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
Arrival in Khartoum expected in the late afternoon/night. Meet and greet with the guide and transfer to the hotel, dinner NOT included. Overnight Grand Holiday Villa or similar.

Day 2 / Khartoum – Tam Tam - Western Desert (Approximate travelling distance - 250 KM)
Breakfast at the hotel and then enjoy a short tour of Khartoum. We follow the Blue Nile near the Presidential Palace where in 1885 General Gordon was beheaded by 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 (the visit to the Museum may be moved to the last day according to opening times). We then cross the confluence between the Blue and the White Nile and we reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan, where we see Mahdi’s tomb from the outside and Khalifa’s house Museum (closed on Mondays). Later this morning we begin the journey northward through the Western Desert. We travel for about 200 km on asphalt road and stop at Tam Tam a "chai house", literally tea house, a sort of very Spartan "motorway restaurant" in the desert where local truck drivers usually stop for a quick meal and some rest. Later in the afternoon we leave the road and we find a nice place to camp under the incredible African night sky. Overnight in wild camp. (BLD)

Day 3 - 4 / Wadi el Milk - Western Desert – Oasis of El Bab (Approximate travelling distance - 280 km)
We drive westward through the desert and reach Wadi El Milk, where we find many acacia trees and sometimes Bisharin nomads settlements around the few water wells. Then driving north we cross a wide area of small sand dunes where it is easy to get stuck in the sand so you may be asked to help push!  We reach a mysterious fortress in the middle of the desert: Gala Abu Hamed was discovered by a German archaeological expedition less than 10 years ago and dates to Napatean time (700-400 B.C.). The ruins of the fortress are mainly huge boundary walls of about 100 m, now partially covered by sand. The place was probably used as a trade post for the caravans coming from Central Africa to the Nile. 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 the desert called by our drivers Jebel Peak. Here we can see some interesting prehistoric rock engravings. From here, we reach a small beautiful oasis rich in palm trees among the dunes where we will set up camp. (BLD)

Day 5 / El Bab – Dongola - Western Desert (Approximate driving distance - 150 km)
Today we continue east and we reach the town of Dongola, on the Nile, the most important settlement of North Sudan. We stock up for the following days. Lunch will be in a small local restaurant. This afternoon, we drive north along the new road that leads to the Egyptian border. We enter the desert and traverse areas of rock overlapping granite boulders: resembling perhaps a playground for giants! We look for nice place to set up our wild camp (BLD)

Day 6 - 7 / Western Desert – Temple of Soleb - Amara West (Approximate driving distance - 200 km)
We leave the road and we reach the villages along the Nile among the mountains of the Third Cataract. We visit a medieval fort (Marakol) where the view of the river and the Cataract is quite beautiful. Crossing a mountain desert, we reach the road that leads to the Temple of Soleb, surely the most beautiful Egyptian temple in all 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 dating back to 1500 BC. Here we will spend the night in a typical and simple Nubian house. The next day continue north visiting Jebel Dosha where on a rock we can see Egyptian stelae of Thutmosis III. We continue north along the new asphalt road reaching the Nile near the vestiges of Amara West, an archaeological site currently excavated by a team from the British Museum, where we visit the remains of an ancient Egyptian town. Overnights wild camping (BLD)

Day 8 / Amara – Dal Cataract – Wester desert (Approximate driving distance - 150 km)
We drive close to the Nile in an area where the sand reaches the shore of the river. For this reason there are no fields and of course no villages. We will be able to see the rocks on the Nile that create the rapids of the Dal Cataract. We also will have the chance to see some Nubian villages where the local people rarely see foreigners. Overnight Wild Camp (BLD)

Day 9 - 10 / Delgo - 3rd Cataract – Tombos – Kerma – Nubian Villages (Approximate driving distance - 230 km)
After breakfast we continue northward and we cross the Nile by small ferry. These ferries are a hive of local activity. We find ourselves sharing space with people, donkeys, camels and goats (in case the ferry does not operate on our crossing day, we return south to cross the Nile near Delgo without any changes to the visits and inclusions). Continue south along the road that connects Khartoum to Wadi Halfa, the docking port of ferries from Aswan. We pass the village of Delgo, and reach the granite boulders of the Third Cataract which used to be the third huge obstacle that the ancient Egyptians had to face when trying to sail on the Nile. We then reach the village of Tombos and see the remains of ancient granite quarries and a statue of King Taharqa, simply left there in the desert 3000 years ago. On the banks of the Nile we can see some Egyptian stelae and inscriptions. This was the southern border of the ancient Egyptian kingdom for centuries. We stop in Kerma to visit the majestic “Defuffa” and the rest of this ancient civilization together with the little museum founded by Charles Bonnet where see the seven beautiful statues of the kings discovered by the Swiss archaeological mission less than ten years ago. Continuing southward along the Nile we get into 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. Dinners and overnights in wild camp (BLD)

Day 11 / Old Dongola - Nubian Desert - Karima – El Kurru (Approximate driving distance - 200 km)
Driving south we reach the archaeological site of Old Dongola, where the ruins of a suggestive Christian Coptic temple with marble columns as well as several churches are situated on the banks of the Nile. We reach the small town of Karima located at the foot of Jebel Barkal. A landmark in the Nubian Desert, Jebel Barkal can be seen from many miles away 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. Besides the ruins of the big temple there are still several sculptured granite rams that were supposed to border a long avenue that probably led toa pier on the Nile. In the mountain wall there is a big room decorated with bas-relief. The Jebel Barkal archaeological sites are on the World Heritage list. After the visit we visit the site of El Kurru where there is one of the necropolises of the ancient capital Napata. Here we can visit one of the two tombs excavated in the rock under the pyramids - partially collapsed. They are totally decorated with amazing images of the Pharaoh, of the gods and multicolor 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 (BLD)

Kindly note that tonight there is an option to upgrade to a lovely guesthouse where you can enjoy a warm welcome and some added comfort. Please contact us as early as possible if you wish to upgrade.

Day 12 / Karima – cruise along the Nile - Bayuda Desert – Atrun crater (Approximate driving distance 120 km)
We stop in town to stock up. Then we take a cruise along the river among the remaining rocks of the 4th Cataract and explore the small islands and sandy beaches along the Nile. Arriving on the other shore of the Nile we will meet the vehicles and continue to reach the site of Nuri where several pyramids stand out near the mighty river. Among these we find also the one of the great Taharqa. Take a walk among these atmospheric ancient ruins before starting to cross the Bayuda Desert, the area bounded by the loop formed by the Nile between the 4th and the 6th Cataract and characterized by sharp black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic and typically cone-shaped. It is very likely to come across groups of Hassanya e Manasir nomads, who live in groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to the rare water wells, with their caravans and herds of camels and cattle. We reach Atrun Crater, where nomads gather salt from the edge of a green colored pool. They collect the salt and load it on camels or donkeys, then move in small caravans to sell it in the markets of the villages along the Nile, a customs that has remained unchanged for centuries. Overnight wild camping (BLD)

Day 13 / Bayuda Desert – Meroe (Approximate driving distances - 220 km)
Today we finish crossing the Bayuda and cross the Nile on a local ferry-boat. On the far shore we drive until seemingly out of nowhere, we can spot the amazing sight of more than 40 pyramids, located on top of a hill, some of them perfectly preserved that belong to the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. Dinner and overnight in wild camp near the pyramids (BLD)

Kindly note that tonight there is an option to upgrade to a lovely comfortable tented camp with proper furnished tents with beds where you can enjoy a warm welcome and some added comfort. Please contact us as early as possible if you wish to upgrade.

Day 14 / Meroe – Mussawarat - Naga (Approximate driving distance - 130 km)
The Royal necropolis of Meroe is located around 3 km away from the Nile on 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 camp (BLD)

Day 15 / Naga – Omdurman - Khartoum (Approximate driving distance - 150 km)
We begin the day exploring the ancient site of Naga, which is located about 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 notice Egyptian, Roman and Greek styles. 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. This afternoon we reach and visit Omdurman souk. At sunset we move near the tomb of the sufi leader Ahmed al Nil to observe the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony (only on Fridays). Rooms are available until 21.00. Dinner NOT included. Later this 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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