Egypt - the land of pharaohs and pyramids, the Nile and ancient gods. It is an exotic land full of wonders. So full, in fact, you could spend the rest of your life exploring it. However, most of us don't have that kind of time. For those of us with just a week or two, it helps to have an idea of the best places in Egypt to visit so we can plan accordingly.
The Great Pyramids are a must see. One of the most iconic sites in the world, they do not disappoint. Located in the desert outside Cairo, the pyramids rise hundreds of feet from the sand. A limited number of visitors are allowed inside the Great Pyramid each day, so it's best to arrive early to snag a spot. The descent into the pyramid is an experience itself with steep ramps taking you deep into the pyramid where you can view the various chambers. Around the base of the pyramids, the ruins of religious buildings and lesser tombs dot the sand. Go for a camel ride, view the Sphinx, or purchase a souvenir from one of the vendors roaming the grounds.
The pyramids are also an excellent site to visit due to their proximity to Cairo. In fact, it is possible to get a satisfying Egyptian experience even if you only stop here. Cairo offers ancient and modern culture with museums, restaurants, markets, and other sites such as the Citadel, which houses the famous Alabaster Mosque. For those looking to adventure outside of Cairo, visit the ancient town of Luxor. For the very adventurous, you can get there by boat after a cruise up the Nile. Trains are also a convenient way to travel, and both options offer panoramic views of the Egyptian countryside. For more conventional means of transport, buses and cars are available. At Luxor, visit the temple of Karnak. You may recognize the giant stone pillars as they have been used in Hollywood movies like Transformers and The Mummy Returns.
Luxor is also the launching point to visit the Valley of the Kings, the famous valley housing the tombs of the ancient pharaohs and where the tomb of King Tut was found in the 1920's. The Valley of the Kings can be reached by bus and car, but for the adventurous, try a donkey ride. The donkeys will carry you into the valley and out into the countryside on your return. If you're lucky, you may even come across the Colossi of Memnon, two giant statues damaged by the ancient Romans.
Finally, if you have time, visit Aswan. Aswan is most notable as the gateway to Abu Simbel, the site that houses the temples of the most famous pharaoh, Ramses III, and his queen, Nefertari. These temples sit on the edge of Lake Aswan in the very south of Egypt and the hieroglyphics inside still bear their original colors. The ride out to Abu Simbel is long, and there are no stops along the way, so be prepared, but the trip is more than worth it. Take some cash with you with you as you will want to use the restrooms on arrival. Like most public restrooms in Egypt, there is a small fee to use them. Take some smaller bills as change for larger bills is not typically available.
Once you have had a chance to visit Abu Simbel, Aswan offers its own delights. Sail the Nile on a felucca, a sailboat whose design has changed very little from ancient times. Visit a papyrus shop and learn about the ancient art of paper-making, or visit one of the local markets and practice your bartering skills. Stop in at the famous Hotel Old Cataract, where Agatha Christie stayed while writing Death on the Nile. There is a lot to see, but the above suggestions highlight the best places in Egypt.