Best Tours and Day Trips from Cairo

If you've made it all the way to Cairo, it's because you're keen to discover the surrounding area. Here are the must-see excursions

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

16 min read

Best Tours and Day Trips from Cairo

The Nile as it passes through Cairo | Sherif Moharram

Travelling to the land of the Pharaohs means discovering one of the oldest civilisations in the world, its vast history, its majestic pyramids and temples and its imposing desert landscape where the Nile is the absolute protagonist. Its capital, Cairo, is a city of contrasts. These are the best tours to discover Cairo and its surroundings:

1. Private tour: Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, Egyptian Museum and Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

Pyramids of Giza| ©V Manninen
Pyramids of Giza| ©V Manninen

Accompanied by an Egyptologist guide, this 6-8 hour private tour in English, from £116, will take you to Cairo's highlights in a flexible tour that can be tailored to your interests.

Nothing compares to the experience of seeing the pyramids of Giza in person, the only one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world that survives today. You will be overwhelmed with emotion when you see these impressive funerary constructions that were built under the orders of the pharaohs Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos belonging to different dynasties.

Next to the pyramids is another of Egypt's emblems, the Great Sphinx of Giza. A sculpture more than 20 metres high with the body of a lion and a human head that symbolises the union of intelligence and strength for the ancient Egyptians.

If you have always dreamed of entering one of the pyramids, this private tour will allow you to do just that. Although it requires an additional cost, this experience is unique and unforgettable and therefore highly recommended. You can learn more about the mysteries of the culture of the pharaohs at the Egyptian Museum and finish the tour in the lively Khan el-Khalili bazaar where you can interact with the locals and buy souvenirs.

Itinerary

  • Your adventure will begin at 9 a.m. and you will be driven by private vehicle to the Giza Plateau, 18 kilometres from Cairo.
  • Upon arrival you will see for yourself that the three pyramids of Giza live up to their fame. This tour offers a guided introduction to the pyramids to learn why they were built and how, as it is an enigma how such perfect structures were achieved at that time with such rudimentary means.
  • If you wish, you will have free time to enter one of the pyramids and feel like an intrepid archaeologist as you explore its empty inner chambers independently, as the guide is not allowed to enter with the group. Are you up for the adventure?
  • Close to the pyramids of Giza is the colossal Sphinx of Giza, one of the great mysteries of the ancient world, as there is still speculation about where it came from, when it was created and what it was used for. However, the most widely held theory is that it was erected around 2,500 BC as part of the funerary complex of the pharaoh Khafre to become the guardian of his tomb.
  • An optional visit to the Solar Boat Museum, home of Khufu's funerary boat, is available at an additional cost. On the other hand, if you are passionate about Ancient Egypt, you may be interested in the Papyrus Institute.
  • To learn more about ancient Egypt, the next stop on the tour is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Here you can admire statues, reliefs, funerary elements and paintings among many other objects of great historical value, although the Tutankhamun room and the mummy room are the two main attractions that stand out from the rest of the exhibits.
  • The tour's Egyptologist guide will explain everything you need to know about the Egyptian Museum's most important exhibits before giving you some free time to explore the halls at your leisure, and entertain yourself with the 165,000 exhibits on display. Particularly impressive is the Tutankhamun's death mask, the star attraction.
  • The last stop is a visit to the Khan el Khalili Bazaar. Here you can not only put your haggling skills to good use and pick up a bargain, but also wander through the maze of streets and breathe in the bustling atmosphere of Cairo's main souk.

Book an excursion to the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum

2. Full Day Tour to Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza

Sphinx of Giza| ©Hossam M. Omar
Sphinx of Giza| ©Hossam M. Omar

If you are looking for a tour of Cairo that brings together ancient and modern Egypt, this day tour of Cairo and the Pyramids of G iza is the tour for you.

You will see the pyramids and other monuments and museums related to this archaic civilisation as well as visit Tahrir Square, Khan Khalil Bazaar and have lunch at a local restaurant where you can sample some of the best of Cairo's cuisine. A private guide and vehicle will ensure you a personalised experience in the country's capital!

Itinerary in the pyramids

  • Your tour guide will be waiting for you at 8am in the lobby of your hotel to start the tour.
  • The first stop is on the Giza plateau, a short distance from Cairo. This is the site of the three pyramids of Giza, the only one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world that has survived to the present day.
  • Walking around the plateau and gazing at these ancient constructions is a thrilling experience that every traveller must have.
  • My recommendation is to pay extra to see the pyramid of Chephren from the inside because it is a sensation that cannot be described in words. Walking through its narrow passages to access the small chambers inside will make you feel like an adventurer. Get ready for action!
  • Guarding the pyramids is the Sphinx of Giza, apparently built to protect the tomb of the pharaoh Chephren. A mythological sculpture more than 20 metres tall, half human, half lion, it has become the icon of Egypt and you'll want to take some pictures with it.
  • During this part of the visit, the tour guide will explain all the secrets of these famous monuments and the enigmas surrounding their construction: why were the pyramids built, how were the huge blocks moved and lifted, what did they put in the burial chamber for the afterlife?
  • You can also visit the Temple of the Valley of Chephren, a construction connected to the pyramid of Chephren by a causeway where the mummy of the pharaoh was purified before burial. It is the only temple of the three pyramids that is still preserved.

Back in Cairo

If after your visit to the Giza plateau you still want to know more about ancient Egypt, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo you can soak up this important civilisation by taking a trip back in time through the rooms of this building to see the treasures of Tutankhamun and other great pharaohs, the mummification rite and various everyday and funerary objects. Inaugurated in 1902, it is the most notable museum of its kind in the world.

After the tour of ancient Egypt, the next stop is to discover the modern side of Egypt by mingling with the locals in Tahrir Square and Khan El Khalili Souk, the most famous market in the Middle East.

Tahrir Square is located near the Egyptian Museum and is the political epicentre of Cairo. This is where the events of the Arab Spring took place, culminating in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The surrounding area is home to shops, government offices and institutional headquarters.

Khan El Khalili Souq is located in a walled area with a medieval feel in the heart of Islamic Cairo. It has more than 900 stalls selling all kinds of fabrics, jewellery, handicrafts, perfumes, spices and musical instruments. My advice? Make the most of your visit to have a cup of tea or smoke a shisha in one of the charming old cafés.

3. Private tour of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with lunch

Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, Egyptian Museum in Cairo| ©Mark Fischer
Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, Egyptian Museum in Cairo| ©Mark Fischer

Located near Tahrir Square, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is housed in a spectacular neoclassical building opened in the early 20th century to house collections related to ancient Egypt. Since it opened its doors in 1902, its collections have been gradually expanded with the discovery of new pieces and the recovery of many objects plundered during the wars or found in museums and private collections abroad.

If you have always been fascinated by this archaic Mediterranean civilisation, this private tour of the Egyptian Museum is one of the must-do's on your visit to Cairo. Accompanied by a qualified Egyptologist guide, you will walk through its rooms to immerse yourself in this captivating culture in a 5-hour itinerary that will start at 9am.

About the Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum is divided into two floors: the ground floor rooms display papyrus, coins, jewellery, statues, reliefs and sarcophagi, among other objects, while the upstairs rooms display the treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb, such as his funerary mask, among other pieces found by Howard Carter in 1922. There are also two rooms dedicated to the mummies of kings of the New Kingdom and other artefacts discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

It is not surprising that this is the second most visited tourist attraction in Cairo after the pyramids, given the importance of the treasures it houses. It currently displays more than 136,000 artefacts but the overall collection is made up of some 150,000 items that cannot be displayed on the premises at present. This is why the Great Egyptian Museum is under construction, which will complement the present one and become the largest archaeological museum on the planet.

The duration of this private tour of the Egyptian Museum is 5 hours (approx.) and can be done in English.

Why do I like this tour?

What I liked about this private tour is that in addition to gaining a deeper understanding of Egyptian history, before returning to the hotel in a minivan, you have the chance to savour a delicious traditional local lunch consisting of Egyptian koshary. A hearty dish that mixes rice, lentils and macaroni with tomato sauce and other ingredients. It's definitely another delicious way to experience Cairo.

4. Half-day tour of Cairo's ancient markets and local souks

Bab Zuwayla Gate| ©Francisco Anzola
Bab Zuwayla Gate| ©Francisco Anzola

Cairo is a sometimes chaotic city where the experience of shopping in its shops can be somewhat bewildering for foreigners if you don't know the unspoken rules of haggling. What makes the difference between an overwhelming experience and one where you have a really good time is having the help of a good private guide to show you this fascinating side of local daily life.

If you want an authentic shopping experience in Cairo's markets and souks, we recommend that you take this half-day tour with a private guide: he or she will show you the skills needed to shop in Egypt.

As a note of interest, it is important to wear comfortable shoes for the tour and a casual dress code is required.

Itinerary

  • At 8 a.m. start your adventure through the streets of Cairo to begin your shopping tour in the markets of the old city centre.
  • Then head to El Ghorya Market, a typical Egyptian market in beautiful Fatimid Cairo, where you can meet the vendors and get acquainted with their wares.
  • Continue the tour through Gamalia Street, close to Khan El Khalili and El Azhar Mosque which is the second oldest Islamic university in the world and the most important in the teaching of Shari'a law. Then head to the traditional area of Bab Zuwayla, Bab al-Fatah and Bab el Nasr, three impressive 10th century AD stone and brick gates leading to the Fatimid compound.
  • Stop for lunch, as this tour includes snacks and drinks, and recharge your batteries for further exploration of the souks.
  • Next stop is El Mosky, a busy Egyptian bazaar with everything at a good price. The jewel in the crown of the capital's markets, however, is Khan el Khalili. It is the oldest and most famous market in the country.

About El Mosky Bazaar

Its origins date back to the 14th century, when the Mamluk Sultan Djaharks el-Khalili decided to build a resting place for merchants on the ruins of an ancient Fatimid cemetery. Your private guide will explain in detail the history of this busy place as you stroll through this walled area with a medieval feel.

What to buy in the souks

Perfumes, jewellery, fabrics, handicrafts, coloured lamps, spices and musical instruments are just some of the items you can buy as souvenirs on your tour of Cairo. There are said to be more than 900 stalls to reach through the alleyways, so the help of your private guide will be essential to show you the best shops in the market and to give you tips on how to bargain with the merchants.

Wrap up the tour with a typical snack

Once you've done your shopping, you may want to round off the tour with tea and typical sweets sold at street stalls or in some of Khan el Khalili's cafes. At the end of the half-day tour in Cairo you will return to the hotel to rest and upload the best photos of the day to your social networks. This tour lasts 4 hours (approx.) and is available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese and German.

Why do I like this tour?

This half-day tour in Cairo made my visit to the Cairo markets very easy and enjoyable, because if I had done it on my own it would have been a bit more chaotic and I would have missed out on details that I was unaware of as a visitor. Thanks to the private guide we learned about the most prominent markets, their history, the products on sale and how to interact with the vendors to get a bargain.

Also, as you wander the streets, this tour also allows you to admire the unique architecture in which these markets are set, which is fascinating.

5. Half Day Private Sightseeing Tour of Saqqara and Memphis from Cairo

Saqqara Necropolis Ruins| ©Carole Raddato
Saqqara Necropolis Ruins| ©Carole Raddato

As an Egyptology enthusiast, a trip to Cairo would not be complete without a trip to Memphis, the coronation city of the pharaohs, and Saqqara, the most important necropolis in Memphis from the first dynasty to the Christian era.

However, extending the sightseeing tour from Cairo to these sites independently is difficult. Taxis are the only option, but once you are there, there is no guide to accompany you on the tour. That's why this half-day private tour of Saqqara and Memphis from the capital is the best way to get the most out of the experience. However, travellers must be in average physical condition to do so.

With the assistance of a private Egyptologist guide who will pick you up from your hotel, you can learn about the history of Memphis and Saqqara and get detailed information about the treasures that both sites hold in a fully personalised experience.

Itinerary

  • Visit of Memphis: This tour starts at 9am, once the private vehicle and your tour guide pick you up from your hotel to depart for Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt.
  • Visit the ruins of Saqqara, the necropolis where the world's first pyramid, the step pyramid of Zoser, is located.

About Memphis

It was founded around 3100 BC by Narmer, the first pharaoh of the country. During its more than 3,000-year history, Memphis was an important religious and political centre where pharaohs were crowned. It is believed to have been the most populous city in the world until 2250 BC and was nicknamed the 'balance of the two lands' as it was located between Upper and Lower Egypt. When Thebes replaced it as Egypt's capital, Memphis began its decline until it was abandoned centuries later.

Today, Memphis is an open-air museum housing many relics of the country, including the Colossus of Ramesses II and the Alabaster Sphinx attributed to Queen Hatshepsut.

About the pyramid of Zoser

During the reign of Pharaoh Zoser around 2630 BC, the architect Imhotep, the first recognised architect in history, erected this spectacular 60-metre-high pyramid as part of the sovereign's funerary complex.

The importance of Zoser's pyramid lies in the fact that it was the origin of the construction of the rest of the Egyptian pyramids, including the pyramids of Giza. Without a doubt, visiting Saqqara is a highly recommended experience to get to know in depth this chapter of the history of ancient Egypt and be amazed by the capacity that the Egyptians had thousands of years ago to build this architectural marvel with such scarce means.

The archaeological complex covers 9 square kilometres where you can also visit the causeway of King Unas, the tomb of Kagemni and the pyramid of King Teti with pyramidal texts inside.

Why do I like this tour?

It is a good idea to choose this half-day private tour of Saqqara and Memphis from Cairo to complete your experience of ancient Egypt and your trip to the country's capital in general terms. It also includes a light lunch of falafel and foul, Egypt's national dish made from fava beans, so as a traveller you get to experience the country's historical heritage as well as some of its cuisine. I loved the plan!

6. Private day tour to Alexandria from Cairo

Kom ash-Shuqqafa Catacombs| ©Carole Raddato
Kom ash-Shuqqafa Catacombs| ©Carole Raddato

Founded by Alexander the Great himself in 332 BC, Alexandria was the main cultural centre of the ancient world and although the great historical attractions that made it famous disappeared centuries ago, this cosmopolitan Egyptian city still retains that aura that makes it special and different. So a visit to Alexandria during your trip to Egypt is a must.

Does the plan appeal to you? Explore the country's second largest city in a comfortable minivan on this day trip to Alexandria from Cairo. You can make as many stops as you like on this itinerary as it is a personalised and flexible tour. You will be accompanied by an Egyptologist guide who will reveal all the secrets of this legendary Mediterranean city. This tour includes lunch during the trip.

Itinerary

  • This adventure starts at 7am, with a minivan picking you up from your hotel and your tour guide, heading north to the coastal city of Alexandria.
  • On the way there you'll have the opportunity to take in the scenery and chat with your guide, who will give you a preview of what you'll see during the tour and you can exchange experiences about Egypt. You can even ask him for recommendations of other interesting places to see in the country.
  • In Alexandria you will visit the Roman burial catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa discovered in 1901, whose present location was once known as Rakotis, a town that predated Alexandria. They were excavated in the rock and descending into the tunnels you can see the shelves on which corpses were deposited as well as carvings and sculptures of Egyptian and Greco-Roman influence.
  • Walking through the corridors you will also find Caracalla's hall, where the bones of ancient Christian soldiers were found.
  • Next to the catacombs is the 25-metre column of Pompey, dedicated to the emperor Diocletian who liberated the city when it was under siege.
  • The visit continues to the Roman amphitheatre, which was discovered in 1960 and dates back to the 2nd century AD and is in a good state of preservation along with other vestiges of the period. In the area of the amphitheatre a Roman baths and a residential area were also discovered, where the house known as "the villa of the birds", with its beautiful mosaics, is located.
  • Stop for lunch included in the tour at a great Mediterranean restaurant.
  • Finally, you will visit the new library of Alexandria. A spectacular architectural work completed in 2002, it is a tribute to its predecessor, the mythical Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed in strange circumstances centuries ago. Accompanied by your guide, you can tour the interior of the modern library, see its exhibits on Egyptian history and, if you wish, the exhibition of rare ancient books which costs extra (but is highly recommended!).

7. 4-day Nile Cruise Aswan to Luxor and sleeper train round trip

Kom Ombo Temple| ©kmf164
Kom Ombo Temple| ©kmf164

A trip to Egypt could not be complete without embarking on a cruise on the mythical Nile River, an absolutely essential and unforgettable experience, especially if you have never done one before. What better place than legendary Egypt to make your debut?

This is one of the most common activities to do in Egypt to see some of the country's most iconic sites such as Aswan, Edfu and Luxor. In particular, on this 4-day cruise from Luxor to Aswan you will visit the most outstanding temples of Egypt accompanied by a guide for a group of 12 travellers.

With this cruise you will avoid the expense of flying and travelling south. You will take an overnight train to Aswan and later board a 5-star ship for a three-night Aswan-Luxor cruise with full board. Sounds good, doesn't it, but it's even better to experience it for yourself!

Itinerary

  • Day 1 - Cairo to Aswan: On the first day of the tour you will go to Cairo train station in the afternoon to take the Sleeper night train to Aswan. Overnight on the Sleeper train.
  • Day 2 - Guided day trip to Aswan: On the second day you will stop at the Aswan Dam, Phialea Temple by boat and the unfinished obelisk. Overnight on the Nile cruise.
  • Day 3 - Sailing to Kom Ombo Temple: On the third day of your Nile cruise you will set sail for Kom Ombo Temple after breakfast to visit it with your guide. You will then return to the cruise ship to continue your journey to Edfu. Overnight on the Nile cruise.
  • Day 4 - Guided tour Edfu - Luxor East Bank: On the fourth day of the activity you will visit the temple of Horus in the morning and cross Esna Lock to sail to Luxor. Upon arrival in Luxor, you will start the afternoon tour to visit the East Bank of the Nile, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and the Obelisk of Ramesses II. Overnight on the Nile cruise.
  • Day 5 - Guided tour of Luxor West Bank: One of the most exciting days along with the fourth will be the fifth, when you will visit the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon, two huge stone statues representing the Pharaoh Amenhotep III located in front of the city of Luxor, on the banks of the Nile River. At the end of the visit, you will head to Luxor train station where you will sleep on the Sleeper train to Giza train station.
  • Day 6 - Arrival in Cairo: Upon arrival at Giza train station, you will be met and transferred to your hotel to end your Nile River adventure.

Facts and Figures

When booking this Nile cruise, please note that entrance fees and some meals are not included. Optional tours such as Abu Simbel or the hot air balloon ride are available for an additional fee.

Book a Nile dinner cruise