Aswan, a jewel nestled in the heart of Egypt, is a testament to time, bridging the gap between the ancient and modern world. Steeped in history and culture, Aswan is home to significant archaeological sites, such as the Temples of Philae and Abu Simbel, the Unfinished Obelisk, and the storied Elephantine Island.
Standing tall against the backdrop of the majestic Nile and golden dunes, these sites echo the grandeur of ancient civilisations. Modern attractions like the High Dam, Nubian villages, and the Museum of Nubia offer a different perspective on this sun-drenched city.
Visitors are especially drawn to Aswan between October and April when the city boasts a pleasant climate, perfect for exploring its myriad treasures. In its timelessness, Aswan weaves a spellbinding tale that beckons travellers to delve into its fascinating past and vibrant present.
Here are the 10 most visited destinations in Aswan that you do not want to miss:
1- Temple of Philae
Begin your journey through Aswan with a visit to the magnificent Temple of Philae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on Agilkia Island, the temple is easily accessible via a boat ride from the mainland.
This ancient temple, dedicated to the goddess Isis, is an architectural landmark. Marvel at the meticulously carved walls adorned with hieroglyphs and reliefs, offering a fascinating insight into ancient Egyptians’ culture and mythology.
Remarkably, the temple was relocated from its original location on Philae Island to Agilkia in the 1960s to save it from being submerged due to the High Dam construction in Aswan.
This feat of engineering is a testament to international cooperation and a shared commitment to preserving our shared cultural heritage. The Temple of Philae serves as an exquisite prologue to the rich historical tapestry that Aswan offers.
2- Elephantine Island
Next on your Aswan itinerary is Elephantine Island, the largest of Aswan’s islands in the middle of the Nile. A short, charming felucca ride from the Corniche will bring you to this historical gem. Once a flourishing commercial hub for the ivory trade – which inspired its name – Elephantine Island dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Today, visitors can explore the remnants of ancient temples, the Elephantine Museum, and the Nilometer, an ingenious device used by the ancient Egyptians to measure the Nile’s water level. The archaeological sites bear silent witness to the island’s glorious past, while the traditional Nubian houses, painted in vibrant blues and decorated with colourful patterns, give a glimpse into its present.
Don’t forget to stop by the Movenpick Resort on Elephantine Island during your stay in Aswan. With stunning Nile views, lush gardens, and unparalleled hospitality, it promises an unforgettable experience.
Enjoy a delightful dinner at one of their exquisite restaurants, relish the panoramic view from their infinity pool, or simply unwind in the serene ambience of this island resort.
A visit to Elephantine Island offers a unique blend of historical intrigue and local culture, making it a must-visit destination in Aswan.
3- The Kom Ombo Temple
Travel north from Aswan to find the unique Kom Ombo Temple, situated about 45 kilometres along the Nile. This Ptolemaic temple, easily reached by car or a relaxing river cruise, holds a singular charm as it’s dedicated to two deities: Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus the Elder, the falcon-headed god.
This dual dedication is reflected in its symmetrical architecture, with one side mirroring the other. The temple’s sandstone walls are adorned with beautifully preserved carvings, including a fascinating depiction of ancient surgical tools, highlighting the Egyptians’ advanced medical knowledge.
The nearby Crocodile Museum, housing mummified crocodiles, offers another intriguing glimpse into the rituals and beliefs of the ancient civilisation. The Kom Ombo Temple, set against the backdrop of the Nile, not only offers an immersion into history but also presents spectacular views, especially at sunset, making it a must-visit site in Aswan.
4- The High Dam
Just a few kilometres south of Aswan lies one of Egypt’s modern marvels, the Aswan High Dam. Easily accessible by taxi from the city, the dam stands as a monumental testament to human ingenuity.
Constructed between 1960 and 1970, it was built to control the annual Nile flooding, generate hydroelectric power, and provide water for agriculture. The dam’s creation formed Lake Nasser, one of the world‘s largest artificial lakes.
The High Dam’s construction was not without controversy, as it led to the displacement of many Nubians and the flooding of several archaeological sites. However, international efforts saved many of these monuments, including the temples of Philae and Abu Simbel.
A visit to the High Dam offers stunning vistas of Lake Nasser and a profound understanding of Egypt’s modern history and its journey towards progress and development.
5- The Temple of Abu Simbel
You are now invited to embark on an awe-inspiring journey to one of Egypt’s most iconic landmarks – the Temple of Abu Simbel. Nestled on the western bank of Lake Nasser, approximately 280 kilometres south of Aswan, the temple is reachable by a comfortable flight or a scenic drive through the desert.
Carved into a mountainside, the temple leaves an indelible impression with its four colossal statues of Pharaoh Ramses II guarding the entrance. Inside, visitors can marvel at the intricate bas-reliefs depicting the pharaoh’s military victories and offerings to the gods.
Notably, twice a year, on 22 February and 22 October, an astronomical phenomenon illuminates the inner sanctum, a spectacle not to be missed. The temple also tells a tale of modern engineering prowess.
Threatened by Lake Nasser’s rising waters, because of the High Dam construction in Aswan, the temple was cut into large blocks of 20 to 30 tons each in the 1960s, painstakingly relocated and reassembled on higher ground in a monumental international effort overseen by UNESCO.
This incredible feat of engineering not only saved this architectural wonder but also set a precedent for preserving cultural heritage. A tour to the Temple of Abu Simbel is a journey through time, a testament to the might of ancient Egypt and the ingenuity of modern man.
6-Old Cataract Hotel
Enrich your Aswan journey with a visit to the iconic Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Nile, this architectural masterpiece, built in 1899, exudes an aura of timeless elegance. Its grandeur has drawn luminaries from around the world, each leaving its own mark on its illustrious history.
The hotel’s guest list reads like a who’s who of the 20th century. It hosted the likes of the indomitable Winston Churchill, the graceful Lady Diana, and even the intrepid archaeologist Howard Carter, best known for uncovering the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. More recently, it has welcomed Hollywood royalty, with Angelina Jolie gracing its hallways.
Perhaps the most famous resident of the Old Cataract was Agatha Christie, who resided here for several months during the 1930s. It was within the walls of the now-named Agatha Christie Suite that she crafted parts of her legendary novel, “Death on the Nile.”
The Old Cataract isn’t just a place to rest; it’s a culinary destination in its own right. Dine at the hotel’s terrace restaurant, where the exquisite cuisine is paired with a panoramic view of the Nile, especially enchanting at sunset.
7- Nubian Village
Embark on a relaxing sailboat trip down the gentle currents of the Nile towards the vibrant Nubian villages. This journey, away from the bustling heart of Aswan, introduces you to a different rhythm of life.
As you glide along the river, admire the lush riverbanks and the azure sky, a picturesque prelude to the cultural immersion that awaits. Once you step ashore, the lively colours of the Nubian houses, each adorned with unique patterns, paint a captivating picture of this community’s rich cultural tapestry.
Meander through the narrow lanes, soak in the warmth of Nubian hospitality and savour the local cuisine, a feast for the senses. The local markets offer a treasure trove of intricate handicrafts, perfect mementoes of this unique experience.
A visit to the Nubian villages not only provides a deeper understanding of Aswan’s cultural diversity but also leaves you with cherished memories of a serene sailboat journey along the timeless Nile.
8- Nubian Museum
The Nubin Museum, located in Aswan and inaugurated in 1997, is an essential stop for history enthusiasts. This architecturally striking museum houses a remarkable collection of artefacts showcasing the rich history and culture of the Nubian people.
You can explore exhibits spanning from prehistoric times to the present day, including relics saved during the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
9- West Suheil Nubian Village
Located on the serene banks of the Nile in Aswan, West Suhail Beach offers visitors a tranquil oasis to unwind and engage in a variety of activities. Its pristine sands and crystal clear waters make it an inviting spot for both swimming and sunbathing.
For those with a spirit of adventure, the beach serves as an excellent launch point for boat trips along the Nile. Traditional feluccas and motorboats are readily available for hire, allowing tourists to explore the magnificent river at their own pace.
Meanwhile, the beach’s picturesque surroundings make it an ideal location for picnicking with local delicacies or capturing stunning photographs. Interaction with friendly locals often present at the beach gives tourists a glimpse into the charming Nubian lifestyle.
To top off the experience, staying until dusk rewards visitors with a captivating view of the sun setting over the Nile, painting the sky with a palette of warm hues. A visit to West Suhail Beach truly enhances the Aswan experience.
10- Aswan Souk
Immerse yourself in the vibrant colours, sounds, and scents of Aswan Souk, the city’s bustling marketplace. Meander through labyrinthine lanes filled with a dizzying array of goods. Here, you’ll find everything from traditional Egyptian spices to jewellery, handmade Nubian crafts, and Egyptian cotton.
Be sure to barter to secure the best price – it’s part of the experience! Stay alert to avoid scams, and consider shopping at trusted shops like the Aswan Bazaar and El Zahraa Perfume Palace for quality items.
For a quintessential Aswan memento, consider purchasing a tiny glass bottle of lotus oil, a traditional Egyptian fragrance. Enjoy this unique shopping experience that engages all senses!
How to Prepare Yourself Before Your Trip to Aswan
Before embarking on your journey to Aswan, preparing accordingly is crucial.
- Secure your Egyptian visa either online or upon arrival; the single-entry visa typically costs around $25.
- When packing, keep in mind that Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, so modest attire is recommended, particularly in traditional areas.
- In terms of accommodations, Aswan offers a range of options. If you seek luxury, the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract and Movenpick Resort, with prices starting around $200 per night, promise opulence and stunning Nile views.
- Budget-conscious travellers need not worry; there are numerous affordable and comfortable accommodations available, many offering rooms under $50 per night.
- For a unique experience, consider staying on a Nile cruise ship. These floating hotels provide not just accommodation but a captivating journey through history, with itineraries that include visits to ancient temples and monuments. Prices typically range from $75 to $350 per night, depending on the luxury level you choose.
Well! Being prepared ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey in the heart of Egypt.
Aswan blends magic and history perfectly, guaranteeing an unforgettable rejuvenating experience! Which attraction are you visiting first?