If you’re planning a trip to Egypt, chances are you’ve been inspired and enticed by photographs of its ancient sites, pristine beaches, and delicious local cuisine. No matter why you’re visiting , it’s hard not to take some pictures while you’re there. That’s why we’ve compiled an Instagrammer’s guide for the best places to explore and capture with your camera. Yalla beena!
Pyramids of Giza & Sphinx
Easily some of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in the world, the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are probably already at the top of your list (they top the Seven Wonders of the World list, too). This also makes them the most popular sites in Cairo, making it a challenge to get a shot without people in it. We recommend visiting the site when it opens early in the morning in order to avoid the crowds. You’ll get the added bonus of great lighting: the sun rises opposite the pyramids, so you’ll get to capture them in that perfect morning glow! If mornings aren’t your thing, you can also hire a camel ride to take you farther away from the over-touristed part of the complex.
Citadel of Saladin
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Historic Cairo, the Citadel of Saladin towers over the city from its perch atop Mottakam Hill. Dating back to the 12th century, the Medieval fortress is home to museums and a stunning mosque, with reflective domes and needling spires that can be seen from all over the city. Like most famous sites in Cairo, it’s best to visit earlier in the day to avoid both swarming crowds and the sweltering heat. In addition to capturing the mosque and the citadel itself, be sure to take in the view overlooking the city.
Khan El-Khalili Bazaar
Although sections of the bazaar have become tourist traps, it’s still worth a visit while you’re in Egypt. For the best shots, get there early and head to the oldest part of the market, where you’ll find ancient archways embellished by Egyptian hanging lanterns. After you’ve snapped some photos, treat yourself to a coffee and wander the chaotic beauty of the market ― you won’t be disappointed.
Luxor (Ancient Thebes)
Once you’ve spent some time in Cairo, head outside the city to Luxor, where you’ll find endless ancient sites to explore. Colloquially known as the world’s largest open-air museum, Luxor is home to ancient temples and Egyptian pharaohs’ tombs that you can freely explore (and photograph!). Among the many impressive sites, Karnak is a collection of mesmerizing temples dating back to 2055 BCE, famous for its 134 towering columns. To give you a sense of scale, the great temple at the heart of the Karnak complex is large enough to fit St. Peter’s Basilica, Milan Duomo, and Notre Dame Cathedral combined within its ancient walls.
Once again, try to visit as early as sunrise to get the best photos. Arriving early not only means fewer people, but also better light ― the soft sunrise on the columns is truly a must-see. If you can’t get there until later in the day, though, don’t fret: even with lots of tour groups, you can still find quieter spots among the columns to take photos.
Another temple in the Karnak complex, Luxor Temple greets you with a stunning facade and invites you inside to wonder at its ancient paintings and columns. If you’re tired of waking up at dawn to visit the other sites on this list, try going at night instead (open until 10 pm). While Luxor Temple is beautiful during the day, it’s perhaps even more so at night when it’s lit up against the dark sky. No matter what time of day you decide to visit, you’re sure to walk away with some great photos of this breathtaking site.
The Valley of the Kings
A source of intrigue for travelers from all over the world, the Valley of the Kings is an astonishing complex of eight pharaohs’ tombs, including the famous King Tutankhaman. Colorfully painted and ornately carved, the tombs are a visual and historical delight ― but be forewarned: you’ll be required to pay for a photography pass inside the tombs which will only allow you to photograph three of them. Regardless of which tombs you decide to capture, it’s worth it to visit more than three so you can really take it all in. And as usual, earlier is better for avoiding crowds.
Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh
Egypt’s coastline on the Red Sea is a hot spot for travelers seeking a beach holiday, or those hoping to dive in crystal clear waters. If you’re weary from all the temple hopping, Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada are ideal places to rest and relax (the latter especially, as it’s only a few hours drive from Luxor’s temples). Whether you’re there for the sand or the surf, don’t miss the opportunity to snap some photos of Egypt’s stunning coast ― with swaying palms and azure water, the beach is a perfect location for your next vacation photo-op. If you get the chance to go diving in the Red Sea, don’t forget to pack an underwater camera!
The Al Sahaba Mosque
For lovers of architecture, the Al Sahaba Mosque is a must-see. Resplendent in carved details and reaching spires, the building beckons worshippers and visitors alike. Although it’s best when crowds are minimal, the mosque is worth a visit at any time of day. Aglow in soft morning light or illuminated at night, the building is a stunning subject for your camera and one that’s worth the trek from other urban centers.
Although Egypt is replete with impressive ancient sites, the temples of Ramses II and Nefertari in Abu Simbel are two of the most incredible in the country. With staggering colossi carved from straight from the rocks, the temples are mystifying in both scale and beauty. Pay a small fee of around $10 USD to photograph inside the temples, or snap pictures for free outside ― at sunrise if possible. The temples are open until 5 pm, but you have the option to stay later to see the light and sound show in the evening!
Serapaeum Ruins and Pompey’s Pillar
Pompey’s Pillar is a monumental red granite column that dates back to the 3rd century CE, towering above the other ruins at a height of around 90 feet (28 meters). Impressive in its own right, the obelisk is made even more arresting by its surroundings: next to it are two examples of Roman sphinxes, all with stunning views of the city of Alexandria as a backdrop. Photos here are free, and, despite its fame, the site tends to be less crowded than others, so avoiding large tour groups shouldn’t be too difficult. While you’re there, be sure to explore the underground ruins as well ― they’re the only surviving remains of the famed ancient Library of Alexandria.
Alexandria has always been a global center for knowledge, as evidenced by the history of the ancient library that was considered a hub for universal learning in ancient times. Despite the loss of this great complex, the concept persists: modern Alexandria is now home to Bibliotheca, a stunning expressionist structure that pays homage to the original goals of the ancient library. Designed as an enormous tilted circle like a rising sun, the building is a great photography subject for travelers hoping to capture the culture and design of modern Egypt. Capture the light streaming into the main reading room, or focus your lens on the many foreign languages inscribed on the stone outside. Happy photographing!
Need more inspiration for your trip to Egypt? Check out our guide for everything you need to know before you go!