Cruising the Nile, Egypt


Overview

River Nile travel guide, including map of Egypt, top River Nile experiences, tips for River Nile travel, when to sail the River Nile and River Nile tips

The bray of a donkey, an ox cart working the fields by the riverbank, wood smoke rising from a simple hut – the sights and sounds that glide past on a Nile cruise today could almost be plucked from any century in Egypt’s history.

The River Nile is Egypt’s lifeblood, tracing the country’s entire length from the southern border with Sudan into the Mediterranean. Boats have plied the Nile since time immemorial; these days, many of the Nile’s vessels are transporting travellers in search of the most romantic of travel experiences.

While the Nile dissects the whole of Egypt, the government forbids cruises from Cairo to Luxor; tourist boats may only sail as far north as Abydos. Most Nile cruises travel the Luxor-Aswan section, which can take between three and seven nights. This may discount a large section of the river, but most of Egypt’s historic sites – such as the temples of Kom Ombo, Karnak and Edfu – are along this stretch.

Picking the right boat for your Nile Cruise is essential: more than 250 vessels operate the route, plus feluccas (wooden sailing boats).

Feluccas offer real no-frills travel – no cabins, no toilet, no running water. You will sleep on deck or camp ashore. There are plenty of cheap ’n cheerful cruise boats available, as well as luxury liners that can be opulent in the extreme – plush and spacious cabins, swimming pools, cigar lounges, even a full-on spa.

A dahabiyya (barge-like houseboat with sails) offers the authenticity of a felucca but with a lot more comfort. These restored and replica 19th-century sailing vessels have style and glamour as well as all the mod-cons.

But however you chose to sail, a trip along the River Nile will give you a timeless look at this oldest of tourist destinations.

Further Reading

Nile cruise Top 5

  1. Hop off your boat and take a sunrise balloon trip from Luxor’s West Bank – floating silently above the temples is a magical experience. Once you've landed you can explore the Valley of the Kings from ground level; get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds and the heat of the midday sun.
  2. Visit Edfu’s Temple of Horus after 6pm when the tour groups have gone back to their boats for dinner. This mighty site is the second-largest temple in Egypt (after Karnak), dedicated to the falcon god Horus, and buily around 240 BC.
  3. Spend time in Luxor: Karnak is best visited early in the morning (it opens at 6am, when you can have it nearly to yourself); Luxor temple is best visited in the early evening – be there 30 minutes before sunset, and then enjoy the temple as the lights come on.
  4. Explore Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city, including the temples of Philae and Elephantine Island. Don't miss the chance to sip cocktails on the veranda of the historic Cataract Hotel. Be warned: it gets incredibly hot in Aswan; August highs average over 40°C, so it's best to visit in the winter months.
  5. Visit Abu Simbel’s Great Temple and the smaller Temple of Hathor by air from Aswan or on a Lake Nasser cruise. Incredibly, this impressive complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s to avoid being submerged by the rising water levels resulting from the Aswan Dam.