We have been wanting to visit Egypt for a while now so when the opportunity to get away over the Christmas and New Year period arose we knew we needed to head there for a break. We joined Expat Explore on their 10 Day Explorer Tour through Egypt taking in the sights of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and Hurghada.
The reason we chose Expat Explore was that they were the cheapest in price with all the same sights and in the end we were happy with our choice.
Pre-departure they emailed us our itinerary with the optional excursions and additional costs for entry fees included so that we could budget properly. As well as following up with our pre-trip questions regarding flights, insurance and uhealth and safety advice.
From the start they were very professional. Landing in Cairo we were personally greeted the day before our tour and transported to our City centre hotel. That drive was an eye-opener to Egypt with crazy lane changes, honking, swerving, flashing lights with animals, people and vehicles everywhere.
El Tonsy Hotel is your base for your arrival and last night. Luckily we didn’t expect much as our door didn’t lock which was a bit dodgy and the rooms were freezing cold with a broken heater and only one blanket. You wouldn’t think you would need heat in Egypt but it was the middle of winter and it was chilly at night. No complaints with the location though as we could see the Pyramids in the distance and were only 5 minutes walk from the Nile and 15 minutes to Tahir Square (perfectly safe by the way). Plus they have a little bar/restaurant with cheap food and free Wi-Fi. Just buy your snacks and water from the supermarket across the road and you will get on fine.
It’s quite hard to break down a whole trip into one post but here goes:
Your tour starts with the best in my opinion by touring some sights of Cairo. The steeply angled Step Pyramid, mind-blowing Pyramids of Giza and the smaller than expected Sphinx. This day was definitely the highlight.
That night is spent aboard the train for 10-12 hours to Aswan. I highly recommend the Sleeper train for an extra £50 per person. Others that caught the standard train froze their butts off while we had a toasty sleep with a served dinner and breakfast. Unfortunately Expat Explore never told us about the provided food so we ate before we got on-board but what we could fit in was delicious.
The tour splits in Aswan as one group embarks on a River Cruise aboard a 5 star ship while the others spend time in hotels and on a Felucca. No surprise that we went with the cheaper option aboard the Felucca so the next few days are from that point of view.
The afternoon is yours at Sara Hotel on the banks above the Nile. We lapped up the beautiful rays of the sun and managed to turn our pasty white bodies a more fitting slightly white shade. The Hotel was great until the toilet next-door erupted sending a river of smelly waste across our bedroom floor (throw your toilet paper in the bin not the loo)! Luckily we woke in time to rescue our bags from the watery mess! Not the fault of Expat Explore and we didn’t blame the Hotel either as shit happens.
Your day begins by visiting the monstrous High Dam for 10 minutes (fairly boring) and a drive past the Unfinished Obelisk. While the highlight is definitely the Philae Temple. When the sunsets across the Nile reflecting off the stonework it really is quite magical.
The evening ended with an optional dinner in a traditional Nubian families house. The food was scrumptious and you better bring your singing and dancing shoes.
The following day and night is spent relaxing aboard the Felucca for a sail up the Nile for several hours. Sleeping no more than 8 people you will be snug if you bring your own sleeping bag like us. The rest of our crew were jealous as it did get quite chilly in the evening however blankets were provided.
With delicious pita bread and falafel cooked on the boat you will not be disappointed with the food either.
The day ends with a bonfire on the Nile shoreline as you sing and dance with the crazy fun Nubian crews. This was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip for us.
Travel Tip: Don’t be put off by doing your “business” amongst the reeds of the Nile. Just enjoy the view and remember to bring your own toilet paper (which you need everywhere in Egypt anyway).
By all accounts, from the other tour members, the River Cruise is just as great with 3 nights on-board in comfortable accommodation, a pool and buffets morning, noon and night.
Waking to a sunrise breaking the morning chill is a glorious way to start a new day. Unfortunately there is little time for relaxation before you are off the Felucca and on a bus to Kom Ombu and Edfu Temples. I must say, all of the transportation was more than adequate with toilets on the buses and room enough for everyone. It’s lucky because you do spend the majority of the time being driven around.
The Lotus Hotel in Luxor was probably the pick of them all. Situated on the Nile bank with a swimming pool and tasty buffet breakfast.
One more day, one more busy schedule. Rushing to beat the crowds at the Valley of the Kings it’s another 8am start. You are only allowed to visit three tombs and we recommend the guides picks which were Ramses II, IV and IX.
Travel Tip: You are NOT allowed to take your camera with you off the bus. Please don’t ruin it for everyone by taking photos as you will be charged by security when caught.
We also squeezed in the crowded rock carved Hatshepsut Temple but only drove past Luxor Temple as we ran out of time as you need to drive 6 hours to reach Hurghada that night.
Day Seven and Eight
The next two days at the Red Sea are yours to do whatever you like so use them wisely. We joined most of our group for a spot of snorkelling and diving. The dive and the staff were great but the whole day seemed a little rushed which was a shame. Keep an eye out for our post on our diving experience in Hurghada.
So nice being able to relax on a beach and read a book after such a hectic schedule. It’s hard to leave and the 6 – 8 hour bus ride back to Cairo is tough.
Travel Tip: If you plan to do the tour over New Years Eve then you will have to depart Hurghada half a day early which sucked as it meant celebrating the New Year at the Hotel in Cairo. Bit of a let down but when hasn’t New Years Eve been!
Your final day of sightseeing is spent around Cairo. Our favourite part of the day was definitely the Cairo Museum with an excellent tour guide. It fits perfectly at the end by seeing all the history close-up after having learned about it over the last 8 days.
By the time we hit the old area of Cairo and the Coptic Hanging Church we were spent on history but our guide made a good effort at keeping us entertained.
The last group activity is free time for an hour or so at the Khan El Khalili souk markets where the touts try to prise your cash from you for the last time from every nook and cranny.
With the tour over it’s time to head home. Our flight was late the following night so we walked around the city and Souks on our own for the day. Expat Explore provides transport back to the airport which was great.
The trip was awesome but we think it’s important to note the little things that could make a huge difference to the overall experience:
- It felt like we were always hungry. Maybe it is just Kiwi’s and Aussies that eat all the time but it seriously felt like we were constantly starving with lunches being served usually after 4pm and dinner at 9pm onwards. It might be the Egyptian way to eat at those times but not for us. Travel Tip: Buy lots of snacks for the road which are very cheap at supermarkets.
- There was sometimes a lack of direction in what seemed to be happening. Everything is done on Egyptian time so be patient.
- We were often delayed or behind schedule with little to no guidance as to how long it would take to get from place to place. A little knowledge goes a long was as then we can plan ahead.
- More free time would be great to explore places on your own rather than have our hands held everywhere.
As we said above, the trip was amazing and the little positive things far outweighed the negatives which helped make it a memorable trip.
- Pre-departure information and care was extremely good.
- The tour was exceptional value for money and it was the cheapest tour we could find even though we still saw all the same sights the other groups did.
- The guides were extremely knowledgeable and never failed to answer any questions we had. The insights into the daily lives of the people around us was a nice break from all the history. They also ensured you never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
- The Felucca trip was better than expected and overall so was the accommodation and transport options.
All in all we highly recommend you book with Expat Explore if you are considering a trip through Egypt.
Make sure you subscribe now and come back soon so you can enjoy reading our new posts which will cover everything else in more detail.
Disclaimer: Expat Explore provided us with a discount for our 10 day tour of Egypt however as always our thoughts are always our own.
Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos
These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.
El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.
To be honest, I was relieved.
The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.
So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.
There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.
Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.
There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.
And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.
Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.
Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.
Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!
While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.
Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.
I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.
Hammock vs Tent Camping
Camping with a hammock is slowly but surely becoming more popular in recent years with new and improved hammock designs being preferred by some campers, compared to the traditional tent.
In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a tent, and analyze key criteria so that you can choose your preferred shelter choice!
Most tents work well in the rain; however, you’ll need to bring a tarp if you’re using a hammock. Traditional hammocks are not waterproof, and are generally open at the top, allowing water to find itself inside if you don’t have an adequate tarp. Moreover, a decent under quilt is also a good idea so that you can stay warm and cozy during cold and stormy nights.
Packing up your hammock after a long night of rain isn’t too bad, whereas packing up a soaking wet tent is always annoying. You almost always get wet in the process.
For first time campers, pop-up tents are the simplest to setup. All you need to do is find flat ground, and bam, your setup is complete! The beauty of pop-up tents is that you don’t need to worry about figuring out where to insert the poles and erect the tent. Although, traditional tents are usually more robust, and have a longer life span.
Essentially, a tent is simple, but a hammock can become a little more complicated for first timers. You’ll need to find 2 trees facing a good direction and tie each end of the hammock to them. If your hammock setup is too tight, you will generally wake up with sore ancles, but if it’s too loose, you run the risk of the hammock touching the floor, and insects crawling in with you.
If your campground doesn’t have many trees, or if the trees are dead (they could break and injure you), hammock stands come to the rescue! Basically, hammock stands allow you to pitch a hammock if there are no trees nearby. They are portable, adjustable, and are easy to setup. The only drawback is that the ground should be relatively flat, whereas if you were to hang a hammock between 2 trees, there won’t be any stands touching the ground, so a rocky floor wouldn’t be a problem.
One of the main reasons for choosing a hammock is the comfort that it provides you! It has a basically has in-built seat which is arguably more comfortable than a standard blow up mattress. You need to pick your tree’s wisely though! You don’t want a pinecone falling on your face mid-sleep.
If you have constant back pain and find it hard to sleep inside tents, you should give hammocks a try as they cause you to sleep sideways, similar to a banana shape, which a lot people find much more comfortable.
Hammocks are usually lighter and don’t include a wealth of poles and gear that tents do. Depending on the type of hammock that you purchase, they are usually quite similar to tents. You can however, find very cheap tents <$60, but they most likely won’t last long.
A good tent or hammock can cost between $200-500 without accessories. If you need a hammock stand, that will add to your cost, just like a mattress and other tent necessities will to its cost.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)
Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!
With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.
It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.
The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!
From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.
The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!
Middle Earth Travel Review
- The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
- We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
- It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
- In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
- Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
- Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
New on Four Jandals
- Five Fun Reasons to Move Pasadena April 7, 2021
- Why You Should Move to Tulsa Oklahoma April 7, 2021
- Cultural Resources of archaeology and heritage values – already with a mandatory registration regime? April 1, 2021
What Are You Looking For?
- Adventure Travel (234)
- Africa (25)
- Asia (30)
- Auto (2)
- Business (4)
- Canada (4)
- City Guides (25)
- Education (4)
- Entertainment (6)
- Europe (176)
- Events (3)
- Fashion (4)
- Finance (4)
- Fitness (2)
- Food (15)
- Health (7)
- Home (3)
- Inspiration (12)
- North America (52)
- Oceania (32)
- Other (219)
- Personal Musings (9)
- Reviews (16)
- Sports (1)
- Technology (10)
- Travel Blogging Tips (9)
- Travel Tips (255)
- Work (1)