Taking a Nile cruise was by far the highlight of our trip to Egypt. The pyramids are great and all, but what we saw on our Nile cruise was much, much cooler. When planning a trip to Egypt, I highly recommend leaving time for a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor to see Ancient Egypt’s most fascinating sights. Here are the details of our 4-day 3-night Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor with Emo Tours.
Booking a Nile Cruise
When booking a Nile cruise, there are tons of options for both boats and tour operators. One thing I didn’t initially realize is that the cruise itself is operated by one company and the tour (i.e., where you go when the boat is docked) is operated by another company. As a result, the cruise ship is filled with people with different tour guides and different itineraries. The tour guide travels on the boat with you and stays in their own accommodations. You are likely to visit the same sights as everyone else, but the order may be different.
Finding a Tour Company
We chose to book our Nile cruise through Emo Tours mainly because of the good reviews and favorable price. Our 4-day 3-night Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor with Emo Tours cost us $1,050 for two people. This included a trip to Abu Simbel ($100 per person) and the cost to go inside King Tut’s tomb at the Valley of the Kings ($20 per person). You can find the tour here.
When booking through a tour company, they will book your spot on a boat. As a result, you have no idea what boat you will end up on in advance. Some are run down while others are more updated. Our boat was fine, except the bed was downright disgusting. The mattress and pillows smelled like sour sweat (I know…sorry). I ended up sleeping on beach towels on top of the bed with another towel as a blanket. This nastiness has nothing to do with Emo Tours, but rather the operator of the boat. Emo Tours was great. I ended up booking all of our tours in Cairo through Emo Tours and we had a wonderful experience all around. For those looking for an upgraded experience, there are tours on luxury boats available through other tour companies.
Choosing the Route and Duration
Whether you book through Emo Tours or another company, you will need to choose if you want to sail from Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor. We chose Aswan to Luxor since it was a four-day cruise while Luxor to Aswan was five days. Both routes cover the same sights but at different paces.
Day 1: Aswan
Our Nile cruise started in Aswan with our tour guide picking us up in the morning from our hotel. We started sightseeing right away and got to the boat in time for lunch.
Aswan High Dam
The first sight was the Aswan High Dam. The Aswan High Dam was completed in 1970 and spans the width of the Nile forming Lake Nasser on the other side. Lake Nasser flows south to Egypt’s border with Sudan. It’s also the location of Abu Simbel (more on that later).
Next, we visited the Philae Temple. This was one of the coolest stops since the temple is only accessible by boat. The temple was originally built in the 6th or 7th century AD. UNESCO moved the temple from a nearby island that was flooded due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
After lunch, we had the choice to have some downtime on the boat or pay extra to visit the Nubian Village. The highlight of this side trip was the cruise down the Nile on a motorboat. This section of the Nile from Aswan to the Nubian Village was particularly beautiful. We didn’t spend too much time in the village itself which was disappointing. We visited one house where we were served tea and got to hold a crocodile.
Day 2: Cruising Down the Nile
The boat stayed docked in Aswan for the first night which gives tour groups enough time to visit Abu Simbel in the early morning before setting sail for Kom Ombo after lunch.
Abu Simbel is not included in the price of the Nile cruise through Emo Tours. As one of Egypt’s top attractions, and not an easily accessible one at that, I highly recommend adding it on. We paid $100 per person for this add-on. We woke up super early for the 3.5 hour drive south to Abu Simbel. For reference, Abu Simbel is about 25 miles north of the Sudan border. While it’s a long drive roundtrip, this was one of my favorite stops of our entire trip.
We were back on the boat in time for lunch. The boat then departed for the Temple of Kom Ombo. We arrived in the evening and got to see the temple as the sun was setting. The southern half of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek. There is also a Crocodile Museum at the temple.
Day 3: On to Luxor
We departed for Edfu the evening before so we were able to visit the Temple of Edfu first thing in the morning. We then headed to our final stop, Luxor, where we visited the sights on Luxor’s East Bank.
We were brought to the Temple of Edfu, the largest temple dedicated to Horus, in a horse-drawn carriage.
In order to get to Luxor, the boat had to pass through the Esna Lock. Watching the process of entering and exiting the lock from the top deck was more interesting than I had expected!
We arrived in Luxor in the late afternoon with enough time to visit the Karnak Temple before sunset. This is one of the most impressive temples on the itinerary and also one of the most famous.
After sunset, we proceeded to visit Luxor Temple which was constructed in 1400 BC. Even though it was dark, we had plenty of time to explore the temple.
Day 4: Luxor West Bank
On our last day, we checked out of the boat in the morning before sightseeing on Luxor’s West Bank. If you time your flight back to Cairo correctly, you can get a ride straight to the airport. Our flight wasn’t until 8:00 pm and our tour wrapped up by 2:00 pm. We were allowed to hang out on the top deck of the boat until it was time to head to the airport. Our tour guide arranged a ride for us then.
Colossi of Memnon
The first stop was a quick one to see the Colossi of Memnon, two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III built in 1350 BC.
Valley of the Kings
Next, we visited the Valley of the Kings which is a must-see when in Egypt. Our ticket allowed us to visit three tombs in addition to the tomb of King Tut which was an extra charge.
Our tour guide first recommended the tomb of Ramses IV because of the preservation of color in the tomb. This ended up being the coolest tomb we saw.
Next, we visited the tomb of Ramses IX.
Then, we visited the tomb of Merenptah. This one was impressive due to its size.
Last but not least was the tomb of Tutankhamen. This is definitely the most famous tomb at the Valley of the Kings, but unfortunately not the most impressive. Nevertheless, I recommend visiting if you have time since King Tut’s mummy is on display in the tomb. Also, be sure to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to see the artifacts that were excavated from the tomb.
Temple of Hatshepsut
The last stop of our entire trip to Egypt was the Temple of Hatshepsut. Not to freak anyone out but this was the site of the 1997 Luxor Massacre. As an aside, I didn’t feel unsafe at any point during my time in Egypt. This temple, carved into the side of a mountain, was built for the second female pharaoh, Hatshepsut.
Taking a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor should be at the top of any itinerary in Egypt. It’s by far the easiest way to see the main sights of Ancient Egypt and ended up being the highlight of our trip. While the cruise boat itself was a little outdated, we found the staff to be accomodating, especially the bartenders! We also found the tour booked through Emo Tours to be well organized and thorough.