Egyptian Exploration

March 7–17, 2020

Trip at a Glance

  • March 7–17, 2020
  • Guided by an expert Egyptologist
  • Arrive in Cairo & explore the Giza plateau and museums
  • Fly to ancient Luxor and explore nearby sites
  • Cruise along the Nile in a 5-star ship for four nights
  • Visit the astounding temples of Abu Simbel
  • Daily excursions to surrounding temples and sites
  • $3399 per person (based on double occupancy)
  • We can help you plan an extension to see Petra in Jordan!

Cairo

Giza

Luxor

Dendara

Aswan

Edfu

Abu Simbel

Enjoy the best of Egypt on this itinerary handcrafted by RetreaTours and led by a team of Egyptian experts! While BJ & Lauren will not be joining this tour, you’re be in excellent hands on this memorable, mesmerizing journery.

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1  Arrive in Cairo and relax in a room with a pyramid view!

Day 2  Explore the ancient sites of Saqqara

Day 3   Visit the Giza pyramids, the Valley Temple & the Sphinx

Day 4   Explore the Egyptian Museum before flying to Luxor

Day 5   Enjoy the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, the Memnon Colossi & the Luxor temple.

Day 6   Day trip to explore Dendera and the Valley of the Queens. Begin your 4-night Nile cruise! 

Day 7   Discover the Karnak temple & sail to Edfu

Day 8   Tour the temple of Edfu & Kom Ombo temple; sail to Aswan.

Day 9   Visit the Philae temple & the Unfinished Obelisk; experience a Felucca (sailboat) ride on the river.

Day 10   Fly to Abu Simbel, then on to Cairo.

Day 11   Depart with a lifetime of memories! (Or maybe you’re on your way to Petra to make some more!)

Itinerary Details

Welcome to Egypt! You’ll be met inside the airport in Cairo and guided through immigration.  Take in the sites during your drive to the hotel (~1 hour), where you can relax in your pyramid-facing rooms. Alternatively, grab a chaise lounge on the pool deck and soak up the pyramid views from there! Take advantage of the hotel’s spa treatments or just unwind in the giant indoor jacuzzi.

On your first full day, you’ll drive a short distance to see Saqqara, and you’ll be guided by an expert Egyptologist every step of the way.  Saqqara acted as the “playground” where the construction of pyramids was perfected. You’ll visit the Step Pyramid, the first freestanding stone building in history and the first pyramid ever built! Around Saqqara, you’ll explore the tombs as our guide explains their significance and deciphers the stories told in the beautiful hieroglyphics lining the walls.

After a refreshing night’s sleep and waking up to the pyramids, you’ll get the chance to explore them close up! Today you’ll explore the Giza pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley temple. You’ll have the opportunity to actually climb up inside the great pyramid, up into the King’s Chamber. After our pyramid visit, we’ll head out to visit the beautiful tombs of Idu & Qar. You’ll also be positioned for a panoramic view of the Giza plateau. Fancy a brief jaunt on a camel? Why not, you’re at the pyramids!

The morning of March 10th you’ll visit the Egyptian museum, the final resting place of priceless treasures from this ancient civilization. This museum houses the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic relics, and we’ll marvel at the enormous sarcophagi, statues, jewelry, and the magnificent golden masterpieces of King Tut. We’ll also explore the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, built in the 14th century and considered one of the largest mosques in the world. 

After our exploration, we’ll head to the airport and fly into Luxor (~65 minutes). You’ll stay at a stunning Nile-front resort with plenty of spa options! The next day we’ll head out for an all-day adventure to explore the Valley of the Kingswhere we’ll visit colorful tombs that were carved out of rocky cliffs to safeguard the mummies and rich furnishings from grave-robbers. This tour, unlike most tours, includes the entry fee into King Tut’s tomb and the beautifuk tomb of Ramses VI.

Your next stop will be Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. Hatshepsut is an intriguing, powerful character; she initially ruled as regent for her step-son Thuthmosis III but promoted herself to the role of pharaoh instead of passing power to him when he came of age. She asked her architect not to spare any effort in making this temple the best of its kind, and her temple is one of the most striking monuments in Ancient Egypt even in its semi-ruined state.

We’ll visit the Memnon Colossi, two of the most imposing ancient Egyptian statues still standing, on the way back to the East bank of the Nile. The statues are an incredible 60 feet tall and are thought to weigh around 700 tons each. This evening we’ll visit the breathtaing Luxor temple, truly a sight to behold as its ancient columns and enormous statues are illuminated in the purple skies of Egyptian nightfall. 

On March 12th, you’ll take a drive to visit beautiful Dendera temple (~90 minutes).  Dendera is a site dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of joy, dance, and love. Hathor was also believed to have had healing powers and ancient Egyptians often brought the sick here to be cured. Dendera Temple is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in the whole of Egypt. The ceiling of the Hathor Temple has recently been cleaned in a careful way that removed hundreds of years of black soot without harming the ancient paint underneath. As a result of this cleaning, spectacular ceiling paintings have been exposed in the main hall, and some of the most vibrant and colorful paintings dating from antiquity are now visible!  

This afternoon you’ll pay a visit to the Valley of the Queens, which has a different feel that the Valley of the Kings.  Here, guests who are true Egyptophiles can also choose to purchase entry tickets to the tomb of Queen Nefertari; visitors are restricted by the ticket price (~$80 USD, but may increase in 2020) but the tomb’s beauty is beyond compare. 

Today you’ll check into our Nile cruise! For the next four nights, you’ll call a 5-star ship our home, as you cruise between Luxor and Aswan on the Nile River. During the cruise, you’ll have time to rest, watch life along the banks of the Nile from our boat’s shaded terrace, and perhaps take a dip in the pool to refresh! 

On March 13th you’ll explore Karnack Temple. Karnack is a complex of temples, surrounded by one enclosure wall, that is dedicated to the god Amon-Ra. Approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to these buildings. It was completely buried in sand for many centuries which allowed it to be one of the most preserved temples in the land. The temple has many intricately carved columns, a huge open court, a massive façade, and two seated statues of Ramses II. You’ll feel like you’re in a forest of beautiful columns in the hypostyle hall! 

Around noon you’ll set sail for Edfu, and the next morning you’ll visit Edfu’s temple. This temple is dedicated to the falcon god Horus, and it is one of the most completely preserved temples. The divine marriage of Hathor and Horus is depicted on the walls of this temple where it was celebrated once a year. We find some of the carved hieroglyphics at Edfu among the most unique!

From Edfu, you’ll sail on to Kom Ombo and visit the temple there. It is the only temple in Egypt that is dedicated to two gods, Horus (the falcon god) and Sobek (the crocodile god). Don’t miss the incredible carvings of ancient medical instruments on the walls! The crocodile museum next door is a must-see as well. After your exploration at Kom Ombo, you’ll sail to Aswan.

On March 15th, you’ll visit Philae temple, considered to be the most beautiful temple in the Nile valley, dedicated to Isis and Osiris. The temple became submerged in the Nile after building the first Aswan dam, but with the help of UNESCO, Philae temple was completely moved to its new location. The temple was dismantled and transferred, stone by stone, from the submerged Philae Island to the redesigned Egilica Island. Each and every stone had to be numbered and then replaced in the same position in the new location. It was a massive project and took over 9 years to be completed. 

Next, you’ll head to the Unfinished Obelisk, which lies on the ground in its original location in a granite quarry. It was abandoned when cracks appeared in the rock during its construction. Had this obelisk been completed, it would have been the largest obelisk ever cut. This is a crucial insight into how ancient Egyptians painstakingly created their masterpieces; in addition, the bookshop and gift stores here athte Unfinished Obelisk are among the best! Later today we can experience a short ride on a traditional Egyptian sailboat, called a felucca.  

On March 16th you’ll fly to Abu Simbel (~45 minutes) to explore this gorgeous site. Built on the west bank of the Nile River between the first and second cataracts (the shallow areas of rapids), the site of Abu Simbel is one of the most recognizable ancient sites in Egypt. The entrance to the large temple is crowned by a carving of Ramses worshiping the falcon-headed god Ra. Flanking the entrance are four seated colossal figures, each a towering 65 feet tall. This temple, too, was carefully moved stone by stone to keep it safe from the rising Nile after the Aswan dam was built—it’s hard to wrap one’s brain around the complexity of such a project!

After your morning Abu Simbel visit, you’ll fly back to Cairo the same afternoon (via Aswan, for a total of 2.5 hours of flight time). You’ll rest at a hotel near the airport to make your departure tomorrow a bit easier. Tonight over your final dinner together, you can reminisce about what you’ve seen and experienced, tasted and felt, smelled and heard, during your unforgettable Egyptian exploration!

Tomorrow after breakfast you’ll be taken back to the airport to head home, or on to your next adventure. If you’d like to explore Jordan, including Petra & the Dead Sea, we have some wonderful connections for you!

More Trip Details

Please click the title of the desired section to open it.

Price & Inclusions

This 11 day/10 night all-inclusive journey is $3399 per person (double occupancy).  If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $650 and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.

A $1000 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1500 is due by November 1, 2019, and the balance is due by January 1, 2020.

Price Includes:

  • All meals 
  • All lodging (hotels and cruise)
  • All transportation within Egypt, including:
    • including airport pickup and drop-off
    • flight to Luxor
    • flight to Abu Simbel
    • flight back to Cairo
  • 4-night cruise down the Nile River
  • Camel ride on the Giza Plateau
  • Site entry fees, including the tombs of King Tut and Ramses VI and entry into the Great Pyramid
  • All tips to luggage handlers, drivers, housekeepers, restaurant staff
  • All water (at meals)
  • Wifi in public areas in hotels

 

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Tip to Egyptologist and Nile Cruise staff
  • $25 Egyptian visa fee
  • Camera fees at sites
  • All drinks except for water at mealtimes
  • Alcohol 
  • Wifi on river cruise or in-room at hotels (please see note about internet access in FAQ)

 

NOTE: 

  • There is a minimum of 6 guests that must sign up in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up.  Please do not purchase any airfare until you get the go-ahead from us that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.  
  • If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 3 months prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money.
Payment Details

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

We accept payments via check and credit/debit card (via PayPal). International guests, please contact us for the best transfer options.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.

Final installment due on January 1, 2020. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice before the due date.

Click here to pay the $1000 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Click here to pay the $1500 second installment by credit card (via PayPal), due November 1, 2019 

Registration Questions & Contract

Please use the link below to complete the registration questions for this trip. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and submitted your deposit. 

Register for the March 2020 Journey

Please click here to download to view and download PDF of the contract for your records. 

 

Temperatures & Suggested Packing List

Average temperatures during this time of year

  • Cairo: 59-85°F
  • Luxor: 60-95°F
  • Aswan: 65-95°F

Suggested Packing List

Clothing

First things first: you will be able to have laundry done (at your own expense) throughout this journey.

Almost as important: Packing cubes! Think of these are drawers for your suitcase. To see what we like, check out RetreaTours.com/Gear

Modesty is key in this part of the world, both culturally and for sun-protection!  Shoulders and knees should be covered, and please avoid clothes that are tight, transparent or show too much skin. We also discourage wearing form-fitting “skinny” jeans and shorts/skirts above the knee (men AND women). Instead, we recommend wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing such as long skirts, pants, capri-length pants, and t-shirts, collared shirts, blouses or tunics. Tops do not have to be long-sleeved–cap sleeves, regular t-shirt length sleeves, or 3/4 length sleeves are fine, just no tank tops. Ladies, you are not under any obligation to cover your hair/head (unless we go into a mosque). 

Note: When we are relaxing during the evening on the cruise, you can relax these restrictions, especially as far as shoulders and knees being bared. Bring some warm-weather “play” clothes for the cruise!

Please take this packing list as a jumping off point & bring what you think you will need!

  • 8+ pairs undergarments, 2+ bras; you can always have them washed or wash them yourself in your bathroom.
  • 3-5 pair pants or long skirts.  
  • 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, and consider 1-2 lightweight longsleeved shirts for sun protection.
  • A light sweater or cardigan for potentially chilly evenings on the boat (and the plane ride over!)
  • You may wish to bring something in the smart-casual realm for our evenings on the cruise (only if you wish!) You will also have opportunity to buy local clothes for the “Galabaya” party on the ship!
  • Sleeping attire
  • Comfortable walking shoes, such as sneakers (and any necessary socks) or comfortable slip-ons will suffice. Walking sandals (such as Teva’s, Chaco’s, or Merrell’s) also work very well here.
  • A swimsuit for our hotel & cruise pools 

 

Accessories

  • A print out of your return airline ticket itinerary/onward flight out of Cairo; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home/onward. You can also have a copy (we recommend a screenshot) on your phone. 
  • Photocopy of your passport and/or a photo of it on your phone (just to have in case of an emergency; should your passport get lost, this helps the replacement process)
  • Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by thisclick here to read an article he wrote on the topic.
  • A hat with a brim is a very good idea for our daytime adventures.
  • Sunglasses. 
  • Good sunscreen is critical.  Lauren prefers mineral-based ones: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones.
  • Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around.)
  • If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
  • Toiletries (particularly conditioner, if you use it, as most hotels do not offer it)
  • A few packs of travel tissues is a good idea, to keep on you for public restrooms while we are out and about.
  • Wet wipes or hand sanitizer.
  • Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
  • Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well. These will not be easy to come across once we begin our journey, so please make sure you buy a universal adaptor before the journey.
    • Please do not bring your own hair dryer or flat-iron with you unless you know it is dual-voltage, as it will not work with the voltage in Egypt (220 volts in Egypt vs 120 in USA).
  • An external battery charger, such as this one, may be useful if you plan on using your phone a lot for photos during excursions. If you do bring a battery of this nature, PLEASE NOTE that you cannot put it in your checked baggage–it must remain in your carry-on. 
  • A small travel umbrella is a fantastic way to keep the sun off you (and even bring the temperature down a few degrees!)
  • Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs.  We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
  • Your phone! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.
Travel Insurance (required)

If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. 

We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.

Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.

InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.

It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.

Travel Insurance. Simple & Flexible.

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    FAQ (Visas, Vaccines, Hotels, and more!)

    PASSPORT/VISA

    • What do I need to know about the visa?    

    First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section). 

    Egypt offers 30-day visas on arrival to American citizens for a $25 fee (not included in the trip).  You will receive this visa upon your arrival at the Cairo airport with the help of our travel partners.

    Please click here and check with your own country’s State Department for more information about the availability of an Egyptian visa. 

     

    FOOD

    • I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?

    Special diets will be no problem in Egypt, although we do ask that you complete the registration questions that will alert us to any special needs. Please feel free to email us with any specific concerns.

    Egypt has some gorgeous vegetarian options (including the national dish of kushari), but also has some brilliant meat selections for omnivores. Celiacs will be able to manage well, but we ask that you print out a CeliacTravel.com card in Arabic and English (as found here and here).

     

    • Can I drink the water?

    In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.

     

    HEALTH

    • What vaccines do I need?

    None are required to enter Egypt, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you.  You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the Scottish NHS recommendations here.

    • What about malaria? What about Zika?

    Malaria is not a risk in Egypt, nor is Zika. However, the key is to avoid mosquito bites altogether, so wearing a strong bug repellant, and wearing long sleeves and pants are important. As always, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information about malaria.

     *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from your licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.

    • Do I need travel insurance?

    We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind!  When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical expenses, medical evacuation, and repatriation. We also highly recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.

    We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the company and policy that is right for you.Please click here to get a quote. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company (you can explore options at InsureMyTrip.com, if you wish!)

     

    MONEY

    • How much money should I bring?

    All of your meals, accommodation, and transportation is covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras, alcohol, souvenirs, and tips to your Egyptologist guide. You’ll need to pay $25 USD for your Egyptian visa (on arrival). Beyond that is up to you!

    • How do I get the local currency?

    The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP). You can either exchange cash in Egypt or use a local ATM (which we prefer) to get EGP. Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Egypt, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world. When exchanging cash, you always get a slightly better deal when exchanging $100 bills.

    You do NOT need to exchange money before you arrive in Egypt, as exchanging money while still in your home country usually has a very poor exchange rate.

     

    HOTELS

     

    COMMUNICATION & WIFI

    • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

    Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our hotels to pass along to your loved ones; If you choose to bring your cell phone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime audio to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.

    • What about Wifi access?

    There is wifi access in the public areas (lobbies, restaurants) in our hotels, but rarely in the rooms. And while wifi is available for purchase on your Nile Cruise, we consider it to be extraordinarily expensive. We recommend purchasing a Vodafone SIM card upon arrival at the Cairo airport; if your phone is unlocked (please check with your cell carrier if you are unsure), you can simply pop it into your phone. If your phone is locked, you can also purchase a hotspot to use. We’ll let you know before your journey is we have any wifi hotspot devices from previous trips that you can borrow during your time in Egypt! Data in Egypt is very reasonable; $15 USD would get you enough data for the whole journey (providing you aren’t downloading or streaming videos or using video chat/FaceTime). 

    Contact RetreaTours

    Please email [email protected] for any questions you may have about this journey (or just to say Hi!)   If you don’t hear back within 48 hours, please check your spam folder!  

    BJ and Lauren in Abu Simbel, 2019

     

    Photo Album

    Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album. All photos from Cairo and Giza were taken by us personally; photos from all other sites have been borrowed with the best of intentions, and sources can be given upon request. 

     

    AROUND THE WORLD JOURNEYS

    October 19 – November 12, 2020: Around the World: World Wonders Edition

    Coming soon: Around the Buddhist World, early Autumn 2020!

     

    THE GALAPAGOS

    LADAKH (INDIA)

    Stay tuned for 2020 Ladakh offerings, and click here to learn a bit more about Ladakh!

    INDIA (EXCLUDING LADAKH)

    EGYPT

    BHUTAN

    Want to add Bhutan on to your Asian journey? See PrivateBhutanTours.com for private tour options!


    BUDDHIST JOURNEYS WITH TRICYCLE: THE BUDDHIST REVIEW

    Walking with Buddha in India & Nepal, November 1–13, 2019

    Pilgrimage to Sri Lanka with Tempel Smith, January 7–18, 2020

    Coming soon:

    • Pilgrimage to Ladakh, Summer 2020
    • Pilgrimage to Mongolia, Summer 2020
    • Pilgrimage Around the Buddhist World, early Autumn 2020

    CULTURAL JOURNEYS WITH BJ & LAUREN



     

     

     

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