Every travel guide for Egypt tells you to visit the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the land's many beautiful and majestic temples. And rightly so! These wonders of the ancient world deserve their place in our hearts, and travel itineraries. But Egypt is more than just her most ancient monuments. Its history is long, and every great empire has left its mark on the land. Breathtaking Ottoman architecture, modern churches with a timeless feel, stunning natural wonders, and more wait to be discovered on your next adventure.

01Rest in the Al-Andalus Gardens

 The view on Andalusian Garden through the octagonal Arabian star

If you're traveling with a sweetheart and want a quiet, romantic area to spend some time together, this lush garden park waits for you in the heart of Cairo. Built by a pasha as a gift to his wife, the architecture reminds one of Moorish Spain. Wide walkways, colorfully tiled stone benches, elaborate statues, and a beautiful central fountain define this space. Best of all, entrance is free - though the garden is surrounded by high walls, so finding it may be tricky. It's perfect for when all you need are a few moments of peace.

02Hike Mount Sinai

Egypt Sinai desert view Rocky hills Blue sky kotangens / Getty Images

Whether you're an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, or a believer making a pilgrimage, historic Mount Sinai is here for you. Several trails lead to the summit, each taking between two and three hours to complete. If you want to add some extra excitement to your adventure, one trail is specifically for camels, which are available for rent at the base. Extremely devoted hikers can expand their journey to include the monastery of Saint Catherine, one of the oldest Christian structures still standing, and a famous charnel house.

03Care for Animals with ACE

Stray cat lives in ghetto of Luxor (Egypt) gazing at the viewer curiously. Koshiro Kiyota / Getty Images

If you're looking for a truly unique experience, why not consider volunteering to help the animal rescue ACE in Luxor? This charity takes care of abandoned or neglected dogs, cats, horses, and even runs a camel rescue! Veterinarians and students of animal medicine are welcome, but anyone can sign up to dedicate a few weeks of their trip to caring for sick and injured animals. Accommodations are provided, for a fee. And you'll still have time off to explore the rest of Egypt.

04Wander Islamic Cairo

View over Islamic Cairo from the Citadel holgs / Getty Images

The name "Islamic Cairo" describes the oldest part of the city, the area which still retains much of the feel and flavor of what life was like when Ottomans ruled. Much of the architecture has been lovingly preserved, and the area features many landmarks important to Muslims. Mosques, tombs, old fortifications, and caravanserais dot this part of the city, along with shops, cafes, and street vendors. Cars don't do well on the narrow roads here, so plan a self-guided walking tour.

05Sail a Felucca Up the Nile

Felucca ride on the Nile at sunset, Cairo, Egypt Xurzon / Getty Images

A small, triangle-sailed boat, the felucca has been used for fishing, travel, and trade along the Nile since the days of the Pharaohs. Nowadays, you can find many an independent sailor waiting to take you for a short cruise on his boat. Relax in the river breeze, take in the city sights, and maybe even glimpse some wildlife if you sail for long enough! If small boats aren't your thing, luxury yachts can introduce you to the Nile in style.

06Visit the Nubian Communities of East Aswan

Huge velvet sand dune on the island of Elephantine without people, Blue Nile. Aswan, Egypt, North Africa, Africa EstrellaBuena / Getty Images

In the south of Egypt, along the eastern bank of the Nile, you'll find several Nubian towns. They are open to visitors, especially Elephantine Island. Visit the botanical garden on el-Nabatat Island, or explore the various markets selling traditional Nubian spices, food, art, and textiles. The temple of Khnum is one of the oldest in the area, and the town boasts a large collection of ancient Jewish writings.

07Shop at the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

making jewelry in gold workshop ramihalim / Getty Images

Located in Islamic Cairo, the bazaar was once a mausoleum but was transformed by a sultan into a thriving center of trade. Goods of all sorts are on display, ready to be haggled over. Pick up some beautifully-made clothing, or purchase a handmade art piece as a souvenir. If you get tired, relax and have some coffee and shisha at Fishawi's coffee house, in continuous operation since the late 1700s.

08Relax at Mahmya Island

Mahmya Beach on the island in the Red Sea, Egypt paulprescott72 / Getty Images

Perfect for those who like the beach, Mahmya Island is found just off the coast of Hurghada, Egypt. Stretch out and relax on a white-sand beach, or go for a snorkeling dive in the clear blue waters. Glass-bottomed boats allow visitors a unique perspective of the Red Sea, and tours are frequent. After the sun goes down, enjoy a nightlife full of live music, bonfires, and dancing.

09Explore Wadi al-Hitan (Valley of the Whales)

Wadi al-Hitan, the valley of fossilized whales in Egypt

This remote valley features something you might not expect, especially inland: whale fossils! What makes these fossils interesting is their hind legs. Yes, hind legs! The fossils aren't truly whales, but rather their ancient ancestor. The beds capture a unique moment in geological history, as whales evolved to live in the sea full-time. The fossil beds are fragile, so walk gently, but nowhere else on Earth has quite so unique a bounty.

10Take in the White Chalk Deserts

Rock formation on White Desert of Egypt. cinoby / Getty Images

South of Cairo and far from the Nile is one of Egypt's most unique and striking desert features: an array of strange chalk formations. Wind and water have carved these rocks into unique shapes, including the famous 'chicken and mushroom' set. The chalk desert is best observed at sunset when the light reflecting off the formations produces a dazzling array of colors. Afterward, camp out with Bedouin guides for the full experience.

11Visit the Monastery of Saint Simon

Saint Samaan the Tanner Monastery anooh / Getty Images

Unlike many other Egyptian attractions, the monastery of Saint Simon is new. Really new. 1975 new. Built when the Egyptian government relocated a community of Zabbaleen Christians, though, this structure rivals any of the older monuments. Carved directly into a cliffside, the structure now features three churches connected by tunnels and a stunning array of religious art. It can hold up to twenty thousand worshippers, making this one of the largest Christian structures for hundreds of miles. It's still a dedicated church, but respectful visitors are quite welcome.

12Watch a Performance at the Cairo Opera House

The new Cairo Opera House against cloudy sky. dandunam / Getty Images

Built to resemble a desert palace, the Cairo Opera House shows off the splendor of Egyptian culture. The facility includes a grand stage, a smaller chamber music hall, and an open-air theater. The Cairo Opera House puts on productions of Western favorites, but also showcases traditional Arabic music, dance, and performing arts. They host a troupe or company nearly every day, so you have many opportunities to take in a truly memorable performance.

13Visit Coptic Cairo

The main iwan of Coptic Museum with beautiful carved patterns in Coptic style with bas-reliefs of the saints and angels, Cairo, Egypt efesenko / Getty Images

The oldest part of the city is a living testament to the endurance of human faith. Once the Roman outpost of Babylon, the area contains five churches, including the oldest Jewish synagogue in the nation and the first Christian chapel. Beautiful devotional art suffuses the area, which also features the Hanging Church: a Christian church built atop a Roman garrison. Come here when you're in a meditative or contemplative mood and want to connect to the city's ancient spirituality.