Egypt: the land of the Pyramids and Great Sphinx. But, as I’m sure you can all imagine, a trip to Egypt can be so much more than that! I highly recommend looking into Egypt tour packages that not only include Cairo, but other places throughout Egypt as well like Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Luxor at the bare minimum. It is a country so steeped in history that you could spend weeks here and not even scratch the surface of everything Egypt has to offer!
** All photos in this article were taken by my amazing brother, David Gallo. Have a look at his beautiful website and photography galleries here!**
With that said, if you are just on a quick trip, there are six places to visit in Cairo that will give you a good overview of the region.
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Flights to Cairo [How to Get to Cairo]
Cairo is most easily accessible via plane. Bordering Sudan, Libya, Israel, and Jordan, looking at flights to Cairo is certainly your best option, as traveling to Cairo overland isn’t particularly recommended for your trip to Egypt. Cairo International Airport will be your main hub both for international flights arriving/departing Egypt, and for domestic flights (like to Aswan or Luxor). You can get the best prices for your flights to Cairo here.
Best Hotels in Cairo [Where to Sleep in Cairo]
Whether you are looking for an authentic, local experience, or a luxury escape, Cairo has something for every type of traveler. You will want to consider the places you want to visit in Cairo when choosing your Egypt tour packages, as Cairo is incredibly spread out — it takes about an hour to get from the airport to the Pyramids!
As for me, I wanted to stay as close to the Pyramids as possible. I initially looked at the Marriott Mena House (since we all know that I love my luxury travel), but I opted to switch it up this time around so that I could have the pyramids in my “backyard” and stayed at the Pyramids Overlook Inn. Honestly, it far exceeded my expectations in every way possible! It is affordable to every type of traveler, and offers unrivaled views of the Pyramid and Great Sphinx during your trip to Egypt. I’d even say that – had I not stayed there – I’d list it as one of the places to visit in Cairo.
Epic views from our hotel on our trip to Egypt
First off, the hospitality is out of the world. The owner, nicknamed King, will bend over backwards to make sure that you are happy, well-fed, and relaxed. He embodies the word “hospitable” and is a wealth of knowledge. A certified Egyptologist, King can also help you plan the best Egypt tour packages for you or your group, based upon your wants and needs. He has a tour company based out of the States and is certainly qualified to help you plan your trip to Egypt.
Secondly, the views are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. As I’m sure you know by now, I’ve stayed in some pretty remarkable places…but never in my life was I able to sit on a terrace and look out onto the only remaining Ancient World Wonder. To say I was overwhelmed by the view at Pyramids Overlook Inn would be an understatement.
Cairo Tours [How to Get Around Cairo]
While Cairo does have a public transportation system, and Uber, the easiest way to get around would be to join one of the many Cairo Tours. This could be included in your overall Egypt tour packages, or separate. Since I had many specific places that I wanted to visit, and a relatively complicated schedule (as I planned my trip to Egypt around speaking at the Narrative PR Summit), we hired a tour guide to take us around Cairo for two days.
Meet Taha, offering Cairo Tours! (Please excuse the phone photo quality)
Taha Marie came highly recommended to us by a friend, and we were thrilled with his service. He offers Cairo tours as part of his new company, Easy Tours Egypt. As our time in Cairo was a bit hectic due to the conference, we hired Taha to pick us up from the airport and straight into site-seeing. After a full day, he dropped us off at Pyramids Overlook Inn, and picked us up promptly the following morning to begin our pyramids tour. He is a wealth of knowledge and highly recommend his services. Should you want to contact Taha about your upcoming trip to Egypt or any Cairo Tours, you can connect with him on Facebook here.
Places to Visit in Cairo
So now that you know how to find the best flights to Cairo, know where to sleep at the best hotels in Cairo, and have your Cairo tours (and guide!) arranged, here are the six places to visit in Cairo if you’re short on time.
1. Coptic Cairo
As far as cities go, I was absolutely fascinated by Cairo’s Coptic City. The reason? All three Abrahamic Religions live in peace and harmony — you can find churches, temples, and mosques all within the same area. Whether you want to see the area where the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus) stayed, the spot where baby Moses was found in a basket, or witness one of the oldest Islamic monuments in Egypt (the first mosque ever built in Africa!), the area is a historical masterpiece dating back to the 6th Century BC. Coptic Cairo is incredibly well-preserved and one of those “must-see” places to visit in Cairo that I will definitely go back to explore further.
A visit to the Hanging Church on our trip to Egypt
Entrance to Coptic Cairo is free for the Hanging Church, St. Sergius and Bacchus Church, the Cave Church, and the Synagogue of Ben Ezra. If you want to visit the Coptic Museum, it is 100 EGP (~ $6 USD).
2. Islamic Cairo
Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to being “one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hamams, and fountains,” Islamic Cairo came about in 969. This section of Cairo served as the capital for many rulers and conquerors, until Egypt gained its independence in 1922. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is currently under renovation, but we still had the opportunity to visit; built in 879 AD, this mosque is said to be the oldest mosque in Cairo to have kept its original structure and is an example of architecture from the classical period of Islamic civilization. It’s certainly worth walking through Khan al-Khalili, a colorful souq dating back to the early 1300s. Unfortunately, in the eyes of a tourist, much of the Islamic City seems run down, and many people that we spoke to said that it was one of the poorest areas in Cairo City.
Visiting the Ibn Tulun Mosque on our trip to Egypt
Of course, it is free to walk around Islamic Cairo. Each site does have an entrance fee though averaging about 80 EGP (~ $5 USD).
3. Cairo’s Citadel & the Muhammad Ali Mosque
Cairo’s Citadel – built in 1176 – can be spotted from all over the city, and offers an incredible view over the city. This Islamic fortification used to be the seat of government in Egypt before being used as a military garrison, and finally opened to the public in 1983. It is another one of Cairo’s UNESCO Sites, and is home to the Muhammad Ali Mosque – built in 1848 – which was designed in typical Ottoman fashion (it’s quite reminiscent of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque).
A mosque sits within a citadel
Entrance to the citadel and mosque costs 180 EGP (~ 11 USD).
4. Egyptian Museum
I’m the first person to admit that I’m not a museum person. If it’s not about genocide or political unrest, I typically get bored… quickly. The Egyptian Museum is a work of art though, literally. With pieces dating back to the 31st Century BC (don’t believe me, check out the Narmer Palette), the Egyptian Museum is home to more than 120,000 pieces of ancient Egyptian history, which is just a fraction of the artifacts that Egypt possesses. The museum is a tad overwhelming, so I recommend hiring a guide or incorporating it in your Egypt tour package to ensure that you get the most out of the Egyptian museum. The first ancient Egyptian Museum was established in 1835, but the Egyptian Museum that we see today was built – and opened to the public -in 1902. Arguably the most impressive site in the Egyptian Museum is the Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun (King Tut), as it is in perfect condition and is made up of 24 lbs (11 kg) of pure gold! While King Tut didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy for Egypt (he died at age 18), he’s the most famous of the Egyptian Kings, as his tomb was discovered completely intact in 1922.
Can you spot the hair on this mummy?
Entrance costs 200 EGP (~ $12 USD) and another 50 EGP (~ $3 USD) if you want to use a camera inside (iPhones are free).
5. Pyramids of Giza
A trip to Egypt certainly wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Pyramids of Giza. The last remaining Ancient World Wonder happens to be the Great Pyramid. 5 FT Fun Fact: Egypt is the only country to have two sites included in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but unfortunately the Lighthouse of Alexandria was destroyed in an earthquake. When planning your trip to Egypt, it’s important to note that the Pyramids aren’t in Cairo City, but in fact, in one of Cairo’s greater regions: Giza. As I mentioned, it takes about one hour to get from the airport to the Pyramids so be sure to factor that in when planning your trip to Egypt.
The Egyptian Pyramid Complex consists of three main pyramids: The Great Pyramid (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops), the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Respectively, they stand at 147 m, 134 m, and 62 m. While the Pyramids were once entirely smooth on the outside (which you can see if you decide to go into the Great Pyramid, although it’s completely empty with no hieroglyphs), the Pyramid of Khafre still has a small portion of the original limestone casing on the top.
Visiting the Pyramids are a must on your trip to Egypt!
It costs 200 EGP (~ $12 USD) to enter the Giza Pyramids Complex, 400 EGP (~ $24 USD) to enter the Great Pyramid, 100 EGP (~ $6 USD) to enter the 2nd or 3rd Pyramid, 100 (~ $6 USD) EGP to visit the Solar Boat Museum, and 300 EGP (~ $18 USD) for the Pyramid Sound and Light Show. You certainly don’t need to do all of these things! We just paid the 200 EGP to enter the Giza Pyramids Complex, and watched the Sound and Light Show for free from the terrace of Pyramids Overlook Inn.
6. The Great Sphinx of Giza
I always thought the Great Sphinx of Giza was just part of the Pyramids… but I was very wrong. The Sphinx is its own monument and has its own entrance, however, entry is included with the purchase of your Giza Pyramids Complex ticket. The Sphinx was made of one carved piece of stone and has three tunnels underneath the monument. While we don’t know exactly what they were for, archeologists presume that they were used for offerings. For those wondering, the lion’s body of the Sphinx is a symbol of strength, while the King’s head is a symbol of wisdom.
The Great Sphinx of Giza
Entrance is included in your 200 EGP (~ $12 USD) ticket to enter the Giza Pyramids Complex.
Cairo Map [Places to Visit in Cairo on Your Trip to Egypt]
In order to help you visualize the places to visit in Cairo, have a look at this Cairo Map. I have marked each destination, and would be happy to answer any comments in the section below!
Pyramids Overlook Inn
Cairo Citadel & Muhammad Ali Mosque
Pyramids of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza
What To Wear in Egypt [Travel Packing List]
When planning my trip to Egypt, I figured out all of the sites that I wanted to see, but realized that I didn’t actually know what to wear in Egypt! Unlike places like Oman, you do not need to be covered wrists to ankles, nor do you need to have your head and shoulders covered at all times (unless, of course, you’re entering a place of worship). That said, it is important to adhere to local cultures and customs, so I do recommend wearing moderate, loose-fitting clothing. It’s particularly important to have a sun hat to keep away those rays, sunblock, bug spray wipes, and comfortable walking shoes (I fell in love with these and used them daily). To view my travel packing list, with all of my travel essentials – and I mean all of them – head on over to this article I wrote to pick and choose your favorite items!
Do You Have Travel Insurance?
You need travel insurance if you want to visit Egypt! As a rule of thumb, you should always have travel insurance when you leave your home country. Travel insurance is arguably the most important thing to have on hand (after your passports and visas). I’ve had to use my travel insurance multiple times on the road, even though I’m healthy. You never know when something might happen; take comfort in knowing that whether your flight gets cancelled or you wind up sick and in the hospital, you will be covered.
For any place that has faced a series of destabilizing events in recent years, be sure to select a plan that covers terrorism and political unrest. While I felt entirely safe in Egypt, as with anywhere in the world, you never know what could happen and it’s always better to be safe than sorry! I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for each and every one of you, as I used them on my most recent trip to Egypt too.. You can get a free quote here.