Aswan is a city that boasts strong roots to ancient Egypt: its quarries were the source of the granite used to carve many sculptures and obelisks found throughout the historic sites of ancient Egypt.
The charm of modern-day Aswan perhaps lies in its slower pace of life.
There’s a nice, laid-back vibe to the city that makes it a great spot to chill out after long travels along the Nile.
Aswan had been my port of entry into Egypt and would also serve as my point of departure from the culture-rich country.
But of course, I couldn’t leave without seeing its spectacular sights!
What You Need on your Aswan Itinerary
For my Aswan itinerary, you will need:
- ISIC student or teachers card – This card allows you to access and enjoy the attractions at half price which is great for travelers on a budget. It is possible to obtain the ISIC card in various cities in Egypt. I got mine in Luxor.
- Temples of Abu Simbel Admission Tickets – Sold at the entrance. Try to arrive early before dawn to watch the morning sun rays shine through the temple cave and illuminate the statues of the ancient Egyptian gods. This is just one of the remarkable features of the Abu-Simbel temples’ construction.
- Bottle of water – Always carry a bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes during your tours. Although well worth the effort, Egyptian attractions can be very tiring to explore.
12pm – Arrived in Aswan
I left Luxor for Aswan via mini-bus. I love trains and would have preferred train travel but the Egyptian train service was not operational during my visit due to security reasons relating to the Egyptian Revolution.
I arrived in Aswan and headed straight to Memnon Hotel, a two-star hotel located on Nile Street, just above the National Bank of Aswan.
I was given a clean room that afforded great views of the traditional Egyptian felucca and other boats on the Nile.
After checking in, I went out for lunch and had some delicious Fatira (Egyptian pizza) at a small restaurant near the hotel.
5pm – Bus to Abu Simbel
While making inquiries about Abu Simbel, the receptionist at Memnon Hotel informed me that there was a bus that left every day at 5pm for Abu Simbel.
He mentioned that the bus driver was his friend and he could arrange for him to stop right in front of the hotel, rather than me going all the way to the bus station.
I agreed and decided to change my plans and go immediately to Abu Simbel rather than spend the night at Aswan.
The receptionist agreed to postpone my booking and let me have the room the next day.
While the bus driver forgot to stop outside the hotel and I ended up having to chase after the bus, I eventually did catch it!
The journey from here to Abu Simbel was over 4 hours.
10pm – Check In: Hotel Abbas, Abu Simbel Tourist Village
The bus arrived at Abu Simbel around 10pm.
Fatigued from a whole day of travel, I went into the very first hotel I saw: Hotel Abbas, Abu Simbel Tourist Village.
Hotel Abbas is a budget hotel with big rooms that are clean and quiet.
The staff was pleasant and you can easily walk to the site of the temples from this location.
Day Tour to Abu Simbel from Aswan by car
With better planning, you could do a day trip to Abu Simbel and be back to Aswan on the same day.
Take this 9 hour guided tour and learn about Abu Simbel from an Egyptologist. You’ll be picked up from your hotel at 5am in an air conditioned vehicle.
5am – Temples of Abu Simbel
I left the hotel before dawn and headed for the temples. When a motorcycle approached from behind, I waved it down and asked for a lift to the temples. The driver said he was in fact headed there as he was the ticket collector. What luck! It was a short ride and we arrived at the entrance to the site within a couple of minutes.
I bought my tickets and headed over to the temples. Built between 1264 – 1244 BCE, the Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples originally carved out of the mountainside as a monument to Pharaoh Ramses II and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory in battle.
I arrived at the Great Temple dedicated to Ramses II and found I was the only one there, not even the caretaker was in sight. I must say, the massive temple and its millennia old monuments can be rather daunting when you’re all alone!
However, it wasn’t my first time to view the Colossi of Pharaoh Ramses II that sit at the entrance of the temple. The first time I had seen them was while traveling to Egypt from the Sudan on the Nile ferry weeks earlier. It was around midnight when we sailed past the illuminated statues and what a sight they were! I could now understand the purpose of their size and location in helping to scare enemies approaching by sea during ancient times.
Ramses II (c. 1303 – 1213 BC) is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. The smaller temple is dedicated to Nefertari, Ramses II’s chief consort. This was only the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen.
Because the Egyptian Revolution had kept many tourists at bay, I had the temples all to myself for the first two and a half hours! I even had a picnic breakfast there while marveling at the ancient colossi. Awestruck, I cancelled everything else on my itinerary as this was the last memory I wanted to have of Egypt.
1pm – Bus to Aswan
I got the mini-bus back to Aswan, another 4 hour journey and over 250km away.
6pm – Check In: Memnon Hotel
I arrived at the Memnon Hotel and ordered in some take away.
10am – Souq Aswan
I enjoyed taking strolls in Aswan’s souq (market) with its many little colorful shops selling all sorts of wares.
My favorite stalls were those selling spices such as mint, saffron, hibiscus and chili.
2pm – Time to leave for The Sudan and Final Thoughts
After lunch, I packed my luggage and made my way to Port Aswan.
I was on my way to catch the Nile ferry one more time – this time heading back to the Sudan.
Aswan Itinerary Tips
Be sure to book your Nile ferry tickets at least the day before travel, so that you are able to secure a seat and know the departure time.
It is important to arrive at the ferry docks at least one hour before the scheduled departure time, to have sufficient time to go through baggage checks.
Aswan was nice, and while I wasn’t able to see attractions such as the Temple of Isis at Philae, the Aswan Museum on Elephantine Island or the botanical gardens, I did not leave disappointed.
I had managed to see the most important attraction that every traveler who stops over at Aswan goes to see: the spectacular temples of Abu Simbel!
However, you can see I was a bit unorganised, so to ensure a more comfortable trip, it might be ideal to book a guide who takes care of everything for you.
5-Day Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
If you’re going to Aswan from Luxor, this 5 day relaxing cruise is a great option.
Why not take in all the sites on the Nile River instead of a tedious long haul drive.
You’ll have your own luxury cabin; be provided breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also stop by some major attractions along the way.