Wonderful Highlights of a River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan in Egypt

One of our favorite things that we did during our trip to Egypt was to take a cruise down the Nile River from Luxor in the north to Aswan in the southern portion of the country. It is definitely not just one of our favorite memories of Egypt, but is probably one of our best travel memories overall. Even though the overall cruise is only a few days, the sights that you’re able to see are simply amazing. You have the choice of every type of cruise from luxury to economy, but we went with a mid-range cruise, which was still wonderful. We also had a private Egyptologist that took us to the various places where we stopped, which is a must in our opinion since there is so much to learn about the history and culture.

Karnak Temple Complex at Dusk
Empty Tomb in the Valley of the Kings
Hatshepsut Temple
King and Queen Together in the Luxor Temple
Obelisk Reaching Toward the Sky in the Karnak Temple Complex

We spent two days in Luxor, first visiting the east bank of the Nile to see the Karnak Temple Complex. Karnak Temple is considered the second most visited site in Egypt behind the Great Pyramids of Giza and is certainly a perfect place to start the cruise down the Nile River. We even went back to Karnak that first night to see a light show that took you through the temple after hours with an audio narrative describing more of the history. In addition to Karnak Temple, we also visited Luxor Temple, which is also very interesting and Egypt is in the process of restoring the water feature between Karnak and Luxor Temples that is lined with sphynx statues. That night the cruise ship makes its way across the Nile to the west coast where a full day was ahead of us. We visited the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple and the Colossi of Memnon, and also went to an alabaster factory where we purchased a couple of items.

Worker at the Alabaster Factory
Statue of Horus at the Temple of Horus
Both of the Colossi of Memnon Statues
Lotus Columns in the Temple of Kom Ombo
Sunset Over the Nile River

From there we enjoyed an afternoon cruise where we were able to see beautiful sunsets over the Nile River. At night we arrived in Edfu, which would start our third day of the tour. From our cruise ship, we were taken by horse-drawn carriage to see the Temple of Horus. It was certainly a great start to the day. We then returned to the ship where we continued down the river to our next stop of the day, which was at the Temple of Kom Ombo. This would be our last night on the cruise ship as the following day we would tour sites in Aswan before flying back to Cairo.

People in the Background Provide Scale to the Obelisk in the Quarry
Entrance to the Temple of Isis
Looking Out From the High Dam
Walking Down to the Tomb Chamber in the Valley of the Kings
Taking a Cruise Ship Down the Nile River in Egypt

On the final day, we focused on the sites within the city of Aswan, which is most known for its historic High Dam. As with the rest of our time in Egypt, the real highlight were the historic sites that we visited including seeing the ancient granite quarry that still has a partial obelisk carved into the stone. We took a small boat out to see the island of Philae where the Temple of Isis was relocated in order to save it from flooding. Although it was hot wherever we were in Egypt, the temperatures in Aswan were the highest, reaching as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44 to 45 degrees Celsius).

Standing Inside the Karnak Temple Complex
View of the Temple of Isis from the Boat
View of the Temple of Kom Ombo
Riding in the Carriage Through Edfu, Egypt
Colorful Column

It was definitely an incredible, if not overwhelming, experience to see all of those wonderful places. It is possible to extend the tour or to spend more time in Luxor, but we found the full four days to be quite enough as there was so much to see and absorb as it was. Just sitting on the upper deck of the cruise ship and seeing the shoreline of the Nile or even watching the local children swimming and playing in the water gave us time to absorb what we had seen. We would highly recommend anyone visiting Egypt consider taking one of the Nile River cruises between Luxor and Aswan.

Adventures on the Water

There have been many different times during our travels where we either had to travel by water to reach our destination or we chose to take a tour on the water. Generally speaking, travel by water is not our first choice, but looking back it is amazing how often we end up in a boat. In fact, at least recently, almost every trip we’ve taken has ended up with some sort of water excursion. Here are a few of the different water adventures that we’ve enjoyed, but it is certainly just a sampling. Do you enjoy traveling by boat or taking cruises?

You Can’t Go to Amsterdam Without Taking a River Cruise
Taking a Ride on a Pirate Ship in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Taking a Cruise Ship Down the Nile River in Egypt
Taking a Boat from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean Through the Panama Canal
Doing an Overnight Cruise in Halong Bay in Vietnam
Canoeing the Tributaries of the Amazon River in Ecuador
Whitewater Rafting in Colorado
Rowing with Their Feet in Vietnam

A Seven Day Itinerary for Egypt

Egypt is a destination that is on almost everyone’s wish list to visit at least once in their lifetimes. With so many incredible sights to see across many different cities, you will want to plan as many days as you can to make the most of your time in Egypt. We found our trip to be ideal in many different ways, but with any destination, if we had more time, we would have seen even more. What we have here are the locations and sites that we chose to make our priority during a full seven days in Egypt. Due to the length of air travel, the total trip was twelve days, but much of that time was spent in transit. Although we landed in Cairo, we left early in the morning to fly to Luxor and begin a cruise down the Nile River to Aswan and then flew back to Cairo where we spent the remainder of our time in Egypt. It would be easy enough to flip the trip around and start in Cairo, but we found that it worked out well to finish in Cairo. Here was our itinerary starting with our arrival in Luxor:

Entering the Karnak Temple Complex

Day 1 – After arriving in Luxor, we headed directly to the docks where we checked into our cruise ship, had some tea, and put our bags in our cabin before starting our adventure. We quickly left for the Karnak Temple Complex, which was an absolutely amazing way to start our time in Egypt. After spending several hours with our Egyptologist guide touring the temple complex, we walked amongst the lines of sphinxes that once lined a river connecting the Karnak Temple Complex to the Luxor Temple Complex. After another couple of hours touring the Luxor Temple Complex, we returned to the ship for dinner. Our day wasn’t done as we returned after dinner to the Karnak Temple Complex where we enjoyed a lighted show that took you through the history of the temple and gave you a view of what it must have been like thousands of years ago.

Empty Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

Day 2 – After a good night’s sleep, we rose early to have breakfast and start our day. Most days started early in Egypt due to the heat of the afternoon, so it is definitely a place where getting up early pays off. Overnight the cruise ship had made its way from the east bank of the Nile to the west bank. Our first stop of the day was at the famous Valley of the Kings where many of the pharaoh tombs are located, including that of King Tutankhamen (King Tut). Truly an incredible experience. After visiting the Valley of the Kings, we went to an alabaster factory where we saw how alabaster products were made and we were able to buy some items to take home with us. We then continued on to the Hatshepsut Temple at the base of the mountain. Finally, we went to see the Colossi of Memnon before returning to our cruise ship to enjoy an afternoon on the water as we headed towards our next destination.

Statue of Horus at the Temple of Horus

Day 3 – Overnight our cruise ship had arrived in Edfu. We started our day taking a horse-drawn carriage through the town of Edfu to see the Temple of Horus, which is another amazing temple. After a couple of hours touring the temple, we were back on the cruise ship where we continued down the Nile to visit Temple Kom Ombo. We spent the late part of the afternoon walking through the temple grounds and learning even more history from our guide who was with us throughout our cruise. We were then back on the ship for the final leg of our cruise where we saw amazing sunsets on the Nile River as we made our way towards Aswan.

People in the Background Provide Scale to the Obelisk in the Quarry

Day 4 – Our first stop of the day was to visit an ancient quarry where the giant obelisks that we had seen in Luxor had been carved in single pieces out of the granite. There is even an obelisk still in the stone that had broken and therefore been abandoned, but it remains there in the quarry even after thousands of years. We then took a boat out to the island of Philae and the Temple of Isis. At this point, all of the temples were starting to blend together. Finally, we went to see the High Aswan Dam and learned about the alligators that are famous in the region. We then flew back to Cairo to start the next part of our adventure.

The Giza Plateau in Egypt

Day 5 – Our first full day in Cairo was certainly memorable as we went to see a variety of pyramids in the Giza Plateau. Our first stop was in Dahshur where we saw the Bent Pyramid and were able to climb down to the burial chamber inside of the Red Pyramid. We were pretty much all by ourselves, which made it an even more incredible experience. From there we went to the Step Pyramid in the Saqqara Necropolis, which is another interesting architectural site where we were able to climb down to the burial chamber. We then stopped for lunch before heading to the Giza Plateau to visit the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx. Seeing the Great Pyramids is certainly the highlight of any trip to Egypt and to Cairo. We also rode camels around the pyramids, but that was more touristy and not actually our favorite part.

Cavern Where the Holy Family Stayed

Day 6 – We spent the morning exploring the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, which is quite impressive with all of the historic relics on display. We then went to the shore of the Nile River where we boarded a felucca to leisurely sail around the heart of Cairo. It was a relaxing way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. We then visited Abu Serga Church where the Holy Family stayed in what is referred to as the Cavern Church. We also visited Ben Ezra Synagogue, which is located on the site where legend states that baby Moses was found. We then visited the Church of the Virgin Mary, also known as Hanging Church, which is one of the oldest churches in Egypt.

The Streets of the Old City of Cairo

Day 7 – Originally it was our intention to take this day and just relax before heading home, but we decided to take a tour of Old Cairo and see the important Islamic mosques. One of the highlights was visiting the Mosque and Madrassa of Sultan Hasan where our guide explained the history of Cairo and the influence of Islam on the region. From the historic mosques, we went into the heart of Old Cairo where we visited one of the oldest Ottoman houses in Cairo. Finally, we visited the famous bazaar in Old Cairo, which is quite busy with hundreds of vendors selling everything from silk to hookahs.

Mosque in the Citadel

Needless to say, it was a very busy seven days with exciting and fascinating sights on every day. There are certainly more places to visit in Egypt if you have more time, but if you are limited on time as we were, these seven days will not disappoint you. It took us months after returning home to truly absorb everything that we saw and learned during our time in Egypt. It is definitely one of those trips where you need to plan and prepare in order to make the most of your time.