Sudan Nile Valley and Western Desert

Sudan Nile Valley and Western Desert

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


The history of Sudan stretches back thousands of years, to a time when they rivalled Pharaonic Egypt as a powerful civilisation. We explore some the highlights of Sudan’s little known ancient monuments on this tour, visiting collections of pyramids that few people even know exist and old temples lying in the desert sands. We spend our time camping out in Sudan’s stunningly beautiful deserts and hoping to meet nomadic groups on our way. We visit isolated villages where age old traditions still rule, and spend time learning about the lives of their Nubian inhabitants. This trip takes in some of the most beautiful areas of Sudan, from its deserts to the mighty Nile, lifeblood of the country, and by camping in this amazing landscape we gain a real sense of the overwhelming power of nature.

Tour Rating 

Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●● | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • Stunning desert landscapes
  • Wondrous archaeological sites
  • Camping under huge desert skies in marvellous isolation
  • Visit old Nubian villages and meet the friendly locals
  • Walk amongst the incredible pyramids of Meroe
  • Cruise on the mighty Nile

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Hotel accomodation in Khartoum. Wild camping outside of Khartoum with an option for 2 nights upgraded comfortable accomodation
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 16
Start Point: Khartoum
End Point: Khartoum
Transport: 4WD
Countries: Sudan

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. On this tour, your guide may be local or European but they will be based in the region. We may also you specialist guides local to their specific region. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 - Khartoum

Arrive in Khartoum. Transfer to the hotel. Please note that a room will be available from early afternoon. The rest of the day is at leisure. You may wish to view the confluence of the Nile from Mogran Family Park next to the White Nile Bridge or walk to Tuti Island across the bridge next to the Corinthia Hotel for a view of the confluence. Please note that it is forbidden to take photos from the bridges. Overnight Grand Holiday Villa Hotel or similar.

Day 2 - Khartoum – Western Desert

After breakfast we take a short tour of Khartoum. We follow the Blue Nile near the Presidential Palace where in 1885 General Gordon was beheaded by the Mahdi’s troops. We visit the Archaeological Museum that, besides many beautiful objects, contains two temples rescued by UNESCO and moved from the Lake Nasser area, when it was flooded by the water. We then cross the confluence between the Blue and the White Nile and we reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan, where we see the Mahdi’s tomb from outside and the Khalifa’s house Museum (closed on Mondays). Late in the morning we begin the journey northward through the Western Desert. We will stop at the "chai houses", literally tea houses, a sort of very Spartan "motorway restaurants" in the desert where local truck drivers usually stop for a quick meal and some rest. Late in the afternoon we will find a nice place to camp under the incredible African night sky. Overnight wild camping. (BLD)

Day 3, 4, 5 - Western Desert – Wadi el Milk – Jebel Peak – Dongola

We drive westward in the desert and reach Wadi El Milk, where we find many acacia trees and Bisharin settlements around the few water wells. During our desert crossing we reach a mysterious fortress in the middle of the desert: Gala Abu Hamed discovered by a German archaeological expedition and dated to the Napatean time (700-400 B.C.). The ruins of the fortress are mainly huge boundary walls about 100m high, now partially covered by sand. The place was probably used as a prison for slaves coming from Central Africa. It remains a mystery how the place could have been inhabited since there is no water at all. Driving northwest deep into the Western Desert we reach a curious mountain in the middle of dune desert called by our drivers Jebel Peak. From here, passing by small beautiful oasis rich in palm trees, we reach Dongola where we stock up for the following days. Overnight wild camping in the Western Desert. (BLD)

Days 6 and 7 – Western Desert – Temple of Soleb – Amara West – Dal Cataract

We drive north-west crossing curious areas of rock overlapping granite boulders. We then reach the Nile near the Temple of Soleb, the most beautiful Egyptian temple in Sudan, testimony of the New Kingdom in Nubia, with many walls rich in hieroglyphic inscriptions, bas-relief figures and many columns. The first settlement was an Egyptian colonization dated back 1500 BC. The day after we continue north visiting Jebel Dosha where on a rock just on the Nile we can see some Egyptian stelae of Thutmosis III. We continue north to reach the Nile again near the vestiges of Amara West, an archaeological site currently being excavated by a team from the British Museum, where we visit the rests of an ancient Egyptian town. Dinners and overnights in wild camp. (BLD)

Day 8 – Amara – Dal Cataract – Western Desert

Continuing north we can see the rocks on the Nile that create the rapids of the Dal Cataract. In this area there are some nice Nubian villages and the people are not used to seeing foreigners. Dinner and overnight wild camping (BLD)

Days 9 and 10 – Delgo -3rd Cataract – Sebu – Tombos – Kerma – Nubian Villages

After breakfast we continue northward crossing the Nile by small ferry. These ferries are a hive of colourful activities. Continue south passing the village of Delgo reaching the granite boulders of the Third Cataract which used to be the third huge obstacle that the ancients Egyptians had to face when trying to sail on the Nile River and nearby we visit the remains of an Ottoman fort. We then reach the village of Tombos where there are the remains of ancient granite quarries and where we see a statue of the King Taharqa, simply left there in the desert 3000 years ago. We stop in Kerma to visit the majestic “Defuffa” and the rest of this ancient civilisation together with the little museum founded by Charles Bonnet. Continuing south along the Nile we arrive in the central part of the Nubian region. The population speaks a different language from the Arabs, and also the Islamic religion is not as "strict" as in other regions. The women don't cover their faces and readily speak to foreigners. We visit the beautiful Nubian villages with their painted entrance doors with typical patterns and flowers. Enthusiastic hospitality abounds, people will often invite foreigners to visit their houses and share a meal or a cup of spiced tea. Overnights wild camping (BLD)

Day 11 - Old Dongola - Nubian Desert – Karima – El Kurru

Driving south we reach the archaeological site of Old Dongola, where the ruins of a Christian Coptic temple with marble columns as well as several churches are situated on the banks of the Nile. We then reach the small town of Karima located at the foot of Jebel Barkal. A landmark in the Nubian Desert, Jebel Barkal can be seen for miles around whilst in the open desert. At the foot of this wonderful and isolated red sandstone mountain, there is a big temple, dedicated to Amon. Amon's ancient "Pure Mountain" was the religious Nubian heart for more than 1000 years. In addition to the ruins of the big temple there are still several sculptured granite rams that were supposed to border a long avenue that probably led to the pier on the Nile. In the mountain wall there is a big room decorated with bas-relief. The Jebel Barkal archaeological sites are World Heritage listed. We then visit the site of El Kurru, where there is one of the necropolises of the ancient capital Napata. Here we can visit two tombs which are excavated in the rock under the pyramids - partially collapsed. They are totally decorated with amazing images of the Pharaoh, of the gods and multicolour hieroglyphic inscriptions. Not far from here there is an interesting site of petrified wood, an ancient forest with hundreds of huge trunks. Overnight wild camping (option to upgrade accommodation tonight) (BLD)

Day 12 - 13 - Karima – Nuri – Atrun Crater – Bayuda Desert - Meroe

Today we cross the Nile and we reach the Pyramids of Nuri. We take a cruise along the river and explore the small islands and sandy beaches along the Nile. Arriving on the other shore of the Nile we reach the site of Nuri where several pyramids stand out, among which is the pyramid of the great Taharqa. We then enter the Bayuda Desert, an area bounded by the loop formed by the Nile between the 4th and the 6th Cataract and characterised by sharp black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic and typically cone-shaped. They alternate with level pebble stretches and large valleys crossed by dry wadis, where a little vegetation can be seen. It is very likely we shall meet isolated groups of Bisharin nomads, who live in familiar groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to the rare water wells, with their caravans and herds of camels and cattle. Just in the centre of the Bayuda Desert we reach Atrun Crater, where nomads gather salt from the edge of a green coloured pool. They will then sell it to markets of the towns outside the desert. We then reach the town of Atbara, located on the confluence between the Nile and the Atbara River. Here we cross the Nile for the last time. We start driving south where there are many small camel thorn acacia trees as far as we can see. And then in the distance we glance at more than 40 pyramids, located on top of a hill, some of them perfectly preserved that belong to the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. We visit the ruins of the Royal City. The excavations confirm that the town of Meroe used to cover a large area and the royal city was located in a central position, surrounded by suburbs and a boundary wall. Most of the area where the city is located, formed by many small hills covered by red clay fragments, has still to be excavated by the archaeologists. Dinners and overnights in wild camp near the pyramids (option to upgrade accommodation on Day 13) (BLD)

Day 14 - Meroe – Mussawarat - Naga

The Royal necropolis of Meroe is located at about 3 km from the Nile on some hills covered by yellow sand dunes. Several pyramids stand out with their sharp shapes against the clear sky. Each one has its own funerary chapel with the walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs that show the King’s life and offers to the gods. In the afternoon we reach Mussawarat El Sufra. This settlement is located in a beautiful valley crowned by hills. Here the ruins of a very big temple are visible; it once played an exceptionally important role. Its main characteristic, the “Great Enclosure” is made by many constructions and boundary walls which surround a temple built in the 1st century A.D. The large number of elephants represented on these walls makes you think that this animal used to have an important role in this area. Beyond the big Wadi there is another temple - restored by a German archaeological mission - dedicated to the god Apedemak. We then move to the beautiful site of Naga for our last camp. Overnight wild camping. (BLD)

Day 15 - Naga - Khartoum

We begin the day exploring the ancient site of Naga, which is located 30 km to the east of the Nile and it is one of the two centres that developed during the Meroitic period. In Naga, in a typical Saharan environment with rocks and sand, we find a temple dedicated to Apedemak (1st century A.D.): a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations depicting the god with a lion’s head, the Pharaoh, noblemen and several ritual images. A few metres away there is a small and odd construction with arches and columns, named "kiosk", in which we can notice Egyptian, Roman and Greek styles, all at the same time. Not far away we reach another temple dedicated to Amon with many statues of rams and beautiful gates decorated with bas-reliefs. Lunch - picnic on the way. In the afternoon we reach Omdurman and visit the Souk and on a Friday we will also be able to witness the ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes (not possible on Christmas departure). Check in at the hotel in Khartoum where rooms are available for day use until 21.00. Late in the evening transfer to the airport (BL)

Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation (hotel in Khartoum and camping elsewhere on the expedition)
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Visa support documentation (invitation letter)

Compulsory Archaeological fees, permits, passport registration – currently USD 280 payable locally in USD cash
International flights
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)
Video Camera fees

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