June 26, 2015

Four Ancient Sites Around the World That You Need to See

The world is full of amazing things from animals and architecture to jungles and restaurants. While these are all great things to work into any travel itinerary, sometimes the best sites are ancient. There are a few places that contain incredible feats of human ingenuity from thousands of years ago. When traveling to places such as Egypt, Turkey, China, or Croatia it’s important to take in as much history as you can through your travels. At Thomson Family Adventures we truly appreciate the past and embrace the beauty in those things ancient. Here are a few historical sites that everyone should see in their lifetime.

The Great Pyramid of Giza


Another very popular site among world travelers is the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is the oldest and the largest of the pyramids in Giza. It is also the oldest of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and the only one that still remains. This single pyramid was built between 10 and 20 years and was finished around 2560 BC. For over 3,800 years this was also the tallest man made structure in the world! Although there is plenty of tangible evidence about who the builders of this temple were, like inscriptions from the workers on the inside of the stones, many people still believe that an alien source is responsible for its construction. What do you think— human strength and ingenuity or aliens!?

The Great Wall of China

Great Wall

This is one of the most visited destinations in the world and not by accident. The Great Wall of China was built in sections that date as far back 220 BC. Once the wall was fully completed, it stretched 13,171 miles across China and is still the largest man made structure in the world. This is an impressive feat considering the technological advances that the world has seen. Although it is no longer used as a main defense system, it is still awe-inspiring and should not be missed!

The Old City Walls of Dubrovnik


Croatia is a beautiful country and the city of Dubrovnik has been around since the beginning. As long as Dubrovnik has been around so have the old city walls. During Byzantine rule in the 7th Century, these walls were built to defend the city and they were quite effective. In fact, it is considered one of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages since the walls were never breached during that time. The walls were continuously expanded and fortified up until the 17th Century.  In 1979 the Old City of Dubrovnik, which contains most sections of the Old Walls, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Underground City of Kaymakli


In the middle of Turkey in Cappadocia is a large network of underground tunnels and rooms that together comprise the city of Kaymakli. This intricate system contains hundreds of tunnels and goes eight stories deep into the ground. The tunnels run to caverns that were turned into meeting places and chapels; some rooms could hold as many as 300 people! Thousands of people used this city as a hide out during times of war. Today Kaymakli’s tunnels are not just a tourist attraction; a town built in the area still uses parts of the underground city as storage space, stables, and cellars. Can you imagine living underground for months at a time!

Call us today to find out how you can see these sites and so much more on your next family vacation!

February 7, 2012

Crocodiles in Egypt!

This guy is not mummified. Yet.

Who knew crocodiles had such a revered place in history??

The first “Museum of Crocodiles” is to open in front of the Temple of Kom Ombo in Aswan, Egypt coinciding with Aswan’s National Day. The museum will display a collection of mummified crocodiles, and statues of the god Sobek, the crocodile god, as the Ancient Egyptian worshipped him believing that he was the creator of the world who arose from the “Dark Water”. For that reason they built the temples in Kom Ombo, Esna, Fayoum and in other areas.

A total of twenty two mummified crocodiles of various sizes: from the smallest, 1.5 meters long, to the real giants of almost five meters of length will be exhibited. The display shows the crocodiles in its natural environment, as well as another display of a burial place for the crocodiles, showing how they were mummified and buried, eyes and teeth from gold and ivory that replaced the crocodile’s own after its death, as well as coffins from clay and an altar where the crocodiles were placed for worship.

In the museum, visitors will also view twenty statues and plaques on the worshipping of the crocodiles including the god Sobek. This museum is considered one of the largest in the world for crocodiles.


December 7, 2011

Is it the Right Time to Visit Egypt? If You are the Right Family, YES!

kids at the pyramid

How big is the Great Pyramid?

We had a family visit Egypt over Thanksgiving. Just a mom and a daughter, determined to realize their dream of witnessing history as it stands, as pyramids and temples and desert. They were just plain old excited to be going. When they got back, this is what mom Liz had to say:

“We had a FABULOUS trip to Egypt!

In a nutshell — NOW IS A TERRIFIC TIME TO GO TO EGYPT! It seems counter-intuitive with demonstrations so frequently in the news but it’s true! The demonstrations tend to take place only in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. My 10 year old daughter and I were actually in Egypt during the most recent demonstrations and we NEVER ONCE felt the least bit concerned or nervous. First of all, the first few days of our trip we were staying at the Mena House Oberoi in Giza outside of Cairo. One day we drove through Cairo to see the Citadel, the Alabaster mosque of Mohammed Ali and the Khan el-Khalili bazaar — none of which is near Tahrir Square. On another day we went to the Egyptian Museum to see the mummies of the pharaohs and treasures of Tutankhamun. The museum is right off of Tahrir Square but our excellent driver was clever and took us to/from the museum on a small side street. My daughter didn’t even know there were people in the square and we had the museum practically to ourselves! In the room full of the actual Tutankhamun treasures there were only 2 other tourists! We had a similar experience at the pyramids of Giza. When we climbed up inside the Great Pyramid to the actual tomb we were the only ones there! We saw two other tourists as we were climbing back down. I have pictures of Abu Simbel, the pyramids and other famous sites without a single tourist in them.

All of the Egyptian people were incredibly friendly and gracious and English was spoken by practically everyone we met. Some of the highlights for us were dinner with my daughter’s pen pal in their home, climbing up inside the Great Pyramid, sailing in a felucca at sunset on the Nile, seeing the treasures of Tutankhamun in a quiet and relaxed environment, and the visit to the carpet school where we got to do a few stitches ourselves and my daughter played soccer with 4 or 5 Egyptian girls.

Our guide, Amira, was TOTALLY AWESOME. Her English was outstanding and her knowledge of all things Egyptian was incredible. Moreover she was thoughtful. For example, realizing that we were totally exhausted one day she suggested we get some Egyptian koshari (a type of macaroni casserole) for dinner in containers to take back to our room. Another example — I said I was interested in buying some spices and she called ahead to a local store that she knew of to make sure it was open and then we swung by for 15 minutes where I bought my spices and took several pictures. She even negotiated the prices of our souvenirs for us!

Roughly 50% of Egypt’s economy is driven by tourism. One way to help Egypt get back on it’s feet is to go there!”

What more can we say?

November 7, 2011

Egypt! A Miracle Offer for December Travelers.


If you are bold, adventurous and you really want to get off the beaten path… if you don’t yet have plans for your December holiday…How about something extraordinary? How about visiting Egypt at a super serious discount? How about below cost?!

Like, $2990 per person, plus the local flights of $400 adult, and $300 under age 12 for 9 days in Egypt, on our scheduled itinerary. Why would we do this? Here is our story.

We know the scoop. We know there has been some stuff going on in Egypt. Since last January we’ve watched this exotic and wonderful destination slide from one of our most popular to one of our most avoided. Well not completely – families still ask about it, and want to know about it – but they aren’t quite comfortable enough to go for it. Even though the travel warnings are lifted, and our colleagues in Egypt are confident they can provide something safe, comfortable, easy, and oh-so-special for your family. And for $700 less per person this year over December 2010! But still, it feels hard for most of you (exception: the excited family heading there for Thanksgiving! Yay!)

Case in Point: Not a single tourist has been harmed since the January 25, 2011 uprising, and Egypt has consistently and publicly declared that tourists will be safe. Because tourism is their biggest economy, and because they really want us to come visit.

So we decided to Go For It. We’re going to step up and help our friends. The heck with Margins and Spreadsheets and Business. We love our colleagues in Egypt, and they’ve been waiting for too long for the opportunity to have honorable work to support their families. So we’ve decided to send you off at Below Our Cost.

This means you still have a US partner who speaks your language and will help you prepare for this great adventure For Free. We’ll spend time on the phone, we’ll mail you information. For Free. Because we want to support our local colleagues in Egypt right now, when they are ready for work.

You’ll have every perk we normally include – airport transfers, included visas, bottled water, fabulous hotels, entrance to the Great Pyramid, access to the most wonderful sites, delicious food, trip insurance. You’ll be cared for every step of the way. We’ll organize all of this for you. You’ll pay only for the effort our colleagues in Egypt – who need this work so much – will provide. Thomson Family Adventures will donate our time, our resources, our postage, and our knowledge of the glories of Egypt, to help you plan for a real trip of a lifetime.

Is this for you? Do you want to be one of the first to visit this burgeoning new Egypt, without the crowds of past years? Do you love a bargain?? Call us now. This offer is good for any date planned for our family itinerary December 2011 or January 2012. We want to help you have a great time in Egypt! 800-262-6255

June 9, 2011

Lost and Found in Egypt

oh the mystery of a pyramid

So the obvious comment is, how can you lose a pyramid? But time and landscape changes have done it. And now, with new age infra-red technology, from space no less, these lost pyramids have been found.

From the sky, 17 pyramids have been discovered along with 1000 tombs and 3000 settlements. Egyptian authorities were skeptical at first, but early excavations have proven the existence of two of the pyramids – leading them to now believe this is an accurate technology.

Who spearheaded this project? US Egyptologist Dr Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama who, along with a team of colleagues, dedicated herself to a year of space archaeology. The whole story is told in a BBC documentary, slated to be aired in the USA the end of June 2011.

Don’t you wonder, what inspired Dr. Parcak as she was growing up, to pursue this career?? Something in her childhood brought her here. While we as parents might remember the first walk on the moon, now our children can witness the new discoveries space exploration along with the latest technology delivers. What a gift we give our children, exposing them to new ideas and far away worlds.

Please be sure to share this fascinating discovery with your kids!

March 1, 2011

US DEPT OF STATE Lifts Travel Warning for Egypt

Tourism resumes in Egypt! Notes from the Egyptian Tourism Authority:

Lifting of Travel Warnings:

The Swedish ministry of Foreign affairs announced Feb. 23 the lifting of its advisory against travelling to Egypt.

The British Foreign Office has changed its travel alert. It no longer advises against travel to Cairo (all four governorates, including Giza), Alexandria, and Suez.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry has lifted its travel advisory against travelling to Luxor & Aswan on Feb. 22.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Bern, Switzerland has lifted the travel warning to the Egyptian beach resorts on the Red Sea as of Feb. 21.

Austria has lifted the travel warning to the Egyptian resorts on the Red Sea.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs lifted its travel advisory to the Egyptian resorts on the Red Sea.

The Foreign Ministry of Belgium lifted on Feb. 21 its travel advisory against travelling to the Nile Valley, Luxor & Aswan).

The Foreign Ministry of Finland has lifted its travel advisory against travelling the Red Sea Resorts.

The Italian government has lifted its travel advisory against travelling the Red Sea Resorts on February 16, 2011.

German Foreign affairs announced the lifting of the advisory against travelling to Egypt.

Holland of the Netherlands lifted the advice against Luxor & Aswan.

Other Important News:

The Swiss Tour Operator, “FTI shall resume bookings in March for travel to Egypt. FTI has been in regular contact with Swiss based tour operators to ensure that guest arrivals start in March.

EgyptAir resumes flights between Copenhagen – Cairo

Grand Circle, GoWay Inc., and IsramWorld will resume tour operations to Egypt this March

The U.S. Department of State continues to alert U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Egypt but has lifted its warning (dated February 6, 2011) of avoiding travel to Egypt.

February 20, 2011

Uplifting Egypt; New Hope Ahead

The Great Pyramid of Giza. And the Sphinx too.

Through the last several weeks of uncertain change in Egypt we have all been watching carefully and with great interest. Not just because Egypt is one of our most popular destinations for families, but also because we are close to many Egyptians who take care of these families when they visit. Office personnel, transfer guides, drivers, Egyptologist guides. Camel drivers. Mt Sinai guides. All of these people work tirelessly and graciously to take care of our visiting families, and now they too just sit and wait and see what comes next. It makes the politics of change very personal to Thomson Family Adventures.

Thankfully we have been in contact with all of our colleagues in Egypt, and are grateful to know everyone we work with is safe and unharmed. But the worry of loss of their livelihood, the sadness that tourists are afraid to visit their country, rings in the sound of their voices.

We are heartened and excited by good news coming from the Egyptian Tourism Authority, and hope our friends in Egypt are too. Statements like:

“Tourism interest is already rebounding, leading to guarded optimism and predictions of more bookings during the peak season of April and May from many tour operators and Nile cruise companies. Some US tour operators have started booking flights for as soon as February 24th”

In addition, Cairo’s international airport received 189 flights from a variety of countries in just one day last week; a sure sign that things are returning to normal. All of the tourist sights have reopened, and many countries have already lifted their advisories against traveling to Egypt.

We want to let you know Egypt is a wonderful adventure for families and we know the Egyptians see hope in this revolution. They hope it will bring new opportunities and strength, not just to their country but to their tourism too. And so we watch and listen, and look forward to the day we’ll return to embrace our friends once again.

May 27, 2010

Remember the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano?

Gayle and Matthew

…Well, so do Gayle Botti and her grandson, en route to Egypt. Thanks to luck, good humor, and our included trip cancellation insurance this story has a happy ending! Gayle is a travel agent at Let’s Travel in Santa Monica CA. Her specialty is ‘unusual trips’ – and this was no exception. Her letter follows in its entirety:

“First I would like to thank you and everyone at Thomson Family Adventures for the most wonderful travel experience I could ask for. It was truly incredible and so worry free.

I recently took my 11 year old grandson to Egypt for 10days on Egypt – Valley of the Nile. I told my 3 grandchildren that when they turned 10 years old I would take them on a trip anywhere in the world they want to go. Matthew being the oldest has always wanted to go to Egypt so that is why we went there.

We did get delayed in Frankfurt, Germany because of the volcano eruption in Iceland for four days. Everyone at Thomson was on top of it and said I would be able to pick up the tour whenever we arrived. Fortunately I had us arriving in Cairo a day before we would meet the group and also stay a day after the tour ended. Beth, at Thomson kept in touch with my daughter, Matthew’s mother, in Rochester, New York with the latest happenings. Mohammed in Cairo also called my daughter to reassure her we would be taken care of.

By the time we finally left Frankfurt the group of 8 – 4 adults and 4 children, ages 9, 11 and 14 were already in Sharm el Sheikh. Well Matthew was in his element because now there were 4 boys, three of whom were 11 years old and one girl. Shortly after our plane from Frankfurt arrived in Cairo we were met my Mohammed and taken to dinner. He told us that we were confirmed on a 10:30 p.m. flight to Sharm el Sheikh but he was trying to get us on the earlier flight at 8:30 p.m. As it turned out we made the earlier flight and Mohammed never left our side until he saw to it that we were on the plane. What service is unheard of!

Matthew did miss the snorkeling in the Red Sea. He was disappointed at first but once he met the other children in our group he quickly got over it especially when he saw the Red Sea wasn’t really red! From then on we joined in the scheduled tour.

Now for a word on why Thomson is the very best in my estimation. Not only was our guide, Randa, top notch but the mentor, Temer, was fantastic. He kept the kids entertained and happy the entire time including eating with them at all meals and letting the adults eat together. Every day Thomson had some little gift for the kids to open. How they looked forward to that! Every time I asked a question about our air schedule on the return flights I was told not to worry just enjoy the trip! When they say don’t worry they will take care of everything, they mean it and you really have no reason to worry. That is so important to me. I seem to worry about everything! Another wonderful part of the trip was for the dinners we were able to order from the menu. A fabulous touch! Hotels were wonderful – all 5 star and great locations, the vans were always very clean and the drivers very professional. Snacks, water and soft drinks were provided everyday. No need to pack any munchies for the kids. There was plenty for everyone. We were even given coins to use the public restrooms. Honestly, they left no stone unturned!!!!!

I was told by Thomson to save all my receipts from Frankfurt and whatever out of pocket expenses I incurred would be reimbursed by their insurance company. What a nice feeling that was. On our last day in Cairo, which should have been on our own, Thomson said we could make up the full day of sightseeing that we missed at the beginning of our trip including meeting Matthew’s Pen Pal at the Pyramids. We had our own van, driver and guide for the entire day. Mohammed reconfirmed our return reservations for us and for the flights home all went well.

Now on a personal note, Matthew’s brother, Robert will turn 10 in November. After hearing Matthew and me talk about the trip and of TFA he asked me when it is his turn will I chose Thomson or look around for another tour. I don’t think I have to tell you what my answer was! It looks like I’ll be contacting Thomson for a trip to Tanzania in the not to distant future!

I didn’t just take Matthew on a trip, I created a memory for him that will last forever. I am very fortunate to have accomplished what I had hoped to do and I can thank Thomson for making this come true!

Thanks again for a truly wonderful experience. Look forward to working with you again.

All the best,


May 10, 2010

The Power of the Great Pyramid. And an iPhone.

the procession to the Great Pyramid

Thanks to the Sanger Family for sharing their story.

Our first day in Cairo, we visited The Great Pyramid in Giza. Only 200 people are allowed in each day and we were one of the lucky ones. It’s not for the faint of heart, believe me. A long, narrow ascent through a three-foot high tunnel, followed by a steeper climb up many steps to the ancient burial tomb. All the while breathing a warm, stale air – trying to imagine how this mammoth structure was created and how the tomb raiders were able to loot the place dry.

Joining myself, wife Kim, son Matt and daughter Julia were the LoPicollo’s – Greg, Gayle, Sam and Joe – our wonderful traveling partners for the week. Once we reached the burial tomb – we were the only people in the place! The group ahead of us had already vacated the room and nobody was making the ascent behind us. We had this amazing piece of history to ourselves. You could almost feel the ancient spirits in the darkened room.

Soon Sam began humming, before too long we all joined in, harmonizing an eerie sound that echoed through the empty chamber. So I whipped out my trusty iPhone. Now, you aren’t allowed to take photos in the pyramid, but you can certainly record! I tapped open the voice recorder, pressed record and came away with this.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

As we listened to it later, a smile came to all our faces, remembering the moment. That will be an experience none of us will ever forget – the Sangers and the LoPicollos. And to think, it was only the start of one of the greatest adventures of our lives.

April 7, 2010

St Catherine’s Monastery

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

At Thomson Family Adventures we always try to mix up the must-see sights with the lesser traveled path. This is especially true in Egypt where we begin in Cairo, end in Luxor, and in the middle: Sharm el Sheik! This gives all ages a breather from the antiquities and dense history of the pharaohs, and gives the hearty an opportunity to climb to the top of Mt Sinai, sometimes even for a sunrise or sunset view from the summit.

At the foot of Mt Sinai is St Catherine’s Monastery, the oldest working Christian monastery in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. St Catherine’s was built on the site where Moses saw the burning bush, and the original still grows here today. Let’s just say this is a pretty fascinating spot!

This Easter week we had a small group of Thomson guests scheduled to be at Mt Sinai when the monastery was closed for the holidays. Luckily we managed to pull off a private visit for our families. They were greeted and escorted by Father Johnston, the most important monk at the monastery, and given a very special look at the history and workings of this ancient, sacred place. Eventually Father Johnston did relinquish his tour guide status back to our guide Mohamed, but not before wowing the group with his unique perspective.

Even without this sort of private escort through history the visit to Mt Sinai is considered the unexpected high point of Egypt. Oops, am I ruining the surprise? Well perhaps you’d like to come find out for yourselves…

The journey to get to Mt Sinai and St Catherine’s as well as the climb itself all offer some challenges, but give us a call and we’ll be glad to help you figure out if this is the right trip of a lifetime for your family. Beth and Nancy both have first hand experience in Egypt and would be glad to speak with you about it. 800-262-6255