Excursions from Cairo: ideas for making the most of your trip
If you have organised a trip to Egypt and plan to spend a few days in Cairo, you may be interested to find out about the most convenient day trips or, at the most, two-day excursions that can be done from the city. We recommend first enjoying the lively Egyptian capital, where the hustle and bustle of life is found on every corner. Enjoying the cultural life of its different neighbourhoods, the incredible culture in the city’s streets, the landmarks and museums, and its historical bazaars. Don’t forget to visit the Giza Plateau from top to bottom, discovering the secrets and mysteries hidden in the pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus.
And, once you have gotten familiar with it all, it will be time to start planning excursions further afield from Cairo, which will add to this fascinating experience. There are many different options from the capital, depending on how long you want to be away. If you only want to go on a day trip, you can even agree on a price with a taxi driver to take you there and back. Just make sure the fare is agreed upon beforehand so you do not have any problems later on. And, whenever possible, travel as part of an organised, guided tour, which will save you a lot of inconvenience and the prices are really low.
Some of the excursions that we think are musts include Alexandria, Suez, Giza and Saqqara. Read on to find out why each one is a perfect way to round off a visit to Cairo.
Barceló Cairo Pyramids
- Junto a la pirámide de Keops
- Sensacional oferta gastronómica
- Piscina climatizada con vistas a las pirámides
- Wi-Fi gratuito
About two and a half hours from Cairo (roughly 218 km) is the legendary city of Alexandria. The city was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 AD and had the honour of being the setting of the love story between Marc Antony and Cleopatra, as well as being home to a library that was created with the aim of being the intellectual centre of the world – more than enough reasons to make an excursion from the Egyptian capital. Be sure to visit the Alexandria National Museum, which has an exhibition on the history of the city, in chronological order, and the Royal Jewellery Museum, which has a large collection from the old royal family. Other interesting points of interest are Pompey’s Pillar (in the Karmouz neighbourhood), the new Library of Alexandria and the Nabi Danyal mosque. And for something more relaxing, Muntazah or Antionadis gardens.
Suez: an extraordinary canal
Two hours from Cairo (139 km) is Suez, the city that is home to the famous Suez Canal and the starting point for getting to know the most interesting places in the area. Construction of the canal was a major breakthrough in maritime trade when it was opened in 1869, allowing ships to make a shortcut of 169 kilometres and avoid having to go around southern Africa. It was not an easy undertaking, requiring 10 years of work and 25,000 labourers.
The first place to visit in the city should be the modern Suez National Museum, which houses an extensive archaeological collection. From there, you can continue on by strolling through the Port Tawfik neighbourhood, with its pretty colonial houses. The city itself does not offer much more, but you can continue on to other towns and cities along the canal such as Ismailia, founded in 1863 and whose name is in honour of the Egyptian viceroy Ismail Pasha. Your next stop could be Port Said, founded in 1859 by the viceroy Mohammad Said. In both you can see elegant villas from the colonial era, although the latter is even more beautiful. Be sure to cross the Suez Canal by ferry, the type of experience that makes you feel part of history.
Giza: pyramids and other treasures
As previously mentioned, an excursion from Cairo to the Pyramids of Giza is at the top of all visitors’ lists. Just five kilometres separate the centre of the capital from Giza and you can get there by car in less than 15 minutes. There are many different ways of getting there, from taxis to public transport (bus or metro). Once on the famous Giza Plateau, you will find that archaeological gems are dotted all over a large area. Be sure to visit the Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus, the most famous, although taking a guided tour of the Great Sphinx, the other remains scattered around, and the Solar Boat Museum are also recommended. This last one is located behind the Pyramid of Cheops and houses a 43-metre-long boat built to carry the pharaoh to the afterlife.
Saqqara: the largest necropolis in Egypt
The pyramids of Saqqara are 30 kilometres from Cairo (almost one hour by car) and are a must-visit. If you are travelling from Giza, it is closer. A fact that you may not know is that the necropolis of Saqqara is the largest in Egypt, spanning a length of eight kilometres. The range of archaeological remains here originate from different periods of the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom of Egypt and it was one of the favourite burial sites of the pharaohs.
Although, in general, it is a little run down, you can enjoy the sight of the beautiful pyramids and, above all, the incredible perfectly-decorated tombs. So which parts are must-visits? The pyramids of Zoser, Unas and Teti, the mastabas of Princess Idut, Mehu, Mereruka and Ti, the monastery of St Jeremiah and the Serapeum, which was the burial place of the sacred bulls of Apis.
Where to eat in Cairo
Eating well in Cairo is easy, since there are a wide range of bars, restaurants and street stalls in the city. Although holidaymakers are given to trying different places out, if you are looking for some good places to eat, be sure to take note of the following. One of the city’s century-old establishments is Café Riche, which is charmingly decorated and was a favourite of writers, such as Naguib Mahfuz, and many artists. Its menu features Egyptian dishes such as fatta. Another recommended option is Felfela, a place with a tavern-like feel, which has welcomed figures such as President Carter. Its dishes are mainly local, although there is no shortage of international fare (pasta and rice).
Also charming is Lake Side, situated next to a lake in El Azhar park. It has a very romantic atmosphere and serves traditional dishes as well as grilled meat, pasta and pizza. And for dinner with a view, we recommend Horus restaurant, on the 12th floor of the Barceló Cairo Pyramids, which offers beautiful views of the Pyramids of Giza.
Where to sleep in Cairo
A stay in Cairo deserves a place on a par with the city itself to rest and recharge your batteries for marathon days of sightseeing. One excellent hotel is the Barceló Cairo Pyramids, which has a great location and the Spanish group’s seal of quality. The renovated establishment has 236 different types of rooms, from superiors to junior suites and family rooms. The four-star hotel also offers visitors impeccable communal areas featuring a swimming pool, a Wellness area and a gym. The food on offer meanwhile deserves a chapter of its own, since it boasts three bars and three restaurants, one of which, Horus, we recommended earlier.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the must-do excursions from Cairo?
Excursions from Cairo can be as varied or as far flung as you like with some of the essential day trips including the mythical Alexandria, the cities along the Suez Canal, the Giza Plateau and the archaeological site of Saqqara.
Is it possible to make excursions by public transport from Cairo?
From Cairo you can visit some nearby places by public transport. The Giza Plateau, for example, can be reached both by bus and metro. However, to visit other more distant cities, such as Alexandria and Suez, it is best to go as part of an excursion that includes transfers, even though they are served by transport.
What is the best way to make excursions from Cairo?
The best way to make excursions from Cairo is to do planned activities that include transfers from your hotel to your destination, entrance fees and English-speaking guides for tours. If lunch is included, then even better.