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While Hurghada is hardly an ideal location from which to see the rest of Egypt, it is easy enough to get to Luxor, Aswan, and even Cairo for a day trip. Most hotels offer a roster of possibilities through their travel desks. If they don't, you're never more than a 5-minute walk from a travel agency.

Cairo

The capital is only an hour away by plane, and frequent flights throughout the day mean that a day trip to see the pyramids, walk through Islamic Cairo, or go shopping in Khan al Khalili is not only easy, but fairly cheap. Round-trip airfare, if you book it yourself with EgyptAir, is around LE825 ($150/£76).

Luxor

The temples and tombs that are around the city of Luxor are also accessible as a day trip from Hurghada, and you'll find many companies that are prepared to sell you a single day round-trip bus excursion. Consider, however, that -- what with waiting for the obligatory tourist convoy and inevitable traffic delay -- it's going to take you between 4 and 5 hours each way. Ten hours on the bus is a steep price to pay for a day on the ground. The first option is to fly. Flights, unfortunately, go through Cairo, which means that even with a great connection you're looking at 2 to 3 hours each way. The second option, which I recommend, is overnighting in Luxor and taking two leisurely days to see the sites.

Monasteries of St. Anthony and St. Paul

A 3-hour drive north of Hurghada will take you to two ancient Coptic monasteries named for 3rd-century saints. Though you should confirm your visit with their Cairo office, both monasteries generally welcome visitors (the exception being during Lent), and you can even arrange an overnight stay.

The walled compound of the Monastery of St. Anthony lies about 45km (28 miles) inland from a slightly Mad Max junction town on the coast highway named Zafarana, which is about 270km (168 miles) from Hurghada. It was built at the foot of the mountain where St. Anthony lived from his youth until he died at the age of 105 in A.D. 356. Having been forbidden to come any closer to his cave, Anthony's followers settled on the site of the present-day buildings and buried him inside its walls in a chapel that is now called the Church of St. Anthony. On its walls are some of the most dramatic and important Coptic murals in Egypt. They were restored in the 1990s and are well worth a visit. You can also visit Anthony's cave, though it is a rather long climb -- 1,158 stairs. Reckon on about an hour and a good deal of water. The cave is worth a visit both for its original significance and for the scrawled annotations left by visitors over the last millennium and a half.

The Monastery of St. Paul, who was Paul the Anchorite, or Paul of Thebes, is about 35km (22 miles) southeast across the desert and mountains from the Monastery of St. Anthony. It was built on or near the site of the cave that St. Paul occupied for about 90 years, living on a half loaf of bread brought to him every day by a crow, until he died in about A.D. 345. It is reported that one day St. Anthony made the 2-day hike from his neighboring cave, and when he arrived Paul was expecting him because the crow had brought, instead of the usual half portion of bread, a full loaf. The monastery is reached by a road that leaves the highway about 25km (16 miles) south of Zafarana -- the exit is not easy to spot from the northbound side of the highway, and you will have to go a few hundred meters past it to get across the median and then return to it. The monastery, which contains the intriguing Church of St. Paul and includes guesthouses and an olive press, is an imposing, almost military looking place, with a high wall around it. There is usually an English-speaking monk in the compound who can show you around.

It's possible to trek between the two monasteries, retracing St. Anthony's neighborly visit back in the 4th century. The trek takes 2 days and can be quite arduous during the summer. It's best to start at St. Anthony's, where they can supply a map of the route, and end at St. Paul's. Check with the office in Cairo (tel. 02/25900218) for local conditions before making firm plans.

Quseir

This is the most interesting place to visit on the coast south of Hurghada. The best way to get there is to drive yourself or to take a privately hired car. If you're hiring a car and driver, expect to pay LE300 to LE400 ($55-$73/£28-£37) for the day. If you're renting, reckon on driving about 300 to 350km (190-220 miles) round-trip.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.