Aswan Egypt
Africa, Travel

12 Best Things to Do in Aswan, Egypt: Unmissable Activities

Aswan is a beautiful city full of amazing things to do.  It has some of the most iconic landmarks of ancient Egypt, such as Abu Simble and Philae Temple.  I loved traveling to Aswan after visiting the Giza Pyramids.  Aswan seemed to be a smaller city, more relaxing and less hectic than Cairo.

Even though we visited in December, the weather is gorgeous and warm.  And going further down South from Cairo to Aswan, the sun started shining a whole lot brighter.  Aswan is also located on the luminous Nile River.  

Visiting the city and seeing the Aswan people, the colorful Nubian Villages, and their lifestyle is a welcome treat.  The people in Aswan are friendly, and you should definitely include this city in your Egypt itinerary.  

Here in this post, I will cover the best things to do in Aswan.  Incredible things like seeing the ancient Egyptian artifacts, Aswan Temples, cruising down the shimmering Nile River, and visiting the surrounding islands with stunning botanical gardens and ancient ruins.  

This post contains affiliate links to the products that I use and recommend. If you click on any of the links and make a purchase, then I may earn a small commission. For more info, click my full disclosure.

Here are the 12 Best things to do in Aswan

Read Next: Egypt Travel Tips: Things to know before traveling to Egypt

Egypt

1. Visit Philae Temple

Visiting Philae temple is absolutely one of the most iconic things to do in Aswan.

Philae Temple is also known as the Temple of Isis.  It was built in honor of the goddess Isis, wife of Osiris, and Horus’ mother.  The construction began in 280 BCE during Ptolemy II Philadelphus’ reign and was completed during his successor’s (Ptolemy III Euergetes) era in 246-221. 

Goddess Isis is known as the “Mother of God”.  You will feel how much of an effect Goddess Isis had on the ancient world.  While in Egypt you’ll see plenty of artwork of the goddess Isis and the immaculate wings covering her back.  

The Temple of Philae is located on the island of Agilka.  However, this is not where the temple was initially built.  It was constructed in another location (Philae) where the Egyptians started to build the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.  The temple was at risk of being completely submerged underwater and lost forever due to the new Aswan Dam. 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government teamed up with UNESCO to move the temple to higher ground on the Agilka island nearby, saving the temple from flooding and further destruction.  

Nevertheless, this complex is captivating and will be the highlight of your trip of best things to do in Aswan.  Seeing the hieroglyphics and the intricate details of the monuments and temples is magical. 

Philae Temple Egypt
Ways to get there

In order to reach the Philae Temple, you have to take a boat to get there.  You’ll have to pay the boat attendant EGPs to take you if you go on your own.  Instead, you can take a tour and have the guide take care of that for you.  Our tour guide handled all of the prices for the tickets and the boat ride.  But please don’t let having to get on a boat discourage you.  Because once you get on that boat, you are in for an unforgettable scenic ride on the water.   

Ticket prices: 180 EGPs ~ $12

Hours: 7 AM – 5 PM

Recommended Tours to take

2. Sound and Light Show

The Sound and Light shows go on all around Egypt.  But this one at Philae Temple is renowned for being the best of all the light shows.  At Philae Temple, you can watch the show while seeing neon lights illuminated on the temples as someone narrates the history of Philae, the Egyptian Gods, and Goddesses.  See the story of Goddess Isis, her husband Osiris, and son Horus come to life.  

In addition, the Sound and light show is one of the most intriguing things to do if you are into legend stories of Gods and interested in Ancient Egypt, Philae, and Aswan.  They thoroughly talk about the history of the temples as you walk through the platform.  

As you walk through the temples, you’ll hear them narrate the story through the speakers.  This sound and light show at Philae is unique compared to the others since it’s on an island, and you have to take a boat to get there. 

Tickets: For entry to the show, the ticket prices are $19.

Hours: the show starts in the evenings at 6:30 every day.  Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the show since you have to take the boat.

3. Day trip to Abu Simbel

Visiting Abu Simbel is the top-recommended archeological site to visit while in Aswan.  Taking a day trip to Abu Simbel was the highlight of my trip and is a must-see list of things to do in Aswan.  It is such a well-known treasure that people usually travel to Aswan just to see the famous Abu Simble temples.  

Abu Simbel consists of two magnificent monuments cut out of rock formations.  There are two enormous temples of Abu Simble, and the main one is for King Ramses II.  It includes four humungous statues of him that sit side by side.  Then the small statues by his feet represent his family, children, Queen Nefertari, and his mother.

Egypt
King Ramses II

The second temple is a smaller temple built in honor of his wife, Queen Nefertiti.  

You can enter both temples and explore the inside, seeing more statues, pillars, hieroglyphics, and magnificent carvings on the walls.  

So, did you know that Abu Simbel was removed from its original location? That was due to the building of the Aswan High Dam and the threat of going completely underwater. 

Now, it is located about 280 kilometers (142 miles) southwest of Aswan and 200 meters further away from Lake Nasser.

Moreover, Abu Simbel is the most mesmerizing temple of Egypt and is regarded as the most inspiring monument to see in Egypt.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that you should not miss. 

Aswan Egypt
Queen Nefertiti Temple
Ways to get there

By Car

Take a guided tour to Abu Simble with a private car hire.  It takes about 3 hours to get there.

By Plane

You can take a 30-minute flight to Abu Simble from Aswan.  There are usually two flights a day available.  However, taking a flight may shorten the amount of time you can stay at the temples.

To check out flight times and rates click here

Recommended Tours to take:

Abu Simble Aswan Egypt- things to do in Aswan
Sitting outside of Abu Simble

4. Go Shopping in the Souks – Old Market

Visiting the Souks and markets may be surprising unique things to do in Aswan.  It gives you a chance to see the city and not so touristy parts.  The Aswan market AKA Sharia al-Souq offers many things like herbs, spices, organic teas, and Egyptian cotton.  Along with tons of other great souvenirs to bring home.  Just be careful when going to the markets.  If you aren’t interested in going into a shop, just say no or ignore them.  Also, you need to be stern about not being pressured to buy something you don’t want or like.  

Now, when shopping in the markets, you should learn how to negotiate prices.  If they tell you one price, it’s probably worth half of that.  They want you to buy it, so you can haggle with them to get it at the price you want.  If not, you can just walk away.  Usually, once you walk away or attempt to, that’s when they’ll come down on the price.  Shopping anywhere in Egypt will take some skill and bargaining tactics to avoid getting overcharged for things.  

Aswan, Egypt
Spices are life

Additionally, buying spices is one of the best things to do in Aswan.  Plus, I loved shopping for beautiful colorful Kaftan dresses, with Nubian embroidery and other items made of Egyptian cotton.  It is a fabulous souvenir for you and the family.  Wearing one of these dresses will make anyone feel regal, and they are so comfortable too.  

While there, if you see this green-looking juice, then try it.  It’s called sugar cane juice, and it is sweet but yummy.  We used to have sugar cane trees growing up in Mississippi, so I am used to the reference.  

Ultimately, going to the market is another great way to see and talk to some of the locals, see their shops and get a sense of how they earn a living.  

5. Visit Nubian Museum

Visiting the Nubian Museum is one of the best things to do in Aswan to learn about Nubia and its people from prehistory to the current day.  

The Nubian Museum is a lovely regional museum paying homage to the Nubians.  It showcases more than 3,000 monuments and ancient artifacts that were saved from the Nubia region.  The museum was designed by Mahmoud Al-Hakim and built-in 1997 of pink granite and local sandstone on a steep cliff. 

Once in the museum, they’ll go through the history of the Ages of civilization from Geological Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic, and Islamic eras.

Egypt
Who are the Nubians?

They are nomads of Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan who settled along the Nile River today.  They have their own traditions and speak their own unique language, separate from the Egyptians.  The artifacts and hieroglyphics have depicted Nubians as having beautiful dark skin and long braided hair.  There is so much to learn about the Nubians, dating back to 2000 BC, and they are known as one of the first tribes of civilization of ancient Africa. 

Unfortunately, thousands of Nubians were displaced because of the Nile River and Lake Nassar reservoir flooding their villages after building the new Aswan Dam in the 1960s.  

Still, the Egyptian government worked with UNESCO to rescue these historical artifacts that became known as the “Nubian Rescue Campaign”, the largest movement of monuments and artifacts ever. 

Hours: Open Monday – Saturday 0900 AM- 1:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Tickets: Adults: 100 LE; 50 LE Stundent

Recommended Tours to take: 

6. Felluca Ride on the Nile 

Take a relaxing ride down the majestic Nile River on a Felluca.  It is a top tourist attraction and one of the best things to do in Aswan. 

A Felluca is a wooden Sailboat popular in Egypt and has been around for years.  It’s used to get around the city and the surrounding islands by locals and visitors.   

This Felluca is a sailboat powered by the wind so it’s slower than your typical powered motorboats.

While on the Felluca, you’ll have a nice relaxing time while passing by the sites along the Nile River.  You won’t be able to miss the charming, vibrant, colorful Nubian Villages sitting high on cliffs.  As well as seeing other iconic sites along the Nile, like Kitchener’s island, Elephantine island, Aga Khan Mausoleum, and many more.

You can take a Felluca boat ride along the Nile at any time, but going for a sunset ride along the Nile is magical.  Seeing the sun’s horizon peaking over the hills is breathtaking. 

So take a cruise around the Nile if you have the time to enjoy the tranquil water of the Nile and the scenic landscapes.  

There are a variety of tours available that are great options.  If you take one with a guide, an Egyptologist will give you history about the sites and the Nubian islands.  You can choose from a 1-hour tour, half-day or full-day tours.

Recommended Tours to take: 

7. Have Dinner in Nubian Village

My daughter and I agree that out of all the places we’ve eaten in Egypt, having dinner in the Nubian Village was hands down the best food and yummiest things to do in Aswan.  We had their traditional chicken Tagen with Mezze (a selection of salads), potatoes cooked in a tomato sauce, Musakka (eggplant), Moloukhiya (Green soup), Eish Baladi (Egyptian Pita bread), rice, Tahina sauce, and Baba Ganoush.  Whew, I know that was a lot of food, but it was so delicious. We were happy and stuffed. 

That wasn’t even the best part.  That’s because we were eating our dinner at sunset overlooking the Nile River.  The scenery was breathtaking, and the skyline was gorgeous.  

We had dinner at a guesthouse restaurant, and the Nubian people were friendly.  The courtyard was picturesque, with beautiful drawings and murals painted in vibrant colors.  The whole setting and vibe were blissful. 

Ways to get there

The Nubian Village is about 3 miles south of Aswan.  We took a ferry from the city of Aswan to Elephantine Island.  Then we took a motorboat over to the Nubian Village and restaurant.  We climbed on the first boat around 4ish to head toward the Village.  

Additionally, taking the boat down the Nile river while the sun was setting was gorgeous.  

Overall I think it took us about 40 minutes to get to the Nubian Village.  Between the stunning ride down the Nile River, the food, and the whole ambiance, it was one of the most incredible things to do in Aswan.

Aswan Egypt

8.  Visit Aswan High Dam

The Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960s and finished by the 1970s.  The building of the Aswan Dam was to help control the flow of water from the Nile River, costing $1B to complete.  It is the largest embankment dam across the Nile River.  It took about 34,000 people to build this massive dam, and 25,000 of them were Egyptians.   

This High Dam is so significant because it supplies water, hydroelectricity (power), and irrigation needs to Egypt and Sudan.  

Another thing to point out, the building of the Aswan High Dam came with its share of controversy.  That’s because thousands of monuments and artifacts such as Philae Temple and Abu Simble had to be relocated to higher ground due to threats of being completely submerged in floodwaters.  The Dam also displaced over 100,00 Egyptians and Sudanese Nubians due to this project and the formation of the artificial Lake Nassar.

Aswan Egypt

If you take a full-day city tour, this visit will be more than likely included.  Or if you are touring on your own, then you can make a stop at the High Dam. 

Recommended Tours to take: 

9. Have Sunset Tea at Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel

Do you want to feel fancy?  Then one of the best things to do in Aswan is to have sunset tea at the incredible Sofitel Legend Old Cataract hotel.  This colonial-style hotel is iconic for its decor and historical feats.  It’s in a prime location, sitting along the banks of the Nile River.  

Sit and enjoy stunning sunset views of the Nile River at the Terrace restaurant.  Get incredible views of Elephantine island and Khnum Temple while having a unique experience of sunset tea and a selection of French pastries.  Oh, you fancy huh?

Another option is to relish in spectacular views from the Promenade, where you can enjoy local hibiscus tea or a cocktail from the bar.  

As you can see, there are different places to choose from to have flowing tea or champagne while getting epic scenic views on a beautiful hotel terrace.

So, even if you are not a guest staying at the hotel, you can visit, have lunch, dinner, or sunset tea.  So go ahead include this on your itinerary of things to do in Aswan.   

Click here for more info and availability.

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10. Explore Elephantine Island

Touring Elephantine Island is one of the best things to do in Aswan, especially if you want to experience the authentic Nubian culture.  

Take a stroll around Elephantine island.  This island is quiet and secluded and is in the middle of the Nile River.  It is one of the oldest inhabited towns in Aswan and is known as the “door of the south”.  They were big on Sudanese trading and its southern location gave it the name.  

Have a walk around and visit the two of the Nubian Villages, Siou, and Koti of beautiful brightly colored homes.   

Then, have a relaxing time on the island and get to know the friendly people, see how they are living the simple life. 

Plus, there are a few monuments that you can visit on the island, such as the Nilometer, Aswan Museum, and Animalia.

Ways to Get there

To get to the island, you can take a local ferry from the city of Aswan.  It will cost about 5 EGPs.  

But, if you’re staying at the Movenpick Resort Aswan, then that ferry is free.

If you plan on taking a Felluca ride around, that’ll be a perfect time to stop at Elephantine Island too.

Recommended Tours to take:

11. Aswan Botanical Garden on Kitchener’s Island

Who doesn’t love being surrounded by beautiful gardens?  And these gorgeous gardens are on an island on the Nile River. 

The island was a gift to Lord Horatio Kitchener, an Army commander in the 1800’s.  He then imported plants and flowers from all over the world, like India, to create gorgeous botanical gardens.  

One of the most relaxing things to do is walk around the peaceful and serene island surrounded by the greenery of plants and trees.  

Aswan
Ways to get there

To get there, you’ll have to take a boat to the island.  Taking a tour on the Felucca boat would be an excellent option to consider.  Otherwise, you could just jump on a public ferry to get there.

Recommended Tours to take:

12. See the Aga Khan Mausoleum 

Aga Khan Mausoleum is a monument dedicated to Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah leader of the Ismailis. 

It is a landmark sitting up high on the West bank of the Nile in the desert.  You can get spectacular views overlooking the Nile river from the Mausoleum.  

After becoming ill, Aga Khan decided to visit Aswan to better his health.  Since he recovered there, he decided to travel to Aswan every winter.    

He wanted Aswan to be his place where he laid to rest.  His wife requested the construction of the Mausoleum for her husband’s burial there; he died in 1957.  The Mausoleum is built out of rose granite with his tomb in white Carrara marble. 

Ways to get there

Most tourists can see the Mausoleum by a Cruise ship or on a Fellecua sailboat around the Nile. 

However, you can also walk up the steep heels if you want to get a closer look.  The Mausoleum is, however, closed for entry.  

Lastly, his family’s home is at the base of the hill and is said to be the only people allowed to go inside the Mausoleum.

Recommended Tours to take:

Egypt

Where to Stay in Aswan

Movenpick Resort Aswan

Movenpick is an upscale resort in Aswan.  The cool thing about this resort is that it is on Elephantine Island in the middle of the Nile.  In fact, this is the only resort on the island.  

You’ll get gorgeous views of the Nile River staying in this hotel.  This is where we stayed and we had a balcony room with the Nile River view hotel, and waking up to the sun glistening over the water was mesmerizing. 

It’s fun to see Felluca’s, cruise ships, and ferry’s in the river passing by.  You will be directly across the city of Aswan so that you can see the hustle and bustle of the city from afar.  

Movenpick Resort is a pleasant and relaxing hotel.  The rooms are clean, comfortable, and spacious.  The staff is friendly and accommodating.  

Also, there are 3 restaurants and 2 bars on the premises.  Plus, they serve an amazing breakfast buffet every morning with local and international foods.  Ooh, you have to try the falafels, they are amazing.  

You can sit inside the other lounge restaurant by the vast windows or on the patio to gaze at the Nile River and gardens while eating.  

Additionally, the upscale Panorama Restaurant & Bar sits at the highest point in Aswan, with spectacular 360-degree views overlooking the Nile River.  Here you’ll have magnificent views of the Nile River while having a romantic dinner.  

Getting there

Movenpick is only 20 minutes from the airport.  Then it takes about 5 minutes to hop on the free ferry to get to the resort.  The resort ferry runs every 10-15 minutes, making it easy to get back and forth to Aswan city.

Click here to check out rates and availability.

Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel

Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel is a historic 5-star legendary hotel in Aswan built-in 1899.   It’s sitting in the Nubian desert on the Nile river across Elephantine island.  The hotel is famous and one of the best luxury resorts in Egypt.  

This hotel is known for accomodating royals and dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie.  The Victorian-style hotel is on the Nile River and is the most beautiful and elegant hotel filled with Moorish architecture, gorgeous arches, and Persian rugs throughout.  

The hotel features two areas; the Palace Wing featuring royal-themed suites, historical charm, elegant furnishings fit for royalty.  Then there’s the newer building, The Nile, which has a more contemporary elegance and modern rooms and french inspirations with spectacular views of the Nile.  

Additionally, there are several restaurants on the property, including the famous 1902 restaurant.  

You can eat dinner at the lavish 1902 restaurant that’s the epitome of fine dining and French cuisine.  

Getting there

Sofitel Legend is only 11 miles from the airport located in Aswan city along the Nile River. 

Click here to check out rates and availability.

How to get to Aswan

By Plane

Taking a flight to Aswan would be the fastest way to get there.  The starting point would be from Cairo International airport.   Egyptair is one of the major airlines that’s operating throughout Egypt.   

To check out flights and rates, click here. 

By Train

You can take a sleeper train that’ll get you to Aswan in 13-14 hours.  

Check the train schedules and prices here.

By Cruise

Another way to get to Aswan is by cruise.  Taking a cruise down the Nile through Egypt is one of the top tourist things to do.  It’s a slower yet easy way to get between cities and great for people who love being on the water and relaxing in between touring.  Most cruises will start in Luxor then take you to Aswan. 

Recommended Cruise Tours: 

Further Reading on Egypt

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Aswan, Egypt Things to do
Aswan Egypt, Things to do

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