Located along the banks of the Nile, Aswan is a peaceful and welcoming city that will provide a peaceful getaway when you arrive from Luxor or Cairo. Once an ancient Egyptian gateway to Africa, it is the perfect starting point for exploring temples, monuments and other tourist attractions in southern Egypt and in the distinctly Nubian culture of the region. Many of these can be taken on day trips to Aswan.
The best way to discover the magic of Aswan is by exploring aboard a felucca (traditional sailing ship) and the city from the water highway that once was an important commercial post for Aswan. The river here is surrounded by picturesque islands with muddy brick villages and is surrounded by huge sand dunes on the west coast. All of this is incredibly photogenic, especially at sunset, when late sailing boats migrate into the water and the river glows in the setting sun. Plan your trip with a list of the best things to do in Aswan.
1. Elephantine Island
Elephantine Island is Aswan’s main tourist attraction, with palm tree plantations and colorful mud-brick houses with sloping villages. At the southern end, the Aswan Museum and Abu Ruins , Aswan’s oldest settlement, include the Khnum Ancient Temple and the Satet Temple . The museum building, in a beautiful late-19th-century villa, is partially open, with a collection of artifacts from the history of Elephantine Island to the Roman era.
On the east coast, near the ruins and between the steps, is Aswan Nilometer . The ancient Egyptians measured the rise and fall of the Nile in these stonewalled wells, allowing them to estimate the height of the annual flood and thus predict the success of the harvest.
Once you’re done exploring the ruins, head north to the island to reveal the back streets of the Koti and Siou villages , where the houses are painted in vibrant color. Sheep graze and chickens in the narrow alleys, and farmers have been to their gardens for centuries. From a boat on the west side of Siou Island, you can take a cruise to Kitchener Island . Now officially called Aswan Botanical Garden (though no one calls it), this island was owned by Lord Kitchener, who transformed it into a vegetable garden of exotic plants from Asia and Africa.
There are frequent local ferries from the boat to downtown Aswan to Elephantine, or you can rent a ferry around the island.
2. The Nubian Museum
The rather fantastic Nubian Museum of Aswan is one of the best in Egypt and for anyone interested in the history and culture of ancient and modern Nubia. It documents the richness of culture that all of us ran out of when building the Aswan Dam and creating Lake Nasser . It has an excellent collection of the Kingdom of Kush (Ancient Nubia) and many wonderful black and white photos of the UNESCO’s incredible project that rescues Philae Temple and Abu Simbel from the rising water of the dam (including extensive photographs) which is now forever lost under the waters of the lake).
The museum’s collection includes the Ramses II statue, the Amenras statue, the Shpatka head and the Tahraqa black granite head. In addition to a thorough explanation of the history of Nubia and its people, the Ethnographic section presents beautiful Nubian handicrafts and folk art.
Don’t miss the mud-brick mausoleum behind Aswan Fatimid Cemetery, behind the Nubian Museum. The cemetery caretakers welcome visitors on a tour and point out the most interesting mausoleums. Don’t forget to leave a little tip.
3. Day trip to Abu Simbel
If you only have a day trip from Aswan, visit Abu Simbel. Built by Ramses II and rescued by UNESCO’s remarkable rescue project in the 1970s, Abu Simbel is not only a triumph of ancient architecture but also of modern engineering. The Great Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Hathori, a mammoth scale sitting on the shores of Lake Nasser, copy everything in Egypt and should be considered as believed.
Most people travel to Abu Simbel. This private Abu Simbel minibus tour guides you to the temples by minibus and includes the entrance and tours of both temples through the Egyptologist’s guide. If you are shorter or just don’t like the four hour drive and back, this private Abu Simbel tour will take you back and forth from Aswan to Abu Simbel, temple entrance fees, and a guided tour of both temples with an Egyptian guide.
- Read more:
- Discover Abu Simbel: Visitor’s Guide
4. Philae Temple
The Holy Temple of Isis (also known as Philae Temple) is one of the most attractive monuments in Upper Egypt, both for its fine art of relief and the beautiful symmetry of its architecture, which made Victorian painters a favorite subject. Like Abu Simbel, the temple was rescued by the rising waters of Lake Nasser with the UNESCO Rescue Project and moved from their original home on Philae Island to the nearby (higher) Agilika Island .
The Isis Temple, the center of the ancient cult of Isis, is the main part of the Philae Complex, but the island is also home to the Hathor Temple , Trajan’s Kiosk and various buildings from the Roman and Byzantine periods. . The Aswan taxi provides easy access to the temples, although most people arrive here on a day trip to Abu Simbel.
5. Unfinished obelisk
Aswan’s northern quarry is home to the famous unfinished obelisk, a 41-meter-long and four-meter-wide piece of stone that was likely dismantled because of a rock burst. According to estimates, if it had been completed, the obelisk would have been 1,168 tons, the largest ever. On the surrounding rocks you can see numerous traces of the work of ancient stone carvers. The blocks here would have been detached from the rock along the prescribed line, leading the wedges into them and then soaking the wedges with water to remove the block.
The North Quarry is within easy reach of downtown Aswan. It is just east of the Fatimid Cemetery and the Nubian Museum .
6. Aswan High Dam
Big Aswan Dam is the most recognized and controversial construction project in modern Egypt. It began in 1960 and lasted 11 years, the pet project of President Nasser’s dam and the greatest achievement, and was achieved with the support and technical assistance of the Soviet Union.
The High Dam has some startling statistics. The building is made of 42, 7 billion cubic meters of stone (17 times the volume of the Cheops pyramid), with a total length of 3, 6 kilometers. 980 meters thick and 40 meters on top. The reservoir (Lake Nasser) has an average capacity of 135 billion cubic meters and a maximum capacity of 157 billion cubic meters.
The dam has brought fantastic benefits to the country, enabling sustainable electricity throughout the country and increasing the amount of arable land in Egypt. At the same time, the annual Nile Flood, which fertilized agricultural fields with rich soil deposits, ended and the creation of Lake Nasser (the world’s largest artificial lake) eradicated the vast heritage of Upper Egypt as the waters rose.
A four-lane highway crosses the top of the dam, with a triumphal arch and an inscription commemorating the completion and cooperation of Egypt and the Soviet Union. Trips to Aswan High Dam are often included in day trips to Abu Simbel, or you can easily hire a taxi to come here.
7. Monastery of St. Simeon
The gloriously photogenic monastery of St. Simeon is located between the sand dunes on the West Bank of the Nile. Founded in the 7th century and eventually abandoned in the 13th century due to lack of water, Egypt is the largest and best preserved Coptic monastery in Egypt.
Within the courtyard of the monastery, the south side of a monastery is taken over by the basilica . At the eastern end of the wide ship, when it was covered with two domes, the large apse, with three rectangular sections, under hills. The central part is the remnants of a fresco depicting Christ that had penetrated between the angels.
In the north and west of the church there are various outbuildings and small caves, while on the east side there are residential units. Upstairs are some well-preserved barrel-vaulted dwellings, including monastic cells, with brick beds and Coptic and Arabic inscriptions on the walls.
Standing on the fortified walls of the monastery overlooking the undulating dunes, there is a sense of isolation that the monks living here must face. Today you can rent a boat or boat to get to the monastery boat, then hike or camel ride (30 minutes) to the sand to get here.
Location: West Coast
Map of St. Simeon Monastery
8. The noble tombs
A series of rocky tombs cut from the cliffs of the West Bank was the burial of governors, priests, and other great powers of Elephantine Island during the Old and Middle Kingdoms. They reach a series of steep stairways just to the left of the Gharb Aswan ship landing.
The first tombs , entered into, the 25 and 26 graves, which buried Mekhu Sabni and sixth-dynasty governors. The art of both of them was a bit simple and rough. Along the right-hand road, take Tomb 31 , II. Prince of Prince, II. Dynasty II. It is one of the largest and best preserved tombs in the necropolis. Beyond the tomb is a small corridor with three booths on each side. Look to the first niche on the left to see the figures of the dead man and his son in superbly preserved colors.
The Tomb 34 (Harhuf’s Tomb) contains inscriptions that record successful commercial expeditions to Nubia. The staircase starts here from Setka’s tomb (first intervening period), which has badly damaged wall paintings that still have surprisingly vivid colors and are some of the surviving examples of some of the decorative arts of the period.
This group of temples was rescued from a waterfall by a UNESCO rescue project and now sits on the shores of Lake Nasser. Kalabsha Temple is the best preserved of the three temples and the youngest of the Roman emperor Augustus. After the Temple of Abu Simbel, the most impressive monument in Nubia is that of the former temple, founded by Amenhotep II and founded during the Ptolemaic dynasty. The decoration has never been completed and the existing reliefs are terribly executed. During the Byzantine period the temple was rebuilt into a temple.
Just northwest is Ramses II’s Beit el-Wali temple (“Holy Man’s House”), which consists of a hall, a transverse chamber and a shrine. Inside, there are vivid historical reliefs depicting many of Ramses II’s battles and triumphs, including the king’s triumph over the Kushites and the Syrian and Libyan wars.
The Tiny Kertassi Temple sits just to the north and has two entrances with Hathor columns and four additional columns.
A taxi to Kalabsha is easy to rent in Aswan, and a trip here is best combined with a visit to Philae.
10. Aga Khan Mausoleum
On the top of the West Bank cliff, the Aga Khan Mausoleum is apparently built to preserve the tomb of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (1877-1957), leader of the Shi’a Islam Nizari Ismaili sect. In particular, he has played an influential role in charities, setting up educational and health institutions in Africa and Asia, and in debates on Indian partitions.
Born in Karaki (India at that time under British colonial rule), the Aga Khan often sided with her family and thus had a deep relationship with this part of Egypt. You can’t visit the actual mausoleum, but you’re sure to be sitting high on the banks of the Nile.
11. Old Cataract Hotel
The ornate façades and lush gardens surrounding this old-fashioned hotel are among the attractions of one of Aswan’s largest riversides and will be impossible to leave on a felucca trip to Aswan. The largest hotel reputation is that of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile by part here , he stayed here and the hotel is also featured in the film based on the novel.
If you want to make an “Agatha” but don’t have the money to stay here, there is a de rigueur on the hotel terrace where high tea awaits guests. Drinking tea in a very English selection of sandwiches and sandwiches and stunning views of the Nile, Elephantine Island and the sand dunes on the West Coast is as close as the big lady herself. .
Accommodation: Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan
12. Western Quarry (Gebal Simaan)
For archaeological ministers, Aswan’s western quarry is making an interesting journey. This is where the most famous statue of ancient Egypt began to live; engraved on the hillside of Aswan granite. Archaeologists believe it is from this quarry that the mammoth of Luxor , the colossus of Memnon, is derived .
Today you can still see the orbits where huge blocks of stone were drawn into the river along the Nile to admire the temples of the Pharaohs. There are no roads here, so if you are going for a camel adventure, there is plenty of fun here too. Camel drives can be hired on the Gharb Aswan boat landing and the trek takes about 30 minutes.
13. Souq area
Sharia el-Souk is a souvenir hunter’s dream in the center of downtown Aswan. At the stands, the spices and perfumes are terrific , the traditional galebeyas (long dresses) and scarves in rainbow shades, the basket and the silver. This is a fun place to browse and is largely free from the seller you get in other parts of Egypt.
Pay particular attention to Nubian jewelry and handicraft, which showcase the different cultures of the people of Upper Egypt. And if you’ve become addicted to the refreshing local Karkada drink, keep an eye out for buckets of dark blue dried karkada (hibiscus) petals that you can buy massively to recreate the drink.
14. Wadi al-Subua
Wadi al-Subua’s main tourist attraction is the II. Ramses Temple, which contains fine statues and beautiful ancient Egyptian reliefs and later Byzantine Christian paintings (used as a temple in the early Christian period). Two other temples are worth a visit if you come this way. In the Dhaka Temple you can climb to the top of the gate for stunning desert views, while at the Maharaqa Temple you can attach a fluffy staircase to the roof .
What are there to do in Aswan?
Felucca rides at sunset
- Felucca Tours: In Aswan, it’s all about felucca tours around the islands, and early evening is the best time to take in the river if you like photography.
- Camel Rides: When something is more active, the best time for camel rides is at the end of the day, when the heat is worst. Sunset camel rides on the west coast from noble tombs to Saint Simeon Monastery (or vice versa) are extremely popular.
- Nubian village excursion
Where to stay in Aswan?
- Luxury Hotels: The historic Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, where Agatha Christie once stayed, is Egypt’s most famous hotel. This five-star luxury feels the charm of the old world and overlooks the Nile with Elephantine Island and well-kept gardens.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Philae Hotel is a welcoming and comfortable choice for travelers who want to be in the middle of the city. Rooms overlook the Nile and apartments for families traveling with kitchen. In resort life, Pyramisa Isis Island Resort & Spa is set in a lush tropical garden on a private island. The huge swimming pools are a good choice for a relaxing family time, and there is a free ferry port to the city when you want to explore.
- Cheap Hotels: Bet Al Kerem on the West Bank of the Nile, is easily connected to the city by a traditional local ferry, family-run breakfast, cozy rooms, a rooftop terrace, panoramic river views and a beautiful garden.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Aswan Visit
- Nile Cruise: Abu Simbel remains the most popular option for asununa excursions, with all hotels in the city offering group tours, usually by minibus, to these famous temples built by Ramses II. Many tourists visit Aswan as part of the Nile Cruise Tour between Luxor and Aswan. The four-day, three-night Nile Cruise departs from Aswan and includes entrance and guided tours of Philae Temple, Edfu Horus Temple, Kom Ombo Temple, Karnak Temple, and Luxor Temple; three nights accommodation; and transport on a five-star cruise ship with every meal.
- When to Go: Aswan rotates between June and September. Avoid visiting at this time, if at all possible.
Where else to visit beside Aswan?
Sightseeing: Aswan is the southernmost city and the oldest city in Egypt. Other major centers in Egypt are much more lively and chaotic. Luxor is the most important city to see if your visit is about the temples and tombs of ancient Egypt; Alexandria is full of the bustling atmosphere of Egypt’s Belle Epoque era; and Cairo is the enveloping magical capital, full of historic buildings and Giza pyramids on the doorstep.
How Far is Luxor from Aswan?
The distance between luxor and Aswan is 318 km (197 miles) away traveling by road will take 3 hours and 18 minutes approx.
The best way to travel between Luxor and Aswan is either by train or by road. If you would like to travel in a relaxed way and see the monuments in between the cities you can take a Nile Cruise that normally takes 3 nights or a Felucca ride which stays 2 to three nights as well. With a Nile Cruise and Felucca you can explore the sights between the cities and sleep.