Aswan to Luxor Nile River Cruise: Is it worthwhile?

A Magical Location

A felucca cruising the Nile

The South Of Egypt

Egypt is a popular bucket list location for a large variety of people from all over the world, and for good reason. But if you delve beyond the famously exceptional pyramids of Giza and the bustling capital of Cairo, this profound yet beautiful country has a lot more to offer. Where that begins, is the life blood of both ancient and modern day Egypt: The Nile River. Booking an Aswan to Luxor Nile river cruise as part of your next travel adventure may be one of the best decisions you could make.

The River Nile

Standing as the longest river in the world, at over 6650 kilometres (4,132 miles) in length, The Nile river is geographically impressive. But what isn’t as popularly discussed is it’s importance in supporting human and animal life alike, both today and in the time of the ancient Egyptians.

Highlighting this in the most aesthetic way was a hot air ballooning experience over Luxor. One of the many activities we experienced during our cruise. From a birds eye view the importance is plain to see, vast expanses of seemingly endless desert, contrasted by one wavy Nile shaped line of greenery and life. So if you’re making the journey to Egypt, exploring the cities of Luxor and Aswan as well as all of the archeological sites dotted along the Nile in the south is a must do.

A view of the life that the Nile provides

Booking our cruise: A last minute blessing.

Plan B

From the beginning of this article, you may assume that a Nile river cruise was something I was planning for weeks, months or even years prior to embarking. But the truth is, we booked less than 24 hours before. As intimidating as this may sound for those that like to pre plan, sometimes Plan A doesn’t quite work out. The beauty of adaptability though, is that often the backup plan turns out to provide a better experience than you could have dreamed.

Our disastrous attempt at plan A was a nice reminder that often “failure” opens the door to the best opportunities.

The Original Plan

The original plan was a very loose one, I was on an open ended Europe trip before meeting some like minded travellers and taking an unexpected detour to Egypt together. Armed with my new travel buddies, one fellow Australian that i had met on an Abu Dhabi to London flight 2 weeks prior, and one flight happy American we met in Venice 3 days before we flew. We took a one way flight from Milan to Cairo, determined that we could cover off a large chunk of our Egypt hit list in a 7-10 day span while booking everything ourselves before returning to Europe.

As much as the flexibility of planning a trip day to day and running spontaneously is generally my preferred mode of travelling. Booking activities, tours, accommodation and transport proved a little more challenging than we anticipated. Within 48 hours in the country we were burning out quickly and made the call to finish the remainder of our Egypt trip with a 4 day Aswan to Luxor Nile River Cruise. Read more here for my top tips on avoiding travel burnout.

Despite it’s beauty, Egypt can be an incredibly overwhelming place, even for extroverts and experienced travellers. Egypt possesses an almost “don’t blink” kind of intensity that is hard to describe to someone yet to experience it. This is not say that is unsafe at all. But certainly that you will be fully stimulated and forced to keep your awareness at a maximum at all times. This is a lesson we had to learn the hard way, and very quickly.

What Went Wrong?

Egyptian visa available upon entry

Our night of arrival in the country already presented more obstacles than most trips do throughout their entire duration. Entry visa for Egypt is available upon arrival for 25 USD at the terminal upon landing, cash only. Luckily our new American friend had the cash on hand. Following that, finding the Uber from the airport proves tricky when number plates are written in Arabic and there’s a sea of taxi drivers heckling for business.

Once we finally arrived to our hotel, we quickly recovered from the experience that is being in a car amongst the Egyptian road rules (or complete lack there of), processing that while simultaneously eyeing the moonlit silhouettes of the great pyramids in the background. Only to find that our hotel, which we booked through a highly reputable provider, was a scam.

After we were relocated to over a kilometre away, on foot, through the streets of Giza, at night time, with all of our luggage, to a far inferior and unsafe accommodation instead. We quickly made the decision that we needed to leave, and spent the night finding somewhere to stay.

After hours of searching online and another little journey through the Giza streets, we managed to find somewhere safe enough. We got ourselves and all of our belongings securely into our new hotel shortly before 11pm. Safe to say the plans for the first night in watching the pyramids light show and visiting the markets of Khan el-Khalili were dramatically changed. Also leaving us all a little uneasy trying to get some rest before a 6am pickup for our next day pyramids tour. Stay tuned for my upcoming post highlighting my biggest travel failures for the year. In this I will go a little more in depth into our Egypt misadventure.

An Easy Decision

After the next 2 days of continuous difficulties trying to find reliable tour operators, punctual transportation, secure accommodation and safe food to eat around Cairo & Giza. We made the simple call to make a last minute online booking and complete the southern part of our Egypt trip with a Nile River Cruise from Aswan to Luxor.

So enough about my obstacle filled pre-cruise experience. Let’s dive in to the pros of an Aswan to Luxor Nile River cruise and all the information you need to know before you go!

The Pros

A nightly site from the boats rooftop

Transportation Tickets

Once we had come to the simple decision of booking our Aswan to Luxor Nile River Cruise we could relax. But we had one more obstacle to overcome. Aswan is nearly 700km away from Cairo and organising transport in Egypt can be quite challenging and unreliable. Luckily for us, an overnight train to Aswan was included as part of our cruise booking. As was a return train back to Cairo upon completion of cruise in Luxor. As gruelling as a 15 hour train ride was through the Egyptian desert. It was comforting, at the very least, to know we were definitely on the right train and had a driver waiting for us upon arrival.

From the moment we booked the cruise, all of our transportation was pre organised for us. This included private train station drop off, train to and from the cruise to accommodation/airport, coaches for day trips, small boat trips and even a horse and carriage trip to and from the Temple of Horus. And of course also included our transport from Aswan to Luxor via our cruise ship.

No more concerns of being caught up by a shifty taxi or Uber driver. No more using google translate to work out if we were going the right direction. For peace of mind it was fantastic, while also giving an opportunity to travel Egypt in a variety of ways.

Safe & Dynamic accommodation

After our initial experience with accommodation, it isn’t hard to imagine why a secure place to stay was so comforting. Not only could we relax knowing that both ourselves and our belongings would be safe in our cabin. But we now also didn’t have to move between accommodations and transport modes lugging all of our stuff with us. Our room literally moved with us. The fact that we could visit Aswan, Luxor and all the sites and stops in between without having to book a new place to stay and organising transport between was a huge advantage.

One continuous guide

The entirety of my Egypt trip had an action packed itinerary. It’s not quite your relaxing by the beach or hiking trip getaway. It is full of sites to see and it is definitely not the kind of place to skip out on seeing it with a professional guide! Similar to the situation with accommodation, knowing that I didn’t have to individually book tours and guides for each historical site was a huge benefit.

Within the trip, our fantastic trip leader Bee guided us through many ancient sites including:

-Philae Island/Temple of Isis

-Abu Simbel Temple

-Komombo Temple

-Temple of Horus

-Collosi of Memnon

-Karnak Temple

-Luxor Temple

-Valley of the Kings

-Queen Hatshepsut Temple

So to say that we saved time and effort in not organising each of these individually is an understatement!

Delicious food

Travelling within developing countries, especially those with a poor reputation around food hygiene, can be challenging. Personally, I spend way too much time researching what is considered to be safe and unsafe to eat. So much so that I barely end up enjoying the local cuisine once I’m trying it.

Having all meals included for the duration of the cruise was another huge benefit and saved unnecessary hassle. Not only was the food safety a comfort, but the food was amazing. Buffet meals, every meal ,consisting of a mix of North African and European cuisine. This had us feeling full and energised for our packed schedule throughout.

The Views

It wouldn’t be difficult to make a case for the Nile River to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world for catching a sunrise or sunset. And what better spot on the Nile than from the rooftop of a boat while cruising along it.

It didn’t just provide incredible sunset views, but also the scenery to admire along the bank and on the water. Nubian villages, lively markets, local feluccas and distant dune ranges. Sitting by the pool on the rooftop and admiring the scenery is a highlight in itself.

The Highlights

Entrance to the temple of Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel Temple

The incredible temple at Abu Simbel was a top spot on my bucket list for many years before visiting. It did not disappoint. Caved out of a sandstone cliff over 30 meters high, the impressive structure opens with 4 statues of King Ramses II that have stood in intimidating fashion for over 3000 years. The temple even aligns with the sun in such a way that the light beams through the temple to illuminate the statue in the sanctuary annually on Ramses birthday. It’s truly a spectacular landmark that is a must see for an Egypt trip.

Hot Air Baloon over Luxor

As briefly touched on earlier, a view of the Nile river from above really accentuates the importance of this colossal body of water. As well as admiring the river, a balloon ride also provides views of the Hatshepsut temple and the Valley of the Kings. Watching the morning sun lighting up this impressive landscape is truly amazing. It shows clearly why Luxor is highly regarded as one of the top hot air ballooning locations on the planet.

The Valley of the Kings

The valley of the Kings is a burial grounds holding the tombs of over 60 ancient Egyptian kings. Each tomb specifically dedicated to a different king. Each tomb uniquely designed and decorated in truly astonishing fashion. Full of mysterious chambers painted in incredibly detailed hieroglyphics, some of which have still maintained their colours for over 3000 years. The valley became significantly famous in 1922 upon the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. It was the first and only tomb uncovered completely intact and untouched by looters. But Tut’s famous tomb may be the most basic and least interesting in the entire valley. Which creates a mysterious wonder into what the others contained before being breached.

A birds eye view of Luxor

Money well spent.

Generally I would be the first to encourage travellers to branch out away from tours and explore solo. But this was one of the better investments I have ever made while travelling! We booked online last minute through Viator, travelling with Mody Tours and paid $664 AUD ($454 USD/£379GBP). This was for a 4 day cruise + an overnight train to and from Cairo the days before and after. This price included everything listed above in the pros of joining a cruise.

The only additional costs that are not included are entry fees to all of the historical sites. I visited every single site available and still only tallied to a total cost of under $150AUD ($103USD/£85GBP). As well as the Hot Air balloon ride which was an optional add on at $127AUD ($84USD/£73GBP). Both of which were also well worth the cost.

Overall, spending a week exploring all over the south of Egypt, experiencing some of the more incredible places I have seen in all of my travels, for less than $1000 AUD for the week, is definitely money well spent. An unforgettable experience and one I would recommend without hesitation to anyone.

Thank you for reading! Comments, questions and thoughts welcome as always!

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