From the Valley of the Kings to the awe-inspiring ruins of Petra, this adventure through Egypt and Jordan reveals so much more than the sphinxes and tombs of your childhood dreams. You’ll sail down the Nile, visit traditional village communities, dig for obscure treasure in ancient marketplaces, and dip your feet into the crisp salt waters of the Dead Sea.
Day 1: Cairo
Arrive at Cairo International Airport, be transferred to your hotel and the remainder of the day is free to explore the city. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can perhaps be symbolised by two imposing landmarks – the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. In free time perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts, where you can see donkey carts and expensive cars, medieval slums and modern shopping malls.
Day 2: Cairo – overnight train
This morning after breakfast drive out to Giza, home to perhaps the greatest iconic structures ever created by man – the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is captivating.
Head to the Egyptian Museum after lunch and your expert guide will take you through Egypt’s rich and fascinating dynastic history. Afterwards, return to your hotel, where there is plenty of time to freshen up before you are transferred to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Luxor. (B, D)
Day 3: Luxor
After an early breakfast on board, the train rolls into Luxor. It’s a vibrant place with an excellent bazaar, situated close to some of ancient Egypt’s most important and extraordinary sights. Travel to Karnak, one of the world’s most celebrated temple complexes, built over a period of some 200 years, and some of it dating back to 2,055 BC. Your guided tour of the temple reveals its finest sections.
Later you will be transferred to your Nile cruise boat, which will be your home for the next four nights. You can relax by the pool on the boat or explore the town. For the rest of the afternoon and evening you will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local tea house. (B, L, D)
Day 4: Valley of the Kings – Luxor – Nile Cruise
Rise early this morning and head into the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. Explore this sprawling and spectacular place where discoveries are still being made. Tutankhamun’s final resting place is also located here, and you’ll have free time to visit it. Your guide will explain the funerary rites of the ancient Egyptians and significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics. You will visit three royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre. Your final stop is the Colossi of Memnon – giant statues that were once part of an impressive colonnade. Enjoy lunch upon your return to the boat. There is time to relax on deck or in your cabin before you set sail for Edfu. (B, L, D)
Day 5: Nile Cruise
Morning finds you moored near Edfu, a beautifully preserved temple dedicated to Horus. Continue travelling upriver, relaxing on the sundeck and taking in the surrounding sights – desert hills forming a backdrop to lush riverbanks, fishermen casting their nets and farmers working their land.
This afternoon we will arrive at Kom Ombo temple (about 45km north of Aswan city) which sits picturesquely ruined on the river’s edge and provides an interesting insight into the Greco-Roman period. Board your boat again at around 6pm and continue to Aswan, arriving at around 9.30 pm. (B, L, D)
Day 6: Aswan
Explore Aswan today, Egypt’s southernmost city. Its easy-going charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. The rest of your day will be free to wander, and Aswan is a great place for it. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is recommended by many. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan’s ‘corniche’, runs alongside one of Nile’s most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. Watch the waterfront come alive at dusk, as families are out strolling, socialising and relaxing along the corniche. (B, L, D)
Day 7: Aswan
We depart early this morning to visit the iconic Abu Simbel by plane. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt’s most memorable sights. The rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. In the evening you will visit a Nubian village and enjoy the warm hospitality (and cuisine) of these locals. (B, L, D)
Day 8: Cairo
After breakfast you will be transferred to Aswan airport for the short flight back to Cairo where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Today you will dive into another layer of Egyptian history: medieval Cairo. Head to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo’s oldest mosque and the Gayer-Anderson Museum. The ‘Khan’, sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. It retains a distinctly medieval feel. You will explore the gold market, ‘perfume street’ and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth (which can be purchased next door in the cloth market). The gorgeous 9th-century Ibn Tulun Mosque is one of the oldest and largest in Egypt, possibly its most beautiful too. Its perfectly proportioned courtyard and distinctive minaret make it a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. Nearby stands the Gayer-Anderson Museum, housed in two fine old villas and vaunting a fascinating collection of Arabic artefacts, furniture and memorabilia. Also don’t miss the chance to drink arabic coffee or mint tea from Cairo’s oldest cafe, it has a long history and fantastic atmosphere. This evening you will get to share an authentic Egyptian meal with a local family. (B, D)
Day 9: Amman
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Amman. On arrival you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel in Amman. Cosmopolitan and contemporary, yet steeped in biblical history, Amman has served as both the modern and ancient capital of Jordan. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a 1994 excavation uncovering homes and towers believed to have been built during the Stone Age (circa 7000 BC). Enjoy a free afternoon before meeting your new leader and group tonight. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. (B)
Day 10: Wadi Rum
Enjoy breakfast before your drive from Amman to Wadi Rum. After lunch in the small village of Rum and a browse around the excellent and informative visitor’s centre, jump into rickety old but safe and reliable jeeps operated by the Bedouin Community and join our Bedouin friends as we journey into the Rum. You will visit several of Wadi Rum’s distinctive rock formations and soak in the vast silence and spectacular desert landscapes. Wadi Rum is a truly beautiful place with towering sandstone mountains.
Later ride camels to your traditional Bedouin tent situated deep within Wadi Rum. The Bedouins live in scattered camps throughout the area. You will enjoy an evening with them at one of their camps, which is set in an amazing location. (B, D)
Day 11: Wadi Rum – Petra
After waking up in the unique surrounds of the Bedouin camp this morning, you will enjoy a walk around the area before scaling one of the large dunes to enjoy sensational views of the surrounding area. Keen photographers will be delighted.
You will then take 4WDs from your camp back to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor’s centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women’s co-operative that is aimed at supporting traditional local industries.
You will then continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra. On arrival there is time in the afternoon to check out the town that has grown up around the site, and to just relax… ready for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow. (B, D)
Day 12: Petra
Petra is justifiably on most people’s list of ‘must-visit’ places. It is the jewel of Jordan, the lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings hidden behind ornate facades carved directly into the rock. Dating back to the 6th century BC, the site was lost to Western minds until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer. The iconic Petra view – the Treasury’s glorious facade, glimpsed from the narrow cleft known as the Siq – is arguably the single most striking sight of the entire region. The first taste of this exquisite craftsmanship among such stark scenery is a moment that manages to be both eagerly anticipated and also an almost surreal surprise. The Siq leads through the rock and is sometimes only a few metres wide, with walls soaring up to 180 metres on either side, and it is impossible not to imagine the armies and traders who made their way down here in the ancient times. Petra’s greatest surprise, however, is its size. With your guide you will explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several old tombs. You will also climb up to the second beautiful façade of the Monastery, from where you will have a magnificent view of the entire site. This is a memorable day exploring a truly extraordinary destination, a highlight of your trip. There is a cafeteria on the site, where you can enjoy a light lunch. The rest of the day will be at your leisure – perhaps take the chance to witness Petra by night. Seeing the Treasury plaza lit up by flickering candle light while Bedouin music plays is a magical experience. (B, D)
Day 13: Petra – Dead Sea
After a very early start for those in the group who wish to visit Petra a second time, we drive to the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak, which was originally built to protect the eastern flank of the Latin Kingdom and its trade routes to the sea before it fell to Saladin in 1189. You will stroll through the site and continue to the ancient village at Dana, where local artisans sell attractive silver jewellery and charms. Late in the afternoon arrive at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, where we spend the evening. (B, D)
Day 14: Dead Sea – Madaba – Amman
Enjoy a a relaxing morning spent at the Dead Sea. After lunch, we depart the Dead Sea for Mount Nebo, considered to be where Moses saw the Promised Landed before he died, the modest Church here with foundations dating back to 4th century houses some of the best mosaics in Jordan. Continue to Madaba “The City of Mosaics” and a stop at St Georges Church best known for its Byzantine mosaic depicting a map of the Holy Land. (B)
Day 15: Amman
Today you will leave Amman for a short drive north to Jerash, once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best ruins Greco-Roman ruins around. Grand ionic columns encircle the city’s centrepiece, the Oval Plaza, a wonderfully atmospheric place to linger after exploring Jerash’s riches. Afterwards you will return to Amman for the evening Maybe spend your final night at one of the many bars and restaurants in West Amman, or ask your leader about the traditional cafes dotted around the city where locals spend their evenings. (B, L)
Day 16: Amman
Your trip will end today after breakfast. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Amman. (B)
Meals: 15 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 11 dinners
Transport: Camel, Jeep, Plane, Private aircon bus, Riverboat, Sleeper train
Images courtesy of Intrepid Group