Day - 1
Location: Cairo - Welcome to Cairo! On arrival at the airport, take an included transfer to your hotel. You are free to arrive at any time today before an important welcome meeting, held at 6 pm. If you do arrive early, perhaps get out and explore the busy streets, finding a hole-in-the-wall eatery for a snack like ta’ameya – Egypt’s take on falafel. After your welcome meeting, where you will meet your local leader and fellow travellers, perhaps enjoy an optional dinner with the group. While your hotel may not serve alcohol, there are a number of great options for food and drink in the surrounding Zamalek area.
Day - 2
Location: Cairo – Overnight Train - This morning, tour the mighty Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx with your small group. Seeing these structures up close is captivating, and for an additional charge, you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops). After stopping to purchase some lunch, continue to the Egyptian Museum – home to an incredible array of artefacts and antiquities. Your expert leader, who is a trained Egyptologist, will take you through some of Egypt’s dynastic history, and will have plenty of time to explore on your own – perhaps purchasing a pass into the Royal Mummy Room. Afterwards, return to your hotel to freshen up before transferring to the railway station for a comfortable overnight sleeper train to Luxor.
Day - 3
Location: Luxor - After an early breakfast on board, arrive into Luxor. It's a vibrant place with an excellent bazaar, situated close to some of ancient Egypt's most important sites. 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 2055 BC. Your guided tour of the temple reveals its finest sections. Later today, transfer 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 are free to relax, shop in the bazaar or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local tea house.
Day - 4
Location: 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. 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 on return to the boat and relax on deck as you set sail from Luxor to Edfu, taking most of the afternoon and evening (approximately 1 pm to 11 pm), and passing through Esna Lock on the way.
Day - 5
Location: Nile Cruise - This morning, you will be moored near Edfu and may have the option to venture independently into town to see the nearby temple. Continue along the river, relaxing in the sun on deck and taking in the desert hills forming a backdrop over the lush riverbanks. This afternoon, arrive at Kom Ombo Temple, sitting spectacularly on the river’s edge. The temple was built in approximately 181 BC and is dedicated to two gods – Horus (god of protection) and Sobek (god of fertility, linked to the Nile’s water). Each god has a dedicated section – north or south – and there have been recent discoveries of mummified crocodiles in the Sobek section. Afterwards, board your boat around 6 pm and continue to Aswan, arriving at around 9.30 pm.
Day - 6
Location: Aswan - Explore Aswan today – Egypt's southernmost city. Its relaxed charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Depending on time, you might visit the beautiful Temple of Isis – the goddess of health, marriage and wisdom – rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. The rest of your day will be free to wander, and Aswan is a great place for it. The Nubian Bazaar and the Nubian Museum are both recommended. 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, with people strolling and socialising all evening.
Day - 7
Location: Aswan - Depart early this morning and visit the iconic Abu Simbel by plane. With four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. After your return, the rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively, travel to the Monastery of St Simeon – an abandoned seventh-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. You might even prefer to simply relax by the hotel pool or do some shopping in the local bazaar. Your group leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. In the evening, visit a Nubian village with your group and enjoy the warm hospitality and cuisine of this local community. After dinner, watch some traditional Nubian dancing, perhaps attempting some moves yourself!
Day - 8
Location: Cairo - After breakfast, transfer to Aswan Airport for a short flight back to Cairo (approximately 1.5 hours) where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Drop your luggage and head with your group to the Al-Azhar neighbourhood to visit Khan al-Khalili Bazaar – a sprawling maze of alleyways with myriad products on sale, including the gold market, cloth market, 'perfume street' and the spice market. Continue to the ninth-century Ibn Tulun Mosque – one of the oldest and largest in Egypt. 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 with a fascinating collection of Arabic artefacts, furniture and memorabilia. Stop off for an Arabic coffee or mint tea, and in the evening, share a meal with a family, gaining an insight into local Egyptian life.
Day - 9
Location: 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 to maybe head to the Old Town’s Roman Amphitheatre, find fine culture at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, look down on the city from the hilltop Temple of Hercules, or relax in a Turkish bath house. Soak up the atmosphere as you sip mint tea in a cafe. Meet your new leader and group tonight at a welcome meeting at 6 pm. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day - 10
Location: Wadi Rum - After breakfast, drive from Amman to Wadi Rum (approximately 4.5 hours). Enjoy some lunch in the small village of Rum and browse the informative visitor’s centre. Afterwards, jump into a local jeep and journey into Wadi Rum with your Bedouin hosts. This region is probably best known for its connection with the British officer T E Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917 and 1918. Much of David Lean's movie on his exploits, 'Lawrence of Arabia', was actually filmed in Wadi Rum. Visit several of the area’s distinctive rock formations and appreciate the vast silence and spectacular desert landscapes. These landscapes are home to Bedouin communities that live in scattered camps. You will enjoy an evening with them at one of their camps, set in an amazing location deep in the desert.
Day - 11
Location: Wadi Rum – Petra - After waking up in the unique surrounds of your Bedouin camp this morning, take a walk around the area – the length of which depends on the group’s desires – before scaling one of the large dunes to enjoy panoramic views of your surrounds. Afterwards, head in 4WDs back to the main entrance 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 dedicated to supporting local industries. Continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra (approximately 2.5 hours). On arrival, there is time to check out the town that has grown around the site and to relax, ready for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow.
Day - 12
Location: Petra - Petra, dating back to the sixth century BC, is the jewel of Jordan, the lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings carved directly into the rock. The iconic view – the Treasury's glorious facade, glimpsed from a narrow cleft known as the Siq – is perhaps the single-most striking sight of the entire region. The Siq leads through the rock and is sometimes only a few metres wide, with walls soaring up to 180 metres on either side. With your guide, explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several old tombs. You will also climb up to see the Monastery, providing a magnificent view of the entire site. There is a cafeteria on the site, where you can enjoy your own light lunch. The rest of the day will be at your leisure. This evening, perhaps take the chance to witness Petra by night if your dates align. Seeing the Treasury plaza lit up by candlelight while Bedouin music plays is a truly memorable experience.
Day - 13
Location: Petra – Dead Sea - For another glimpse at Petra, rise very early for an unguided morning visit, if you wish. Afterwards, drive to the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak – 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. Enjoy superb scenery and stop off at the viewpoint overlooking the Dana Nature Reserve before arriving in the late afternoon at your Dead Sea premium accommodation. Named for the lack of life in its waters, this lake is so intensely salty that the water density makes swimming and getting underneath the surface very difficult.
Day - 14
Location: Dead Sea – Madaba – Amman - Enjoy a relaxing morning spent at the Dead Sea, perhaps heading back to the lake shores for a swim. The warm, highly saline waters make bobbing on the water's surface a unique experience. After lunch, leave 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 the fourth century houses some of the best mosaics in Jordan. Continue to Madaba – or the City of Mosaics – and stop at St Georges Church, best known for its Byzantine mosaic depicting a map of the Holy Land. Head back to Amman and spend the evening here.
Day - 15
Location: Amman - This morning, leave Amman for a short drive north to Jerash (approximately 1 hour) – once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best ruins Greco-Roman ruins around. Reaching its peak as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian, it has a striking collection of archways and theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets, and is a beautiful place to spend the morning exploring. Grand columns encircle the city's centrepiece of the Oval Plaza – an atmospheric place to linger after exploring Jerash's riches. Afterwards, return to Amman for the evening (approximately 1 hour). Perhaps spend your night at one of the many bars and restaurants in West Amman, or speak with your group leader about the traditional cafes dotted around the city where locals spend their evenings.
Day - 16
Location: Amman - Your trip will come to an end today after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12 pm (midday), and so you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer, you will be advised of the pick-up time. If you would like to spend more time in Amman, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).