Best of Egypt
The 3 best sites to visit in Egypt, aside from the Pyramids
As the sole surviving Ancient Wonder of the World, the Pyramids of Giza are undoubtedly the biggest draw for anyone thinking of a holiday to Egypt. Shrouded in mystery, these ancient structures have withstood the test of time and still stand proud over the skyline of Cairo. But if you look beyond the Pyramids, then Egypt has a wealth of other ancient sites. From mighty Karnak temple to the fascinating temple of Abu Simbel, Egypt is a treasure trove of history, temples and tombs. Here are three of the best sites to visit in the country, aside from the Pyramids.
#1 Karnak Temple
Karnak has to be seen to be believed. The enormity of the site leaves you breathless, from the impressive Avenue of Sphinxes to the towering columns of Hypostyle Hall. Virtually every pharaoh contributed in some way to the site over a period of 1,300 years, and the temple is incredibly well-preserved. Whilst the Pyramids can be covered in just a few hours, and you’ll want to dedicate at least half a day to explore the maze of temples and sanctuaries that Karnak has to offer.
#2 Valley of the Kings
The most famous pharaoh of them all, Tutankhamun’s tomb is obviously going to prove a popular attraction for travellers to Egypt. But it’s just one of the opulently decorated tombs that you can visit at the Valley of the Kings. Located on the west bank of the Nile, this collection of more than 60 tombs is continuously being expanded, as more and more kings and nobles are discovered buried at the site. A top tip for visiting is to arrive early before the bus-loads of visitors arrive. Not all of the tombs are open to the public, but luckily for you, King Tut’s is. Whichever tombs you enter, you’ll be left with a lasting impression. Exquisitely decorated, you’ll feel like a king yourself as you explore. After your visit, a trip to the nearby Valley of the Queens is also recommended.
#3 Abu Simbel
The mighty temple of Abu Simbel is certainly one for the bucket list. Dedicated to King Ramses II, the entire complex was painstakingly relocated in the 1960s to save it from flooding. But UNESCO-listed Abu Simbel has lost none of its majesty. Four colossal statues of Ramses watch over the temple, and the inner sanctum is home to the imposing Hypostyle Hall. The nearby Hathor Temple is a tribute to Ramses II’s wife. The site can be explored at any time of the year, but two particular dates are worth bearing in mind when booking your Egypt holiday.
Twice a year, on the 22 February and the 22 October, the Abu Simbel Sun Festival takes place. A geometric marvel, the temple has been built so that at dawn on these two dates, the entire inner sanctum is illuminated by the rising sun. The fitting exception is the statue of Ptah, the god of darkness. It is a mystery how the Egyptians perfected this marvel, given the relatively primitive technology of the time. Locals and travellers alike gather to enjoy the Sun Festival, a perfect reward for an early morning start.
Egypt is famous for its ancient sites; it’s the main reason people visit the country. While the Pyramids remain the jewel in the crown, there are a plethora of other sites worthy of exploration, along the length and breadth of the country. Other honourable mentions go to the impressive complex of Dendera, and the pretty temple of Philae, located on an island in the Nile.