No photo compares to seeing the pyramids of Giza with your own two eyes.
Even viewed from afar, you cannot comprehend just how large and impeccably arranged these stones are until you’re literally standing on them.
And I still had an entire week of exploration ahead of me.
Exodus Travels invited me to join their Pyramids & Pharaohs tour, a nine-day inclusive adventure designed to hit the landmark sites while still leaving ample room in the schedule for off-the-radar stops and free time to explore each destination.
It was the experience of a lifetime…and one that you can have just as easily.
Equal Parts Recreation & Relaxation
Surfing down a sand dune on a modified snowboard is a thrill — but it’s not everyone’s idea of a relaxing vacation.
My small group consisted of our local guide, Houba, and fourteen other travelers aged late-20s to over 60. The tour is categorized as a “leisurely/moderate” activity level, which means most of the activities were inclusive for our range of ages.
Kayaking the Nile, riding ATVs to the pyramids, and even sandboarding down the desert dunes offered excitement at an accommodating level for all ages. And yet, those who sat out on these itinerary stops rarely felt left behind.
The tour had a mix of sightseeing and leisure time. Our first day in Aswan was spent sailing (and napping) down the Nile on a traditional felucca while the next had us visit the Temples of Abu Simbel long before the break of dawn to experience the biannual Sun Festival.
We visited too many temples to list, and even when moving between ancient sites felt slightly rushed for everyone’s taste, I never felt like I missed out on seeing what I wanted to see. For instance, fully exploring every open tomb in the Valley of the Kings would take hours, yet in 90 minutes I enjoyed slowly reading the hieroglyphs in the tombs of King Tut, Seti I, Ramseys IX, and Merneptah.
Egypt has such a long history that even the Ancient Egyptians were studying the Ancient Egyptians. You’ll need endless days to explore all of Egypt, but Exodus Travels helps you maximize seven full days with as many diverse activities as possible.
Every single person in the group came to see the legendary pyramids and temples, yet all of us agreed that one of our favorite elements of the trip was our time at a Nubian village in Aswan.
Our Nubian hosts were more than accommodating, treating us to traditional dinner and dancing and teaching us about the Nubian way of life. Although many of us took an optional tour of Philae Temple, the best moments for our time in Aswan were those we spent hanging out with our new Nubian friends.
I’ve imagined visiting the pyramids most of my life, yet in no part of my dream did I ever plan on having mint tea with a Nubian family who owned pet crocodiles or getting up at sunrise just to take a cold plunge into the Nile River with two people I’d only just met and would possibly never see again.
The idea of visiting a veterinarian’s office sounds severely underwhelming after scouring the Valley of the Kings, but our stop at ACE Luxor animal hospital was another surprisingly rewarding element of the Exodus itinerary.
Fulfilling travel means finding the healthy balance between following the schedule and going with the flow. Thanks to Exodus’ arrangement of activities — or allotment of free time — we saw everything we wanted to see, did what we wanted to do, and discovered a few new corners of Egypt we hadn’t planned to visit.
Should You Solo Travel Instead?
Prior to this trip, I’d traveled to 36 countries: 2 via cruise, 2 via organized day trips, and the other 32 with my own independent planning. As a travel writer, part of my job means exploring places off the beaten path and figuring out the logistics of getting from place to place – whether that be across town, across international borders, or across an ocean.
Exodus Travels was my first group tour and I would have regretted trying to tour Egypt alone.
In practice, however, it can get complicated.
Cairo’s traffic is a nightmare scenario that’s always a centimeter away from becoming one big game of bumper cars. You need ample time not only getting to and from the airport, but from the pyramids in Giza across the Nile into downtown Cairo. Luxor is similar; the Nile separates Luxor and Karnak Temples from the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Even if you hire taxis in those cities, you’ll still need to book transport or day tours to cities like Aswan and Abu Simbel, both of which will eat up your sightseeing time.
Having Houba guide us at every stage of the trip added rich layers of context to each ancient site. Small details and conversations from days prior were revisited to maximize tour fluidity: Having a tour guide point out a specific exhibit in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo then go deeper into its history at the site of its excavation in Luxor a week later offers a much more engaging and memorable experience.
Plus, solo travel is lonely at times.
Experiencing one of the world’s oldest civilizations with a small group of strangers-turned-friends is priceless. From sipping mint tea together under a Bedouin tent in the desert to making sure everyone gets a proper photo of themselves in front of King Tut’s tomb, I’m surprised at just how many of my favorite Egyptian memories have little to do with Egypt’s great wonders at all.
Escape to Egypt with Exodus Travels
The pyramids aren’t special because of the stones themselves, but rather, because a team of people came together to create something unforgettable.
Visit Egypt on your own and you’ll see why it’s a special place; visit the country under the curated itinerary of Exodus Travels and you’ll create lifelong memories with as little stress as possible.
Egypt was the seemingly unattainable top of my bucketlist and the Pyramids & Pharaohs tour turned this longtime dream into an amazing reality. Whether you’re interested in living out a childhood dream like I was, or if you’d simply like to enjoy a vacation in Egypt that requires virtually no planning, the Pyramids & Pharaohs tour through Exodus Travels will leave you in a state of wonder that lasts long after you leave Luxor.