Nile cruising map & highlights

Most Nile cruises travel from Luxor to Aswan or vice versa, making frequent stops. The journey of around 200km usually takes three to four days, but can be drawn out if you prefer. Both cities are easily reached from Cairo by internal flights; however, in our opinion a far more enjoyable option is to take the overnight sleeper train south. Sleeper carriages usually provide bedding, air conditioning and Western-style toilets, but Egyptian trains can be a little unkempt and onboard menus are often limited to one (meat) dish. Cruises can either be a holiday in themselves, or form part of a longer, land-based trip that might take in other destinations such as Cairo and its mysterious pyramids, or the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Abu Simbel

1. Abu Simbel

The vast temples of Abu Simbel were carved from the mountainside in the 13th century BCE. In the 1960s, to prevent them being submerged by the Aswan High Dam, they were dismantled and moved, an incredible feat of engineering. The airfield nearby is served by small planes from Aswan, or you can take the less expensive overland route, which takes around three hours.

2. Aswan

Aswan is a pleasant and relaxed city, occupying an especially attractive stretch of the river. Many Nile cruises finish with a few days moored up here, so you can explore the Temple of Isis and the wider Philae complex on Agilkia Island, or visit a Nubian village on Elephantine Island further downstream. Find respite from the heat in the Botanical Gardens on Kitchener’s Island, at their most tranquil in the late afternoons.

3. Cairo

Egypt’s capital is a hectic city, polluted and noisy, where street hawkers and beggars fight for your attention. It’s not for everyone. But most people will spend at least a day in Cairo before or after their cruise to see the famous Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, just a few miles out of the city. The treasures of the Egyptian Museum, and the exotic Khan el-Khalili souk, should also not be missed.

4. Edfu

Situated on the Nile’s west bank and hidden for centuries by desert sand, Edfu is home to one of Egypt’s best preserved ancient sites, the Temple of Horus. The complex was built during the reign of Cleopatra, and is dedicated to the Falcon God – two huge statues of Horus guard the temple’s gateway.
Kom Ombo

5. Kom Ombo

This unusual ‘double-temple’ is dedicated both to Sobek the Crocodile God, and Horus the Falcon God. Located between Luxor and Aswan, the riverside temples are almost mirror images of each other, columns and walls decorated with fascinating murals. We recommend timing your visit to Kom Ombo with the weekly camel market in nearby Daraw.

6. Luxor

When people call Luxor the ‘world’s greatest museum’, they’re not exaggerating. The ruined temples of Luxor and Karnak, the Colossi of Memnon, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are staggering in their scale. Perhaps give the light and sound show a miss – it’s a little overdone – but it’s well worth splurging on a hot air balloon flight to admire Luxor’s landmarks from above.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Nile cruising or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Nile cruises holiday advice

The night train

Andrew Appleyard from our supplier Exodus recommends the night train from Cairo:
“Most of our groups now fly down from Cairo to Luxor. The overnight train isn’t always clean, nor is it especially comfortable, but it definitely has a magic to it. Watching the sun come up over the Nile Valley as you approach Luxor is a wonderful way to begin a cruise.”

Felucca cruising

Marc from our supplier Au Fil du Nil on life aboard a felucca:
“A felucca is of course not to the same standards as larger cruising vessels, but it is certainly comfortable enough to spend a few very relaxing days. Plus you don’t have the nuisance of an engine running all day and night for power. Passengers are sheltered from the sun by a canopy, and toilets are set onshore every night. There is no bathroom aboard, but the crew can warm some water on demand. Usually people bathe in the Nile itself.”

Making the most of your guide

Andrew Appleyard from our supplier Exodus explains why guides are so important on a Nile cruise:
“Many guides working at these sites are trained Egyptologists and archaeologists, and although they don’t lead onboard discussions, they are wells of knowledge just waiting to be tapped.”

Tailored itineraries

Marc from our supplier Au Fil du Nil on the advantages of a felucca cruise:
“Travelling by felucca is a very authentic way to see the Nile, and you will get to know your small crew very well. The other big advantage is that felucca cruises can be tailored, so you can choose what to see every day, and how long to stay. We will give suggestions naturally, but if you want to simply relax and enjoy the scenery, it’s entirely up to you.”

Life aboard

Andrew Appleyard from our supplier Exodus on daily life aboard a small ship cruise:
“During peak season, shore excursions begin after breakfast and usually don’t return until late afternoon, so you’re actually only aboard ship in the evenings really. The typical evening entertainments aboard Nile cruise ships can leave a lot to be desired. Fancy dress is encouraged which you can often buy from the markets. A lot of the actual cruising, and going through locks, will take place overnight, when there is a really pleasant breeze on the sun decks.”

Nile cruising holiday tips

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Nile Cruising travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
You only need to watch the huge cruisers pass you by to realise how lucky you are to be sailing with no engine
– Dominic Kelly
“Spectacular. Felucca travel is probably not for everyone. You need to want an authentic experience that will take you into a different world, out of your routine and comfort zone. It is well worth it.” – Jost Stollman

“Be aware that sailing by Felucca is not 5 star comfort - which is exactly what we wanted and what we loved about it. Wash in the Nile, bathroom set up on the side of the river and sleeping in your clothes. The experience was amazing and exactly what we wanted, quiet, peaceful, reflective beauty.” – Jo Scott

“Bring some mosquito repellent and a sheet or sleeping bag liner for your felucca cruise. The blankets provided are warm but you'd want something between you and them. Wake up for sunrise. Be prepared for plans to change slightly as wind and currents are your masters. You only need to watch the huge cruisers pass you by to realise how lucky you are to be sailing with no engine, no other tourists and local sailors/guides. Food is fresh and bought at markets as you travel. The money is going straight to the staff.” – Dominic Kelly
You need to want an authentic experience that will take you into a different world, out of your routine and comfort zone. It is well worth it.
– Jost Stollman
“There is so much to see in Egypt that one should take the time to prepare the holiday wisely. We stayed for nearly one week in Egypt and sometimes woke up at 6 am - but that still doesn't give you the time you need to see everything.” – Boris Schaeling

“Take matters into your own hands. There is a certain amount of flexibility in booking packages through this tour operator. We didn't do very much research. This was our first time to Egypt and didn't know what to expect. The tourism industry is both a blessing and a curse to the country... It takes much more effort to have what I would consider to be a responsible vacation there…. At the same time, the need is there... but it's a far greater need than one traveller can ever hope to make a dent in. It was something that I wish I had remembered throughout the vacation.” – Elyssa Warkentin, on a budget holiday in Egypt
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: bumihills] [Intro box: Michael Gwyther-Jones] [Abu Simbel: Son of Groucho] [Aswan: NH53] [Cairo: Adam Bichler] [Edfu: Vyacheslav Argenberg] [Kom Ombo: Tommy Wong] [Luxor: prilfish] [The night train: Son of Groucho] [Felucca cruising: ptolemy1024] [Making the most of your guide: Jorge Láscar] [Tailored itineraries: Jerome Bon] [Life aboard: Clarence] [Tips Intro: Clarence] [Quote 1: Glenn Merrett] [Quote 2: François Philipp]