to say, when actually gazing upon it, the possibility of alien involvement is highly plausible.
Our camel ride was a highlight of the trip. The now more regulated ‘official’ site is much less stressful than bargaining for your camel 20 years ago.
The short ride, advertised to be an hour, but taking only about 30 minutes, takes you to the best viewpoint of the complex where you can take in all nine pyramids at once.
Granted, trying to concentrate on not falling off, taking the ultimate photo, and marveling at how sore your bum is, makes for a memorable ride.
The camel guide walks your camel(s) and take some pretty awesome photos / videos as well. You should tip about $5 - $10.
The camel staging area is about as interesting as the ride itself. Be sure to hang out for a bit and take in the cacophony of events taking place with grumpy camels, tourists and cries for baksheesh (tips).
The Great Sphinx
Guarding the great complex, the Sphinx looks strangely dwarfed against such a spectacular backdrop. It is in fact 73 meters (240 ft) long and 20 meters (66 ft) high and is one of the most recognized statues in the world.
It’s missing nose has been previously attributed to Napoleon’s army firing cannonballs at it - but the real reason is unknown.
The entire pyramid complex is huge and transport around it is probably necessary with kids in tow. I think you can, however, navigate it by yourself and hire one of the many horse and carts to take you where you need to go - just be sure to agree on a price before setting off.
9 Pyramids Lounge
The only restaurant inside the Pyramids complex is 9 Pyramids Lounge. You will need to make a reservation as the road accessing it is closed to the general public.
It sits up high with sweeping views of the nine pyramids and camel convoys in the distance.
Open for breakfast or lunch, it’s the absolute best location - go for the photo op alone! Breakfast was a fixed menu at 225 EP ($11) and lunch is served from 2pm.
The Egyptian Museum
While the absolutely huge brand spanking new Grand Egyptian Museum is being constructed, the famous original Egyptian Museum is holding fort. Some of its content has already been moved but when we were there, there was still some of King Tutankhamun’s treasure on display, which is incredible and worth the visit.
Having a guide was helpful for seeing the significant artifacts among the sea of antiquity. The building itself is also beautiful and is the oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East.. The entrance fee is 200EP ($8) for adults and 100EP ($4) for kids.
I also heard that the Royal Mummies Hall at Cairo’s new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is worthwhile with its display of 20 mummies of ancient Egyptian kings and queens.
What kid can resist the fascinating gore of the mummification process - to include the brain being removed by breaking the nose and using an iron hook to gouge it through the nasal canal. Lovely.
Khan El - Khalili Bazaar & Souq
Another’s feast for the senses is the famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar and souq in the historic centre of Cairo that dates back over 600 years.
Our guide explained that it is more of a tourist market so you will see the standard trinkets and souvenirs, or replica Tutankhamen masks. But it is most definitely worth a stroll as there’s also a lot of antiques and an exotic vibe.
Don’t buy any gold of silver though. Do, however, visit a traditional coffee shop and watch the show - you’ll be offered pretty much everything while you sit anyway.
There are a couple of main streets with smaller alleyways radiating off of them. Definitely venture down the alleys as there are some truly Indiana Jones worthy sights to behold.
The vendors are obviously keen to get you to buy from them, but weren’t too pushy at all. Tip: Use the Al-Azhar Mosque as your meeting spot and point of reference so as not to get lost.
The flight from Cairo to Luxor is only about an hour and the domestic airport experience was hassle free and streamlined. Compared to the craziness that is Cairo with its 22 million souls, Luxor is a small town with only about half a million inhabitants. It is like an oasis in the desert and is known as the world’s greatest open air museum.
The amount of ancient ruins in one small area is astounding. Both Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple are situated right in the city itself and just across the Nile lies the west bank and the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens among others.
The Luxor Hilton is one of the friendliest most relaxing hotels I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a few). There is a chilled atmosphere about it and the staff are truly lovely.
Situated on the bank of the river Nile overlooking the impressive West Bank home to the Valley of the Kings, you can watch the hot air balloons go up across the water every morning.
There’s no 6am rush for sun loungers here either! It was full when we were there but did not seem busy at all. The usual horror of the inclusive buffet breakfast was not evident - we found the perfect table every time and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery.
It’s walking distance to Karnak temple (but probably not in the heat of day). Luxor is also a safe city to walk, as we were told numerous times.
The Winter Palace Hotel is another nice option and is steeped in history. It is more centrally located but set back from the Nile.
As with all the sites, the earlier you can get there the better to avoid the tourist busses. Constructed in 1400 BC, it served as a ceremonial site for the coronation of pharaohs.
Interestingly, during Roman rule . The chapel inside the temple was transformed into a church, and the artwork in still visible.
The impressive obelisk that towers at the entrance used to be part of a pair. Rather unbelievably, in 1833 the ruler of Ottoman Egypt exchanged the other priceless artifact to France for a faulty mechanical clock. The clock can still be seen at the Cairo Citadel - and still doesn’t work. The other obelisk is now located in the Place de La Concorde in Paris.
Luxor temple is actually connected to Karnak temple by the 2 mile long avenue of the Sphinx with its 700 or so sphinx statues lining the way.
The West Bank
The other side of the Nile is home to the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Valley of the Nobles, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple and the Colossus of Memnon - among other newly discovered ancient sites. They’ve only touched the surface of the bounty that is lying in wait out there.
The west bank is about a 50 minute drive from Luxor. As there is only one bridge to make the crossing, you must travel a lot further than the crow flies. The greenery of the Nile delta is a welcome sight along the way.
The Valley of the Kings
This famous burial ground of the pharaohs is located under an impressive mountainous back drop and consists of 63 tombs - so far.
Made famous by Howard Carter’s epic discovery a century ago of King Tutankhamun’s nearly intact resting place, the tombs are definitely worth a visit as the artwork found underground through the small entranceways is quite something.
Tickets for the tombs can be purchased at the entrance. One standard entrance ticket will allow to access to three tombs of your choice (each tomb has a guard who will hole punch your ticket on entry).
Our guide recommended Rameses IX, Rameses I and Rameses III. They were all incredible and showed off amazing color palettes for the age of the art. The adult entrance fee is 260EP ($10), 100EP ($5) for kids, and there’s a small charge to ride the golf buggies to the tombs - worthwhile on a hot day.
There are only a few tombs open to the public, and there is an extra fee to enter some of them - King Tut’s tomb is an extra 300EP ($12) for example. Note: you must pay in advance for any extras at the ticket office.
Here is a handy guide to all of the tombs and what you can expect to see.
Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple
You may think this imposing temple looks essentially brand new, and you’d be pretty much correct. As our guide explained, it was been completely reconstructed with only a few original pieces inlaid here and there.
Nevertheless, the mortuary temple for Queen Hatshepsut is a striking architectural example representing the legacy of one of Egypt’s most prolific rulers - and an excellent monument, therefore, to girl power! The entrance fee is 160EP ($6).
Colossi of Memnon
The colossal 60 ft tall twin statues have been sitting in this spot since 1350BC. The grand temple that they were built to guard against evil is long gone, but the twins have weathered the test of time and, what’s more, require no entrance fee.
Karnak is vast. Allow at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours to take in this overwhelmingly huge temple complex. Hailed as the largest open air museum in the world and the largest religious building in the world, you can’t help but be awe inspired by its magnitude.
The 54,000 square feet of the Great Hypostyle Hall alone is large enough to fit the Cathedral of Notre Dame comfortably! The 132 columns in the hall, that rise up 70 feet, are like a forest of Egyptian art. The unusually deep relief carvings have been preserved well and there is still even a decent amount of color to be seen.
Make sure you find the scarab beetle statue near the lake and walk around it seven times counter clockwise while making a wish - my son was dizzy with wishes by the end of it!
There is also a nice cafe inside the complex by the lake if you are in need of refreshment. Other cafes are located at the entrance/exit outside the grounds.
We actually visited this temple twice as it was so close to our hotel and we wanted to see it at different times of the day. I highly recommend arriving as soon as it opens which was 7am when we were there. The light is amazing, it’s cooler, and you have the place almost to yourself. Entrance fees are 200EP ($8) for adults and 100EP ($4) for kids.
Of course there are oh so many more places to visit in Egypt and ancient sites to see - you could choose to cruise down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan, visit Alexandria or the stately Abu Simbel - it’s an incredible country.
As I mentioned earlier, we found that this 7 day itinerary took in many top Egyptian highlights, while offering a bit of a holiday (vacation for you US folk!) as well. We never became ‘templed out’ and came home feeling that we had adventured and thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the entire experience.
Don't forget to have a peek at my limited edition black & white photos.
The Important Stuff
The Best Tour Guide
I highly recommend booking all of you tours with Dina Danial. She gave us a tour of Karnak Temple in Luxor and was the best guide we had by far.
It was like wandering around with a friend - she was as enthusiastic as us and very well versed in Egyptology. She’s simply lovely, super responsive, and can organize custom private tours all over Egypt. Make sure to tell her I said hi!
Contact her private tour company Down the Nile Tours or better still, reach out directly to her via WhatsApp at +20 122 527 5596
I have noted entrance fees to most of the sites that we visited. This handy list of entrance fees covers pretty much anywhere else you might want to visit in Egypt.
Getting around Luxor by taxi is easy and inexpensive. The Hilton provided a super helpful taxi price list so you know exactly what you need to pay which is honored by all the local taxi drivers.
We found Mr. Hassan, a lovely driver who was all smiles. We used him (via his WhatsApp number +20 102 441 7988) to take us to the temples and to dinner etc. He will wait for you wherever you go to take you back to the hotel. You can also use him to drive you to the Valley of the Kings or pretty much anywhere very reasonably.
Contact him for an airport pick-up too - we booked him for the return airport shuttle at 170EP ($7), a little bit cheaper than the $50 service booked via the hotel on the way in! You’re welcome.
Airport Shuttles / Airport Hotels
Booking.com offers a great airport shuttle service through the website. We booked a taxi service from Cairo airport on our arrival from Luxor to our our airport hotel, The Radisson Blu, for $18 each way (the hotel charged $25/person). A driver from a reputable tour company is there at the airport and the hotel waiting with a sign. Couldn’t be easier.
We needed just a one nights stay in Cairo on the way home, so booked the Radisson Blu Cairo Heliopolis which was ok as far as airport hotels go.
The Novotel Cairo Airport is another decent I expensive option and offers a free airport shuttle. For the ultimate convenience, Le Méridian Cairo Airport is connected to the airport terminal via a walkway - but it'll cost you!
We applied for our visas online before we left. You have to create your e-visa application at least 7 days before your departure. We received ours back in about 3 working days.
It is an easy process and probably helpful to take care of before you get there - although you can always purchase your visas at the airport in Egypt. It costs $25 per person.
A good tip is to take small bills with you if you can. They take US dollars, and Euros everywhere. But do be warned, we had some issues paying for a tour with some US bills that were slightly damaged.
Apparently the banks there are very picky and will not allow the exchange of even slightly torn or discolored bills. It is good to have some Egyptian pounds on you as well to buy tickets etc.
7 Day Egypt Itinerary
Saturday - Arrive Cairo
Late arrival - dinner on hotel roof terrace overlooking the Pyramids.
Sunday - Cairo
Giza Pyramids (4 hour tour) including entrance into Great Pyramid, camel ride, the Great Sphinx & 9 Pyramids Lounge restaurant.
Monday - Cairo to Luxor
Egyptian Museum and Khan el-Khalili Bazaar Tours. Fly to Luxor.
Tuesday - Luxor
Wednesday - Luxor
Thursday - Luxor
Karnak Temple - afternoon
Friday - Luxor to Cairo
Karnak Temple - early morning. Fly to Cairo.
Saturday - Cairo to home