Full Day Tour to Abu Simbel Temples from Aswan
$31 | Rating 4.45 / 5 [44 ratings]
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Bucket list experience:
Aswan, Southern Upper Egypt Region, Egypt
The two temples of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel are among the most impressive of all the world’s surviving ancient monuments. It remains a testament to the power of the Egyptian empire at its height under Ramesses II, aka ‘Ramesses the Great’.
Cut into the rock above the Nile flood plain more than 3,000 years ago, fronted by four colossal statues of the pharaoh. His consort Nefertari and their children can be seen in smaller figures by his feet. Queen Nefertari was the first of Ramesses’ ‘Great Royal Wives’.
The temple remains an awe-inspiring sight, despite having been relocated in the 1960s above the newly created Lake Nasser. It’s angled so that each 21 February and 21 October, the sun illuminated the gods in the innermost sanctuary. This happens a day later since its relocation, following construction of the Aswan Dam.
Many people don’t realise there are two temples on the site. The neighbouring Temple of Hathor, dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Nefertari, is smaller but equally beautiful.
Most visitors fly directly into Abu Simbel airport from Cairo (about a 2-hour flight) or Aswan (about a 45-minute flight); many Nile cruises will take you from Luxor to Aswan – and more luxurious and genteel way to arrive.
The temple is a 15-minute shuttle ride from Aswan airport. Alternatively book on the (obligatory) convoy leaving Aswan at 4.30am and 11am daily (about 3-4 hours’ drive). You could also arrive via a relaxing 3-day cruise from Aswan to Abu Simbel, across the starkly beautiful Lake Nasser. Cruises take in many lesser ancient monuments on the way.
Guides are not allowed to talk inside the temples, so read up before you go.
After jostling with the masses, head to the civilisation of the legendary Old Cataract hotel in Aswan, for sundowners on the Nile-side terrace, or dinner at the excellent restaurant.
If you stay the night at Abu Simbel, you can sign up for the Sound and Light show. The commentary is crass, but the light show is memorable.
None of Abu Simbel’s hotels are especially luxurious, but the authentic Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge is atmospheric and run by a fascinating man – a Nubian guide who’s also a musician.
The site is open all year round, seven days a week.
Most tours groups from Aswan, or arriving on flights, visit during the morning. Visit in the afternoon, and you might have the temples to yourself.
Abu Simbel is blisteringly hot in the summer (July-August) and can be surprisingly cold in the winter (January-February), especially when the winds blow off the desert.
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