Image credit: On The Go Tours


Get up to date with Egypt as travel restrictions are relaxed. Katie McGonagle reports

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Egypt boasts some of the world’s most impressive ancient monuments, from Tutankhamun’s tomb to the pyramids of Giza, but until recently many of its greatest assets were off-limits to British tourists.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice against non-essential travel to large swathes of the North African country prompted tour operators to redraw or postpone their programmes, and invalidated travel insurance for anyone going it alone. Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada escaped the travel ban, but were still affected by negative news coverage of unrest in other parts of Egypt.

But the tide is starting to turn: in November, the FCO relaxed restrictions on travel in areas including the Nile Valley, reopening historic spots such as Luxor and Aswan, followed by a similar change in advice for Cairo and nearby Giza. Since then, dozens of operators have resumed Nile cruises and other affected itineraries.

However, recent unrest in the capital has shown the importance of staying up to date with the current situation.

NILE CRUISES




The iconic journey down the world’s most famous waterway has long been a staple for those more interested in the country’s cultural origins than its sandy beaches, but suffered as key stops were deemed out of bounds. However, most operators have now resumed Nile cruise programmes, with some even adding itineraries.

Anatolian Sky Holidays has three vessels sailing from Luxor to Aswan; prices for travel before February 25 start at £1,145 for a seven-day Classic Nile cruise, departing Luxor and visiting the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, the ancient temple of Edfu and Island of Philae, with an optional day in Abu Simbel. The price includes flights, full-board accommodation and Egyptologist-led excursions.

High-end operators Bales Worldwide and Cox & Kings have resumed escorted tours and tailor-made trips in the affected areas. The former offers eight-day cruise The Nostalgic Nile, plus two new itineraries, The Darakum Cruise and Sanctuary Sun Boat III. Cox & Kings, meanwhile, has offered reassurance to agents that if FCO advice changes before clients depart, they can opt for an amended itinerary or full refund. It has also introduced some discounts to tempt tourists back, such as £400 off an eight day group tour with four-night Nile cruise, which now costs from £845 until March 31.

Pricing is becoming increasingly competitive. Red Sea Holidays’ all-inclusive Nile Cruise leads in at £665 with Manchester or Gatwick flights and 10 included excursions, while Discover Egypt’s seven-night cruises start at £899 on the five-star Viking Princess, with flights from Heathrow or Manchester.

Traditional felucca cruises are benefiting from the relaxation in restrictions too. On The Go Tours’ most popular trip is nine-day King Tutankhamun, combining the pyramids of Giza, Philae Temple, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings with a two-night cruise on the traditional wooden vessel.

A felucca cruise is included in Intrepid Travel’s 15-day Discover Egypt itinerary (from £795 excluding flights), and in sister brand The Family Adventure Company’s former best-seller, the nine-day Feluccas & Pharaohs tour, which resumes from February half-term (from £1,035 per adult and £932 per child).

Explore incorporates a three-night cruise in its Nile Felucca Sailtrek, with a chance to sleep on deck (from £898 for 10 days, including flights), while Exodus gives guests the best of both with a day on a felucca in its nine-day Nile Cruise (from £999 with flights).

Egypt

LAND ADVENTURES




It’s not only about the Nile: land tours to previously affected areas have also resumed, offering land trips or cruise-and-stay options.

Anatolian Sky suggests a four-night Nile cruise and three nights in Luxor from £1,025 before February 25, or three nights admiring the views from Movenpick Resort Elephantine Island in Aswan – the only hotel on the island – followed by four nights cruising Lake Nasser, from £1,585.

Red Sea Holidays also combines land and water in its 14-night Jewels of the Nile and Discovering Egypt tours, both combining Cairo and Hurghada with a Nile cruise.

Venturing beyond the popular Nile Valley, Cox & Kings suggests pairing a few nights exploring Alexandria with beach time in Sharm el-Sheikh, or going off the beaten track to discover the oases in Siwa and the Western Desert.

Explore and G Adventures have both restarted their programmes: the former has reopened bookings on 10 tours for both families and adults, albeit with a domestic flight replacing overnight train journeys between Cairo and Aswan on eight of those; while the latter resumed its seven Egypt tours on January 1.

Single-centre trips and day excursions can also showcase these historic sites. Olympic Holidays recommends the Maritim Jolie Ville Luxor, set on its own island and costing from £783 in May, while Anatolian Sky highlights the Sofitel Karnak (pictured above) in Luxor as a good family option, costing from £1,089 for adults and £429 for children in July or August, both for a week’s B&B including flights and transfers.

Red Sea Holidays also runs excursions from its coastal resorts: day trips to Luxor start at £75 by coach from Hurghada and £185 by air from Sharm el-Sheikh, while excursions by air to Cairo start at £215