Traveling to Egypt is a bucket-list destination for history buffs, literary scholars, and any traveler with a penchant for mysterious, well-preserved culture from a bygone era. Discovering the sights of ancient Egypt means seeing King Tut’s mummy in the flesh (well, perhaps in the flesh is an overstatement), taking in the Great Pyramids of Giza, and learning about some of the most notable pharaohs while standing in the city they once ruled over. If you’re planning a trip to Egypt at the end of 2020 for Cairo’s unveiling of the Grand Egyptian Museum, these are the other must-visit sights of ancient Egypt:
Temple of Karnak
Karnak Temple is actually a complex of temples, and because it’s such a sprawling Luxor sight, you’ll want to spend a good amount of time here. Luxor, once the ancient Egypt capital of Thebes, is really the gateway to eras-old Egyptian culture. The main structure within the Temple of Karnak is dedicated to Amun-Ra, and the smaller Temple of Ptah is for the Egyptian god Osiris.
Nefertari’s Tomb in the Valley of Queens
Nefertari, wife of Ramses the Great, is known to have the most elaborate tomb in both the Valley of Queens and the Valley of Kings. The refurbishment of Nefertari’s tomb was a major undertaking in Egypt, and the result is absolutely stunning. The colorwork and carvings are truly exceptional, and the fame of Queen Nefertari is akin to that of Queens Hatshepsut or Cleopatra.
Valley of Kings
While Nefertari’s tomb makes an argument for you to start your ancient Egypt tour in the Valley of Queens, you’ll then want to continue to the Valley of Kings. King Tut’s tomb is in the Valley of Kings—along with his mummy. Beyond the great Tutankhamun, you’ll find the tombs of other pharaohs of ancient Egyptian fame like Tuthmose I and Ramses VI. The Valleys of Kings and Queens are on the east bank of the Nile, on the opposite side of the river from the Temple of Karnak and Luxor Temple.
Temple of Dendera
A temple built for Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love, this structure has stood for more than 2,000 years. The main temple dedicated to goddess Hathor is actually the temple of Isis and the main attraction at the Temple of Dendera. Not only is the Temple of Dendera one of the best-preserved sites in ancient Egypt, it displays not only Egyptian stonework but Roman and Greek influences. The temple was started by Ptolemy XII, but finished by Queen Cleopatra VII.
Temple of Medinet Habu
On the west bank of the river Nile, Medinet Habu is primarily a funeral temple dedicated to Ramses III and is picturesquely framed by the Theban Mountains in the background. However, before Ramses III’s contributions to the temple, Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III also built here. Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III built the original temple on this site, the Temple of Amun. This is mainly of significance because the area of Thebes is generally thought of as a city watched over by and particularly dedicated to the god Amun-Ra.
The Giza Necropolis
Arguably the most famous and well-visited sight in Egypt is the Great Pyramids of Giza. The area the pyramids inhabit is referred to as the Giza Necropolis because it’s also where you’ll find the Sphinx. The pyramids of Giza are the last remaining original wonder of the world—and the oldest.
Temple of Kom Ombo
In Aswan, Egypt, the Temple of Kom Ombo is one of the most unique ancient Egyptian sights in the country, because the area is best visited at night. Kom Ombo is dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, and Horus the Elder. While on-site, be sure to poke your head into the Crocodile Museum to see the truly jaw-dropping display of mummified crocodiles.
The Best Way to See the Sights of Ancient Egypt
For some of the temples, admission is only possible with an Egyptian tour guide. And even if that’s not the case, ultimately, a tour guide is crucial in order to a) navigate the temples and b) provide historical context at each of these sights. There’s also the question of hopping between these cities; the simplest way to get from Cairo to Luxor is to fly, but Luxor to Aswan is best done by boat. Luxury tour operator Original Travel orchestrates customizable itineraries through Egypt, with knowledgeable, local guides who will stay with your intimate tour group for the bulk of your itinerary. Original Travel also works with the S.S. Sudan, taking their luxury travel clientele on a riverboat cruise, starting in Luxor and concluding in Aswan, to see the most notable sights in Egypt.