Are you interested in visiting and learning more about the top 13 Historical Places in Egypt? Well, look no further!
Egypt is a remarkable country with an abundance of history which draws intrigue from around the globe. Egypt is often the place the many think of when picturing advanced civilizations during the Bronze Age, and rightfully. The country has historical landmarks have survived thousands of years, and they tell stories from its fascinating ancient past.
I always dreamed about visiting Egypt, and still am in awe of the amazing sites that I saw there! I’m sure that many of you feel the same way. In this post, I’ll walk you through recommendations for the top 13 historical places in Egypt that you should consider visiting on your trip to this amazing country. As I’m sure you know, it is a history-lover’s dream.
After visiting several historical sites throughout this North African nation, I will detail the fascinating monuments you should explore on your visit to take full advantage of your Egyptian experience.
The Top 13 Historical Places in Egypt
1 | The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the most famous historical landmark in Egypt, and the last remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a four thousand year old structure is made up of three main pyramids. They were built for Pharaohs to live through eternity. The largest pyramid is also known as ‘The Great Pyramid of Khufu’, and was built under his reign while he was the second King of Egypt’s 4th Dynasty. The stone structure served as the tomb of pharaoh Cheops, which was another nickname for Khufi deriving from the Greeks.
Today, you can visit all three of the Giza pyramids with your main entrance ticket, which enables you to wander around the exterior and climb onto the first level of the structures. This fact surprised me when I first went to the Great Pyramid. I found it truly awe-inspiring to be inside pyramids that were built eons ago, yet are still structurally sound!
Pro Tip: I recommend that you visit early in the morning to avoid the large crowds and midday heat, especially in the summer months. Also, the best way to see the pyramids is by hiring a private guide so that you can learn about the history and easily navigate the area.
2 | The Great Sphinx of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza is another one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous landmarks, and is iconic globally due to its unique design with its head of a human and body of a lion. The beautiful structure was crafted out of a single piece of limestone over four thousand years ago, with its face supposedly being a resemblance of the ruling Pharaoh, who had a divine power of the people.
The Sphinx takes its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as it is the largest monolith statue in the world at 66 feet tall, and 250 feet long.
You can head to the Sphinx after exploring the pyramids as it is also on the Giza plateau. Unlike the pyramids, you are not allowed to touch the Sphinx, but you can still get a close look.
A popular Instagram shot when visiting the Sphinx is to pose pretending you are kissing the famous landmark. The viewing area is spread across multiple levels, meaning you can take your time while you absorb the magnificence of the Egyptian landmark.
3 | Step Pyramid of Djoser
The step pyramid of Djoser is the oldest known pyramid in the world and resides in Saqqara Necropolis just south of Cairo. The unique stone structure was built over a century before the other famous pyramids in Egypt, for the second Pharaoh in the third dynasty.
Its 6 tiered step design was created similar to a staircase, as the pharaohs believed that once they had died their souls would want to climb the stairs to heaven. When the step pyramid was completed for Pharaoh Djoser, it was a burial site like never seen before with an impressive height of 203 feet / 62 meters.
A popular activity for tourists is to explore the multiple chambers underneath the stone structure, however, there is not much left inside to view, as Djoser’s pyramid was looted thousands of years ago, with his grave goods and mummy stolen. The only part of Djoser which archaeologists managed to excavate was his mummified foot.
4 | Saqqara Necropolis
Saqqara is the largest archaeological site across Egypt, with its history spanning over three thousand years. The ancient complex was a burial ground for Pharaohs, and was used as the royal cemetery of Memphis, Egypt’s oldest capital. The expansive necropolis has many tombs across its large site area, mainly belonging to high ranking officials.
You can expect a much quieter experience at this ancient necropolis, compared to the Giza plateau, as there are less tourists and vendors. Along with the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser, there are also some tombs which you can enter, some temples, courtyards and many pavilions.
I recommend that you book a tour which covers Saqqara, Memphis and the Pyramids of Giza in one day, as the site is only a thirty minute drive from the Egyptian capital. This is what I did when visiting the area, and I found it great in helping navigate around the country.
5 | Karnak Temple
Luxor is a treasure trove with ancient sites across both banks of the Nile, and the Karnak Temple is one with its own unique story, which spans thousands of years. As one of Egypt’s most historic sites, the religious complex comprises chapels, temples, and a sacred lake which was used by priests to conduct ritual washing.
The most notable features of the archaeological site are the enormous columns in the ‘Great Hypostyle Hall’, which are carved with ancient languages. The impressive complex was constructed over a period of 1500 years by the different generations of pharaohs, all offering unique influences on the architecture, which has resulted in a one-of-a-kind Temple like no other in Egypt.
The Karnak Temple is thought to be one of the largest temple complexes ever constructed in the world spanning 84 acres, and still displays many of the original decorations and statues today. A popular thing to do in the Karnak Temple is to be pictured in front of the columns, which demonstrates the sheer scale of the structures.
If you visit during sunrise, you are treated to an awesome scene of the sun rising behind the columns, creating a magnificent view. This is also a great way to avoid the crowds and midday heat.
6 | Luxor Temple
The Temple of Luxor was constructed on the East Bank of the River Nile in Luxor back in the 14th century BC in the honor of the deity Amun, when the city was known as ‘Thebes’. The mud-brick houses and palaces in the area from those ancient times have now disappeared, however, the beautiful stone temples still remain. The origins of the great Luxor Temple date as far back as the 14th century, when Amenhotel III ruled as the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
Today, the once-sacred Temple is popular with International tourists wanting to find answers from a mesmerizing past through the grand statues, wall carvings and unique hieroglyphics. As you wander through the ‘ten sections’ of the vast Temple complex, you can enjoy famous spots such as ‘the Avenue of Sphinxes’, ‘Court of Ramses II’, and the ‘Chapel of Amun’, all of which can be understood in a deeper way if you visit with a knowledgeable local tour guide.
The scenic temple is located on the banks of the Nile, close to Luxor city centre so can be accessed via foot or taxi. If you visit the Luxor Temple at sunset, you’ll see the daily sound and light show. This offers a different perspective on the iconic structure, as it is illuminated against the dark sky.
7 | Valley of the Kings
Across the Nile on the West Bank of Luxor lies one of the greatest ever archaeological discoveries, the Valley of the Kings. When British Egyptologist Howard Carter uncovered the ancient burial ground for the Pharaohs, back in November 1922, the modern day knowledge of Ancient Egypt changed forever.
Here, you can visit the home of the 63 original tombs. When visiting the famous burial ground you can enter the various tombs, which are all still decorated with the original hieroglyphics and coffins. The most well-preserved tomb on site is that of Seti I, as it still displays original bright colors, giving an insight into the beauty of the tombs when they were first constructed. You will have to pay an additional cost to visit this tomb, as your main entrance ticket only covers seven tombs.
The tomb of King Tutankhamun is one of the most popular burial chambers on site, and the only one with a mummy still inside. The original treasure which was also found in the tomb is now on display in the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, with its own dedicated room.
If you want to feel the true magic of the Valley of the Kings, then it is recommended that you take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the West Bank of the Nile. This activity operates daily, but you should expect a very early start.
8 | Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
Another historical highlight on the West Bank of Luxor is the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, an iconic site built for Queen Hatsheput, one of the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaohs, who reigned from 1479-1458 BC. The Unique features of this archaeological masterpiece are its architectural design, which unlike other notable temples in the region, is built into the side of the cliff which towers above it. There are mortuary shrines on side dedicated to the gods Anubis and Hathor, along with the famous female ruler.
As you approach the temple, you can see the intricate details of the carvings on the stone statues and temple walls, which depict Ancient Egyptian mythology. As with other sites on this list, I recommend touring with a local guide who can explain the history of the site in real time as you explore.
9 | Temple of Edfu
For tourists heading down the Nile through Luxor and Aswan, the Temple of Edfu is an irresistible addition to your itinerary, as the sandstone made landmark offers an incredible glimpse into ancient times as far back as 237 BC. The Temple boasts gigantic 36m-high pylons, which stand strong alongside the wide entrance gate that displays Egyption mythology proudly to visitors.
The ancient monument was built in dedication to ‘Horus’, a very important deity, depicted as a falcon-headed god with a double crown. The character of the iconic structure can be seen through the splendid statues of Horus as a falcon, which have amazingly been well preserved by desert sand.
The Temple of Horus took nearly 200 years to fully complete, and is the second largest in Egypt after Karnak. For tourists visiting, the different travel options are the train, which is around 2 hours from Luxor and Aswan, or to take a private tour.
10 | Mosque of Ibn Tulun
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is Cairo’s oldest and largest mosque, located in the centre of the city, therefore, a must on a tour of Islamic Cairo. Despite its simplicity relative to other mosques in Egypt, it oozes elegance, throughout its interior and exterior.
Its construction was commissioned byAhmad Ibn Tulun, a former dynasty ruler, back in the 9th century, during the Abbasid period. Its design includes a large central square yard surrounded by columns and arches. The minarets towering above the mosque act as watchtowers to help protect it from invasion. Its strong architectural design is proven by its ability to withstand earthquakes historically.
There are usually only a small number of tourists visiting the famous mosque at one time, which means you can enjoy the beautiful architecture, along with some serenity amongst the Caior chaos. You must dress appropriately as it is still an active place of worship, so, tourists must cover up chest, shoulders and knees. You will also be asked to remove your shoes before you enter, and be expected to tip the shoes attendant.
OPENING HOURS: 9AM to 4PM
11 | Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian museum in Cairo is home to over 120,000 artifacts, all on display across two floors, creating a dream destination for history buffs. The colossal building which houses the museum is over a century old following its construction in 1901, furthermore, makes the museum the largest one in Africa. Some notable statues inside the premises include the three generations of great kings, Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, who the three pyramids of Giza were built for.
Other unique collections across the expansive exhibitions include the Pharaonic antiquities, some papyri, and an abundance of jewelry. One of the most valuable antiques in the museum is the gold death mask which King Tut was discovered wearing in 1922. The gold veil is said to be worth over 2 million dollars. It is located in a special dedicated room for King Tut, along with other items of treasure which were found alongside his mummy in his tomb. You can expect to queue to enter this room, and photography is not allowed.
Additionally, while here you should pay the additional fee to visit the Royal Mummy Room. Here, you can see the mummy’s of well-known Pharaohs such as Hatshepsut and Rameses I. I was in awe of being able to see these former rulers in person!
12 | The Temple of Philae
The Temple of Philae is an Aswan treasure that sits on its own island on the Nile, standing strong, despite having been moved back in 1971 to prevent flooding from the Aswan Dam. The ancient monument was constructed during the last dynasty of Ancient Egypt from syenite, and has been through a turbulent history, long before its relocation.
The temple has been passed through many religions and civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who have all put their mark on the structure. You can see the history displayed on the interior walls of the buildings, even though some were destroyed by early Christians destroying them.
You can visit the Temple at your leisure, or as part of a guided tour, which includes other notable highlights in Aswan. Once you have purchased your ticket, you have to take a taxi boat to the Island, which offers a unique travel experience. There are regular light shows at night, if you want to see ancient Egypt in lights!
OPENING HOURS: 7AM to 5PM; the evening light show is on between 9PM to 10PM depending on the season.
RECOMMENDED TOUR: Aswan Tour
13 | Abu Simbel Temple
The Abu Simbel temple complex is Egypt’s most southern ancient wonder, and is located approximately 20 km from the Sudan border. The archaeological site was constructed by King Ramses II, and features two temples, one dedicated to Ramses himself (Grand Temple), and one to his wife Queen Nefetary, who was said to be his favorite wife.
Both of the temples feature some enormous seated colossi statues next to the King and Queen respectively. Features of the Grand Temple have puzzled archaeologists over the years, as the solar alignment over the structure allows rays from the sun to penetrate the Holy of Holies inside the temple twice a year, on 22nd February and 22nd October. This ancient phenomenon reflects the dates of Ramses II birth and coronation.
Due to the Temple’s location near the Sudanese border, tour companies generally aim to arrive at Abu Simbel around 8am, so they can get visitors back to Aswan just after lunchtime.
A Brief History of Egypt
Ancient Egypt, one of the most influential civilizations in history, had its roots in the fertile Nile Valley along the Nile River, where the earliest settlements date back to around thousands of years. The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt around 3100 BCE by Pharaoh Menes marked the beginning of the Pharaonic era or the First Dynasty. The civilization thrived, developing into a sophisticated society with remarkable advancements in various fields, such as art, architecture, agriculture, and science.
Egypt’s Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BCE) is often referred to as the ‘Age of the Pyramids’. The period is renowned for monumental pyramid-building, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, testament to the Egyptians’ extraordinary architectural skills. The Middle Kingdom (2055–1650 BCE) witnessed significant political and cultural evolution, while the New Kingdom (1550–1070 BCE) brought forth Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, including Tutankhamun and Ramesses II.
The decline of ancient Egypt was precipitated by internal strife, economic instability, and invasions by foreign powers. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 BCE, and later Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, marking the end of thousands of years of native Egyptian rule. However, the civilization’s profound impact is still evident today in fields ranging from architecture to literature, underscoring its significant role in shaping human history.
FAQs on Historical Sites in Egypt
The city of Thebes, now Luxor, was a religious and political hub, housing the Valley of the Kings and the grand temples of Luxor and Karnak. Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, was a strategic center for administration and trade, boasting impressive structures like the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Lastly, Giza, famous for its iconic Pyramids and the Sphinx, served as a burial site for pharaohs and showcased the architectural prowess of ancient Egyptians.
Ancient Egypt is famous for its impressive architecture, including the Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The civilization also made pioneering advancements in science, mathematics, and medicine. Additionally, Ancient Egyptians developed hieroglyphics, one of the earliest forms of writing, and had a complex religious system with many gods and goddesses.
1. Animals were a very important part of the lives of the Ancient Egyptians, as they were worshiped like Gods. Some of the pets that were kept included cats, dogs, crocodiles and baboons.
2. It was not uncommon for men and women to wear makeup in ancient times, as they believed that it had magic healing powers. Wearing a large amount of makeup was also a sign of higher class due to the expense of it.
3. The Egyptians’ love for board games started due to crippling boredom while inland in sweltering temperatures, as it was a relaxing activity.
4. The River NIle was critical for the Ancient Egyptians for farmland, fishing and transportation.
5. Ancient Egypt’s civilization divided into two main regions, Upper and Lower Egypt. With Upper Egypt being near the source of the Nile and Sahara, but Lower Egypt being near the mouth of the Nile, and Mediterranean.
In Summary | The Top Historical Sites in Egypt
Visiting Egypt is like stepping in a time machine back into the ancient lands, where you come face to face with the might of the Pharaohs, and their grand exits from our human world. Exploring the top historical sites in Egypt creates imaginative thoughts that you can only acquire through observing the original sites in person.
The ancient monuments have stood the test of time, which is a testament to the civilizations which once ruled the Egyptian lands. Each historical landmark has its own unique story and character, and can be enjoyed as part of a tour group or on a solo trip, therefore, you should make the effort to tick each one off.
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