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Sunset in a Nile River Cruise - Egypt

Nile River Cruise – Egypt

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The Cradle of the Egyptian Civilisation

Continuing the trip through the whole of Egypt, we embark at Luxor on a 4 night’s Nile river cruise upstream towards Aswan, the final point to disembark and thereafter continue south towards Abu Simbel, right up to the border with Sudan at the very southernmost point of Egypt. This was for many years a dream to come true and finally got to make it with the best company possible, my family. After that many trips together, countless countries across all continents and so many different cultures, this trip will be remembered as one of the best ever in terms of how memorable, what an impressive country and the incredible ancient Egyptian civilisation everyone of us craves for. Certainly a once in a lifetime for anyone, yet in my case updating this short sentence here, as of May 2024 the third time in the country although just in Cairo and Alexandria.
While anyone can book a river cruise on their own at the countless travel websites offering the services should you plan a trip to Egypt on your own, it is best without any doubt, when booked as part of a wider organised trip. You have the option to plan a trip either including the Nile cruise or otherwise, the cheaper version overland between Luxor towards Aswan, however, I would never imagine anyone cutting some costs and not doing what is the most beautiful way to travel while in the country enjoying spectacular sunrises and sunsets, the landscapes and and the people’s day to day living.
The cruises depart weekly from Luxor and navigate upstream (Upper Egypt) towards Aswan where everyone disembark, and sail back from Aswan towards Luxor (Lower Egypt) in a continuous loop. No matter which direction you take it, these are all the very same whether 4 or 3 nights. If on a 4 nights, the first night is merely accommodation while docked in Luxor or Aswan. Some tours might include you the night at a hotel in either of the cities, others already onboard as was our in our case. On a good side, breakfast and dinner is also included, buffet style, and all of the ships do have a top deck bar where to enjoy from the chairs and hammocks cold Egyptian beers or whatever you like, and a generally very beautiful pub/bar to enjoy some music and drinks after dinner. And to bear in mind, not all the ships do have a top deck pool. Not that you will have much time to enjoy it, but it is nice during the parts of the journey that happen during the day.
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Read more about the article Luxor – Egypt
Luxor - Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

Luxor – Egypt

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Ancient Thebes, the fourth Capital of ancient Egypt

Moving onto what’s possibly the major and most important sight in the whole of Egypt, and to the humanity after some days visiting Cairo. The greatest archaeological site anywhere in the planet, Luxor. The once glorious and largest capital city of ancient Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdom eras, from 2130 to 1279 BCE and known as Waset and Thebes, time of the greatest dynasties ever, right after Thinis the first ever capital (3150-2686 BCE), Memphis (2686-2160) and Heracleopolis Magna (2160-2040). Almost a thousand years when the development of the civilization was at its height, notably in society, economy, expansion, power, every possible knowledge and of course, architecture which after all, it is what we can really tangibly see and admire when we come to this region of Egypt with such pharaonic constructions like no others and the most imposing tombs ever created in the world by the once most advanced civilization known in the planet.

For anyone coming to Egypt, especially if on a tour, this would be the busiest place in terms of tourists you will find at every site. The tours coming from the north from Cairo, the ones coming from the south from Aswan, the ones starting in Luxor and the thousands of twice weekly arrivals from the cruises either upriver or downriver. Honestly it can be stressing in small spaces within the temples considering the summer months temperatures when you end up absolutely soaked in sweat especially when inside the tombs but in the other hand, it does not really matter. The experience to see all that is priceless, and as you continue reading this guide I will let you know about some stunning tombs you might be visiting pretty much alone!

The modern day city of Luxor itself, is pretty much irrelevant in terms of sightseeing or anything worth to visit. Only the area around the Nile riverside is in general the busiest place as the docks for the dozens of ships are here, with many little shops around but nothing special as opposed to other cities we visited later on such as Kom Ombo or Aswan. Still within the city itself there are the two fabulous great temples of Karnak and Luxor, and having a calesa ride in the late afternoon or evening through the city when the temples are lighted up will be a great experience! Most if not all the tours do include it in their program however if not or you are not in a tour, it is easy to spot them and previously negotiating a price, do not hesitate in doing it.

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Read more about the article Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur – Egypt
Giza - Egypt

Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur – Egypt

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The last surviving Wonder of the Ancient World

This is without exception, the highlight of any trip to Egypt, including Cairo, Luxor, Aswan or Abu Simbel. Giza is in any case a suburb of the ever expanding Cairo, where the houses have reached literally the very limit of the fences that separate it from the Giza Plateau necropolis. Not a very wise decision, as it’s not any more as impressive as it would have been to arrive to Giza and see the magnificent Pyramids in full from far, and not a Pizza Hut for example, right opposite the Sphinx entrance!

The first and most impressive, complete, historical and largest of the ancient Pharaohs necropolis is Giza; then at just few kilometres to the south is Abusir, the next funerary complex which is closed to visitors, at least by the time of our trip here. And immediately south of Abusir is the enormous Saqqara site, home to the first and oldest pyramid ever built in humanity (the Step Pyramid, or Pyramid of Djoser), with many others from larger to much smaller, many tombs, the Imhotep Museum and the amazing Serapeum.

The last of the necropolis complexes within an acceptable distance from Cairo, is Dahshur, where you will find the first true smooth-sided pyramid ever built, The Red Pyramid of Sneferu; and one of the very last ever built by the ancient Egyptians, the Bent Pyramid; unique in the way that has two different angles since they did not know anymore how to really build perfect pyramids and had and angle miscalculation where if continuing at the initial angle, the whole structure would have collapsed, however changing its angle to a smaller one half way the construction meant stability yet its unique odd look. Completing this funerary complex among others, is the Black Pyramid of Sneferu, nowadays collapsed, however the original maze of corridors still intact underground.

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Read more about the article Cairo – Egypt
Cairo - Egypt

Cairo – Egypt

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The largest city in the Arab world

Coming to Cairo, one of the greatest cities in the word notably for its incredible architecture and of course, being home to the only surviving Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a must do in a lifetime for anyone. Although in my case not the first anymore, but the third so far as or May 2024 and likely more to come in the coming years and continue discovering this incredible country full of amazing sights in every corner. While the first time was a quick and short trip just to Cairo and Alexandria, the second time was the most complete covering all the way from Cairo down to Abu Simbel, merely 3 kilometres from the border with Sudan, including a Nile river cruise and visiting plenty of cities such as Luxor, Esna, Kom Ombo and Aswan, temples and sites from what once was the most advanced and longest ancient civilization ever. Today I can only write a minor update after the third time which was once more pretty much reduced to Cairo and Alexandria.

This is the largest city in the Arab world, and one of the largest in the planet. A massive melting pot of ancient civilizations and cross-roads of cultures, ever growing as far your eyes can reach. Once the epi-centre of the world’s second oldest civilization known to man. It is amazing to think about the fact that we are closer to Cleopatra in time than the original Egyptians! It’s fascinating to think about it, and of course the invaluable legacy left and the few we still know about them with only around 15% of the entire civilization uncovered from the sand, and that is already vast. Just image what further surprises we will eventually get to see from the archaeologists.

In Cairo, no matter what you might hear in the news, sometimes sad, other horrific when there is a terrorist attack, what is certain is the great and fascinating people; truly nice and helpful, very hospitable and kind, making you feel very secure and protected; and there are hordes of people. Way too many inhabitants everywhere, packing the streets and the roads everywhere. It is a very safe city and a tourist should not fear nor be scared. Egypt is a very strong tourist destination, ever growing and developing, and in the last years the safety has improved at giant steps especially for tourists, no matter the city.

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Read more about the article Istanbul – Turkey
Istanbul - Galata and the Golden Horn

Istanbul – Turkey

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The City on Seven Hills

Istanbul, one of the greatest cities in the world since antiquity to current date, is always a treat to come and repeat. That’s the third time in my case, and will certainly be more to come. It is way too big, the largest city in Europe, and fascinating everywhere offering the visitor a great and vast amount of sights, monuments, museums and historical places. Once named Byzantium, the capital city of the great Byzantine Empire founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC; then Constantinople after the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made it his imperial capital in 330 AD, it continued capital during the even greater Ottoman Empire. Buildings from every era are still standing in great fusion with the modern and elegant architecture, where broad avenues where laid out on top of the ancient city, Roman basilicas turned into churches, then into mosques; impressive royal residences and palaces built.

The Romans made of Constantinople the second capital of the empire only after Rome, and transformed it into one of the most beautiful and luxurious city the world has ever seen in antiquity. Embellished with monuments created in situ and others taken here from all over the empire, notably the Obelisk of Thutmose III from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor or the Serpent Column from Delphi in Greece to be placed in the great hippodrome, thankfully there still today. Other one of such stunning monuments created were the bronze horses decorating the main entrance of the hippodrome, thereafter taken by the Venetians to Venice and ever since located at Saint Mark’s Basilica; of the Column of Constantine still in its original site at the former Imperial Forum.

With many civilizations and different empires eager to take the strategic city, there’s been rise and fall periods, sieges, war, destruction and reconstruction. Too many layers of history below current ground level where every hole you dig and the history comes back to live. Noteworthy the Basilica Cistern. A spectacular water cistern described as the “sunken palace” located few meters away from the Blue Mosque itself, however, not the only cistern in Istanbul. Plenty more, however not all opened to the public.

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Read more about the article El Calafate – Argentina
El Calafate - Argentina

El Calafate – Argentina

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Patagonia, land of glaciers and mountains

Leaving behind the civilization and big cities such as Buenos Aires and Cordoba for something of spectacular nature in this world: glaciers, mountains and landscapes of surreal pristine beauty. El Calafate itself being the major gateway into the countless natural parks, some of which in Chile’s soil yet accessible from Argentina’s side. Although not a city, but a small town, it contains all the facilities to handle the ever growing number of tourists seeking another of the fascinating sides Argentina has to offer.

Be prepared to not only enjoy the natural landscape, but also the flora and fauna which is beautiful. From the Patagonian desert of infinite emptiness, only interrupted by serpentine rivers, to the Magellanic subpolar forests. easy to spot are guanacos (similar to a llama), cougars (puma concolor) which is the second heaviest cat after the jaguar in the Americas; grey foxes, rheas (similar to an ostrich, also known as ñandúes), condors or eagles to name a few. You could simply spend weeks in the area, and every day visiting a different place, but distance of course, are large, and time spend travelling around dramatically increased because there are no motorways nor dual carriage roads. In some place and for many kilometres, the path is unpaved, not the best when in rainy or snowy conditions.

A trip to Argentina in my own opinion, is not complete unless you plan well your route to include this place. While there is something I would not recommend at all, coming here overland and spend unnecessary very long time, even days on a bus with actually not much to see out there from the window other than the emptiness; I would for sure not hesitate in taking a flight. The good news is that from most of the main cities in the country you can fly here directly, and at great fares! Would you even consider 40 hours on a bus from Buenos Aires to take an example, against 3 by plane? (more…)

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Read more about the article Cordoba – Argentina
Cordoba - Argentina

Cordoba – Argentina

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Cordoba de la Nueva Andalucia

Re-entering Argentina to continue the tour in Argentina after a couple of days visiting Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, it is now time for one of the most visited places in the country, the beautiful Cordoba. Argentina’s second largest city, named after Cordoba in Spain was founded in 1573 by Conquistador Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, who claimed most of the northwest of current Argentina. Soon after, the original urban plan for the city was created: the traditional colonial orthogonal grid of streets, 70 blocks in total in a 10 by 7 with an epicentral square, the heart of the religion and politics where the City Hall and Cathedral were built.

It was not much later, in 1616 when the Jesuit Block started to take shape in its construction, becoming the first university in Argentina, and the 4th oldest in South America. Several other complexes ere built by the Jesuits in the province, receiving the name of Estancia Jesuistica, each had its own church and buildings around which, a town grew. Nowadays, these are one of the major tourist draws, and preserved for posterity by their inclusion in the UNESCO’s list as World Heritage Site.

Churches, basilicas, monasteries and palaces for wealthy merchants soon filled all available plots, rivalling in greatness with Buenos Aires to the point of been considered as the capital of the country before any other city. Its population kept growing, expanding beyond its original limits to create new districts around the old town; tending of new avenues and streets, infrastructure and another great boost to its economy after the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Italy and Spain at the end of the 19th century. The taste for the architecture change for a French, Italianate and Spanish colonial, same as it happened in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th century, and although beautiful, it meant the destruction of most of the original colonial fabric to make way for the bigger and greater.

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Read more about the article Colonia del Sacramento – Uruguay
Colonia del Sacramento - Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento – Uruguay

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Best preserved colonial city in Uruguay

One of the highlights of coming to Uruguay is taking the chance for visiting the oldest and best preserved colonial city in the country, the small Colonia del Sacramento right along the Rio de la Plata estuary and directly opposite Buenos Aires. You can see one each other from the shore. But before continuing, let me define a bit more what best preserved and oldest city means here: basically, do not expect a wonderful city like the ones you can see all over Central America, notorious example of glorious Antigua in Guatemala. Colonia is very small and lacks that opulence and flair. Take a remote, small and possibly unknown village in Spain or Portugal, and you have what you are about to visit here. Yes, it is a nice place, with a charm, but little more than that. In the other hand, expect lots of tourists from all over the world, it is the most visited place in the country.

Colonia was founded and developed by the Portuguese who had several posts along the Rio de la Plata, coexisting with the Spanish where several times conflicts and wars changed the hands to the Spanish and back to the Portuguese. Destruction and reconstruction until the early 18th century when after the Treaty of Utrecht it was handed back to Portugal who transformed it into the most wealthy and best defended city in the Rio de la Plata region. Fallen in the hands of Spain on several more occasion through the century, it can be said that it was never part of the Spanish Empire for longer than 20 years. Uruguay became an independent nation in 1828.

Considering as an average tourist you can fully explore in one day Montevideo, the country’s capital, then why not enjoy a day out here! Easy to come, bearing it’s 3 hours away by bus or car from Montevideo, or merely hour and a half from Buenos Aires by high speed boat and easy cross-country border formalities. What’s best, no need to scramble your head thinking what to do, what to see and how to plan a best route. Everything, everywhere is walking distance next to each other, plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes.

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