Welcome to Egypt! Upon arrival our staff will meet you at the airport, assist you with obtaining your visa and luggage, and then transfer you to your hotel close to the Pyramids for the start of your trip. They will help you settle in, introduce you to the local area, and explain tomorrow's arrangements. The rest of the day is free. If you arrive early you may like to take an evening dinner cruise on the Nile, or enjoy a spectacular sound and light show at the pyramids (both available to book locally on arrival).
Our tour of Egypt begins with a trip to the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo. Home to the fantastic Tutankhamun exhibit the museum hosts a huge number of other ancient Egyptian artefacts. One of our local Egyptologist guides will be accompanying you on this and all of your other sightseeing tours, and you'll find them a wealth of knowledge and full of enthusiasm about Egyptian history, and their country in general. Following on from the museum we then head to Giza on the outskirts of Cairo to visit the Sphinx and the three great pyramids of Egypt. The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), an awesome man-made structure constructed of giant stone blocks, together with the smaller pyramids of Khafre (Chephern) and Menkaure (Mycerinus), the majestic sight of these enormous structures rising out of the desert is a breathtaking spectacle. You will have the opportunity to climb down right inside the pyramids if you wish, though your guide cannot accompany you (a limited number of tickets are available for the Great Pyramid).
This evening we transfer to the station for the overnight sleeper train to Aswan (approx. 12 hours).
This morning we arrive in Aswan and transfer to our hotel overlooking the Nile which is at its most picturesque here, with cascading rapids, lush green islands, and feluccas sailing to and fro. Aswan itself is a melting pot of African and Middle Eastern cultures, most easily experienced by wandering through the busy markets and we build in some free time for you here to do this, walk up and down the Corniche on the banks of the river or visit the Nubian Museum which has a fascinating collection covering the development of the Nubian people in the region.
Our tours in Aswan start this afternoon with a visit the Temple of Philae, a beautiful island complex dedicated to Isis and reclaimed from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, which we reach by a scenic boat ride. We also stop to visit the huge Aswan Dam. The rest of the day is free.
If you are choosing the luxury Nile cruise upgrade in place of the felucca, then you will normally board your cruise boat today.
An option is available this morning to visit the temples built by Ramses II at the amazing UNESCO world heritage site of Abu Simbel. We depart very early with the aim of seeing the rising sun over the temples. Transfers, guiding, and entrance fees are included. If you don't visit Abu Simbel, then this morning is free.
We board our traditional Nile felucca at lunchtime to enjoy an afternoon sailing down the Nile. Floating down the Nile on a felucca is one of Egypt's most enjoyable activities and you'll be able to watch local rural Egyptian life pass you by on the banks of the river as you drift past. Our Nubian crew will sail the boat and entertain you on the way, as well as preparing meals for you. Our separate facilities boat will join with us from time to time during the day and moor up with us at night. This boat has a welcome toilet and showers on board as well as a hygienic kitchen where the crew will prepare a delicious evening meal. You sleep on the deck of the boat tonight (mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets provided). You can upgrade your upcoming felucca sailboat trip to a 3 night luxury Nile cruise, and in this case you'll spend your first night on board on Day 3 instead of in the hotel. All other touring remains the same.
After breakfast on-board we bid farewell to our felucca crew and visit the nearby temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu before continuing on north to Luxor. The town of Luxor is built on and around the ancient site of Thebes, and boasts the largest concentration of ancient ruins in the Nile Valley, if not the world. To the west of the Nile lies the City of the Dead, with its mortuary temples and rock-hewn tombs, whilst to the east lie the Temples of Luxor and Karnak.
After lunch we'll tour the huge temple complex at Karnak, once the religious centre of Thebes and Upper Egypt. It was linked to Luxor by an extensive avenue, lined with sphinxes, and the whole complex was in turn linked to the Nile via a canal through which moved the sacred boats of the god Amun. Entering through a smaller sphinx-lined avenue, built by Ramesses II, you come to the immense pylon entrance. Inside the huge Courtyard are three chapels dedicated to the gods Amun, Khous and Mut. The remarkable Hypostyle Hall has 134 towering columns, each carved with scenes of gods and pharaohs, and hieroglyphic inscriptions adorn the walls.
Later this evening we'll take a walking tour of the smaller Luxor Temple which is right in the middle of town and beautifully lit up at night.
We cross the Nile early this morning to begin our tour of Luxor's West Bank. Home to the Valley of the Kings, the dusty tombs in this ancient burial site are still revealing their secrets today and so it remains one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Our tour includes several of these Pharaonic tombs, as well as the temples of Queen Hatchepsut and Medinat Habu, and the huge Colossi of Memnon.
A spectacular hot air balloon flight over the west bank of the Nile is available this morning (expect an early start to catch sunrise as the balloon rises).
This afternoon we leave the Nile Valley and drive to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada where we check into a 4-star resort. Your stay here is on a 'soft all inclusive' basis, with all meals, soft drinks and snacks included but not alcoholic beverages.
Your day is free today to relax and enjoy your time by the Red Sea. Hurghada is world famous for its scuba diving and snorkelling and the rich Red Sea marine life here attracts divers from all over the world. Other adventurous activities available include wind surfing and kite surfing, glass bottomed submarines, quad biking, camel rides and sea fishing trips. Our local rep based in Hurghada will be on hand to help make any arrangements. Hurghada itself has an interesting marina and old town to explore.
If you wish, we can book extra nights in the resort in Hurghada for you to extend your time here - please contact us for details and prices.
We fly back to Cairo this morning and you then have a choice of either a free day to explore or relax at your own leisure, or to take one of our optional additional tours. These include a city tour which visits the narrow winding streets of Coptic Cairo, the impressive Citadel and Mohamed Ali Mosque as well as the bustling market streets of Khan El Khalili bazaar. Alternatively you could head to the outskirts of Cairo again to learn more about the history of pyramid building by visiting the early pyramids at Saqqara and Dashour, part of the ancient city of Memphis.
Your time is free today to explore Cairo before we transfer you to the airport for your flight to Amman, Jordan (not included). A half day city tour exploring Cairo is available this morning if you have an afternoon flight. Upon arrival in Amman airport our staff will meet you and transfer you to your hotel for the start of your Jordan trip. They will help you settle in, introduce you to the local area, and explain tomorrow's arrangements. Note: the Cairo-Amman flight is left out of the set tour price as it is often more cost effective for you to include this flight as part of your main international flight ticket. We are happy to book all your international flights, just this Cairo-Amman flight, or none of them at all, whichever works best for you. Direct flights are available with both Egypt Air and Royal Jordanian Airlines. You can fly at anytime during the day - all transfers in Cairo and Amman are included.
Our Jordan sightseeing begins today with a journey north to the ruins at Pella and Umm Qais. Pella is one of the most ancient towns in the world and a favourite of archaeologists. It is exceptionally rich in antiquities, some of which are exceedingly old. Besides the excavated ruins from the Graeco-Roman period, Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, evidence of Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches, early Islamic residential quarters and a small medieval mosque. In addition to Jerash and Amman, Gadara (now Umm Qais) and Pella (Tabaqit Fahl) were once Decapolis cities, and each has unique appeal. Our next stop, Umm Qais, is one of the most brilliant ancient Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis. Perched on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, Umm Qais boasts impressive ancient remains, such as the stunning black basalt theatre, the basilica and adjacent courtyard strewn with nicely carved black sarcophagi, the colonnaded main street and a side street lined with shops, an underground mausoleum, two baths, a nymphaeum, a city gate and the faint outlines of what was a massive hippodrome. In the afternoon we'll return to Amman where we'll spend the night.
After breakfast, we drive north for a full day visit of Jerash, one of the largest and best preserved Roman sites outside of Italy. It is a excellent example of Roman architecture including paved and colonnaded streets, hilltop temples, amphitheatres, spacious public squares and plazas, bathhouses, fountains and a city wall pierced by towers and gates. We continue by road to the shore of the Dead Sea where we can float and try to swim in the unique, salty waters before returning to Amman for the night.
We depart Amman for a scenic drive south along the King's Highway to Petra. The King's Highway is a slower, but much more interesting and beautiful drive than the busy Desert Highway, and during our journey we'll cross deep Wadis, drive through olive groves, and pass remote rural villages. En-route we stop in Madaba and see the town's main attraction, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George where we'll see its famous 6th Century Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land and other biblical sites. We'll also enjoy great views of the Holy Land from Mt. Nebo, known as the burial place of the propher Moses.
Continuing south we cross several deep Wadis including the majestic Wadi al-Mujib, where the road winds down and down, and then back up the other side of this 1km deep canyon. Next stop is Kerak Castle, one in a chain of Crusader fortresses built across Jordan in the 12th Century on the ancient Egypt-Syrian caravan route. Built in 1132AD by the Crusader King, Baldwin 1 of Jerusalem, the castle fell to Saladin in 1188 AD. It is still a hugely impressive building with commanding views over the surrounding hills and plains.
We enjoy a full day today inside the world famous Nabatean site of Petra. Carved into the rocks and left undiscovered for centuries Petra has always been an enduring attraction for explorers. We include a guided tour of the area with plenty of free time to explore on your own. This evening you may book an optional visit to Petra for the spectacular Petra by Candlelight tour.
This morning we visit the site of Little Petra, which was a suburb of the main city and provides a great insight into the building of the larger buildings and tombs. Next we head for the spectacular desert and mountains of Wadi Rum. After arriving in Wadi Rum, we take a jeep safari through the beautiful desert scenery, seeing more of the sheer cliffs and bizarre rock formations, before finishing at a Bedouin camp located against the cliffs right inside the Wadi Rum reserve. We have the rest of the afternoon here, and you can relax in the camp, take a hike around the beautiful scenery around the camp, or enjoy an optional camel safari at sunset. We then spend a memorable night here at the camp where we enjoy our Bedouin hosts' hospitality, traditional food, and plenty of tea. You can sleep in comfortable Bedouin tents (beds and all bedding provided), or find an atmostpheric spot outside under the stars if you prefer (bring a sleeping bag).
After breakfast at the Bedouin camp we leave the spectacular scenery of Wadi Rum and start our drive back up the Desert Highway to Amman. Along the way we'll make a stop to visit Qasr Al Mushatta, one of Jordan's 'desert castles'. Qasr Al Mushatta is the largest of the Umayyad palaces in Jordan, surrounded by a square enclosing wall with multiple semi-circular towers. In its time, Qasr Al Mushatta was a showcase of early Islamic stonework and carved plaster, of which some remnants can still be seen. Most of the ornate carvings were sent to Germany by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid as a gift for Kaiser Wilhelm and can be seen in a Berlin museum. The Palace was started by the Caliph Walid II around 743 AD but never finished. We spend some time exploring here before continuing on to Amman to explore the city.
Amman is often referred to as the 'white city' due to its facade of white limestone buildings and houses. A number of renovations and excavations have taken place revealing remains from the Neolithic period, as well as from the Hellenistic and late Roman to Arab Islamic Ages. We will visit the Citadel which houses many structures such as the Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and a Byzantine Church. At the foot of the Citadel lies the Roman Theatre, another newly restored theatre is the 500-seat Odeon that is used for concerts. If time allows, you will also pay a visit to the Jordan Archaeological Museum and the Folklore Museum. Finally we return to our hotel for our final night in Jordan.
If you wish you can extend your tour by heading to the Red Sea at Aqaba this morning for a couple of nights in a 5-star resort before returning to Amman.
Your time is free today until we transfer you to Amman airport for your departure flight. Alternatively you may wish to take one of a number of optional day trips. These include tours to Ajloun Castle, a tour of the 'Desert Castles', a visit to the Baptism Site at Bethany on the Jordan, or a tour into Israel to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem. We can also arrange a transfer to Tel Aviv either by flight or overland for people wanting to connect this tour with our Fantastic Israel tour departure which starts on Sunday.