Cruising the Nile River to discover ancient Egypt monuments
Egypt is a truly fascinating country full of ancient monuments ranging from the majestic pyramids in the north to the borders with Sudan where the spectacular temple of Abu Simbel is located, Unesco heritage site and one of our favourites. One of the best way to enjoy the country ad its marvellous attractions is to book a cruise on the Nile River, the longest river in the world, flowing north from Lake Victoria through Uganda, Sudan, and Egypt. The Nile has always played a crucial role in Egyptian culture, trade and agriculture, and several most significant ancient temples and monuments were built alongside the river.
When to go
The best period for a Nile cruise is from November to February when the day temperatures are cooler and better for visiting the temples. If you also visit Cairo and north Egypt during the winter months, in this area of the country the weather is a bit colder. From June to September, during the peak summer months, the cruise is not recommended due to the intense heat in Luxor and Aswan.
Information about the Nile River Cruise
The tourist boats travel 200 km from Luxor to Aswan (or vice versa), touching incredible sights that include ancient temples, tombs, and local villages. A cruise is also charming and interesting as it allows you to experience the rhythms of daily life watching beautiful scenery and wildlife pass you by.
How to book
The cruise can easily be booked online. Just google “Nile River Cruise” and you’ll find plenty of tour operators offering different cruises and options. The classic cruise lasts 4 days but a complete tour is about 8 days as it’s combined, for example, with the visit of Abu Simbel and Cairo or with a few relaxing days in Sharm el Sheik, Hurghada or Marsa Alam. We highly suggest visiting Abu Simbel and Cairo as they boast marvellous monuments and attractions.
You can have a look at the web platforms Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com where the local operators advertise cruises and activities.
The most common boats to cruise the Nile river are like floating hotels. They feature several decks and some of them can even be luxurious. The upper decks house the en suite cabins (double or triple) while the lower deck houses the restaurant. The cuisine onboard is international, but also includes typical local dishes. The price includes the full board. The top deck, known as the Sun deck, usually features a relaxing area with a swimming pool, a bar, sun loungers and chairs. The cruise often includes a day or two in a felucca, the traditional wooden sailboats with white canvas sails, and excursions to key sites such as Kom Ombo and Edfu. There is also a small number of steamships travelling the Nile River, often restored historic vessels that provide a cool stylish trip.
How much does a Nile river cruise cost?
There are several different Nile cruises available (standard, luxury and superior luxury) and many operators offering the trip, each of which can complement a wider tour of Egypt. The prices for a standard cruise can range from 300 USD per person for a 4-day cruise to 1000 USD (or more) if you want to combine the visit of Cairo and Abu Simbel or some relaxing day to the stunning Red Sea. The tour usually includes a full board and all the accommodations. The international flights and some optional excursions are not included. Although many Nile cruises could also include domestic flights or train tickets in the price to reach the starting point, and entrance tickets to monuments, others do not, so make sure you check the details before departing. For example, we spent about 1000 USD for our 8-day tour which included a 4-day cruise and a visit to Cairo and Abu Simbel.
How to reach Luxor or Aswan
If your tour doesn’t include the internal flight, the easiest way to reach both cities is to catch a flight from Cairo but, in case, you can also take the train even though it’s a long journey. The overnight sleeper train ride from Cairo to Luxor lasts 10 hours, whereas the ride from Cairo to Aswan lasts 13 hours.
Remember to purchase travel insurance that protects you against injuries (the US’s medical expenses are very high), illness and theft. We never go on a trip without it. We suggest Worldnomad.com, an insurance company with qualified customer service, competitive prices and in-depth coverage.
Our Cruise on the Nile River
Among the many options, we decided to book the 8-day tour combined with Cairo and Abu Simbel. It was a nice and relaxing trip, well arranged and everything was alright.
DAY 1 – LUXOR
We arrive in the late evening, landing in the small Luxor airport surrounded by the desert and once collected our backpack, we head to the harbour by taxi to reach our boat. We are ready to sail along one of the longest rivers in the world, in a country full rich of history and spectacular monuments.
DAY 2 – LUXOR
After waking up early in the morning, we head to the Temple of Karnak, a large complex dedicated to the God Amun with a series of temples, statues, halls and walls decorated in an amazing way. The morning is gone and it is very hot; we take shelter in the shade where we have lunch, before keep going with our trip which includes a visit to the Temple of Luxor, dedicated by Amenhotep III to the Sun god Amun-Ra, to his wife Mut and his son Khonsu. This architectural masterpiece was adorned with obelisks and later one of them was given to Louis Philippe of France and you can still admire it in the “Place de la Concorde” in Paris. Towards evening, after enjoying the Luxor Museum and the sunset on the Nile and had dinner on the boat, we decide to walk around the streets of the city totally deserted and with no attractions but with an incredible charm.
DAY 3 – LUXOR / ESNA
Starting at dawn, our visit includes a must-see: the Necropolis of Ancient Thebes. This incredible UNESCO heritage site, located between Luxor and Karnak, is very huge and we can admire the famous temples dedicated to Hatshepsut, Mentuhotep II and Tuthmosis II, Merneptah, Ramses IV, Tuthmosis III, Tuthmosis IV, Tworset, Nebwenenef, Amenhotep II and Seti I. In addition, the Necropolis has two of the most famous places in the country, very picturesque and surrounded by mystery, where we can see can the famous tomb of Tutankhamon: the Valley of the Kings and the Queens. After this really interesting day, we go back to the boat, ready to sail to Esna enjoying the Nile.
DAY 4 – ESNA / EDFU / KOM OMBO
After sailing at the night, we arrive in Esna and we go straight to visit the temple dedicated to Khnum, the God with the head of Ram, then we back on the boat and continue the itinerary to Edfu located not far from Esna. In the afternoon, after docking, we visit the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus, the God with the falcon head, whose statue dominates the courtyard. It’s really suggestive, we can breathe the history and charm of this incredible ancient civilization. But the day is not over yet: we start again with our boat to reach approximately 65 km away, the beautiful city of Kom Ombo, where, in the evening we visit the Ptolemaic-Roman Temple, dedicated to the crocodile God Sobek and Haroeris, one of the solar manifestations of Horus. The charm of the night embraces this temple illuminated inside with an embalmed Nile crocodile and characterized by a particular architectural style as each element is represented twice.
DAY 5 – KOM OMBO / ASWAN
We wake up with an amazing sunrise after sailing all night long and now we are in Aswan, once an important commercial – military centre and today also a tourists spot: here we can visit the Aswan High Dam which extends itself for 500 km along the Nile River and covers an area of 6,000 km2, of which northern two-thirds, known as Lake Nasser, is in Egypt and one-third, called Lake Nubia, in Sudan. We continue by visiting the Unfinished Obelisk and then the Temple of Philae dedicated to god Isis: the beauty of this temple was saved from the waters of the lake through an ingenious work and it was moved from the previous position about 500 meters away and 30 higher.
DAY 6 – ASWAN / ABU SIMBEL / ASWAN / AL CAIRO
Wake up early in the morning when it’s still dark and we are preparing to leave the boat to head with a minibus to Aswan airport and take a flight to Abu Simbel: a must-see spot in Egypt. The temples of Ramses II and his favourite wife Nefertari are among the largest architectural complexes of the Nile Valley. Also, in this case, they made a salvage operation and the temples are higher compared to their initial place, in order to not be submerged by the Nasser Lake. We also visit the Nubian Museum, where important evidence of the Lower Nubia, can be observed (nowadays is submerged by the lake). After the visit finishes, we head to the airport, in order to take two flights which will take us to the Capital: Al Cairo. Once arrived there, we head to the most known area of the city where we grab something to eat and have a walk: the popular Khan el-Khalili Souk.
DAY 7 – AL CAIRO
Wake up in the capital, with the sun not raised yet, we are ready to go to discover the secrets of this fascinating city full of monuments and attractions. We start with the visit of one of the Wonders of the World, a place full of history and mystery: Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Solar Boat! After the visit in this spectacular area, we continue to Memphis and then to the Necropolis of Sakkara with the museum of Imhotep and the first pyramid ever built in the country, the Mastaba. Back to the centre of the city, we dedicate the rest of the evening to dine in a typical Egyptian restaurant, before enjoying a delicious karkadé on the road, while watching the folklore of the city, which, even in the night, is always full of life.
DAY 8 – AL CAIRO
Today we dedicate the entire morning to the beautiful and immense Egyptian Museum, full of precious artefacts including the incredible Hall of Mummies, where you can admire some ancient Egyptian pharaohs. After the visit we continue to explore the capital by visiting the major sites of the city such as the Citadel, the Mosque of Mohamed Ali and Ibn el Qalawn, a factory that produces the papyrus, then we go to Khan el-Khalili Souk, where we eat and enjoy the evening!
Day 9 – CAIRO
It is the last day and we decide to walk around the crowded streets of the city centre, taking a few pics and buying the last gifts, before heading to the airport: we had a great time and intense days discovering an amazing country rich in history and beautiful places!
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