Places to visit in Egypt
Aswan, set on the winding curves of the Nile, is Egypt's most peaceful city. This is the ideal place to rest and unwind for a few days and soak up the chilled-out atmosphere, backed up by orange-hued dunes. Take the river ferry across to Elephantine Island and walk through the lively streets of the villages of the Nubians. Race your camel to St. Simeon's desert monastery on the East Bank. Or just drink endless cups of tea while watching the lateen-sailed feluccas drift by at one of the riverboat restaurants. There are plenty of historic sites here and numerous nearby temples, but one of Aswan's most famous things to do is just kick back and watch the life of the river pass by.
The White Desert, where surreally formed chalk mountains have produced what looks like a snowy wonderland in the middle of the arid sand, is Egypt's kookiest natural wonder. With blindingly white boulders and iceberg-like pinnacles, the landscapes here look like something from a science fiction movie. This is the ultimate strange playground for desert fans and explorers, while anyone who's had their fill of temples and tombs will love this stunning natural scenery.
Way out west, Siwa is a calm tonic to the hustle and bustle of the cities of Egypt. Surrounded by date palm plantations and numerous freshwater springs, this beautiful little oasis is one of the most picturesque locations in the Western Desert. The city is built around the remains of a massive citadel of mud-brick that dominates the view. This is a perfect place for a few days to wind down and go slow, as well as being an excellent base from which to plan adventures in the surrounding desert.
Alexandria is the most European of the cities in Egypt and has a past that not many others can equal. Established for most of its existence by Alexander the Great, home of Cleopatra, and a renegade Mediterranean city of razzmatazz, this seaside city has an enticing day-by-day atmosphere that can't be beaten. While there are few historical remains of its illustrious past today, featuring in songs and books, this is a place made for aimless wandering along the Corniche seashore, café-hopping, and souk shopping.
St. Catherine's Monastery
St. Catherine's, one of the world's oldest monasteries, stands at the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses is believed to have received the Ten Commandments. An impressive array of religious iconography, sculpture, and manuscripts (some of which can be seen in the on-site museum) as well as the burning bush are housed in this desert monastery. A journey to St. Catherine's also requires a hike up Mount Sinai to see the sunrise or sunset for most tourists here. For the simple route, take the camel path or, if you want better views, climb the popular Steps of Repentance.
The South Sinai Area on the Sinai Peninsula is Egypt's center for beach fun. Sharm el-Sheikh is a European-style resort full of entertainment options, luxurious hotels, foreign restaurants, and luggage. Dahab is a low-key beach city with the heart of budget tourists, as well as about desert excursions and adventures as they are around the sea. There are the bamboo hut retreats up the coast, between the port town of Nuweiba and the border town of Taba, offering full get-away-from-it-all respites from life. South Sinai is all about diving, anywhere you want. The Red Sea is one of the world's top diving destinations, and most of the best diving sites are located in the South Sinai region.
Thistlegorm Dive Site
Another world as interesting as the temples and tombs on land is below the Red Sea's level. There is also a glut of shipwrecks that have sunk in the Red Sea Gulf of Gubal and Gulf of Aqaba, among the many coral reefs off the coast. The most famous of all the wrecks are the Thistlegorm, an English WWII cargo ship that was on its way to resupply British troops when it was bombed in 1941 by the Germans. Today, owing to the large cargo of vehicles, motorbikes, and WWII memorabilia that can be seen both littered on the sea bed around the wreck and inside the ship itself, the site is considered by divers as one of the top five wreck dives in the world. Dive boat trips from both Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada to the wreck are arranged.
The Nile describes Egypt. For many tourists, a multi-day cruise that saw the emergence of the Pharaonic period on this famous waterway is a highlight of their trip to Egypt. The most relaxing way to see the temples that stud the banks of the river on the route between Luxor and Aswan is also to cruise the Nile, plus sunrise and sunset over the date-palm-studded river banks, backed by sand dunes, is one of the quietest views of Egypt.