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NEWS


Encounters Travel Launch!

Posted: 25 Sep ,2011 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

Encounters Travel is a new travel company, offering exciting and adventurous small group tours around the world.

Encounters Travel - Group Tours You Will Love

Posted: 26 Sep ,2011 | Updated: 07 Oct ,2015

Encounters Travel is a new website run by group travel experts, launching in September 2011. We focus on small group tours and making sure the traveller receives great value and that the tours are fun and exciting.

The small group experience enables you to meet people from all over the world and form lifelong friendships as well as having a great, action packed holiday. We arrange the tours so there is just the right amount of sightseeing, fun and relaxation.

We have chosen tours to some incredible destinations and our tour guides are some of the best. They will make you get the most from your travel experience with us, with expert local knowledge and the ability to make our group tours memorable.

Our aim is to make sure you know what you are getting no matter where you travel with us. We are totally transparent about what you will get for your money and we are always happy to help make your trip special.

We are offering a 10% discount to all travellers who book a trip to Egypt with us during the month of October, so book now and join us for a tour you will love.

See us at the TNT Sun and Snow Show on the 15th October. If you're in, or close to London, come and visit us there. Meet our team, and take advantage of a range of special offers and deals available on the day.

Turkish Airlines fly to Nepal

Posted: 01 Jul ,2013 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

Starting Sept 1st, 2013, Turkish Airlines will fly 4 times a week to Kathmandu, Nepal. According to Adnan Aykac, the GM of Turkish Airlines for Northern and Eastern India, it will fly from Istanbul to Kathmandu non-stop on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

This should be a good news for travelers traveling to Nepal especially when there is no direct flight from Europe to Nepal. Turkish Airlines is one of the leading European Airline operating around 200 aircraft and flying to 190 destinations around the world. Turkish Airlines recently celebrated its 80th birthday.

TNT Travel Show

Posted: 06 Dec ,2015 | Updated: 06 Dec ,2015

We have a stand once again at the TNT Travel Show on the 27th of February 2016. If you're in, or close to London, why not come and visit us there. You'll be able to discuss our tours with one of our team, and we'll have a range of special offers and deals available on the day that are always amazing! The show is being held at The Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

Get Free Tickets to Destinations London

Posted: 10 Nov ,2011 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

We have a stand at Destinations London from the 2 - 5 February. Why not come and see us there - there'll be some really special offers available for people booking at the show! Follow this link and use the code GNC for your free tickets, www.destinationsshowtickets.com.

Alternative Winter Sun Holidays From Encounters

Posted: 29 Nov ,2011 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

23 November 2011 - Newly launched, Encounters Travel offer great value, small group adventure tours to some of the world's most exciting destinations. Whether a solo traveller, a couple or holidaying with a group of friends, the tours incorporate a real mix of culture, history and awe-inspiring sites in sun-drenched destinations that guarantee adventure this winter. Options for sun and culture include:

THAILAND, Jungles & Beaches: 11 days from £725

The perfect mix of sunshine, activity and culture, this tour of Thailand begins in the bustling capital Bangkok, then heads south to explore the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park to experience river canoeing and jungle walks while staying in unique tree houses and raft houses, and ending with four nights relaxing on the beautiful island of Ko Samui.

Prices for 2012 start from £725 per person from December to April 2012 to include airport transfers from/to Bangkok, varied accommodation in hotels, tree houses, raft houses and an overnight train on a mixed-board basis, travel by train, plane, bus and ferry, all entrance fees as well as a local tour guide during sightseeing and activities.

ISRAEL, Classic Israel: 8 days from £800

This trip through the fascinating country of Israel spends time in modern-day Tel Aviv, the ancient town of Acre, Tiberias, Masada and Bethlehem, the divine city of Nazareth and tours the intricate alleyways of Jerusalem. Along the way guests visit many important religious sites and monuments as well as trips to the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee.

Prices for 2012 start from £800 per person to include airport transfers from/to Tel Aviv, accommodation in hotels on a bed and breakfast basis throughout, all national park entry and entrance fees, a cap, map and an expert local guide during touring days.

SUDAN, Hidden Treasures: 9 days from £1,399

For those with a real sense of adventure, Sudan offers a completely unique travel experience and is tipped to be a 'hot' destination for 2012. Follow in the footsteps of ancient civilisations on this tour through Sudan visiting the capital Khartoum and the old souk of Omdurman before crossing the Nubian desert in search of the lost pyramids and temples of the Nile Valley.

Prices for 2012 start from £1,399 per person to include airport transfers from/to Khartoum, varied accommodation in hotels, camps and in a traditional Nubian homestay on a mixed-board basis, an experienced local guide and private transportation throughout.

Prices do not include international flights. Contact Encounters Travel (www.encounterstravel.com / 0800 088 6002). Facebook: www.facebook.com/encounterstravel/ Twitter: @encounterstravl 

Pharaonic Encounters - 15% off

Posted: 08 May ,2012 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

If the thought of discovering the mysteries of Egypt's ancient kings and queens sounds more appealing than eating cucumber sandwiches in front of the TV this Jubilee bank holiday, then Encounters Travel (www.encounterstravel.com / 0800 088 6002) has just the ticket, offering an escorted, six-day group tour of Egypt with a 15 per cent discount, for just £288 per person (saving £51). Available for departure on 5 June, the price includes airport transfers from/to Cairo, varied accommodation in four-star hotels and on board a sleeper train on a mixed board basis, and the services of a fully qualified Egyptologist throughout. Flights excluded. The perfect introduction to Egypt, the Pharaonic Encounters tour visits all the main sites including the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Luxor Temple, Karnak, the ancient city of Thebes and the Valley of the Kings.

Encountering Egypt - an abandoned paradise

Posted: 11 Jun ,2012 | Updated: 07 Oct ,2015

Paul Judge

CRUISING the Nile, snorkelling the Red Sea, being ripped off at the markets and posing for silly photos in front of the Pyramids are all essential parts of a travellers time in Egypt. The country is driven by tourism. For a year now though, the crowds have stopped and the lifeblood of their economy dried up.
In case you haven't read a newspaper or watched the news in the past 12 months, Egypt has undergone a political revolution from a military dictatorship to the beginnings of a democratic nation. With the triumph of the people came publicity which didn't inspire confidence in tourists to visit. With elections looming there, the media portrayal is of a country which is dangerous and unstable. But after a recent visit at the invitation of Encounters Travel I'm convinced there is no reason to take Egypt off your list.

Any trip to Egypt has to include the River Nile. It's a part of the country's history. The Pharaohs, the Romans, the Arabs all relied on this massive water line for their livelihood and the Egyptians continue to today.

For our whirlwind trip of Egypt- we get to experience the river in modern surroundings by stepping onto a refurbished Dahabyia in Aswan in Southern Egypt for the first few days. The plush houseboats or 'hotels on water' have all the luxuries associated with cruise liners but with a lot less people.

We only have two days on board but experience a taste of the opulence and uniqueness of this accommodation. We take in a spot of lunch on the top deck before retiring to the sun beds for a snooze. After a late afternoon dip, we take in the sunset and some Egyptian beer, my new friend for the next few days.

During one of the blissful days aboard the floating 'palace', we set out for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Abu Simbel (pictured above). A three hour drive from Aswan deep into the desert, we were soon staring up at the looming statues which sit over 30 metres high in the rock face.

From luxurious to traditional - we swapped our houseboats for a night on a felucca. The traditional sail boats of the Nubian people glide peacefully along the water in a zigzag motion to catch the wind. Our bed for the night is one huge mattress on deck, shared by 12 of us. The night sky and tranquillity is only broken in the morning by the insane braying of donkeys on the bank. Weary eyed, we suspect some of the crew members are complicit in an early morning prank.

We head on to Luxor, home of the aptly named -Luxor Temple- which we explore at night. Normally there would be thousands of visitors here and we would be lining up for hours but I see only scattered small groups around the stunning site.

For us, the lack of other tourists and visitors is a bonus and it continues throughout the trip with all the Egyptian sights easily accessible. This was evident the very next day at the enormous site of Karnak Temple. Average daily crowds of 12-15,000 people are replaced by under a hundred and it highlights just how much the country's economy is bleeding.

Before our trip to the empty Karnak, we experience something undeniably special - a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings, and fantastic views of Luxor and the surrounding temples. The 3:30am wake-up is well worth it, as we float 3000 feet above the ground and Mohammed our pilot asks us if it's our first hot air balloon ride. We nod and he replies 'me too'. I'm beginning to discover the Egyptian sense of humour and how they give the Aussie's a run for their money in the sarcasm stakes. Well, at least Ihope he's joking about it being his first time…

After a long morning of sight-seeing we are rewarded with an afternoon siesta and some poolside down time at the Steigenberger Nile Palace where we are staying. This amazing hotel overlooks, yes, you guessed it - the Nile. Visitors to Egypt are keen to explore the popular destinations but rest and relaxation rate just as highly.

It's no more evident than when we fly into Sharm El-Sheikh. East of Cario and entrance to the Red Sea, this part of the country is full of plush resorts and all-inclusive packages, but we are headed for the smaller and less developed town of Dahab.

Here we indulge in quad biking, camel riding and snorkelling around the Blue Circle. A large swimming area full of coral and the colourful fishy creatures it attracts, it is also a popular scuba diving spot. In the distance you can see Saudi Arabia. I wave but can't be sure if they see how much fun we're having.

At night the restaurants along the bay churn out fresh seafood while the moon reflects off the peaceful water as it quietly hugs the shore. I briefly consider ditching the group and my London life for simpler days in this remote paradise but the hustle and bustle of Cairo calls.

After several days of a slower pace in the quieter areas of Egypt, Cairo hits you with its size and fast pace. The clogged roads and sea of people is almost overwhelming but hypnotic to watch in action. Imagine taking all of Australia and placing it in one city. Don't even bother imagining, because with a population of 22 million - Cairo is Australia, just in one city.

Cairo, Egypt

As we shuffle along the motorway with the constant tooting of horns and creative driving we listen to Sami our guide explain the city and the most recent chapter of Egypt's turbulent history as we drive past Tahir Square. This square was the setting for the people's revolution of January 2011. He explains to us the dissatisfaction of living under military rule and how government corruption brought the people to the streets in mainly peaceful protests, which eventually led to the collapse of the government.

He becomes quite emotional as he points out the areas where he camped out all night and what it meant to the people whose only hope was for a taste of democracy. We then spend the afternoon at the Egyptian Museum which is an onslaught of artefacts and pieces from the ancient Egyptian world.

The big draw card is the relics from Tutankhamun, the child Pharaoh. His tomb was the only tomb untouched by vandals and looters when discovered in 1922 and the obscene wealth is on display including the 15kg pure gold face mask. Not bad for a 19 year old.

Our last night is spent indulging in more Egyptian hospitality and we try 'Kushari' - a dish of rice and pasta combined with chickpeas and lentils. An odd combination and not something you'll see on the Atkins Diet but it works all the same.

Last up on our tour is the granddaddy of them all, the Pyramids. No introduction necessary, these are something you have to see when visiting Egypt. We are lucky enough to have a great view of them from our hotel but up close is how they should be viewed. Cue cliche 'Walk like an Egyptian' photos plus a few moments to be overawed at their grandeur.

And then the Egyptian adventure is over all bar the flight home. With a week full of memories and a temporary tan (I passed on the obligatory henna tattoo for a longer reminder) I have been taken by this amazing country, its rich history and fantastic people.

Want my advice? Put Egypt back on your travel plans. With the right precautions it's perfectly safe while the country is making a transition to democracy. This won't happen overnight, but in the meantime the opportunity to see a country like this is there and you'll probably be wise to go now while it's off everyone else's radar.

The author travelled courtesy of Encounters Travel and flew with Egypt Air.

And the winner is Maldives Magic!

Posted: 14 Sep ,2012 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

128 tour Operators from around the world entered Tour Radar's quest to find the worlds Most Amazing Tours in 12 categories. Encounters Travel's Maldives Magic picked up the 1st prize for the Luxury Catagory. Everything you could have dreamt of in a true tropical paradise of Maldives is waiting for you on this tour. Uninhabited islands, sand bars, coral reefs, beach BBQs, diving, experiencing local culture, spa, staying in a 5-star luxurious villa, a yacht and yes, the dolphins are there too. Reading the 10-day programme of this tour is a true teaser making you day dream immediately.

8 New African Encounters!

Posted: 24 Sep ,2012 | Updated: 11 Oct ,2015

We have all dreamed of visiting Africa as children, we had a vision of what the trip would be like, seeing exotic animals up close and personal, falling asleep to the sound of lions roaring in the distance and experiencing a culture very different to our own. Our 8 new tours visit many of the highlights that this amazing continent has to offer, many travel through multiple countries to give you a true African experience. Although things will vary slightly from country to country, all of our tours are accommodated, we use local hotels, permanent camps and lodges, most have en-suite bathrooms with hot showers and many have swimming pools which allow you to tour in comfort while still retaining a genuine adventure tour experience. We travel in overland trucks throughout most itineraries, giving you a great vantage point from which to enjoy the scenery and incredible wildlife. Our professional and knowledgeable local guides will help to make your experience unforgettable and fun. Best of all, in keeping with the Encounters Travel model, the maximum number of people on each tour is 18 which means plenty of window space on the truck as well as plenty of personal time with your guide. Our tours are a blend of lodge safari meets overland tour, giving you the perfect way to create lasting memories which will keep you dreaming of returning to Africa.

Introducing...

  1. The Grand Southern Safari 21 days
  2. East African Odyssey 23 days
  3. Namibia & Botswana Uncovered 14 days
  4. Savannahs & Sands12 days
  5. The Garden Route 9 days
  6. Big 5 Encounters 6 days
  7. Classic Kilimanjaro Trek 8 days
  8. Gorillas & Plains 16 days

A Nubian Adventure

Posted: 11 Jun ,2012 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

by Lauren Razavi

Felucca sailboat at Aswan, EgyptI am sat on the smallest of beaches beside the River Nile, a roaring bonfire in front of me and the sound of tribal drums still ringing in my ears.

It's long after midnight by now and I am the solitary tourist left among a handful of Nubians, the rest of my tour group having retired to bed. Rum and cigarettes rotate freely around the circle. I've known my companions less than a day, but already we are at ease with each other.

"Everyone smokes in Egypt," the tour guide had explained the day before. "In our culture, it is a problem if you do not smoke, rather than if you do."

And he's right; there's definitely no taboo over smoking in Egypt. The cigarettes we're smoking around the fire are Egyptian - the aptly named Cleopatra brand - and the locals call them "camel shit" for their distinctive taste. At 70p a packet though, taste is a sacrifice I'm all too willing to make. Marijuana is widely used; despite its classification as an illegal drug, authorities will look the other way for locals, but tourists can face fines if they're caught.

An hour before, the now tranquil fire was the centre of inexhaustible merriment. Dancing, frolicking, shrieking and raucous laughter has dissipated into rhythmic chatter by this late hour, the conversation spanning several languages and hand motions acting as a defining characteristic in the cool night air.

This particular bonfire is located on the Nile's West Bank, somewhere between Aswan and our destination of Edfu. It's the first of two nights spent on a felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailboat. For a little over two days, we're sailing the breadth of the River Nile on a boat with no engine, moving - quite literally - wherever the wind takes us.

Our sailors are Nubian, part of a unique sub culture who have played an important role in parts of Ancient Egyptian history. Nubians have their own culture, dress and even language, which the majority of Arabic-speaking people in modern Egypt don't understand. Though most Nubians also speak Arabic these days, they differentiate themselves as a unique civilisation by still referring to themselves as Nubian as oppose to Egyptian or Sudanese.

Nubia is a territory located in today's Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan, and exists as an expanse of desert divided by the River Nile. In ancient times, the sophisticated inhabitants of Egypt and Greece knew it as the 'land of Gods', with Egypt being controlled by Nubians for 75 years in a time known as rule under 'The Black Pharaohs'. The Ancient Egyptians adopted many Nubian customs and traditions over the years, with Nubia believed to have been the home of Africa's earliest black culture. The civilisation's fascinating history can be traced back to 3100 BC.

On our second night aboard the felucca, we anchor up on the West Bank and disembark the boat to visit a traditional Nubian village. A short walk along the embankment leads us to a series of mud-brick houses, and as we duck inside one of the dwellings we are greeted by the smiling faces of village children, all of them eager to practice the English they've been learning at school. We enter a sandy open courtyard, the central point separating a collection of rooms, and our tour guide distributes sweets to the children as they shake our hands and shyly rehearse their English phrases.

The Nubian way of life is connected to the natural environment round them, traditionally staying close to the Nile to ensure a consistent water supply. Every wall in the courtyard is festooned with a variety of colourful patterns on a background of mud-brick painted a perfect white, each pattern a symbol of approval and admiration for the world around them. While Nubian dwellings may be basic by modern Western standards, the sense of community and respect for life in this village is truly transcendent.

After a few moments gazing around the courtyards, several young women emerge from one of the rooms, all dressed in decorated hijab.We stay and chat over tea for a while, our tour guide acting as an interpreter. The way the locals welcome us into their home and their community is incredibly heart-warming, and it's done without question or thought. We are invited to remain in the courtyard until well after the sun goes down.

Later, we wander the sandy streets of the village, taking in the beautiful views over the Nile and the impressive set of mud-brick dwelling that make up this truly welcoming community.As I fall asleep aboard the felucca later that night, staring up at the stars in the clear night sky, I truly feel like I've experienced a taste of the real Egypt.

RECOMMENDED

Lauren visited Egypt with Encounters Travel as part of their 14-day Nubians and Beaches tour in April 2012. Encounters Travel has been operating tours in Egypt for more than 15 years and offer a range of different trips, varying in length and activities, and prices start from just £339. More information is available from their website.

Egypt Air offer direct flights from London Heathrow to Cairo eleven times per week as well as flight options to Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh.

Another Part of Egypt...

Posted: 29 Jun ,2012 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

by Lauren Razavi

I reach Dahab in the early afternoon after an eight-hour road journey from Cairo. Although the route goes through bumpy terrain and involves a lot of winding roads, it's a surprisingly pleasant experience. Soaking in the views from the minibus windows provides a unique insight into this fascinating Egyptian region.

Dahab has much to offer visitors, and its expatriate community makes for a unique experience compared with Egypt's main tourist cities such as Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. This seafront town is recognisably Egyptian, but with a quintessentially European twist. This is demonstrated well by the shopping culture of the town, striking a distinctive balance between the in-your-face chaos present in most of Egypt and the Western tendency towards helpfulness with no pressure. With a population of just 14,000, the community consists of 6,000 Bedouin people, 4,000 Egyptians and 4,000 European expatriates.

Located in the picturesque Sinai region of Egypt, Dahab is well positioned to allow a full exploration of sights and history both within Egypt and its neighbouring countries. The Sinai region mainly consists of desert and sandy cliffs; this combined with the bluest of skies and a colourful, mesmerising coral beneath its waters creates an atmosphere of serenity in the area.

Sinai is of great historical significance, playing host to the infamous Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God - a scene prominently depicted in the books of Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious traditions. It's possible to arrange an overnight visit to Mount Sinai, which entails watching the sun rise from near the top, and exploring Saint Catherine's Monastery on your way up or down the mountain. Guides are available to accompany your climb up Mount Sinai, or an alternative option is to take a camel ride for most of the journey upwards.

Daytrips are also available to visit Jordan's capital of Petra, various parts of Saudi Arabia and nearby Israel during your stay in Dahab, though there's little chance of not being able to occupy yourself by staying local either.

During my stay, the Dahab International Festival of Watersports, Culture and Desert Adventure is in mid-swing. Organised by members of the local community and, in particular, expatriates living in the area, the festival happens in April of each year and includes activities for children, teenagers and adults throughout the day and night. Every event involves a local organisation, business or individual, and activities focus on celebrating and sharing culture, skills and talents from anybody who wants to take part. Cooking classes, camel races, meditation and yoga, poetry readings and live music are just some of the events of this annual gathering, and almost all of the festival's activities are offered free of charge.

The locals are laid-back and friendly, many of them working as artists and writers, while others are involved full-time in the local scene through community work. Dahab is incredibly bohemian, but without any of the pretention of London's hipster suburbs. Our tour guide, the kind and knowledgeable Ahmed, beguiles us with tales of Egyptian culture and stories from his own life, at least half of which might be true.

Dahab has a fantastic food culture, particularly as a result of its prominent fishing location on the Red Sea. Most of the restaurants along the seafront offer a 'catch of the day' dish, including a scrumptious sea bass mixed grill at El Fannar during my stay. Other recommended restaurants include the Ali Baba restaurant offering traditional Egyptian and Bedouin food, and The Kitchen Restaurant which offers Chinese, Indian and Thai food. Every cafe, bar and restaurant I visit in Dahab is elaborately decorated and boasts a fantastic welcoming atmosphere.

Each night, freshly baked flat breads and an array of dips grace our table before we've even ordered - hummus, beans, aubergine, yoghurt and cucumber, and a strange orange dish that is supposedly (doubtfully) cheese. At the end of the meal, fresh sliced fruit or a traditional pastry dish is offered, such as a cake garnished with desiccated coconut. There doesn't appear to be a charge for these bookends of our meal, because we're with tour guide Ahmed who is known well at all of the local haunts.

As you enjoy a meal at one of Dahab's many restaurants, almost all of which look out over the town's stretch of the Red Sea, you'll be greeted by a series of faint glimmering lights from the other side: Saudi Arabia. This part of Egypt is so close to other Middle Eastern countries, that Saudi Arabia is visible just a short distance across the water, and the sight of it is wonderful.

Kite-surfing and windsurfing is popular along the Sinai coast, as well as diving, snorkelling, sailing and quad-biking. After a few jokes about taking a swim across the water to visit Saudi, Ahmed tells us about a tourist who took a windsurf all the way across the Red Sea, and reached the shore over in Saudi Arabia. Without a passport and visa, he was arrested and then deported back to Egypt by bus. This story serves as a jovial warning to us, and the idea of travelling over to Saudi Arabia unannounced is quickly abandoned in favour of a cup of a Bedouin tea.

RECOMMENDED
Lauren visited Dahab with Encounters Travel as part of their 14-day Nubians and Beaches tour in April 2012. Encounters Travel have been operating tours in Egypt for more than 15 years and offer a range of different trips, varying in length, activities and Prices start from just £339. More information on everything Encounters Travel offer is available from their website: www.encounterstravel.com.

Egypt Air offer direct flights from London Heathrow to Cairo eleven times per week as well as flight options to Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh. To book flights or find out more, please visit www.egyptair.com.

Egypt - A Country Overview

Posted: 02 Jul ,2012 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

By Lauren Razavi

A TRAVEL NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT EGYPT
Over the past 18 months, Egypt has been interpreted as politically problematic by the international community; viewed, perhaps, as an edgy showpiece for journalism in the same way as Iraq or Afghanistan may be, though notably to a lesser extent. As a result of this media agenda, post-revolutionary Egypt has been suffering an enormous dip in tourism, and, as tour companies like Encounters Travel demonstrate, there's no valid reason for this at all.

Egypt is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating locations on earth, boasting a rich history to rival every other civilisation on earth. Its lands have been defined by Bible stories and phenomenal innovation, the latter being easily demonstrated by the famous Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. Egypt today is a beguiling mix of the ancient and the modern, and touring the landscapes of this impressive nation is an experience like no other.

Most of life in Egypt is still centred around the River Nile, with the rest of the country covered by a vast desert terrain whose only inhabitants are small nomadic communities. The legendary Nile runs northwards through ten African countries and is generally thought to be the longest river in the world.

Now is a great time to visit Egypt - support struggling tourism in the wake of the revolution. Things are cheaper, lots of offers available to encourage visits.

CAIRO
A bustling 20 million people inhabit Egypt's capital, and the city has been at the heart of recent political conflicts within the country. For visitors, it may take a few hours to acclimatise to its chaotic atmosphere, but this lively metropolis is an important centre in the Middle East and a city quite unlike any other. There's a lot to see in Cairo, and just taking a stroll down its streets at any hour of the day or night demonstrates the city's offerings and diversity.

Undoubtedly Egypt's most famous monument, the Giza Necropolis demonstrates the Ancient Egyptians' importance as significant innovators beyond the technology of their time. Housing the famed Giza Pyramids and Giza Sphinx, it would be impossible to visit Cairo without straying away from the city centre to see these breath-taking monuments. These vast dwellings were a means of worship and honouring the dead according to Ancient Egyptian customs.

Back in Central Cairo, the city's religious heritage is a mixing pot of Islamic and Christian sites. The sound of time passing rings throughout the whole city five times a day, with the loudest call to prayer coming from the Mohammed Ali Mosque, part of Cairo's Citadel. The mosque is a beautiful example of Islamic Egypt, and a visit near prayer time will demonstrate that appreciation for this much-loved monument extends to the locals as well as to tourists.

The most noteworthy Christian site in Cairo is the Church of el-Muallaqa (translated as The Hanging Church), dedicated to the Saint Virgin Mary and an example of a Coptic Church in Egypt. The church dates back to the 3rd century AD and was the first church in Egypt to be built in the architectural Basilican style.

Cairo's Khan el-Khalili Bazaar is a maze of a market, located over a seemingly endless stream of streets in the city's Islamic district. The scent of incense wafts through the whole market as men wander around releasing the smell from great big burners in their hands. The produce at Khan el-Khalili is colourful and exotic, and despite the busy atmosphere, vendors have the time to stop and haggle for as long as it takes.

Although Cairo's best-known offerings are historical highlights such as the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx, as well as the impressive Egyptian Museum, a walk through the capital at night reveals the true spirit of this tantalising nation. The skyline at dusk combined with the picturesque moon can only be described as African, well-demonstrating Egypt's place as a distinctively Middle Eastern nation with a delectable African flavour.

ASWAN
The modern Egyptian city of Aswan can be reached by sleeper train from Cairo or Luxor, taking between eight and nine hours each way. A night spent aboard one of these impressive trains is a surprisingly comfortable experience, and with the rails running parallel to the Nile in many places, it's possible to capture a true taste of Egyptian life through the windows.

One of Aswan's main sights is the High Dam, built over Lake Nasser following the Egyptian Revolution in 1952. The High Dam provided many new jobs for the local community when it was built, and it has continued to boost the city's economy and culture into modern times. Under President Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviets provided funding and machinery for development in Egypt, and the Lotus Flower monument close to the High Dam is a symbol of Soviet-Egyptian friendship in this vein.

As well as its development economically and culturally in recent history, Aswan has much to offer in traditional Egyptian terms. Its Sharia as-Souq, a market in typical Middle Eastern bazaar style, is an impressive stretch, with traders hard-selling in a standard Egyptian manner - "100% off", "I don't know what you're looking for, but I have it", and "a gift for the pretty lady?" are among the many sales pitches to be heard at Egyptian markets.

ABU SIMBEL
A three-hour drive out into the desert will lead you to the Abu Simbel temples, one of Egypt's top tourist attractions. Because of Abu Simbel's location in the desert lands between Egypt and Sudan, the area can only be accessed alongside an armed convoy which leaves Aswan once daily at 4am. The two temples here were originally built into the face of a cliff by Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century but were relocated just 65m upwards between 1964 and 1968 due to rising waters from Lake Nasser. These fantastically preserved monuments are well worth the 4am start.

LUXOR
Luxor is the modern site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, which was famous during ancient times and called the "capital of the known world'. Today, the city's economy thrives on tourism with its sites regarded as some of Egypt's best offerings.

BALLONS OVER LUXOR
The city is often called "the world's greatest open air museum", and for this reason, one of the best ways to experience the stunning panoramic views of Luxor's landscape is by hot air balloon. Rides depart early almost every morning, offering visitors the opportunity to see Luxor's sites from above as they float upwards against the backdrop of an Egyptian sunrise.

Divided by the River Nile, Luxor's attractions are located on both its East and West Banks, with some monuments spanning both, such as the Valley of the Kings, which has a valley on each bank. The Valley of the Kings has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and is made up of a series of tombs. Between the 16th and 11th centuries BC, every Egyptian pharaoh was buried here in an ornately decorated tomb. Famously, the mummy of Tutankhamen is still housed within the site.

Alongside the Valley, Luxor is also home to six great temples, most notably the Luxor Temple and the Karnack Temple. The Luxor Temple was used as base and fortress for the Roman government of the area during the era of Roman influence, leading to an interesting mix of Christian and Ancient Egyptian religions being showcased in the decoration and architecture here. The Karnack Temple is distinctive as almost every pharaoh is said to have developed or contributed something to the site, a tradition lasting over many dynasties.

RECOMMENDED

Encounters Travel offer good value, small group adventure tours to Egypt as well as some of the world's most exciting destinations. Whether a solo traveller, a couple or with a group of friends, the guided tours offer a mix of action, trekking, safari, sightseeing, history, culture and fun in the sun!

Prices for the 14-day Nubians and Beaches tour starts from £595 per person to include transfers from/to Cairo airport, 13 nights varied accommodation in hotels, on board a sleeper train and on a felucca cruise boat with breakfasts and some meals, as well as a local tour leader and fully qualified Egyptologist throughout. The price does NOT include your flights. For the latest deals and discounts, check out the 'special offers' page on their website at www.encounterstravel.com/tours-egypt-middle-east/egypt.html

Hot Air Ballooning in Egypt resumes

Posted: 24 Apr ,2013 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

Egypt has resumed hot air balloon sightseeing in the ancient city of Luxor on Sunday. The flights provide spectacular views of the ancient Karnak and Luxor temples and the Valley of the Kings - the burial site of Tutankhamun and other pharaohs.

Our Partners in Egypt have an excellent safety record and were 1 of 4 companies allowd back in the skies. And of course we hold our passengers safety as our first priority. Our office in Cairo holds the below certification.

  • Valid Air Operator Certificate
  • Certificate of Insurance stating the liability and personal accident insurance amounts and terms and conditions
  • Certificate of registration for each balloon in their fleet
  • Commercial Pilot's License for each pilot in the company

This really is a fantastic experience and we are very happy to be able to offer this experience again to our passengers. If you have concerns about safety at all please contact our reservations team on tours@encounterstravel.com for more information.

This popular optional tour starts early in the morning so that you experience the sunrise over the Valleys of the Kings & Queens, temples and desert. We endeavour to use the earliest flights of the day as they are timed to fit with the rising sun, this means that times may vary. You get around 1 hour in the air.

We are up on Trip Advisor at Last!

Posted: 24 Apr ,2013 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

As we all know Trip Advisor is probably the most powerful and useful travel review platform there has ever been. But what most people may not know is just how hard it is to get listed as a tour operator. We have been trying consistently over the past 18 months as we are quite confident that what we offer is not just great value but an experience of a life time. If you have travelled with us in the past please visit Trip Advisor now and leave a review.

Egypt's Ministry of Tourism

Posted: 04 Jul ,2013 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

A statement from Egypt's Ministry of Tourism:-

The Ministry of Tourism of the Arab Republic of Egypt is proud to proclaim a new era for Egyptian tourism following the revolution of June 30, 2013.

Every tourist visiting Egypt presently is a most welcomed guest, whose security is safeguarded by the Egyptian people and by the authorities, and all must be assured of their safety and ability to complete their planned visits without disruption. Their families and friends at home should be equally reassured.

Tourists booked to visit Egypt this summer are equally reassured that there is no impediment to their visit. They will come to enjoy Egypt as millions of tourists have done for years and years, in safety and security, welcomed by their friendly and hospitable Egyptian hosts.

Tourism in Egypt is expected to boom as of next fall as the country settles down to its newfound democracy which will bring peace and prosperity to this great country and its united people.

Welcome to Egypt!

Spokesperson and Media Advisor

Rasha Azaizi

Drugs leave hundreds of Brits behind bars overseas

Posted: 26 Nov ,2013 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

FCO and Prisoners Abroad unite to warn of consequences of drugs abroad More than 850 British nationals are currently locked up in prisons across the globe for drug-related offences, often detained for months without trial and facing distressing living conditions.* The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in conjunction with the charity Prisoners Abroad, is launching a campaign to highlight the consequences of the use, possession and smuggling of drugs in countries around the world.

The zero-tolerance approach of some countries often results in strict penalties which can come as a shock to British travellers. Offences that may carry cautions in the UK are often penalised with long prison sentences when overseas. Some drug crimes can lead to even more severe penalties, and in 33 countries or territories some drug offences carry the death sentence.**

Some nations keep people on remand for years before their case is heard. Prisoners Abroad is currently supporting 80 Brits between the ages of 18 and 30 held in foreign countries for drugs offences - two thirds of these are still awaiting trial while others are serving sentences from a year to nearly 39 years.***

Terry Daniels and Billy Burton are two British nationals that have seen valuable years of their life spent in prisons overseas. Both want to see the number of Britons involved in drugs in other countries reduced and have described their experiences in a video to warn others not to make their mistakes: http://youtu.be/IqtWoNBk4GQ

Mark Simmonds, Minister for Consular Affairs, said: "People continue to be astonished at some of the penalties handed down for certain crimes overseas. In some countries possessing small amounts of marijuana can lead to decades in prison. In the last year alone consular staff handled over 650 drug-related cases. We want to reduce this number significantly.

Laws, penalties and sentences vary considerably around the world for the use, possession and trafficking of all types of drugs. When it comes to drugs our message is clear - don't take risks, the consequences are simply not worth it."

Prison conditions also vary significantly from country to country. Some Brits spend years behind bars confronting tough conditions every day. Sanitary standards and food can be very poor and some find themselves detained in crowded cells with many other inmates. Being far away from home and unable to speak the local language, many also feel isolated.

Pauline Crowe, chief executive of Prisoners Abroad, said: "In many countries, men and women find themselves without access to food, clean water and the most basic of medical care. We urge people to consider the unsanitary conditions, overcrowded cells and the constant threat of disease before they get involved in drugs. They may have to live through these conditions for many, many years".

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can now ask questions via the FCO's new Twitter service @FCOtravel. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing the travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.

You can also keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO's Facebook and Twitter feeds: www.facebook.com/fcotravel or twitter.com/fcotravel

For further information, interviews or case studies please contact the Know Before You Go team on 0207 478 7840 or fcoteam@grayling.com

Notes to Editors

  • * Latest figures from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Over the past six months 32% of British detentions abroad are for drug offences. There are currently 2,760 British nationals detained overseas
  • **Figures from Harm Reduction International: http://www.ihra.net/contents/1290
  • ***Latest figures from Prisoners Abroad, November 2013
  • The FCO's Know Before You Go campaign encourages British nationals to prepare for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. A full holiday checklist can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-checklist 
  • The Know Before You Go campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with around 600 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo 
  • Prisoners Abroad is a charity that provides support for Britons imprisoned overseas and their families in the UK. Right now the charity is supporting over 1,200 prisoners in more than 85 countries

669 British nationals were arrested for drug-related offences in 2012-13, as outlined in the FCO's annual British Behaviour Abroad report published in July 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-behaviour-abroad-report-2013

Transport changes on Egypt tours

Posted: 06 Jan ,2016 | Updated: 06 Jan ,2016

For 2016 we have upgraded the train transport that many of our Egypt tours use between Cairo and Aswan/Luxor from the overnight ‘sitting train’ with reclining seats, to the full sleeper train. Here you get your own private lockable twin berth cabin with two large seats, fold down beds, storage locker and sink. An airline-style tray meal is included for dinner and breakfast.

The background to this change is that throughout the last year the local authorities in Egypt have not been allowing tour operators like us to book tourists onto the 'sitting train'. We have been waiting for this restriction to be lifted and also for a long awaited new sitting train to start operating. This finally started running in October, but unfortunately is not running every day and the same restrictions against agents booking foreign tourists onto it remains in place. We don't feel we can wait any longer and therefore are changing these tours to be based on the sleeper train as standard. This does increase the cost quite significantly, but it also means our travellers will no longer need to budget for a possible transport upgrade for these journeys. We are also still offering the option to upgrade to internal flights instead of the sleeper train for people who want to avoid train travel altogether.

Should the new 'sitting train' become properly available for us to book our travellers onto in the future we will do a full assessment of its operation and then reconsider whether to start using it.

Please visit Watania sleeping train company for more information on these sleeper trains.

Turkey Visa Info

Posted: 18 Dec ,2013 | Updated: 26 Nov ,2015

Following the information circulated on 9th May 2013 regarding the implementation of a new e-visa process for Turkey, ABTA have now been advised by the Turkish Consulate that the stamp/sticker visa on arrival will be abolished from 10th April 2014 and will be completely replaced by the e-visa application process.

All visitors to Turkey from 11th April 2014 will be required to purchase their entry visa via the Turkish Government website www.evisa.gov.tr prior to travel.

Currently, the cost of the e-visa is 20 US Dollars.

We have been in contact with the FCO and they have advised that the travel advice for Turkey will be updated with this information in due course.

Please find below the statement by the Consulate General of Turkey for your reference:

Deadline for the application of Stamp Visa and Banderole visa for entering the Republic of Turkey at the border gates
13/12/2013 - Announcement

Dear Visa Applicants,

Turkish Consulate General kindly request the following information to be circulated;

The application of Stamp Visa and Banderole visa for entering the Republic of Turkey at the border gates will continue together (simultaneously) with the e-visa application until 10th April 2014. After the aforementioned date(10 April 2014) the application of Stamp Visa and Banderole visa will be abolished and will completely be replaced by the e-visa application.

The citizens of the countries who are eligible to get the banderole visa given at the border gates will be able to enter the Republic of Turkey with getting an "e-visa" online from the website "www.evisa.gov.tr" instead.

Turkish Consulate General would like to inform and emphasize the deadline (10 April 2014) for the application of Stamp Visa and Banderole visa for entering the Republic of Turkey at the border gates.

SA Specialist - The official specialist programme

Posted: 23 Dec ,2013 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

Press release

Danniell Saunders has successfully passed his SA Specialist training course. SA Specialist is a self-study online training course designed to equip travel product and service providers to sell South Africa more effectively. Participants who successfully complete the course are called SA Specialists, meaning they are experts in South African travel. Danniell Saunders is now a South African travel expert, having passed his course, and is entitled to use the term 'SA Specialist' when giving advice on travel to South Africa. Danniell Saunders is competent to advise clients on all essential aspects of travel to South Africa, reasons to visit South Africa, the best attractions and activities on offer in South Africa, and more. As the SA Specialist course host, South African Tourism is proud to be associated with Danniell Saunders and congratulates him on his achievement.

Changes to Egypt visa fees

Posted: 08 May ,2014 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism is increasing visa fees for Egypt as of 1st May 2014.

The following details on the increases have been confirmed to Encounters Travel today, by the Egyptian National Tourist Office.

Tourist visa
It will be possible to apply for this prior to travelling, from the Egyptian Consulate. It takes three days to obtain and cost £15GBP for single entrance and £25GBP for multi-entrance. Visas can also be obtained upon arrival from Egyptian airports (from 1 May 2014 onwards) and will cost $25USD for a single entrance visa. It will not be possible to obtain a multi entrance visa upon arrival.

For customers travelling to Sharm el Sheikh, there will be no requirement to obtain a visa if you are planning to stay in Sharm El Sheikh for up to 14 days. If tourists are planning to stay more than 14 days in Sharm El Sheikh or to travel outside of the Sinai, they will need to pay for the visa upon arrival at the airport.

Business visa
Business visas need to be obtained from the Egyptian Consulate before travelling and will take three days to obtain and cost £65GBP for single entrance and £105GBP for multi entrance visas.

Archaeologists Find Tomb Dating Back To 1100 B.C. In Egypt

Posted: 12 May ,2014 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

CAIRO (AP) - Archeologists have found a tomb dating back to around 1100 B.C. south of Cairo, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry said Thursday.

Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said that the tomb belongs to a guard of the army archives and royal messenger to foreign countries. Ibrahim said the Cairo University Faculty of Archaeology's discovery at Saqqara adds "a chapter to our knowledge about the history of Saqqara."

Ola el-Egeizy of Cairo University said the tomb contains "very nice inscriptions" of the funerary procession and the afterlife of the deceased.

The tomb was found near another one dating back to the same period belonging to the head of the army that was discovered in the previous excavation season. That tomb was larger but much of what remains is mud bricks as "most of its stone blocks were stolen and many of them are in museums all over the world," said el-Egeizy. Because of the blocks, archaeologists had long known that the tomb existed though it was not uncovered until recently.

Saqqara was the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis and site of the oldest known pyramid in Egypt.

Drones to be deployed across Kenya to combat poaching

Posted: 12 May ,2014 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

The Kenya Wildlife Service is to deploy drones in all 52 of the country's national parks and reserves in an attempt to combat the poaching of elephants and rhinos. The announcement follows a successful pilot project at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, as reported in January in Wildlife Extra, in which the use of the unmanned, remotely controlled aircraft was found to reduce poaching by as much as 96 per cent.

Since 2012, Kenya has lost more than 430 elephants and around 400 rhinos to poachers, driven primarily by the demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia. The drones provide 24-hour aerial surveillance to monitor the landscape and movement of the animals using radio frequencies and have the ability to spot poachers before they have killed an animal. The £103 million project is being funded by Kenya along with the US, Netherlands, France and Canada.

"Use of drones has shown that we can prevent poaching and arrest many poachers on their tracks," Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told the Guardian. "The pilot project has been a success and we are working with many partners including the Kenya police, the National Intelligence Service, and a lot of international partners such as Interpol, Ugandan and Tanzanian governments."

Director of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Rob Brandford said:

"Ivory poaching claims the lives of 36,000 elephants and countless lives of wildlife rangers trying to protect them every year. In Tsavo where we work, which is an area the size of Wales, having eyes in the sky is crucial to protecting herds and we know this first hand from our own aerial surveillance work. Specially Designed drones or UAV's that can fly for hours at a time and hone in on targets and poachers certainly have a role to play in protecting elephants when backed up by field teams on the ground that can quickly respond to incidents. Providing real time 'eyes in the sky' and 24-hour surveillance would make enforcement much more effective, so long as the field teams are ready and waiting to capture those poachers spotted and make a big contribution to ecological monitoring."

Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence!

Posted: 21 May ,2014 | Updated: 31 Dec ,2015

ENCOUNTERS TRAVEL AWARDED 2014 TRIPADVISOR CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE

Recognised as a Top Performing Tour Operator as Reviewed by Travelers on the World's Largest Travel Site

United Kingdom - 21, May, 2014 - ENCOUNTERS TRAVEL today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide.
Establishments awarded the Certificate of Excellence are located all over the world and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account reviews ratings. Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, volume and recency of reviews. Additional criteria include a business' tenure and popularity ranking on the site.

"TripAdvisor is pleased to honor exceptional hospitality businesses for consistent excellence," said Marc Charron, President of TripAdvisor for Business. "The Certificate of Excellence award gives top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most - their customers. From Australia to Zimbabwe, we want to applaud exceptional hospitality businesses for offering TripAdvisor travellers a great customer experience."

Local laws and customs catching British nationals out abroad

Posted: 07 Aug ,2014 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

FCO encourages people to be better prepared by researching the local laws and customs of their holiday destination before travel

Every year British nationals risk getting caught out by local laws and customs when travelling overseas. From driving a dirty car in Russia, to wearing camouflage clothing in Barbados, travellers could end up with a hefty fine or may even be arrested if they are caught unaware.

According to new research issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, while 70% of people believe that researching local laws and customs would make their holiday more enjoyable, less than half would actually make this part of their preparations when visiting somewhere new.  For those visiting places they had been to before, just 40% said they would do this research, despite the fact that local legislation and even local customs can change at any time.

In 2014, the following changes in local law were introduced:

  • Fines were increased to $500 for swearing publicly in certain parts of Australia
  • New requirements were introduced for parents travelling with children in or out of South Africa
  • E-Cigarettes are now banned from being brought into the United Arab Emirates
  • From January 2015 tourists must have passport valid for at least 60 days from expiry date of their visitor visa when travelling to Turkey

FCO Minister Mark Simmondssaid:

"It's easy to throw caution to the wind when on holiday but it's important to be aware of the local laws and customs before you set off. We want people to enjoy their holidays so we encourage them to be prepared. Laws and customs vary widely from country to country and visitors should respect them to avoid causing offence or even being arrested. Spending five minutes reading our travel advice may save travellers a lot of time in the long run."

Just last year, two British tourists were arrested for swimming in the Emperor's moat at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. This might sound like a bit of harmless fun, but their actions were the equivalent of attempting to break into Buckingham Palace - and being arrested in Japan for even a minor offence can mean remaining in custody for 23 days while awaiting an investigation.

Jaywalking in the USA, the Czech Republic and Poland; entering churches or mosques with arms or legs uncovered in Italy or Turkey; and leaving the beach still in swimwear in Mallorca and Barcelona; are just a few examples of common laws and customs broken by foreigners who didn’t research their destination before going on holiday.

How many cigarettes can you legally bring into Thailand? What equipment should you carry in your car when driving in France? What is appropriate attire to wear in public in Saudi Arabia? Wherever you are going, the FCO's travel advice pages (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) have a laws and customs section for each destination and are a great place to begin your research. Also take a look at our infographic for some interesting examples from around the globe.

Survey conducted by Atomik Research from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 consumers in July 2014

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO's Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am - 6pm BST, Monday - Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.

You can also keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO's Facebook and Twitter feeds: www.facebook.com/fcotravel or twitter.com/fcotravel.

Information about how the FCO can help British nationals abroad:

The FCO can:

  • Issue you with an emergency travel document
  • Provide information about transferring money
  • Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital
  • Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
  • Contact you if you are detained abroad
  • Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish
  • Provide help in cases of forced marriage
  • Assist people affected by parental child abduction

The FCO cannot:

  • Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
  • Give you legal advice or translate documents
  • Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
  • Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
  • Pay any bills or give you money
  • Make travel arrangements for you

Feefo trusted merchant certificate 2015

Posted: 09 Feb ,2015 | Updated: 09 Feb ,2015

 Feefo trusted merchant certificate 2015

Nepal Earthquake

Posted: 27 Apr ,2015 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

Following the large earthquake in Nepal on 25th April and the subsequent aftershocks, thankfully all our travellers in Nepal, plus our local manager Narayan, his family and local team were OK, though many of their family homes in the Dhading district and in Kathmandu were badly damaged or destroyed.

We cancelled all of our departures to Nepal that were due to depart from the date of the earthquake up until the 10th July. However, a combination of updated UK Foreign Office Travel Advice and our own assessment of the situation on the ground has meant that we are now able to run the majority of our Nepal tours again.

Restrictions remain in some areas, including the Everest and Langtang trekking regions, but Kathmandu, Pokhara, the Annapurnas (including Poon Hill treks), and Chitwan and Bardia National Parks are all fine to visit and travel through again.

Our own fund raising appeal to support our team of guides, porters and other staff in Nepal, their families and local villages, closed in June having raised over GBP 4,000. We'd like to pass on their thanks, and ours for all the very generous donations made.

For those keen to support the ongoing aid effort, the Disaster's Emergency Committee in the UK has a special fund which is still accepting donations...
www.dec.org.uk/appeals/nepal-earthquake-appeal

News from the Ministry of Antiquities

Posted: 05 May ,2015 | Updated: 25 Nov ,2015

Opening of Two new tombs at the Pyramids Area

Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Eldamaty opened two important individuals' tombs at the western cemetery- the Pyramids Archaeological Area to receive their local and international visitors. The first tomb belongs to a person named "Emery" who holds the title "Priest of King Khufu" while the second one belongs to his eldest son "Nefer Ptah". The two tombs were opened after the termination of their restoration works performed by the Ministry of Antiquities' Projects Sector.

This opening comes within the framework of the Ministry's plan to develop the Pyramids Area as a whole, adding that it is considered a good step towards dragging the tourists' interest to visit new places… elaborated Eldamaty.

The two tombs are a typical model of the individuals' tombs in the Old Kingdom and they reflect the nature of ritual life at that time clearly represented through their structural and artistic elements.
Eng. Wa'd Allah Abul E'la, chargé d'affaires of the Projects' Sector Chief noted that the two tombs were closed since 2007 until restoration works started in 2010. The restoration project stopped after the January Revolution to be proceeded 6 months ago.

Dr. Mahmoud Afifi, Chargé d'affaires of the Ancient Egyptian Sector's Chief added that the tomb of "Nefer Ptah" was discovered in 1925 with an area of 144 m² approximately and a height of 4.6 m. It consists of five rooms and a crypt at the southern side. It also contains a life sized rock carved statue in the wall its first hall. The "Emery" tomb is built with lime stone and it contains beautiful scenes depicting craftsmen (carpenters, sculptors and goldsmiths).

Antiquities Ministry receives 240 artifacts from France

Minister of Antiquities Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty declared the repatriation of 240 archaeological objects from France that were received earlier by the Egyptian Embassy in Paris on the margin of the visit of President Abdel Fatah El- Sisi to France last November.

Eldamaty further added that the objects were smuggled outside Egypt after they were illegally dug, stressing on the continuous efforts payed by the Ministries of Antiquities and foreign affairs to return and save Egypt's cultural heritage.

From his side, Director of the Repatriated Antiquities Department, Mr. Ali Ahmed clarified that the repatriated objects belong to different eras of Ancient Egyptian History. Some of the objects are colored wooden statues representing sailors that are part of a funerary boat model, a lime stone stela depicting an offering scene to the gods Isis and Osiris, 49 agate amulets representing the heart "Ib", some gold chips and earrings, a number of Ushabti statues, stone pots and pottery in addition to a number of Greco Roman coins.

A part of Sahure statue uncovered

Minister of Antiquities Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty declared the discovery of the lower part of a royal statue carved with the name of King "Sahure", second of the fifth Dynasty Kings of the Old Kingdom. The discovery was made during the excavation works performed by the "Royal Art Museum" Belgian Mission working at Elkab Area, northern Edfu – Aswan Governorate. The statue, executed in fine-grained sandstone, undoubtedly represents the king seated on a throne. Its original height can be estimated at about 70 cm.

As Dr. Eldamaty clarifies, the importance of this discovery lie in the rarity of the King's statues (only two Sahure statues are known; one of them is shown at the Metropolitan Museum – USA while the other is displayed at the Egyptian Museum – Cairo).

From his side, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector Chargé d'affaires Dr. Mahmoud Afify commented that the Belgian Mission, headed by Dr. Dirk Huyge started its archaeological excavation works in 2009 adding that this region (Elkab) carry a very important value in the Egyptian History because it was the capital of Upper Egypt during Pre History and was the capital of the third Nome until the Ptolemaic Age.
General Director of Aswan and Nubia Archaeological Area added that Elkab lies on the east bank of the River Nile and combines a lot of the rock cut noble tombs that date back to the New Kingdom.

Welcome to our new website

Posted: 23 Dec ,2015 | Updated: 23 Dec ,2015

We are delighted to share our new Encounters Travel website with you. You’ll find all our existing Encounters small-group, Overland and Shoestring tours as before. Plus we are also gradually adding our full range of Family and Tailor-made tours here too. This means you’ll be able to find everything we offer all in one place, rather than having to check our other websites as well. There is just a small sample of this tailor-made range live on the site so far, but many more tours will be added over the next few months. We’ll post updates here as they go up. All our group tour itineraries can also be run privately if required, just ask us for a quote.

We hope you like the new site and find it user friendly and helpful. We’ve tried hard to display more information, clearer maps and better images for each tour, including details on the normal hotels used.

With any new website there are going to be a few teething issues but hopefully we’ve fixed the vast majority of these already. If you do spot anything broken or that doesn’t seem to be working right, then any feedback or constructive criticism will be very thankfully received!

Finally, our thanks go to Martin and Bhupendra in particular for all their hard work over the last few months getting the site this far.

Overland itinerary changes

Posted: 01 Feb ,2016 | Updated: 01 Feb ,2016

To coincide with our new website launch and the start of 2016, we are now offering our African overland adventure tours in a slightly different way. They are still the same great tours, with the same routes, high quality expedition vehicles and experienced guides & drivers. However, we have removed the arrival and departure airport transfers and some accommodation in the first and last destinations on the tour from the set itineraries. This follows feedback from our travellers over the last year who have often not needed some or all of these and have suggested they would have preferred if they were optional extras rather than included from the start. You can still these onto the tour if you wish, and you’ll find them detailed with prices on the Options tab of each tour page. Many of the tours leave their starting point on the first day, and arrive at their destination on the last day. So, to make the most of these places we generally recommend adding at least one or two nights before and after the main tour. You can do this through us, or make your own arrangements if you prefer.

We have also split the tour price into a main cost for the tour itself (including all the transport, accommodation, most meals, and some of activities), with a separate optional 'Activity Package' that can be booked as well. This Activity Package includes a range of tours and activities that we recommend doing to make the most of the route you are travelling, and the destinations you are passing through. However, we appreciate that not everyone can afford to do everything! If you would like to add the Activity Package onto your tour, then we recommend booking and paying for this before you travel to ensure availability. Full details of what is included in each Activity Package, plus further options available locally while on the tour are shown on the Options tab of each tour page.

Overall, we feel these changes make the tours much more flexible and accessible, as well as more affordable. As always, if you have any questions or queries about the tours, don't hesitate to give one of our travel consultants a call or email.

Why choose us?

  • Financial security for your peace of mind through ATOL & IPP
  • Members of ABTA (Y4447)
  • Airport transfers included
  • Encounters with local cultures and like-minded travellers
  • No local payment as part of tour price
  • Tours designed by experts
  • Itineraries that don’t cut corners or costs at your expense
  • Clear info provided on entrance fees & local costs
  • The best industry renowned guides
  • Every booking contributes to local projects
  • Great value for money!