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Cairo to Istanbul by road

Listed under Road Trips in Cairo, Egypt.

  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
  • Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
Photo of Cairo to Istanbul by road
Photo by Ceris
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The drive from Cairo to Istanbul is a journey through history, from the ancient Egyptians, through biblical lands and Roman ruins to Crusader castles and World War I battlefields. It’s not your typical road trip through scenic landscapes - the scenery is often stark desert expanses and crowded, chaotic cities. But that is part of the appeal, the contrast of wilderness, tranquillity and remoteness with the sights, smells and sounds of souks, mosques and crazy traffic.

You won’t miss out on impressive sights though – Wadi Rum in the desert with its huge granite and sandstone rock formations, the bizarre but beautiful landscape of Cappadocia, the rock-hewn city of Petra, crusader castles in Syria, the awesome pyramids, temples and monuments of Egypt and magnificent mosques in Istanbul.

Although you can drive directly from Cairo to the Sinai Peninsular, if you’ve never been to Egypt before, you really should head south first along the Nile to see the awesome temples, pyramids and tombs left behind by the ancient Egyptians at Luxor and Aswan. You can then drive back north through the desert and under the Suez Canal to the Sinai and head to the Red Sea for some beach time.

There are vehicle ferries from here to Aqaba in Jordan from where you can explore the beautiful desert at Wadi Rum, (the haunt of Lawrence of Arabia during WWI) either in your own 4x4 or on a tour. Jordan’s most famous site, the rock-hewn city of Petra is a short drive away and further north you can cover yourself in mud and float in the Dead Sea’s buoyant water!

Across the border Syria is less touristy but has some great sites. The capital, Damascus, is the oldest inhabited city in the world, the Crac de Chevaliers near Hims is a 12th century crusader castle and the town of Aleppo is an ideal place to soak up the atmosphere of a souk. It’s also worth diverting into the desert to see the Romans’ most easterly settlement at Palmyra.

The next border crossing brings you to Turkey. Across the mountains in central Turkey is Cappadoccia - the landscape is truly amazing, the shapes of the eroded volcanic rock often described as fairy chimneys. There are some lovely beaches to stop at on the Mediterranean coast before the last stretch of the journey to Istanbul which takes you through the Roman era (Ephesus), ancient Greece (Troy) and WWI (Gallipoli beaches).

The Middle East is often assumed to be a dangerous place to travel but for the most part, this area in particular is safer than many think. You will get pestered at major tourist sites and the quality of driving in Egypt can leave a lot to be desired. However, there is very little crime and local people are usually polite and friendly.

Most of the roads are pretty good and fairly well trod although you can head off-road for some extra adventure. There are campsites along the way where you can park up as well as a range of hotels from backpackers to luxury. The best times to go are autumn and spring – it can get really cold in winter, even in Egypt and you are likely to see snow in Turkey. Of course summer gets extremely hot in the desert.

You want at least a month to cover this route but 5 or 6 weeks is better and the longer you have, the more you can see!

Written by  Ceris.

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