The heartland of Egypt – the Nile River valley – was once home to one of the world’s earliest urban and literate societies. From 4,000 BC, the Ancient Egyptians thrived for some 3,000 years and, even after the region was conquered by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, continued to be integral to the Hellenistic world.
This period of pharaohs, pyramids and crocodile gods has left a wealth of unmissable Ancient Egyptian monuments and sites to discover. These ancient gems include the world famous sites of Giza, Abu Simbel and Saqqara, as well as Luxor Temple, Abydos and the Valley of the Kings.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide to our top 10 Ancient Egyptian attractions to explore.
Of all the Ancient Egypt sites, Giza’s pyramids are definitely the most renowned and include the world’s largest pyramid, that of Khufu. Khufu’s pyramid is Giza’s oldest and, at its great size of 145 metres, became known as ‘The Great Pyramid’.
Visitors can enter each of the pyramids or view them together from the dramatic panorama point, while the the Great Sphinx is also located nearby.
Known as Ramesses the Great, Ramesses II is one of the most famous Egyptian pharaohs and formed part of the Nineteenth Dynasty.
From 1279 BC, he built the temples at Abu Simbel as a way to immortalise himself, a feat he certainly seems to have achieved with these two vast structures and the large statues of himself which guard it.
Saqqara in Egypt is the ancient necropolis of the city of Memphis, the capital of Ancient Egypt, which was founded in 3000 BC by Menes. It contains a host of burial chambers and pyramids, and is the oldest complete stone building complex in history.
Saqqara is filled with historical treasures, not least of which is the Serapeum, where the Egyptians buried the sacred bulls of Apis. The Egyptians believed these bulls were reincarnations of the deity, Ptah, and they are today perfectly mummified in enormous granite coffins.
Constructed in the 14th century BC by Amenhotep III, the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Luxor Temple was part of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.
From its Avenue of the Sphinxes to its looming archways and giant statues, the enormous Luxor Temple is a breathtaking site.
Abydos is an important Ancient Egyptian site located about 50 miles north-west of Luxor which contains a wealth of tombs, temples and other archaeological remains.
Abydos continued to be an important city and site of pilgrimage right up to the late Roman period and ruins have been found from throughout the long history of the site.
The Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, was once part of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. The Valley of the Kings was the burial site of almost all of the pharaohs of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties (1539-1075 BCE), from Thutmose I to Ramses X.
The treasures which were exhumed from Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 vividly indicate how rich the burial of a great pharaoh of the empire must have been in its heyday…
Sprawling over 2 square kilometres, the site known as the Karnak Temple was built in dedication to the god Amun and expanded by a succession of pharaohs, from those of the Middle Kingdom (1965-1920 BC) to the Ptolemaic dynasty (305 BC to 30 BC).
The result? An incredible maze of temples, sanctuaries, sphinxes, columns and pylons amidst other ancient buildings, and its name translates in Arabic as ‘fortified village’.
A royal necropolis found in the desert west of the River Nile, Dahshur was once home to 11 Ancient Egyptian pyramids, of which few have survived. However, for those wishing to view Egypt’s pyramids in peace and quiet, Dahshur is the place to go.
Unlike the more popular Giza and Saqqara, Dahshur has not become a tourist hotspot, despite its ancient attractions, including the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. Visitors to Dahshur can tour the Red Pyramid and the more recently opened Bent Pyramid as well.
The Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities contains the most comprehensive and important collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world. Indeed, it is said to have over 100,000 pieces in all.
Perhaps the most famous part of the Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is its Tutankhamen collection, which includes the iconic funereal mask of the boy king as well as several other objects related to this pharaoh.
The Temple of Horus, also known as the Edfu Temple, is an incredibly well-preserved monument to one of Ancient Egypt’s most important deities, Horus.
Worshipped as the child of Isis and Osiris, Horus was depicted with the head – and often the body – of a falcon. He was the ruler of the skies and the deity of the pharaohs.