How long was your stay?
How did you travel?
My Hidden Gems:
1. Siwa Oasis
Give us all the details! Tell us where you went and what you did on your trip.
We went to Egypt in the beginning of June, and I had the time of my life. I found out there is so much more besides the pyramids and ancient temples to see there. Of course, I think everybody should do the basics (that is not at all basic) when visiting Egypt, and that includes at least 2 days in Cairo and 2 days in Luxor, and ideally 1 day more for Aswan, even more south. The historical sites there are unbelievable and you can’t miss it! But besides the places you already know you have to visit, I will list my favorite hidden gems or unique activities that you should try to include when you visit this beautiful country and give my recommendations about them.
#1 SIWA OASIS: I heard about this place only once I was already in Cairo, from other travelers that were ending their trips, and I got excited about it right away. It is a remote region closer to Libia, you can get there by bus from Alexandria or from Cairo. The trip can be exhaustive, it’s long and not the easiest one, but when you will have the opportunity to visit an oasis in the middle of Saara’s Desert? It is so unbelievable, like some life explosion in the middle of nowhere. The scenery there is a mix of millennial ruins and palm trees, and it hosts a small town with more than 20 thousand people that can easily live in that remote area in the middle of the desert thanks to the abundance of water. They found important archeological parks there, under the Desert’s sand, so you can visit also ancient temples there. But the most surprising attractions to visit in Siwa are definitely the breathtaking salt lakes that you can find around the region. That place is an infinite source of salt, and as they remove salt for refinement, that space is taken by water forming the lakes. Of course, it is so salty you can’t sink, you float the whole time and you can’t stay for so long inside the water, cause it gets itchy and uncomfortable. You can hire guides in the city, they will take you around Siwa for the day and show you Salt lakes, oases, natural pools, and ancient temples. Don’t miss this place!
#2 HOT AIR BALLOON TOUR IN LUXOR Luxor is a famous historic destination in Egypt, and it definitely has to be on your itinerary. The Ancient Temples there and Tombs are something out of this World, but I am here to talk about one special activity that many people end up missing: the hot air balloon flight. The agency picks you up at the hotel around 4 am to see the sunrise from up there. You arrive at a big dark field and suddenly they start firing up some of the balloons and the spectacle begins, just by watching all the preparation. When you get inside, and you start flying, it is such a great sensation. And suddenly when it’s finally light, you have that magnificent view over the Valley of the Kings (all the Pharaoh’s tombs they are still digging) plus the whole city that is cut by the Nile River. I paid 40 euros for the tour, but I can easily say it is worth more (tourism was still down because of the pandemic). So, if you are not too afraid of heights, I definitely recommend that you go on this tour!
#3 CLIMBING MOUNT SINAI When I was in Dahab, a coast city in the Sinai Peninsula, I found out about the tours to climb Mount Sinai, or Moses Mountain as it is known. The experience is very unique, we left by a van during the night and started climbing around 1 am to get up there in time for sunrise. The climb is not difficult but you need some physical preparation because you are going always up, so it can be a bit exhausting. The way is easy and each one in the group can go on their own time, there are many stops along the way for tea or coffee and people will wait for the others, warming up like a typical Egyptian. Some people can’t climb everything, so they hire a Camel ride. I am personally not a fan of using animals for human tourist activities, so I would only recommend that you go on this tour if you can handle the climb. We got the Full Moon and the path was so bright all the way up. Even during summer, it was a bit fresh during the night, so go prepared. We got up there around 4 am and waited for the sunrise. And when it finally started lightening up the sky, we could look down and see the whole way we’ve been climbing and the unbelievable desert mountains. Can’t describe the sensation of these first views. Then the Sun started to show up, and I was just wow! We just stayed there for an hour, watching and enjoying the moment… One of the best experiences ever!
#4 DIVING IN DAHAB Many people don’t know that the Red Sea is one of the most amazing places for diving. The marine environment there is just so diversified and full of colors, the water is perfectly warm and clear, and you can’t get over swimming around and watching life under the water. For diving lovers, you also have tens of Diving Schools, where you can take courses or rent material for scuba diving, or snorkeling if that’s enough for you. Dahab is a fantastic place to meet people from all over the World, enjoy a nice meal by the Red Sea, have a Turkish coffee and smoke a shisha, go camping to stargaze in the Desert or ride your bicycle around to visit different turquoise water beaches. But if you like to learn more about Marine life, don’t miss out on diving, you won’t be disappointed. Just be careful: after you dive in the Red Sea, your level of demand for what you see outside and inside the water can be very high for other travel destinations.
#5 BLACK AND WHITE DESERT TOURS Leaving from Cairo, this is an overnight tour that I highly recommend if you like exploring exotic landscapes and getting outside of the city for a while, being in contact with nature. Spending the night in the desert is not particularly comfortable, but I can tell it is the kind of experience you will never forget. Our ride to the desert took 5 hours by car, we got to the agency to meet the guide, and from there they put us in a 4×4 to start the tour, with all prepared for the camping night. We visited first the Black Desert, full of volcanic material remnants. It was something very unique, but there was much more to come. We followed Crystal Mountain at the Agabat Valley, where the landscape is completely different. That is actually a hill made out of crystals and stalagmites. You can find small pieces of crystals everywhere. Later, they take you inside the White Desert. There were literally no other cars or no one there. We drove in for a couple of minutes and stopped for a coffee, to sit and appreciate the view. It was getting better and better. Then we drove a couple more minutes in to find our place to set up camp, and that place was unbelievable!
The limestone formations you can see along the way are so impressive. The guide and the driver did everything for us, while we watched the sunset from the desert hills. Then they cooked us dinner, which we had while sitting around a small table without a roof, just watching the stars. We slept in a sleeping bag and a mattress in the sand, completely under the desert sky. What an experience! I must confess I didn’t sleep well, but I can’t say I regret it at all. The next day, we had breakfast and jumped in the car again. We visited some famous parts of the desert where they have those limestone formations with shapes that resemble mushrooms, a camel, and a chicken, among other things. They took us back to the meeting point to change cars and they drove us back to Cairo during the afternoon.
Tell us why you traveled to this destination.
In the first semester of 2021, I was feeling very frustrated with the experiences I had been through and the life I was building in Thailand, where I used to live, and I was thinking it was time to leave, and probably go back home. I was locked up in the hospital because I got COVID, it was mandatory to stay there for 14 days, and believe me, that was such a hard time for me. I was in the other side of the World, missing my family and everyone I loved, and literally could count on no one in that situation, because everyone was just scared of the virus and even blaming me for being sick (yea, crazy, right?) And someday during that 14 days, a friend of mine that also lived in Thailand called me and told me he wanted to go to Egypt, and asked me if I wanted to join him for a couple of weeks and explore the whole country. I actually had never thought about traveling to Egypt at that time of my life, but I instantaneously accepted the invitation. That would be an incredible adventure, and why not go with a friend to make things easier? I needed that, I needed something new.
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
Definitely, these experiences I wrote down here are the highlights of my trip. But there was so much more. I found a country full of good people, delicious food, incredible history, interesting culture, different thoughts, and crazy beautiful nature. And I like to talk about these experiences to call your attention to Egypt, so when you plan your trip, you won’t book a tour only to Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada (beach). Go for longer holidays, and explore the maximum of this country that you can!
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
I would definitely do everything the same, it was just perfect! Just be aware of some things: – People there depend a lot on tourism, so they can be excessively harassing you to buy things, to make tours, activities, etc. – During summer, it is really hot in the south of Egypt (especially Luxor and Aswan) and also in the Sinai, almost unbearable sometimes, so try to go during the mid seasons. – Try not to book tours on the internet, you can bargain anything there and get much better prices. – Learn about their culture and religion, and respect their differences. When you choose to visit another country, you are the different one. Remember that!
Thanks Jessica for sharing your itinerary with us! Find Jessica online at @_fuialiejavolto
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