Hi everyone! Welcome to my article on the best things to do in Aswan. My name is Carrie Salter from @TheDaydreamDrifters and I’m originally from the USA. I grew up in Sarasota, Florida near one of my favorite beaches in the world – Siesta Key. My love of travel started at a young age.
I guess in a way I have loved travel ever since birth because I got my first frequent flyer card with Delta at just eight months old. During my time in Florida, my family traveled to California, Oregon, Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and many other places in the Caribbean. I was always fascinated by the world and had a big itch to explore different countries and cultures.
When I graduated college, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue professional dancing. I soon joined the actors union and began acting. That is when I started getting interested in photography and videography. I bought myself a camera and in 2017, I headed off on my first trip out of North America to Morocco. This was the number one country on my bucket list.
This trip changed my life and when I returned to Los Angeles, I decided I wanted to save up $30,000 and travel for a year or two. I worked on lots of different movies and TV shows – some as an actress but most as a stand-in, photo double or even background. I also started driving for Uber and did clinical trials to save as much money as I could, as quickly as I could.
On the 6th of April, 2019 I left the US to begin my travels around the world. That is when I feel like my dream life began. I’m now living in the Canary Islands with the love of my life and we are planning to leave in our van to travel around Europe, Morocco, Tunisia and more starting later this year.
Three Amazing Weeks in Egypt
Egypt was always a country high on my bucket list. The history, culture and landscapes (like Siwa Oasis, the White Desert and Mahmya Island) really drew me here. Although it was on my bucket list for years, the trip was quite spontaneous as we visited in the midst of the pandemic.
Where we live in the Canary Islands, the cases have been quite low throughout the pandemic but there were still many countries that weren’t open in October when we began planning a trip. When we saw Egypt was open (with a valid PCR test), we decided to make the move! We locked in a few collaborations with some hotels and in November, 2020 off we went.
When planning our itinerary, we originally decided on a two week trip. But after trying to squeeze everything into two weeks and finding out that it wasn’t possible, we decided on spending three weeks in Egypt. We left in the middle of November and got back the second week of December.
The weather was amazing everywhere we went. We had quite the itinerary planned. Throughout our time in Egypt we visited: Cairo, Hurghada, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Cairo (again), Siwa Oasis and Sharm El-Sheikh. We planned to visit the White Desert but unfortunately we ran out of time.
Highlights of Aswan: Nubian Village and Abu Simbel Temples
We spent three days in Aswan and our objectives were to visit the Nubian Village and Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel is located 300 km from Aswan but Aswan is the starting point for most people as there are not many hotels near the temples. We wanted to join a Nile River Cruise but many of them weren’t running due to COVID-19. This is a big reason for us to come back!
Our favorite places in Aswan (as you might expect) were the Nubian Village and the Abu Simbel Temples. When I first saw photos from the Nubian Village on Pinterest in 2018, I immediately added it to my must-see list. Parts of it remind me of Chefchaouen, Morocco. It’s a completely different vibe than the rest of Egypt and it’s almost like visiting two countries in one.
The colors of the buildings, the delicious spices (we ended up spending $40 on spices and came home with an entire backpack full for our friends and family) and the boat ride down the Nile was an experience in itself.
We absolutely loved the Abu Simbel Temples too! It was one of our favorite stops on our entire Egypt trip. We got so lucky with a once in a lifetime experience due to the lack of tourists during the pandemic. We arrived at the temple at 8am and were the only tourists there for over an hour – so we had a lot of time to take photos and explore completely on our own.
We paid 510 LE ($33) for two entry tickets, as well as a separate ticket for the tripod (for taking photos outside of the temples). If you want to take a camera (aside from a cell phone) inside the temples, the camera ticket costs 300 LE ($20). We decided that buying the camera ticket wasn’t worth it and just took photos with our phones inside the Abu Simbel Temples.
5 Best Things To Do in Aswan
There are many fantastic things to do in Aswan. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience everything we wanted since we spent a day visiting the Nubian Village and we also spent a full day traveling to and visiting the Abu Simbel Temples. Nevertheless, the top five things on our to-do list were:
1. Visit the Nubian Village of Aswan
In our opinion, this is a must-do when visiting Aswan. It’s such a colorful and interesting place that feels different from the rest of Egypt. There is lots of good shopping to do here. We recommend visiting spice shops. It’s important to haggle with the sellers before settling on a final price.
2. Take a Private Day Trip to the Abu Simbel Temples
This was one of our main reasons for visiting Aswan. We booked a private driver through someone we met in Luxor. We had considered going on a group trip to save money but due to the pandemic most of the tours weren’t running. In the end, it was a blessing that we went with a private car because we were able to spend over an hour at the temples alone.
Our private driver picked us up at 4am to start the almost four hour journey to the Abu Simbel Temples. The drive is long and the town and temples are extremely remote. We paid about $80 USD for our driver round trip. If you would like the contact info of our driver, feel free to DM me on Instagram.
3. Explore the Temple of Isis (Philae Temple)
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit Philae but we have heard it’s well worth the visit! If we ever get back to Aswan, we will definitely be making a stop here for more exploration of Egypts temples.
4. Enjoy a Felucca Ride on the Nile at Sunset
This was one of our favorite experiences in Egypt. You can choose to go with a group or take a private felucca. We went with the private option as it included dinner and only cost us $15 for two people. A very tranquil bucket list experience. It’s also possible to do a felucca ride in Luxor or Cairo.
5. Have Lunch or Dinner at Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan
If you don’t stay at this gorgeous hotel then you should at least stop by for a visit at one of their restaurants. Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan was named one of the 11 hotels to visit in your dreams by the New York Times.
Best Places to Stay in Aswan
There are places to stay in Aswan for all budgets. We stayed at CityMax Hotel Aswan. The hotel was in a great location with views of the Nile and well-priced ($70 per night). Although, next time we would take the plunge and spend the money to stay at Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan.
There are also many Airbnbs to choose from but make sure to look at the location because some are not near the main street and may be on an island. It’s also possible to stay in the Nubian Village in a guest house or Airbnb. We did not stay but we know people who recommend Anakato Guest House. We wish we had stayed in the Nubian Village for a night.
Favorite Memories of Aswan
Our favorite memories in Aswan had to be visiting the Nubian Village and the Abu Simbel Temples almost completely alone, with no other tourists around. Although it was difficult to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, we did it as safely as possible and we feel like it paid off for us. It was never possible to see these places without being flooded with tourists in the past.
I think the moment that takes the cake was when we walked over the hill and saw Abu Simbel for the first time. The sun was rising, the air was crisp, the lake was shining and we had it all to ourselves. To say it was one of the most epic moments of our lives would be an understatement.
Need to Know Before you Go
- If you are visiting Aswan as a starting point to get to Abu Simbel just know that it’s a 300km drive each way and most tours begin around at 4 or 5am. The road there has a couple of places to stop where you can go to the WC or get coffee but we didn’t see any open restaurants.
- The Nubian Village is not located on the main strip of Aswan. You need to take a boat to get there. The boat ride is about 25 minutes each way and costs around $5 USD for a round trip.
- There were some Nile River Cruise boats that looked amazing. If you are traveling to Egypt after the pandemic, we recommend checking this out. It’s a great and super peaceful way to travel down the Nile.
Thanks for reading my article on Aswan everyone! If you have any questions or would like more info feel free to message me on Instagram 🙂