The Nile Valley and the Western Desert

This tour delves into Sudan’s remarkable history, which has hosted some of Africa’s most important kingdoms. We unearth the secrets of this little visited part of the Nile Valley and find remnants of past civilisations, including the forgotten royal pyramids of Meroe and mysterious man-made structures – possibly the oldest of their kind in sub-Saharan Africa. We camp under the African sky,  immersing ourselves in Sudan’s vast desert wilderness, and experience the stunning range of landscapes that exist here.

Our expedition takes us through secret valleys, oases and volcanic fields, revealing rock art dating back millenia, holy mountains and elaborate temples dedicated to the gods. Throughout our journey we have numerous opportunities to interact with Sudan’s people, gaining an insight into the life of desert dwelling nomads, whose traditions haven’t changed for centuries. We visit colourful villages and spend time in a typical Nubian home, experiencing the warm hospitality of the people here.

This part of the world is very much overlooked and overshadowed by the better-known Egypt. With a rich heritage and archaeological wonders to rival its neighbour, we feel that Sudan deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. Join us and discover its delights for yourself.

Nile Valley itinerary image of woman with goats - Sudan

Highlights

  • Remote desert exploration
  • Explore the Royal Necropolis at Meroe
  • The beautiful temple of Soleb
  • Visit the pyramids of Nuri
  • Camping under the stars

Day 1 - Khartoum

Arrive in Khartoum and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Grand Holiday Villa Hotel or similar.

Khartoum
Khartoum has an enviable location, situated at the point where the waters of the Blue and White Niles meet. The city is divided into three including the oldest part, Omdurman – the old Mahdist capital, and the semi-industrial city of Khartoum on the north bank. Khartoum has an interesting and diverse ethnic make-up, consisting of Arab, Dinka, Shilluk, Nubian, Beja and Fur tribes and nationalities, to name a few. The city’s past is equally as interesting, with its history of ivory, slave and more recently oil trading which has contributed to the wealth and growth of the capital, as well as its huge population surge.

Day 2 - Khartoum - Western Desert

Start the morning exploring Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman, the former capital of Sudan. Visits include the Khalifa’s House, the Omdurman Market and National Museum. Afterwards we begin our journey into the western desert, driving a couple of hundred kilometres on tarmac road before leaving it to set up our camp in a secluded spot. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 3-4 - Wadi el Milk - El Bab

Drive west to Wadi el Milk, characterised by its acacia trees, where we can often find Bisharin nomads. From here head north across sand dunes to the ruins of Abu Hamed fortress. Discovered less than ten years ago, this is dated to between 700-400BC and thought to be an ancient trading post for caravans crossing between the desert and Central Africa. We then continue to a mountain with prehistoric rock engravings, before reaching the picturesque oasis of El Bab. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 5 - Dongola

Continue to the town of Dongola, the most important settlement in northern Sudan. Here we stock up on supplies before heading back into the desert, driving through an area with enormous boulders. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 6-7 - Temple of Soleb - Amara West

Head towards the Third Cataract of the Nile and its villages dotted amidst the rocks. We visit the medieval fort of Marakol, then cross the desert to the remarkably well preserved and beautiful Temple of Soleb. We spend the night in a typical Nubian house, then continue north to Jebel Dosha and return to the Nile near Amara West, an archaeological site with the remains of an ancient Egyptian town. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 8-10 - Dal Cataract - Tombos - Kerma - Nubian Villages

Continue on our journey north, through typical Nubian Villages and cross the Nile by ferry, then reach the Third Cataract, a formidable obstacle in the navigation of the Nile. At Tombos we see ancient granite quarries, Egyptian stelae and remains dating back 2800 years. Drive to Kerma to visit the impressive Defuffa (mud-brick) monument and statues of the pharaohs, then enter the central region of Nubia, where we explore painted villages and have great opportunities to meet friendly local people. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 11 - Old Dongola – Jebel Barkal – El Kurru

Visit the archaeological site of Old Dongola, home to old Christian Coptic churches and Nubian villages with traditional painted houses. Continue to Karima and explore the holy mountain of Jebel Barkal and its ruins, including the Temple of Amun. After lunch we head south to the village of El Kurru to explore its tombs with their well-preserved wall paintings and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Old Dongola
This now deserted former capital of Makuria started as a fortress before becoming a prosperous city, flourishing from its trade along the Nile and benefiting from the rich and fertile land surrounding it. Until 1323 when the Muslim Mamluks of Egypt took to the throne, Old Dongola was a Christian kingdom with numerous fresco decorated churches. Around a dozen churches have been excavated here, but due to being converted under Muslim rule, and later plundered for building materials there is little that remains of this medieval city. Two of the most well-preserved buildings here are the Throne Hall – a two storey brick building overlooking the Nile, thought to have served a royal purpose, and the Church of the Granite Columns with its cruciform design, dating back to the 7th century.

Jebel Barkal
The sandstone mountain of Jebel Barkal has long been considered a significant religious site, with both the Egyptians and Kushites believing it to be the home of the god Amun. The temple dedicated to the god lies at the foot of the mountain, and stretching out towards the Nile, is the largest Kushite building ever built. The larger temples around Jebel Barkal are still regarded as sacred places by local people, and it is said that the mountain emits an aura that is prominent at dawn or dusk.

Day 12 - Nuri - Bayuda Desert – Atrun Crater

Take a short cruise among the rocks of the Nile’s Fourth Cataract, then meet our vehicles on the other side of the river to drive to Nuri and explore its ancient pyramids. We then enter the Bayuda Desert, located between the Fourth and Sixth Cataracts of the Nile and characterised by black basalt mountains. We may meet nomads in this region, living close to the few wells that exist. In the centre of the desert we reach the Atrun Crater, where nomads gather salt to take to markets along the Nile. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 13-14 - Meroe - Mussawarat - Naga

Drive to Meroe and spend the day discovering its numerous pyramids and the remains of the Royal City along the Nile. From here we continue to Mussawarat where we explore the ruins of its 1st century temple, then continue to Naga. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Meroe
This former Kushite capital on the banks of the Nile was once a residence of the king, and occupied from around the 25th Dynasty in Egypt. Until the fall of the Kushite rule in 4th century AD, kings and queens were buried here and the city prospered from trade along the Nile. There are around 100 pyramids throughout the Northern and Southern Cemeteries, each with its own funerary chapel and walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs depicting the king’s life and offerings to the gods. Although there is a clear resemblance between the pyramids found here and in Egypt, those at Meroe are much smaller and were constructed unusually, by digging tomb chambers directly into the rock below and then building the pyramid above. This allowed them to be constructed much more quickly and with less manpower.

The royal cemeteries were moved to Meroe from Napata around the 3rd century BC, which allowed Kush the freedom to develop their own culture. This involved replacing Egyptian hieroglyphics with a Meroitic script, which is still something of a mystery to archaeologists.

The exact reason for the collapse of the Kushite Kingdom is uncertain, but there are several theories associated with its decline, such as environmental catastrophe, the fall of the Roman Empire which impacted on Meroe’s economy and the rise of the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia. Archaeological evidence also suggests that Meroe had a turbulent history, and numerous temples dedicated to Apedemak, the ‘warrior god’, have been uncovered here.

Day 15 - Naga - Khartoum

At Naga we discover beautifully decorated temples dedicated to the gods Apedemak and Amon. From here we make our final journey back to Khartoum, where this afternoon we see the ceremony of the whirling dervishes (Fridays only). Day use rooms are available until your transfer to the airport for departure. (BL)


Please note that you must pay an additional €280 in archaeological fees and photography permits in cash when you arrive Sudan, to our local representative.

Also note that we sell this trip in conjunction with our local partner and therefore you should expect people of different nationalities and a maximum group size of 13 on this tour.

Meroe pyramids - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Market trader - Sudan Itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Naga temple - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nomad - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nuri pyramids - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nubian woman - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

You will need a visa to visit Sudan and you should apply before you travel via the Sudanese Embassy in your home country. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Sudan, and two consecutive blank pages.
You cannot enter Sudan if you have Israeli stamps or proof of entry in your passport.

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The currency in Sudan is the Sudanese Pound or ‘SDG’ and it is not possible to withdraw cash against any credit or debit cards at banks or from ATMs. Foreign debit and credit cards can’t be used anywhere in Sudan, not even at international hotels. Make sure you bring enough hard currency with you – this should be in US dollars dated 2006 onwards as older money will not be exchanged. Pounds sterling are rarely exchanged. Only change money through banks or official bureau de exchange.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO do not advise against travel to any of the areas we visit on this trip.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Sudan. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Meroe pyramids - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Market trader - Sudan Itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Naga temple - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nomad - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nuri pyramids - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nubian woman - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
19 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,349
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
24 December 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,349
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
18 February 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,349
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
18 November 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,349
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
23 December 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,349
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
17 February 2023
Price (PP) -
£3,349
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available