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10 Best Places to Visit in the Middle East and North Africa

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Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Our 10 best places to visit in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate captivating history and exceptional heritage that spans millennia.

Discover the pyramids, witness historic mosques, or delve into the meeting point of Mediterranean cultures. From Egypt to Israel, Turkey to Jordan, and Morocco, each destination offers a unique perspective on diverse cultures shaped by the land, sea, and trade.

Find inspiration by looking at our list of some of the most exciting places to visit in both regions.

Overview
  1. 1. Cairo, Egypt
  2. 2. Istanbul, Turkey
  3. 3. Marrakech, Morocco
  4. 4. Jerusalem, Israel
  5. 5. Petra, Jordan
  6. 6. Luxor, Egypt
  7. 7. Fes, Morocco
  8. 8. Tel Aviv, Israel
  9. 9. Cappadocia, Turkey
  10. 10. Sahara Desert, Morocco
  11. How Many Days Should I Spend in the Middle East and North Africa?
  12. Explore the Best Places to Visit in the Middle East and North Africa

1. Cairo, Egypt

Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt

Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Cairo is a timeless city that conjures images of ancient life and vibrant coffee shops hidden inside a warren of cobblestone streets. Historic, beautiful, and frenetic, the juxtaposition between fading 19th-century grandeur and streets filled with donkey carts pulling fresh fruit speaks to the undefinable uniqueness of the city.

Luxurious banks on the River Nile, whispers of artifacts displayed in the Egyptian Museum, roads that lead to the towering Pyramids of Giza, and endless energy intertwined with heritage reveal why Egyptians call the city “Mother of the World”.

Highlights: Pyramids of Giza • The Egyptian Museum • Al-Azhar Mosque • Saqqara • Khan el-Khalili Souk

Pairs well with: Luxor • Jerusalem • Tel Aviv • Istanbul

Learn more: Egypt Tours & Vacation PackagesEgypt Travel Guide

2. Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia interior in Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia interior, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is more than just the point at which East meets West. It draws on the connection between art and architecture, and culture and cuisine. Instead of destroying layers of history as the city passed between empires, Istanbul absorbed the past and continues to project the former beauty in this now-contemporary city.

With its place on the Silk Road, a merchant mentality remains. Churches and mosques shimmer with impressive galleries and opulent designs. Gastronomy plays an important role in daily life, with locals enjoying Turkish coffee or savoring sweet treats well into the night. Istanbul is a city of spirit and celebration, full of shopping, eating, and the art of daily life.

Highlights: Hagia Sophia • Topkapi Palace • Blue Mosque • Basilica Cistern • Istanbul Archeology Museum

Pairs well with: Cairo • Jerusalem • Tel Aviv

Learn more: Turkey Tours & VacationsTurkey Travel Guide

3. Marrakech, Morocco

View of Koutoubia Mosque and garden in Marrakech, Morocco

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech bursts with sounds, colors, and artisan heritage as it whisks you into the past. The historic Medina bustles with life that spills through the maze of narrow streets and into the lively Djemaa El Fna Square.

Intricately painted ceilings, glowing marble tombs, and elegant stucco designs demonstrate millennia of art, while cosmopolitan neighborhoods and an antique Jewish district add to the multi-layered beauty of Marrakech.

Highlights: Medina • Souks • Djemaa El Fna Square • Koutoubia Mosque • Majorelle Gardens

Pairs well with: Fes • Sahara Desert

Learn more: Morocco Tours & VacationsMorocco Travel Guide

4. Jerusalem, Israel

Via Dolorosa Street in Jerusalem, Israel

Via Dolorosa Street, Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is a city that feels indestructible. Destroyed and rebuilt for two millennia, it has a spiritual allure, historical magnetism, and frenetic energy that embraces a connection between the Middle East and ancient Rome.

Aromas of incense and coffee feel inviting as they drift through the markets and diverse quarters, enhanced by the spices used in local cooking. Contemporary life with modern architecture reflects the past, with rosy marble facades giving way to bookshops and art galleries in the historic districts.

History is inescapable across the city, from past ruins exposed along the streets to artifacts hidden beneath the soil, all of which make Jerusalem a wonder to explore.

Highlights: Western Wall • Temple Mount • Jewish Quarter • Church of the Holy Sepulcher • Armenian Quarter • Via Dolorosa

Pairs well with: Tel Aviv • Petra • Cairo • Luxor

Learn more: Israel Tours & Vacations

5. Petra, Jordan

Petra ruins in Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Petra refers to the city and archeological park where rugged pink cliffs reflect the former Nabataean capital that once controlled trade from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Peninsula. The natural stone walls disguise architectural splendors carved into the gorge and they are easily connected by hiking trails, carved steps, and signs pointing the way.

Petra is inspiring, demonstrating past civilizations’ engineering ingenuity and the power of ideas that withstand the test of time. Intricate, detailed, and sprawling, discovering Petra’s treasures is unlike exploring anywhere else in the world.

Highlights: The Siq • Treasury • Theater • High Palace of Sacrifice • Wadi Farusa Trail

Pairs well with: Cairo • Luxor • Jerusalem • Tel Aviv

Learn more: Jordan Tours & Vacation Packages

6. Luxor, Egypt

Hatshepsut temple in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt

Hatshepsut temple in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt

Luxor is a living museum, an extraordinary display of ancient history at the heart of contemporary activity. The Nile runs between temples that have stood for life and tombs where nobility and aristocracy found a connection with eternity.

Antiquity no longer feels like legend in Luxor and instead becomes tangible, where the wealth and power of the ancient kingdoms are displayed in the architecture and accompanying artifacts. With the contemporary city spread among the lush West Bank and the treasures of the past uncovered along the desert hills of the East Bank, Luxor is a place of majesty and fascination.

Highlights: Temple of Karnak • Valley of the Kings • Valley of the Queens • Luxor Temple

Pairs well with: Cairo • Jerusalem • Tel Aviv • Istanbul • Petra

Learn more: Egypt Tours & Vacation PackagesEgypt Travel Guide

7. Fes, Morocco

Madrasa al-Attarine in Fes, Morocco

Madrasa al-Attarine, Fes, Morocco

Fes is a monument to the past, where the service of scholars and philosophers stands out against the preserved work of craftspeople. Houses and palaces, mosques and madrasas add to the exotic ambiance of the city, accentuated by vibrant colors and distinctive aromas of the souk that once demonstrated the wares traded along sub-Saharan trade routes.

The city can feel like a labyrinth of cobbled lanes where donkey carts transfer goods, cafes hide around corners in narrow alleyways, and minarets create defining features in the skyline. Fes is a rare place, where walking, exploring, and discovering the streets is part of its timeless charm.

Highlights: Fes el Bali Medina • Medersa Bou Inania • Souks • Madrasa al-Attarine • Mellah District

Pairs well with: Marrakech • Sahara Desert

Learn more: Morocco Tours & VacationsMorocco Travel Guide

8. Tel Aviv, Israel

Old city Jaffa in Tel-Aviv, Israel

Jaffa old city in Tel-Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, famous for its culinary and cafe culture, pulses with beauty and spirit. The youthful crowd and cosmopolitan allure juxtapose ancient neighborhoods connected to Biblical stories.

Museums and galleries demonstrate a rich connection to the arts, while golden-sand beaches with clear azure waters provide a layer of natural beauty. The city feels like a Mediterranean seaside oasis, celebrating creativity, reflecting the growth of the broader country, and constantly enjoying life’s smaller details.

Highlights: Gordon Beach • Jaffa • Yemenite Quarter • Dizengoff Circle • Neve Tzedek Quarter

Pairs well with: Cairo • Jerusalem • Luxor • Istanbul • Petra

Learn more: Israel Tours & Vacations

9. Cappadocia, Turkey

Zelve Open Air Museum in Cappadocia, Turkey

Zelve Open Air Museum in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is an immersion into contemporary and ancient life, and the natural world. Millennia of wind and water have chiseled away at the landscape forming fairy chimneys and accentuating the lunar characteristics of the soft volcanic rock.

Since the Bronze Age, communities have dug into the soil and carved dwellings that protected them from the rains, winds, and harsh sun, leaving behind rock-cut churches, fascinating frescoes, and a warren of subterranean cities.

Whether interested in unique history or eager to explore nature, Cappadocia is an exciting way to discover how the latter has shaped civilization.

Highlights: Goreme Open-Air Museum • Red and Rose Valleys • Goreme Village • Kaymakli Underground City • Zelve Open-Air Museum

Pairs well with: Istanbul • Cairo • Jerusalem • Luxor • Tel Aviv

Learn more: Turkey Tours & VacationsTurkey Travel Guide

10. Sahara Desert, Morocco

Sahara Desert at sunset, Morocco

Sahara Desert at sunset, Morocco

Visiting the Sahara is an adventure into the remote and desolate, a dream of rolling sand dunes brought to life. Whether traveling by four-wheel-drive or on a camel, the journey requires an expedition beneath unforgiving desert sun, but reveals the treasures of seclusion under unhindered starlight.

The Sahara is a majestic connection to the natural world, where oases and life survive in an otherwise barren environment. Villages edge the sands, fires bring comfort to the nights, and panoramas sweep across a sea of waving dunes that highlight quiet signs of existence and showcase new ways we can get in touch with nature.

Highlights: Draa Valley • Merzouga • Erg Chebbi • Erg Chigaga

Pairs well with: Fes • Marrakech

Learn more: Morocco Tours & VacationsMorocco Travel Guide

How Many Days Should I Spend in the Middle East and North Africa?

Jerusalem old city in Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Ten days in the Middle East and North Africa is enough to experience the highlights of the greater region or a specific country.

With 10 days, you can explore the ancient wonders of Egypt, the natural splendor of Turkey, the medians of Morocco, the Biblical history of Israel, or the mixture of gorges and ruins in Jordan.

If you have more than 10 days, you can combine multiple countries, visiting iconic places in countries that pair well together.

Explore the Best Places to Visit in the Middle East and North Africa

Sehzade mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Marvel at the colors inside a Moroccan souk. Wander the desert on a camel over iconic sand dunes. Bask beneath the unending starlight that sweeps to the horizon.

The architecture, vibrant streets, and majestic ambiance from the desert to the sea create endless possibilities to experience. Discover your inspiration with our sample itineraries that demonstrate ways you can enjoy your Middle East & North Africa Tours and Vacations. Find more information on activities you can experience during your trip with our Top 12 Things to Do in the Middle East & North Africa.

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