Egypt is one of the most incredible destinations and is a haven for history lovers. We spent just over a week travelling the length of the Nile from Cairo to Aswan and Luxor. We marvelled at the pyramids, spent a night on a traditional felucca, met locals, sweltered in the desert and fell in love with the temples of Abu Simbel, Philae and Karnak, just to name a few. We learnt basic hieroglyphics and had our minds blown by the inscriptions in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Our Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour was an unforgettable way to experience all that Egypt had to offer and we’ve given a very detailed review of the day-by-day and the ins-and-outs of this epic tour!
Day One – Cairo
We arrived in Cairo at 8am from Beirut and took an uber from the airport to the meeting hotel for our tour, the King Hotel Cairo. Uber is the preferred option to taxis in Egypt as it is safer and uber’s have to be air conditioned and have seatbelts etc, whereas taxis are a lot less regulated.
We dropped our bags into our room and headed straight out to explore downtown Cairo. We had a few pretty full on few hours in Cairo and had a great time, however in hindsight we probably should have booked a tour guide for the day or planned a tour to make the most of our time.
We then met our group at the hotel for the Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour welcome meeting where we met our fellow travellers and Ahmed, our guide. Ahmed explained the ins and outs of what the next week would entail, as well as collecting insurance information and some paperwork from us.
We then jumped on our mini-bus and drove to Khan el-Khalili Bazaar where we were given a couple of hours to explore the souk and have some dinner before heading back to end our first night in Egypt! We all went to the supermarket around the corner from our hotel to purchase lots of water ahead of tomorrow’s big day of sightseeing!
Day Two – Cairo
Today was the day which we were most excited for, finally getting to see the Pyramids! We had breakfast at the hotel and met at 8am to drive to Giza! Seeing the pyramids in the distance was a memory I’ll never forget.
Entrance to the Pyramids of Giza site was included however it was an additional charge to go inside the pyramids. I’m a litle claustrophobic so decided against it, whereas Dan decided to go inside the Great Pyramid. He said that there wasn’t much to see but it was really cool to actually be inside one of the pyramids. It was extremely small, hot and claustrophic though so I’m really glad I didn’t go in, but he was stoked he had!
We spent the whole morning at the pyramids, visiting two of the pyramids and then going up to a viewpoint where we could see all of Giza and the pyramids. We had plenty of time to explore and take lots of photos.
We visited the Sphinx before stopping for some delicious takeaway falafel and shawarma for lunch. We ate on the bus as we drove to the Egyptian Museum.
The Egyptian Museum is home to one of the world’s greatest collection of antiquities and we spent three hours wandering its treasure-filled halls, marvelling at mummies, sarcophagus and other incredible artefacts (including Tutankhamun’s mask)! The museum has often been regarded as one of the world’s best museums and it did not disappoint! The new museum is due to open this year I believe and I think it would be well worth the visit back to Cairo just to see it!
We had three day rooms at the hotel to share between us, so just used the rooms to shower and sort our bags. We then sat up at the rooftop bar at the hotel until it was time to leave for the night train. The rooftop bar was the best part of the hotel, with cold beers, an amazing sunset and 360 degree views of Cairo!
Our night train was at 8:30pm and took about 13 hours to get to Aswan. I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the night train however it was so much better than I thought it would be. We had a lockable cabin with two bunk beds, air conditioning, a basin and mirror as well as a large window. Each carriage had two toilets that were kept clean and always had toilet paper and water to wash your hands. Dinner was okay with fried chicken, rice, vegetables and dessert. It was extra for tea and coffee but we bought bottles of water with us on the train. Breakfast was basically just three types of bread roll, so not that exciting. The meals were far from gourmet, but they were edible and we didn’t have any concerns about getting sick or hygiene. The beds were comfortable enough and sheets, pillows and blankets were provided.
Overall the night train from Cairo to Aswan was quite good, it was so much better than we had expected and we managed to get quite a bit of sleep. Day One was a massive success on our Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour!
Day Three – Aswan
We enjoyed waking up and watching the Egyptian countryside pass by as the train continued south through Egypt to Aswan.
We arrived just before 10am and were picked up at the train station and driven to our hotel, the Isis Corniche Hotel. The hotel was located on the shores of the Nile and was our favourite hotel of the tour.
We had time to check in and freshen up before heading to Philae. The majority of our group opted for this extra activity and it was so worth it. We took a motor boat cruise across the Nile to Philae Island to visit the beautiful Temple of Isis. Philae and the Temple of Isis were one of our favourite places in Egypt.
We then had a few hours to chill at the hotel before we met at 5pm to board a felucca and sail around Elephantine Island before joining a local Nubian family for dinner in their village. The dinner was delicious and it was amazing to be able to see a traditional Nubian village and home, both of which were all so bright and colourful!
Day Four – Aswan
This morning we met at 3am to go to Abu Simbel. This was an additional extra and everyone in our group opted to go and it was so worth it, definitley one of the most incredible sights we saw in Egypt.
The hotel packed us all a breakfast box and we all got comfortable on the bus and slept the majority of the way to Abu Simbel. It was around a three hour bus ride as Abu Simbel is located right at the bottom of Egypt near the Sudanese border.
When we were researching Egypt, we’d read that many tours were escorted by police vehicles to Abu Simbel because of security issues in the past but at the time of our trip, this wasn’t necessary. We did pass through lots of checkpoints however.
The reason you visit Abu Simbel SO early is because it is insanely hot. After 10am it gets to over 50 degrees celcius most days and so the majority of tour groups arrive by 7am and leave by 10am.
Other than the pyramids, Abu Simbel was our favourite sight in Egypt. Abu Simbel is two temples which were built by the Egyptian king, Ramses II. In the 1960s, the temples were saved from the rising waters of the Nile River due to the Aswan High Dam. In a feat of engineering by countries from all around the world, the temples were cut up, moved and rebuilt. There is an old film that is played on repeat in the visitor centre which shows footage from this and it was amazing to watch so make sure you give yourself some time to watch it.
In terms of photography, it was really busy when we first arrived and basically impossible to get photos with no one in them. We went back about 9:40am, just before we were due to meet our group at 10am and both temples were completely empty. Our recommendation is to enjoy them when you first arrive, and then go back for your photos later once everyone has left or is waiting for their buses because it is just too hot!
I slept the entire way back to the hotel in the bus. We had lunch at the hotel and spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and in the air conditioning of our room. Dan and I went for a stroll through the bazaar that evening and picked up some snacks for the felucca and some shawarma for dinner.
Day Five – Nile Felucca
We had a slow start this morning which was nice after such an early start the day before. After a leisurely breakfast alongside the Nile we packed up our bags and met at 10:30am to board our felucca!
A felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat and we spent a full day and night onboard. The felucca was a lot larger than I had imagined it to be and was made up of a rooftop deck, the covered main area and a toilet. Our luggage went under the main area and we just kept a small bag with us with anything we would need for the next 24 hours.
The main area was shaded, with open windows and an enormous mattress that we all slept on. It sounds weird but there was actually plenty of room for everyone. As we were there in summer it was really hot so we didn’t need sleeping bags or blankets, however we were provided with blankets and pillows.
One of the good things about a Nile experience with Intrepid is that the felucca has a toilet on board, many other companies don’t and they need to pull up to shore each time someone needs to go.
There was three crew on the felucca who were all local Nubians who were lovely, super chilled and loved Bob Marley! Apparently all the Nubian people love Bob Marley and they have his flags flying from their boats and houses.
The food on board the felucca was amazing and we were fed lunch, dinner and breakfast. Ahmed also arranged for us to order drinks (water, soft drinks, fresh juices and alcohol) before the felucca trip so that we wouldn’t need to worry about bringing anything onboard except for snacks.
We spent the first few hours sailing and then pulled up for lunch and then a swim. Half our group decided to swim (including us) and this is the one thing I wouldn’t recommend doing. My doctor had told me before we came on this holiday that if we swam in fresh water we would need to come and get some tablets afterwards. It turns out you can get a parasite called schistosomiasis from swimming in the Nile and I was unlucky enough to get it. I’ll write a separate article about this and explain the whole situation, but I am okay now as I had a dose of treatment when I got home however I definitely do NOT recommend swimming in the Nile, however hot it gets!
After lunch and our swim we spent the afternoon sailing until around 6pm when we pulled up to a quiet shore where we spent the night. We sat up on the top deck and enjoyed the sunset and then around 8pm we had a delicious candle-lit dinner.
We all put plenty of mosquito repellant on but there luckily weren’t many mosquitos. The crew also draped an enormous mosquito net over the sleeping area on dusk so we were protected overnight.
We sat up on the deck having a few drinks and chatting until it was time for bed. The felucca was such a relaxing and chilled day!
Day Six – Luxor
We slept okay and woke up on first light, with enough time to catch a beautiful sunrise! There was time for an early breakfast before sailing across the river and disembarking. We did have to carry our luggage about 5 minutes up to the road and we then had about a 4 hour drive to our hotel in Luxor. Most of us slept all the way and there was a quick pit stop to use the toilet and buy some snacks mid-way.
On our way into Luxor we called into a takeaway shop to buy lunch. It was a simple takeaway shop with shawarma, falafel and hot chips etc.
We then checked into our hotel around midday, had enough time to eat lunch and shower before meeting to go to Karnak Temple. We drove to Karnak Temple which is often described as the most impressive of all the ancient Pharaoh’s works. Karnak is enormous and is considered to be the largest religious building ever constructed.
Ahmed took us to a number of key sights in the Karnak temple complex before giving us free time to explore and take our photos. Karnak was amazing and there was so much to see. We particulary loved the Hypostyle Hall which had 134 columns that were covered in hieroglyphics.
From Karnak, we headed to visit ACE (Animal Care in Egypt) which is one of the Intrepid Foundation projects that ensures the welfare of sick, injured and mistreated animals by providing free veterinary care and education. It was wonderful to visit ACE and see the great work that Intrepid are doing in the community, and there was lots of cute animals to pat.
We spent a few hours on the rooftop swimming in the pool and enjoying the views over Luxor. Luxor was so busy and noisy and it was nice to enjoy it from above, rather than out on the streets being hassled and almost run over every minute.
It was pretty much our last night together because we would be on the night train the next night, so we all decided to have dinner together. Ahmed recommended a restaurant around the corner from our hotel and we all had a lovely dinner together. Most of our group had pigeon but it didn’t sound too appetising to us, so Dan had a mixed grill and I had a vegetarian moussaka. It was nice to spend time together as a group and chat about the highlights of our Egyptian adventure.
Day Seven – Luxor
This morning we had an early breakfast at the hotel and met at 6am to cross the Nile and visit the Valley of the Kings! Our first stop was at the Colossi of Memnon before heading ip to the royal burial sites of the Valley of the Kings. We started so early this day because it gets insanely hot up in the Valley of the Kings, which is also one of the driest places on Earth!
Upon arrival at Valley of the Kings we received our tickets which included entrance to three tombs. Ahmed recommended we visit Rameses IX, Merenptah and Tausert/Setnakht and they were all mind-blowing! Whilst the tombs are mostly empty, the walls are adorned with colourful hieroglyphics and paintings.
We then voted as a group to visit Hatshepsut Temple. Hatshepsut was one of the only female pharaoh’s and her temple was impressive. I was a bit sick in the stomach though and just so hot so this was probably the sight I enjoyed the least, but that is nothing on the sight itself – just how I was feeling that day.
From there, we headed to our included lunch with a local family in a traditional village. The meal was delicious and it was nice to speak to the family and learn about their lives and see their home.
We had about six hours before we had to meet for the night train, and we had three day-use rooms between the group. We spent a lot of the afternoon by the pool again before going out for a shisha by the Nile and then had dinner with the other Aussie couple in our group.
Our night train left around 10:30pm and was a much shorter trip than Cairo to Aswan (only 10 hours). The train looked newer than our first train but it was a much worse journey. Dan got locked in the toilet, it was the jolt-iest train journey ever and the food was basically inedible. We were so tired though and as the train left so late, we pretty much had the attendant set up our beds straight away and went to bed. It was a pretty rough journey but we still managed a little bit of sleep.
Day Eight – Cairo
We arrived back in Cairo early, around 6:30am and were picked up from the train and taken to the hotel. The streets of Cairo were really quiet at this time of the day so our trip was nice and quick.
Back at the King Hotel, we had three day rooms to use between us all. Seven of our group were heading onto Jordan with Intrepid, so they used the rooms first before heading off to the airport in a shuttle bus. After we said our goodbyes to them, we said our thank you and goodbye to Ahmed (the best tour guide ever)!
We weren’t flying to Jordan until 5pm, so we were really happy to find out that we could use our room until whenever we had to leave. The other Aussie couple weren’t flying until Midnight so they were stoked to find out they could also keep their room until then! I was a lot more appreciative of the King Hotel the second time around as we were so tired and so happy to have a bed in a cold room.
We had about six hours to shower, sort out bags and have a much-needed nap before it was time to go to the airport.
Tour price & extras
We spent $4,995.26 in total for both of us on our Egypt trip, inclusive of our flights to and from Egypt and the cost of our Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour. Our tour cost $1,335 each, so $2,670 for two of us.
Our tour was really comprehensive and included all sightseeing (except a few additional extras), accommodation, transport and some meals.
We’ve detailed all our expenses into a day-by-day breakdown here: The Cost of Travelling in Egypt.
Intrepid travellers are primarily Australian and we are terrible at tipping, mostly because it just isn’t part of our culture. Ahmed recommended that we all put in money to create a tipping kitty that would cover all tips for everyone who needed to be tipped throughout the tour. We all put in $4 USD per person, per day to cover this and it was honestly so simple and I definitely recommend doing this if your tour guide suggests it.
We tipped Ahmed separately at the end as well as he was such an amazing tour guide and really made our Egypt trip!
In Cairo we stayed at King Hotel Cairo which was not a good hotel, I honestly don’t know why Intrepid use it as their meeting hotel. The hotel was extremely old and dated, half under construction and we actually got stuck in the lift and had to be rescued. The positives of this hotel were the staff and the breakfast which was the best breakfast we had in Egypt! There was also an excellent rooftop terrace with 360 degree views of Cairo and a bar with top service and ice-cold beers.
In Aswan our hotel was the Isis Corniche Hotel. This was our favourite Egyptian hotel. The rooms were fairly luxurious by Egyptian standards, modern and the staff were great. There was a lovely large pool which was located right on the shores of the Nile. It was a good hotel and we had a great breakfast there as well.
In Luxor we stayed at the Royal House Hotel. The hotel was again, quite dated but in better condition than the King Hotel in Cairo. We had an issue with our first room but were moved to a second room which was fine.
The main thing was that all our rooms were clean and the air conditioning worked well. When we booked the tour we knew it wouldn’t be luxurious and we were okay with that because we were visiting Egypt for the history and the sights, not for nice hotels and fancy meals.
This is basically just a heads up that if you want luxury, then the Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour isn’t for you.
I personally didn’t rate the food in Egypt. Prior to visiting Egypt, the cuisine has been described to us as ‘cheap, peasant fare’ which sounds terrible but was actually a pretty good description of it. The food was cheap but filling and very carbohydrate heavy.
The breakfast at all of the hotels was quite good, with the best one being the hotel in Cairo, and the worst one, the hotel in Luxor. There was a decent sized buffet with enough options to please everyone including hot food, yoghurt, cereal, toast, pastries and the usual breakfast items.
Lunches weren’t included on most days and we would either eat as a group or Ahmed would recommend restaurants to us that he knew were safe to eat at. The standard lunch was falafel, shawarma (similar to a kebab) or khoshary (a carb loading meal of macaroni pasta, lentils, rice, tomato sauce, vinegar, chickpeas and crispy fried onions). Dan loved the khoshary but it was a much too heavy dish for me, especially in the heat. The falafel and sharmwama were flavoursome enough however I preferred the flavours of these dishes in Lebanon. I think it would be really easy to eat as a vegetarian in Egypt, however you might struggle a bit as a coeliac – however that is the benefit of being on a tour as your guide will be able to help with this.
The included meals were on the train (dinner and breakfast), the Nubian dinner in Aswan, a local lunch in Luxor and lunch, dinner and breakfast on the felucca. As we already explained, the train food was average on one trip and horrendous on the second. The other included meals were delicious and the best food we ate on the tour.
There were a few nights where meals weren’t included and we either ate at the hotel or as a group at a local restaurant. In Luxor we had a final group dinner together at a local restaurant and most people on our tour ate the Egyptian delicacy of pidgeon stuffed with rice. They all thought it was okay but nothing too amazing, however the locals love it! Ahmed said that he would eat it every day if he could. Dan had a mixed grill and I had a vegetarian moussaka which were both delicious.
Intrepid uses local guides on all their tours and in Egypt tour guides must spend a minimum of four years studying at University. We’d read amazing reviews about all of the Intrepid tour guides in Egypt and so knew we would be happy with any of them.
Ahmed was our guide for the Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour and he was amazing. He was potentially the most energetic person I’ve ever met! He was incredibly well educated, having spent 7 years at University and was so passionate and enthusiastic about Egypt and its history. He was excellent at managing our group, incredibly patient and really made an effort with everyone in the group.
We had a couple of minor issues with our accommodation, no towels or toilet paper in Cairo and the air conditioner was broken in Luxor and he promptly had our issues fixed in Cairo and arranged a new room for us in Luxor.
He also managed the group dynamics really well. One member of our group was quite rude and impatient and he managed her really well. We also found out at the first group meeting that the man from South Korea didn’t speak any English. Despite the lack of communication, he was hilarious and Ahmed went above and beyond with him at all times.
Intrepid keep their groups small, which is something that we liked. We didn’t want to be on a bus with 50 other travellers, we wanted to be on a small group tour where we would get the benefits of a tour, whilst also being left to our own devices at sights where it wouldn’t feel like our group had completely taken over.
There were 12 people on our Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour. Another Aussie couple who were a few years older than us from Tasmania, an Australian girl who was late thirties who was working in the Middle East, three recently retired American couples who were in their 50’s-60’s and a man from South Korea who was a similar age.
Our group all got along well and were respectful of each other, generally friendly and also happy to all do their own thing. I don’t think we made friends for life, however we had a good group and no major issues. Small group travel is definitely the way to go when travelling, especially in Egypt!
What to pack on your Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour
I’ll be writing a separate post about what we packed and what we wore on the trip, but the main essentials were:
- Swimmers (for the pools – not the Nile)!
- Suncream, bugspray.
- All of usual toiletries & medications which we wrote about here: Our Packing List: Medicines & Toiletries.
- I’m so glad I packed a few tubes of hydralyte tablets as we drank multiple drinks with hydralyte each day as it was so bloody hot.
- Conservative, yet cool clothing. I made sure my shoulders, knees and chest were always covered. Dan mostly wore tshirts and shorts.
- Decent walking shoes. We both took joggers, thongs (flip-flops) and I also took my birkenstocks.
- An unlocked phone. We purchased a sim card at Cairo airport when we arrived and I am so glad that we did as the wifi in the hotels was average, and often only worked in the lobby/reception areas.
- Your camera with lots of memory cards, or phone with plenty of storage because there are endless photo ops in Egypt! I am so excited to go through and choose our favourite photos to have printed into photobooks and also onto glass prints for our walls! We’ve used Snapfish in the past and absolutely love their glass prints so will definitely be printing our few favourite snaps with them to display at home.
Visiting in Summer
We were in Egypt in September and it was insanely hot. I honestly don’t know if I have ever sweated that much in my life! We started really early each day so that we could make the most of the day before it got unbearably hot.
We were finished sightseeing on some days (with the exception of Cairo which was a full day) and had free afternoons to chill in the air conditioning, by the pool or to do more sightseeing if we wanted. Most days we spent by the pool or chilling in the air conditioning as the temperature would be in the very high 40s (too hot to function).
In hindsight and if we ever were to return to Egypt I would probably travel during shoulder season so it isn’t as hot.
Was it safe?
We certainly had our apprehensions before visiting and the media and government websites definitely portray Egypt as an unsafe place to travel. The reality was however so different. We felt completely safe the whole time we were in Egypt and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we travelled in a small group and were with such a reputable company as Intrepid.
All our hotels had scanners at their entrance, however I think they were more for show than anything, however it was enough to reassure people. Ahmed would also always phone ahead when we were travelling anywhere to advise the tourist police and would check in when we had arrived with them as well. From what we could understand, the tourist police were very attentive in ensuring tourists were kept safe.
We never once felt unsafe and were so glad we had booked our trip with Intrepid as we felt like if we weren’t in a group that we would have been endlessly hassled by touts and people on the streets and at the sites.
Is the Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour right for you?
The Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour is fast paced, there is a lot of walking and on often uneven surfaces and you spend a lot of time out in the elements. We visited in September which was Summer and it was very, very hot.
As we mentioned, the hotels aren’t luxurious, and the night train is a bit of a hit or miss (we really enjoyed the first one, just not so much the second one)! The felucca is an amazing experience but it is definitely not for everyone as you sleep in a common area and there is one shared bathroom.
However, if you have a sense of adventure, don’t mind getting a bit dirty and sweaty, can rough it out on a night train, like small group travel and want to experience the authentic, real Egypt – then this tour is for you!
What were the best and worst parts of the tour?
Our favourite parts of Intrepid’s Egypt Adventure were:
- The sights! Every sight in Egypt was mind-blowing! We didn’t feel ‘ruin-ed’ out either as each sight was so unique.
- Our guide. Ahmed was a wealth of information and so full of life and energy. His enthusiasm for Egypt was infectious and we honestly couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide. You’ll be so lucky if you get him as your guide on the Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour.
- It was so easy having everything arranged for us, with a good balance of free time as well.
Our least favourite parts of the tour were:
- The hotels in Cairo and Luxor, however we knew that this wasn’t a luxury tour and so they weren’t any worse than we were expecting.
- Getting schistosomiasis from swimming in the Nile, but hey – it is now a good story and I’m all healed! Dan also got a dose of antibiotics from his doctor as he said it was likely he had it as well (just didn’t have any symptoms).
We loved every moment of our time in Egypt (every single sweaty moment haha)! It was my second time travelling with Intrepid and Dan’s first time and we would 110% book with them again. Ahmed was an incredible tour guide and the Egyptian sights and history was just as magical as we’d always imagined. Visiting Egypt was so many ticks off of our bucket lists and I’m so glad that we travelled with Intrepid on their Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the tour you can do so on Intrepid’s website: Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour
Is Egypt on your bucket list?
Our review of the Egypt Adventure Intrepid Tour was by no means sponsored in any way.
We paid the full price for the tour and all the inclusions.
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