Majestic pyramids and ancient hieroglyphics are probably the first things that come to mind when you think of Egypt, and while they certainly deserve their fame, there’s so much more to it than that. This according to full-time travel blogger and content creator Kimmie Conner.
She’s been on the road and blogging for the past seven years, and throughout her adventures, she’s worked as a tour guide, and in sales and hospitality to stay on the road while building her platform. Now she lives the “digital nomad” lifestyle with her boyfriend, billeting in different places around the world for a few months to a year at a time, getting to know the areas, and then writing all about them on her site and sharing her experiences on Instagram and TikTok.
“Our latest destination was Egypt — where we’d planned to stay for one month but ended up falling in love and staying for four, exploring all the incredible places to visit,” says Conner.
With four months in Egypt under her belt, Conner has valuable insight into the best places to eat, play, stay, and explore — from where to get the best view of the pyramids of Giza (the answer will surprise you!) to the one dish every Egyptian tourist needs to try. We did our best to pick her brain below.
Egypt is one of the countries that surprised and captivated me the most. We first decided to visit partly out of convenience. We came to visit a friend and to see the main sights — pyramids, Luxor, etc. But once we arrived and discovered the incredible depth and complexity of this country — history, culture, scenery, adventure — we fell more and more in love.
Egypt is a must-visit for SO many more reasons than just the pyramids of Giza. I would even argue that if that’s all you see, it hardly even counts! To truly experience Egypt, you must travel to the Red Sea Coast to dive and snorkel around some stunning reefs and sea life, get lost in remote deserts with other-worldly scenery, bathe in hot springs surrounding remote oases, drink tea with hospitable Bedouins and learn about their culture, haggle for your life at city markets, learn about hieroglyphs inside ancient temples, and enjoy views with delicious Egyptian street food. Oh, and the locals here are some of the kindest and most hospitable I have come across.
Egypt because is literally the oldest tourist destination on Earth, with some of the most ancient, mysterious, and fascinating history, but also the most incredible and varied scenery and surprises around every corner.
What’s one thing that every first-time visitor should see or do in Egypt?
I was going to say the pyramids, but that one’s painfully obvious. I will say, however, that it’s worth visiting all three pyramid sites in Cairo — check out the pyramids of Dahshur and Saqqara before going to Giza to understand more context.
Other than the pyramids, I’m torn between saying everyone should go to the Red Sea or should do a Nile River cruise. I think both are super important to get a well-rounded idea of Egypt! When you do a Nile River cruise between Aswan and Luxor, you’ll be able to understand a lot of the history from Egypt’s New Kingdom. There are dozens of temples you’ll visit while on this river cruise that can give you a great perspective into what life may have been like all those thousands of years ago. You can also visit the Valley of the Kings — where dozens of Egyptian Pharaoh tombs were found, including King Tut’s. History buff or not, it’s absolutely fascinating.
I think it’s imperative to visit the Red Sea on your first trip to Egypt, because it’s absolutely spectacular, and one of the most beautiful parts of Egypt for sure. The Red Sea has some of the clearest and most pristine water in the whole world and is famous for boat trips, scuba diving, snorkeling, freediving, and simply swimming in warm sparkling water. My most recommended place to visit near the Red Sea would be the little hippie town of Dahab (more on that later), or Hurghada or Sharm El Shiekh for a more resort-style trip.
Where to get the best view of the Giza Pyramids?
Well, I did find one of the most…controversial views of the pyramids by checking out the KFC rooftop right outside the lower entrance! It’s true, you can get a great view from the fourth story rooftop of a hybrid KFC-Pizza Hut just outside (check out my video here). But there are plenty of other amazing views of the pyramids too!
You can get some other amazing views of the pyramids from the “panoramic viewpoints” out in the desert to the west of the pyramids (most tours will take you there), the new boho desert restaurant 9 Pyramids Lounge, and my personal favorite, from a jacuzzi in a studio apartment room overlooking the pyramids sunset.
Can you recommend a lesser-known city in Egypt worth visiting?
This is an easy one — DAHAB!! Dahab is one of the main reasons we stayed in Egypt so long. We actually lived here for two and a half of our four months in the country. Why? It’s purely MAGICAL! Dahab has one of the best lifestyles of anywhere I’ve lived and seriously rivals our other favorite, Bali.
Dahab has a laid-back hipster vibe with an air of adventure and happiness. Dahab has some of the best water for diving, freediving, and snorkeling, and many people learn here or just have a few refreshing swims a day. It’s close to the desert for hiking, climbing, and camping — you can also hike up the coast and stay in camps along some beautiful beaches in Ras Abu Galum or the Blue Lagoon if you want to get away from it all. There’s great melodic music playing throughout the entire town (we’re fans of organic house and techno — Dahab is too) with occasional parties and festivals around as well. There’s a spectacular and varied range of restaurants and foods to try, from classic Egyptian to Indian to cute breakfast cafes to Italian. It’s also very affordable and the people are so welcoming. Can you tell how passionate I am about this place?
We hope to be able to have a home here one day, but for now, I recommend anyone who aligns with this type of adventurous hippie town vibe should pay this place a visit.
What’s a food item that every tourist needs to try, and where to get the best of it?
The first thing that comes to mind is the Egyptian national dish, Koshary. Koshary is a popular street food comprised of lots of different kinds of carbs — rice, pasta, and lentils, generally with tomato sauce, crispy onion, and other spices and hot sauce. You can find Koshary for 10 Egyptian pounds on the streets of Cairo (less than $1), but my favorite place to get Koshary is in Dahab at a tiny restaurant called Roots.
Roots only serves two things — “normal” Koshary and “yellow” Koshary, known by many as Alexandrian Koshary. The normal Koshary here is the best I have had, and the yellow Koshary is a bit healthier, made with yellow rice, quinoa, and cooked vegetables. All the dishes are 40LE, under $3. You can’t go wrong!
What’s the coolest hotel or place to stay in Egypt?
As my readers know, I’m a big fan of unique and boutique hotels. While we stayed with a friend a lot of the time in Egypt, we discovered some incredible places to stay. I think my top favorites in Dahab are Sukoon Guesthouse and Alf Leila Boutique Hotel. Sukoon was designed by a good friend of mine, and it constantly keeps a relaxing and inclusive vibe among guests in only six rooms. Alf Leila was designed in Moroccan style around a central courtyard with warm and inviting colors and decor.
If you have some time in Dahab I recommend hiking up the coast and staying in Girneta Camp in Ras Abu Galum — you can stay in a little open-roof dome to look at the stars, including breakfast and dinner for just about $20! As I mentioned, coming up to camp on the coast is the best getaway from reality and WiFi.
In Cairo, I wanted to mention that my favorite suburb is called Maadi. Cairo is a difficult city to crack — with 20 million people and too many suburbs to count, it’s hard to know where to stay. Maadi is a bit far outside the city center but it’s definitely the cutest, greenest, and most walkable/welcoming place in Cairo, which might be less of a shell-shock for first-time visitors. The cutest boutique place to stay in Maadi is called Villa Belle Epoque (built from a converted Victorian mansion).
Best time of year to visit?
Going to Egypt in summer entails risking 45-plus temperatures (113 Fahrenheit), and winter could get below 15 (59 Fahrenheit). So, it depends on what you want, but Egypt is truly beautiful year-round. The most ideal time to visit Egypt is the shoulder seasons between summer (VERY hot) and winter (pretty darn cold). October and November are ideal, with warm days and chilled nights, as well as March, April, and early May.
Anything else you’d like to add about Egypt?
Alexandria is a fascinating and beautiful historic city to visit also — it’s worth checking out at least as a day trip from Cairo or for one to two nights, but you won’t need more than that. There are tons of fascinating historic sites, beaches, and museums!
I can’t sign off without mentioning some of Egypt’s most incredible deserts, too — make sure to sign up for a one to two-night trip out to the White Desert and Black Desert from Cairo. This is a standard day trip from Cairo and will allow you to see some of the most other-worldly scenes ever, from basalt-covered mountains to white mushroom rocks to massive desert cliffs. You can camp in the desert under the stars and even see a fox if you’re lucky.
If you have time, a more involved trip in Egypt would be to visit the Siwa Oasis — a massive oasis out west near the Libyan border in Egypt about 10 hours from Cairo. I’m not kidding when I say there is barren desert for hundreds of miles around this place, but you can find massive lakes, hundreds of natural warm springs, and salt lakes out here in Siwa. The city is built on a 600-year-old mud fortress, where you can stay in hotels carved into the sides of rocky mountains, swim in stunning salt pools, and more. I went to a festival out there but I can’t wait to get back and explore properly.