The cacophony of motorbikes weaving between pedestrians on the unpaved streets of Esna, a village south of Luxor, is unceasing. Makeshift fruit stands and pita carts are crammed collectively cheek by jowl on the roadside. The warm, bready scent of the grilled dough wafts down the block. As I stroll the markets, jolly store proprietors hawk the village’s signature colourful tunics and galabia dresses. If Esna is regarded globally at all, it really is for the eponymous ancient crimson stone temple on the banking companies of the Nile. On my first trip to Egypt, this end is an surprising and delightfully nearby change of pace from places like Luxor and Aswan. Viking’s new Nile cruises on board its sleek, just-launched ship Osiris, named for the Egyptian god of the afterlife, make a stage of halting at these lesser-recognized places together with the best hits. With travel to Egypt back again in a major way, even Nile veterans like Viking know their offerings need to stand out.

Camels in entrance of the Khufu and Khafre pyramids at Giza

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The banks of the Nile around Aswan

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I move into a store and eye a several of people galabias down the again. The jolly proprietor puts on his business experience, and the two of us ping-pong figures back and forth till we settle on $40. The cost is possibly nevertheless far too substantial, but I wander out empowered. Haggling usually takes me outside the house my comfort zone, and that felt great. In simple fact, considering the fact that arriving in Egypt I have recognized myself starting to be extra intrepid, additional the traveler I normally want to be. It may be that the comforts of the function-constructed ship—including a plunge pool, a roof deck, and an indoor-out of doors café—provide these kinds of a strong base for journey. Or it may possibly be because, when given accessibility to these off-the-overwhelmed-route activities, you want to go all in and choose almost everything you can from them.

So at Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, I indication up for a dawn incredibly hot-air-balloon excursion. Our manual claims the sights of the valley’s undulating rock formations and the temple ruins that when served as preparing regions for the burial of pharaohs are not to be skipped. We go away for the valley just before dawn, crossing the inky black river in a tiny boat. The only light-weight in the starless sky is from a thin wedge of crescent moon the only seem is the chug of our motor, followed by the 4 a.m. get in touch with to prayer. As the initial sunlight starts to seep on to the horizon, our sizzling-air balloon begins to inflate. Shortly the flame is roaring at its foundation. Our group climbs into a basket the measurement of a Volkswagen, and out of the blue we are floating away. The ascent is so sleek and relaxed, it feels as seamless as dreaming. We float about banana trees and along the edge of the mountains, glowing and resplendent in the golden dawn. Later that day, we depart for Qena, a small metropolis north of Luxor frequently forgotten by travellers that is property to the grand temple of Dendera. Each sq. inch of it—the walls, ceilings, columns, and quite a few chapels made use of to house choices to the gods—is lined in breathtakingly intricate hieroglyphics. The countless numbers of carvings on the temple ceiling are a lot more lively today than they have been in centuries, thanks to a 16-12 months-prolonged restoration job to remove soot and grime and return the hieroglyphics to the original turquoise blue used by ancient artisans. The painted carvings depict almost everything from tales of the gods to the phases of the moon and the zodiac. Our manual would make sure to issue out each individual of our star indicators.

A Nubian relatives outside the house their house in Aswan

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The Excellent Temple of Ramses II

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On the last night of the voyage, I sit on my suite’s private veranda as we head again to Luxor. I watch the thick vegetation dotted with royal palm trees and neon-pink bougainvillea fly by on the riverbank. From time to time, we pass teams of little ones splashing in the river. A henna-colored sunset dip-dyes the sky, and the mineral scent of the Nile drifts up from below. All I can feel is how fortunate I am to have experienced an prospect to journey this way, to have been an infinitesimal part in the teeming life together the Nile for a handful of short moments.

Twelve-day sails on the Viking Osiris start off at $6,499 per individual

This post appeared in the December 2022 situation of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine in this article.