Midyear break is your first chance to practice that one new year's resolution that you should probably stick to: travel more. Now, for the sake of exploring Egypt first, and for the sake of a limited period of time and the standard student budget of being broke, there are some destinations that can be explored on a budget that still have nice views, nightlife, good company, and warm weather – what more do you need for the perfect midyear break? The trick is to find the best experiences suitable for you with limited time and a budget, so you could worry a little less about the planning and research part. Pick your destination and pack your swimsuit or your hiking shoes – depends on your preferences.
LUXORvia Getty Images
This city is as old as it gets, but you’ll never run of activities to do or things to see. If you’re looking for history, Luxor is scattered with monuments, stunning landmarks, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the good news is that not all of them require tickets. There are eight historical sites in Luxor that can't be missed – some of them requiring tickets and some not; however, while the ancient city of Thebes is considered the world's biggest open-air museum, but it doesn’t have to be all history if you don’t want it to be.
One of the most unique experiences you could have in Luxor is to watch the sunrise on a hot air balloon over the city. Although not the most budget-friendly, it’s a must if you’re willing to splurge a little, and there aren’t many places in Egypt that offer this -- probably just Luxor. The bird's-eye view you get of the historical city is like nothing else and you get to see the world’s biggest open-air museum wake up from above, with the colours of the early morning light adding more magic to the experience. These are two of the hot air balloon rides providers in Luxor: Sindbad Hot Air Balloons and Magic Horizon Balloons.
For some daytime activities beyond the history, there's Aboudi Bookstore and Coffee Shop, it's the place to go for a chill morning surrounded by books, and there’s a coffeeshop where you could grab your morning coffee with a great view of the Luxor Temple. Art From People to People is an art gallery located in a small place behind the Nile Valley Hotel, showcasing art pieces by local artists; the gallery holds art classes and events as well, becoming a creative hub for the area. Another art centre in Luxor is Habiba Gallery, which is run by an Australian woman who's working to promote Egyptian crafts, selling a selection of Bedouin embroidery, jewelry, leatherwork, Siwan scarves, cotton embroidered scarves from Sohag, Aswan baskets, and more. For some shopping, you've got all the alleyways of the Luxor Souks to discover.
via Egypt Today
The local souks of Luxor are just behind the Luxor Temple, starting with the tourist section. The further you go, the more local and authentic the souk gets. Selling everything from souvenirs, to local goods, spices, and even some shisha cafes. There's also the weekly market, Souk El Talat, which is -guess what- held every Tuesday! Just opposite to Temple of Seti I, the market is where all the locally grown fruit and vegetables are sold. You'll also stumble upon some handcrafts and baskets that are usually sold for villagers -- perfect spot to interact with the locals and get to know the community.
For a break from shopping and haggling with sellers, take a break in Om Kalthoum Coffee Shop, which is a pleasant local ahwa in the heart of Luxor souk where you can take a break from shopping and haggling and enjoy some tea and shisha. Beyond the shopping, there's the Oasis Palace Cafe: a charming intimate sitting in a 20th century building, with high ceilings and all. This place is perfect for some good food and a night out.
Now that you've got your days sorted out, it's time for some night planning. You wouldn’t think of Luxor when you think nightlife, but every city could have a nightlife if you look hard enough. Here’s a couple of places where you could chill and have a drink in Luxor at the end of the day: King's Head Pub, Sunrise Bar and Restaurant, Murphy's Irish Bar, JJ's at El Gezira Gardens Hotel, Bar Royal inside Sofitel Winter Palace, and Esquire Restaurant and Pub 2000.
You don't have to worry much about having a tight budget in Luxor. Being a touristic city and all, you have to always haggle the prices down and settle with drivers before you get in. Other than that, accommodation is pretty cheap, you can find many hostels where you could spend the night for as cheap as 100 EGP per night. Some of those hostels include Fontana Luxor Hostel, Happy Land Luxor, or New Everest Hostel. Did Luxor get your attention? Well, here's a couple of things that you could also do on a budget in Luxor.
ASWANvia Tayara Muse
If you're here for history, we've gathered a list of all the historical spots not to miss while visiting Aswan. But if you're looking for something beyond the history, we're going to bombard you with a few cool things to do in Aswan, other than temples and tombs. Aswan is a small city but it's definitely one of Egypt's highlights on the Nile -- even Agatha Christie agrees. The Old Cataract hotel was the famous writer's temporary home in Egypt and it's where she wrote her famous book, Death on the Nile. Up to this day, you can still stay in the same room where she wrote it -- although not really budget-friendly. But even if you're not staying at the hotel, you could still visit to see her desk on display in the lobby, and the amazing views from the hotel balconies won't hurt too -- now there you go, here's your first activity in Aswan. One of the cool things about Aswan is all the surrounding islands, and each one has something special to visit for. Starting with Aswan Botanical Gardens, AKA Kitchener's Island, it belonged to Lord Kitchener, who transformed it into a botanical garden full of exotic plants from all over Asia and Africa. The island is home to hundreds of species of flora, and some rare palm trees and it's a perfect spot for afternoon walks and picnics surrounded by greens of plants and blues of the Nile. Gharb Soheil is the next stop on your island-hopping adventures in Aswan. This island perfectly blends the Nubian culture and Aswan's beautiful nature, it will give you a unique experience of the Nubian culture, language, traditions, music, and art. Next up is Elephantine Island, Aswan's biggest island. It's the perfect place to stroll around getting a feel of the Nubian culture. Littered with palm trees and slopes of mud-brick houses, this island is one of the major destinations in Aswan that you must not miss. On the northern part of the island, you'll find houses painted with the signature vibrant colors of Aswan and people gardening the beautiful green spaces. This island is the most delightful place to just walk around and enjoy the natural beauty – a photographer's heaven.
A walk along the corniche in Aswan and watching the sunset over the islands and the desert is enough to keep you busy for a whole day. The view from all the riverside cafes is beautiful. Take a walk till you reach Aswan Old Souks. The colorful bazaar sells the cheapest souvenirs you can find in the city, and you'll be able to buy everything from perfumes to peanuts, henna, spices, and even Sudanese swords! But still, you can't go to Aswan without checking out some of the historical sites that you shouldn't miss on your trip.
Now that you've got your day's schedule filled, let's move on to a bit of nightlife in Aswan. After being overwhelmed with sights and the chaos of the city, maybe you'll need a place to chill out at night and maybe grab a drink – all budget-friendly, of course. Some of these places are Emy Restaurant and Bar, Le Pacha, Nubian Dream Restaurant, El Masry, and Mona Lisa Cafe. Otherwise, almost every hotel in Aswan has a bar where you could chill even if you're not staying at that hotel.
For budget-friendly places to stay, Aswan has a couple of hostels where you could spend the night for around 100 EGP – like David Hostel. If you're traveling as a group, you could rent a couple of rooms in a guesthouse and settle for a good price at someplace like Bet El Kerem Guesthouse and Ekadolli Nubian Guesthouse.
Thinking of Aswan as your winter break destination? Discover the places and spaces, ins and outs, nooks and crannies of Aswan through our comprehensive guide that covers everything from the moment you arrive until that sad moment when your trip comes to an end.
Not a fan of planning it all yourself? There are a couple of arranged trips heading to Aswan and Nubia throughout January that you could easily join; take a look through our trip calendar and find a trip that suits you best.
DAHABvia Tayara Muse
Egypt's hidden gem is not so hidden anymore. Known as the hippie getaway in Egypt, Dahab is the diving destination that's perfect year-round. It's laying back beside the beach all day, doing nothing but enjoying the picturesque views of the blue water against the mountains with a drink in hand a dog by your feet. Dahab is just something else. It's the nightlife of Sharm El Sheikh mixed with the beautiful beaches of Marsa Alam and the bohemian lifestyle of Nuweiba, and you probably won't find that mix anywhere else in Egypt. Maybe this is why it's the most popular getaway in Egypt and why so many people just choose to abandon city life, grab a couple of their belongings and just leave for Dahab never looking back. Every season is Dahab season, but in the winter, it's got a charm like no other. Winter mornings in Dahab are warm enough for you to take a dip in the sea and dive for some moments of peace with life under the sea. The evenings are bearably cold to enjoy a hot drink or a beer in one of the many cafes and bars right by the sea -- or just above the water in some cases. Although the mamsha (the promenade) is the most popular and busiest part of Dahab, there's definitely more to it than just that.
via Trip Savvy
The good news is that spending time in Dahab can be as cheap you could possibly want. It’s quite easy to spend a few days in Dahab with minimal expenses according to your budget. Depending on where you're staying, you could arrange with one of the many truck drivers in the city to pick you up and drive you wherever you want to spend your day. Other than transportation, everything is pretty much free. One of the most beautiful beaches you could ever set eyes on -and is free for the public- is the Lagoona Beach. Make sure to have your snorkeling gear with you because Lagoona beach is an excellent spot for snorkeling. You won't find any cafes there, so grab your drinks and snacks before you head out there. Next up is the famous Blue Hole, the reason why hundreds of tourists flock to Dahab every year since it's one of the most famous diving spots around the world. There's also the Three Pools, where you could sleep on a hammock pretty much like a meter from the water and if you're looking to dive, this is the place to go.
It's not all sea though, and you don't have to take a truck somewhere else to reach another place. There are a couple of local experiences that you could have right in the heart of Dahab. El Mamsha is a must in Dahab. With cafes and restaurants on one side and boutiques and shops on the other side. Grab some oriental breakfast from the popular Yum Yum and dinner from King Chicken. Have you really been to Dahab if you don't wear the pants? This is the place where you'll find hundreds them with every pattern and color you can imagine. The perfect way to cover the whole walkway is on a bike and right before the bridge in Mamsha, you'll find a place that rents bikes. Now for some life after sunset, Bedouin dinners by the mountains is an experience that you must have in Dahab -- sitting under the starlight, a nice Bedouin meal, and some tea and shisha. If you're looking for somewhere nearby to chill and grab a drink, there's Yalla Bar and Blue Beach Bar. Otherwise, you could buy your own drink and literally chill anywhere, Dahab is your playground.
For accommodations, most places in Dahab are budget-friendly. You could even stay in a tent for just 60 EGP -- that place is Charlie House El Mashraba. If you're into hostel-style accommodations or something more than a tent, a bed in the Deep Blue Divers Hostel will set you back around 100 EGP.
We could just go on about the insurmountable serenity as you watch the sunrise over Shali Fortress or the sunset from just about anywhere; about the generosity and gad3ana of strangers-turned-friends-turned-family; about the crystal clear salt lakes, the natural springs in the middle of the desert, and the artistically brilliant ecolodge whose owner cooks dinner for her guests every day. Siwa is the perfect place to run away from the chaos and the busyness of the city. Once you arrive, you'll wonder where all people went-- but this is why people escape to Siwa to begin with. There's no other place in Egypt where you could find this level of natural serenity if not in an oasis inhabited by 35,000 people who mainly work in tourism or agriculture? Siwa’s best known for stunningly serene natural landscape – desert adventures, countless places to swim, and mesmerizing sunsets no matter where you are. There's a lot to discover and enough to keep you busy -- at least till you have to drop whatever you're doing, get your camera in hand, and watch the sun setting.
Siwa is full of historic sites to explore and some places to give you a glimpse of the history of the land. To name a few, there's the Temple of the Oracle of Amun, Shali Fortress, Um Ebeida Temple, the fossil site at the Great Grand Sea, and the Siwa House Museum. Nature-wise, Siwa is gonna reward you with some of the most stunning sunsets in Egypt – to the point where Siwa has become known as Sunset Oasis (wahet el ghroob). During the day, there's a couple of trips that you could make whether you're more into hiking and trekking or just sitting somewhere with a good view. Dakrour Mountain is one of the largest mountains in Siwa, and it will give you a panoramic view of the entire oasis if you can climb to the top. Now after the hike, you will obviously need a quick dip into one of Siwa's famous salt lakes. If that's something you're interested in, then you've obviously come to the right place. Siwa's the only place where you’ll find crystal clear turquoise waters surrounded by bright white salt crystals. You won’t be needing your floaties to swim in Siwa’s salt lakes because the ridiculously high salt concentration means you’re floating against your will either way. Siwa has four main salt lakes: Olive Lake in the east, Aghormi Lake in the northeast, Siwa Lake south of Shali, and Maraqi Lake also south of the oasis in Bahy el Deen. There’s also Fatnas Island 5 KM west of Siwa, situated between a hot spring and a salt lake. Heads up: there are no restrooms at the salt lakes.
Bir Wahed is the stuff of movies. You’re safariing your way through the desert and come by a cluster of palm and date trees. The water in Bir Wahed runs beneath the sand for several kilometers before surfacing again as a freezing cold lake elsewhere in the desert. Make sure Bir Wahed is one of your stops during your desert safari – it’ll definitely be a highlight, and makes for some incredible photo ops. A few minutes from the heart of Siwa, Cleopatra Spring is one of the most frequented water springs in the oasis. This pool of stone filled with natural hot water springs, Cleopatra Spring is quite deep, so don’t cannonball in there unless you’re a good swimmer. There are also cafes and a bazaar around the spring for you to take a quick break between dips or sit and enjoy the view. Head over to Taghaghein Island for some sunset views with some tea and shisha -- make the most out of your Siwa trip. If you've got energy after the full days of wandering around the desert, or if you're a night owl who's always looking for night adventures, our advice is: befriend a Siwan. They're your key to the nightlife of Siwa, and they'll get you to the right places for a Bedouin party at night.
For accommodation in Siwa, there's the Kelany Hotel: budget-friendly, cozy, great location, and will set you back around 180 EGP per night. If Siwa's getting your attention, we've gathered all the nitty-gritty details to plan your Siwa trip, with all the tools to experience the beauty of the Sunset Oasis yourself through our ultimate guide.
Not a fan of planning it all yourself? There are a couple of arranged trips heading to Siwa throughout January that you could easily join; take a look through our trip calendar and find a trip that suits you best.
RAS SUDRvia Daily News Egypt
Close by, underrated, and extremely beautiful, Ras Sudr is definitely a destination to consider; its coastline and proximity to Cairo have slowly but surely made it the getaway for Cairenes looking for a quick escape. Scattered with resorts and holiday villas, you'll stumble upon a camp right by the water every now and then. For its geographical location and the gift of constant wind, Ras Sudr has gained its well-deserved reputation as the place to go for kite surfing and other above-water activities. You could view it as a piece of Sinai without having to drive over six hours -- something like your local Nuweiba. The sandy, pristine, and relatively-unfrequented beaches make it the perfect getaway for winter break. So here's a couple of things you could do in Ras Sudr.
Kite surfing -do we really need to say it?- is a given in Ras Sudr. The water activity is practically synonymous with Ras Sudr by now. Whether you've never heard of it or you've always wanted to try it, it's always kite surfing season in Ras Sudr. You could take lessons at the Kitebuzz Centre or Kitesurfing Village where you'll find professionals there to help you with kite surfing 101. If you're not into kite surfing but still want that bit of adrenaline, there's also windsurfing. The Red Sea coastline in this area is gifted with wind ideal for windsurfing. You can rent all the needed equipment through any water sport centre and go wild, or you could head over to Moon Beach Windsurfing Centre to have a relatively safer experience. That's not even all, there's also wake-boarding, kayaking, yoga by the beach, and paddle boarding. If you're up for a day trip, Ras Sudr has a couple of therapeutic springs such as Wadi Assal and Oyun Musa.
via La Hacienda
Chilling in Ras Sudr is all about the Instagrammable views, camps, water activities, and the company. Pets are also allowed in most hotels and camps in Ras Sudr, so it's the perfect place to take your furry best friends along on a trip. At night, it's all about bonfires, drinks, board games, and staying up til sunrise.