Things to do in Aswan

Things to do in  Aswan

Ancient wonders on the Nile

Egypt’s southernmost (and perhaps prettiest) city is often overlooked as a destination in its own right. Most visitors pile off Luxor-Aswan Nile cruises for a day’s whistle-stop sightseeing, skimming its surface before returning to their air-conditioned boats. Yet, much like the Nile’s gushing waters, Aswan overflows with things to do. Marvel at the Philae Temple, Unfinished Obelisk, and High Dam; ride a white-sailed felucca boat on the lapping river; and explore Nubian villages, museums, and souks. UNESCO-listed Abu Simbel also beckons—its colossal Lake Nasser–side temples make an easy day trip.

Top 15 attractions in Aswan

Nile River

Measuring a mighty 4,150 miles (6,680 kilometers) from end to end, the Nile is the longest river in the world. It's also the lifeblood of Egypt, flowing through the heart of the Sahara desert and passing through cities, including Khartoum, Aswan, Luxor, and Cairo, before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.More

Philae Temple (Temple of Isis)

Perched on an island in the Nile River, Philae Temple is ancient history that’s been saved stone by stone. A relocation effort moved Philae Temple to Agilkia Island when the UNESCO World Heritage Site was threatened by flooding; today, thanks to the move, visitors can still admire hieroglyphic reliefs abutting soaring columns and sanctuaries dedicated to the ancient gods Horus, Isis, and Hathor.More

Abu Simbel Temples

Built as royal tombs, the Great Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Hathor are some of Egypt’s best known archeological sites. Step past the enormous sandstone statues carved into the temple facades, and explore the interiors, which are decorated with art and hieroglyphics.More

Aswan High Dam

Built to control the Nile River’s annual floods, the Aswan High Dam transformed Egypt’s Nile Valley and created the vast Lake Nasser. The sheer scale of the dam is impressive, and at the top, you’ll find sweeping views of the lake and surrounding desert.More

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple, comprising a pair of mirror-image sanctuaries dedicated to the gods Sobek and Horus, dominates a gorgeous site at the edge of the Nile River. Inside the temple itself, a pair of hypostyle halls are decked in long lines of hieroglyphics, leading to more antechambers, ritual spaces, and even a secret passageway used by ancient priests.More

Temple of Horus (at Edfu)

Vast and beautifully preserved, complete with its original roof, the Temple of Horus (Edfu Temple still dominates the little Nile-side town of Edfu. Completed by Cleopatra’s father in the first century BC, it’s dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus and is one of Egypt’s largest ancient temples.More

Unfinished Obelisk

Aswan’s granite quarries supplied raw materials for some of ancient Egypt’s greatest monuments, and the partially excavated Unfinished Obelisk is a rare chance to see that work in progress. Mysteries surround the monolith in Aswan’s northern quarries. At the site, you’ll also find ancient rock paintings left behind by stone workers.More

Nubian Villages (Siou and Koti)

Narrow lanes are lined with gardens and brightly painted houses in the villages of Siou and Koti on Elephantine Island. Trails link the two communities, where Arabic blends with the sounds of the Nubian language. In between the colorful homes, find locals offering souvenirs, henna tattoos, mint tea, and photo ops with captive crocodiles.More

Elephantine Island

Set in the middle of the Nile River at Aswan, Elephantine Island is home to Nubian villages, a handful of tourist sites, and a landmark hotel. Gorgeous views across the water make this a favorite destination for both sunset sails and strolls, while other visitors make laid-back Elephantine Island a home base for exploring Aswan.More

Nubian Museum

Established in association with UNESCO to preserve the ancient Nubian culture, which was devastated when the Nile was dammed in 1970, the Nubia Museum is one of Aswan’s most fascinating and least-visited attractions. Exhibits run from 6,500 years ago to the present day, from the Kingdom of Kush to contemporary folk culture.More

Aswan Botanical Garden

Created by World War I Field Marshal Lord Kitchener while he was Governor of Egypt, the Aswan Botanical Garden is a tranquil tropical oasis on a Nile island that still bears Kitchener’s name. Birds sing and insects hum among a wealth of palms and plants sourced from Asia, Africa, and beyond.More

Temple of Kalabsha

On an island in Lake Nasser, near the Aswan High Dam, the Temple of Kalabsha is an imposing sandstone structure. Built—like Philae Temple—in Roman times, it’s also known as the Temple of Mandulis as a tribute to the god once honored here. Follow the majestic stone causeway from the lake for an idea of what ancient worshippers must have felt.More

Aga Khan Mausoleum (Tomb of Muhammad Shah Aga Khan)

A simple, austere structure with a dome topping crenellated walls, the Aga Khan Mausoleum (Tomb of Muhammad Shah Aga Khan) sits atop a hill on the outskirts of Aswan, overlooking the Nile. Built in rose granite, with the tomb itself in white Carrara marble, the mausoleum is a fitting monument to the man who was once supreme leader of the Shia Muslim Ismaili sect.More

St. Simeon Monastery

On the west bank of the Nile, facing Aswan, 7th-century St. Simeon Monastery looks more like a fortress than a place of worship. Also known as Anba Hatre, the brick-and-stone structure has been abandoned since the 13th century. From the church to the monks’ cells, it paints an atmospheric picture of monastic life in the ancient world.More

Lake Nasser (Lake Nubia)

One of the world’s largest artificial lakes, Lake Nasser was formed when the Aswan High Dam successfully controlled the Nile, flooding around 2,027 square miles (5,250 square kilometers) of desert. The majority of Lake Nasser is in Egypt; the rest extends across the border into Sudan, where it’s commonly known as Lake Nubia.More

Top activities in Aswan

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All about Aswan

When to visit

Aswan’s peak season is from October to April, when pleasantly warm days make enjoying the city’s sights a breeze. November and March are the quietest months during this period. From May to September, the ferocious sun keeps tourists away. Aside from religious holidays, there aren’t many big events in Aswan. The exceptions are the sun festivals in Abu Simbel (in mid-October and mid-February) when the sun illuminate its inner sanctum of the main temple.

Getting around

It’s possible to explore central Aswan on foot; aim to browse shops and souks mid-morning or in the evening, when the weather is cooler. If you’re not on an organized tour, your best bet for visiting the ancient ruins around the city is to negotiate a reasonable day-trip price with a cab driver. Alternatively, you can use Aswan’s microbus, which is a shared minivan service that ply the key routes in and around downtown. While you can also rent a car, driving here isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Traveler tips

Most of Aswan’s tourist attractions are well-established; the most popular are the Unfinished Obelisk, the Philae Temple, and Abu Simbel. If your schedule allows it, head further afield to the Sculpture Symposium, sometimes called the Aswan Sculpture Park. Set on the rocky hills near the Philae Temple Dock, this open-air venue is studded with granite sculptures created by international artists. Wander among the surreal modernist works—including eggs, hippos, and other weird creations—and enjoy the stunning backdrop of Lake Nasser.


People Also Ask

What is Aswan famous for?

Egypt’s southernmost city, Aswan is famed for its Nile scenery and ancient monuments. Highlights include the UNESCO-listed Philae Temple (on an island), the Unfinished Obelisk that’s abandoned in a pharaonic-era quarry, and Aswan High Dam. The gigantic, UNESCO-protected Abu Simbel temples beside Lake Nasser are also within a day-trip distance.

How many days should I spend in Aswan?

Two days are probably enough, but three lets you appreciate Aswan’s setting. On day one, visit the Unfinished Obelisk, Philae, and High Dam. Stop by Abu Simbel the next day. On day three, explore a botanical garden and nearby Nubian villages and cruise the Nile by felucca, a Mediterranean sailboat.

Why should I visit Aswan?

Aswan’s ancient relics are its crowd-pleasers. See the Unfinished Obelisk—a granite pillar half-carved by long-ago stonemasons—and explore Philae Temple, resplendent on a Nile island. Also unmissable is a day trip to Abu Simbel. Aswan’s unhurried pace also makes it a great battery recharger after a busy Nile cruise or sightseeing trip.

Is it worth visiting Abu Simbel?

Yes. Abu Simbel’s two 3,000-year-old UNESCO-listed temples (Ramses II and Hathor) that overlook Lake Nasser are some of Egypt’s most awe-inspiring sights, and both are fronted by notable statues. Equally impressive as their original construction is that both were dismantled and rebuilt here in 1968 to protect from flooding.

Where is Aswan in the Bible?

Aswan is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the region of Syene, Seveneh, or Sinim on Egypt’s southern limits. Reference to what may be the Aswan area appears in Isaiah 49:12 in the prophecy that “peoples shall come from the north and west, and the land of Sinim.”

How can I get to Aswan?

Indirect flights to Aswan—with stops—leave from cities worldwide, while direct flights depart from Cairo and Luxor. Many travelers visit Aswan while on Luxor-Aswan Nile cruises. Trains run to Aswan from Luxor and Cairo, while private Aswan road transfers from Luxor let you stop at antiquity sites like Edfu en route.

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