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Sphinx to Sails: Decoding the Path to Your Dream Nile Cruise – A Definitive Guide

Hannah Logan July 26, 2019 Published in Egypt
Sphinx to Sails: Decoding the Path to Your Dream Nile Cruise – A Definitive Guide

Egyptians have been cruising down the Nile for thousands of years, so it makes sense that a Nile River cruise is one of the best ways to see and explore some of the top attractions and sites that this country has to offer. However, since it’s such a popular way to travel through Egypt there is no shortage of Nile cruise options which can make things a little tricky and confusing for those booking or planning a Nile cruise for the first time. Don’t worry though, in this article we’re going to break down the differences in Nile cruises including the top things to look for and consider for when it comes time for you to book your own Egypt tour.

What Do You See on a Nile Cruise?

Most Nile cruises travel between Luxor and Aswan, stopping at key points of interest along the way which are:


Luxor is home to several of Egypt’s most inspiring and interesting attractions. Here you can find the Valley of Kings, filled with the tombs of ancient Pharaohs of years past. While many of these tombs have been discovered, many still remain hidden in these hills. You’ll also see some of the country’s best known temples: Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

Additional sites worth noting are the Colossi of Memnon, the Valley of the Queens, and several museums including the fascinating mummification museum. Luxor is also one of the top places in the world for a hot air balloon ride. See the Nile river and the Valley of the Kings from above as the dawn breaks, it’s a magical experience.

Queen Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor
Queen Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor


The temple of Edfu, which is dedicated to the god Horus, is one of the top temples to visit in Egypt for one main reason: it’s the best preserved temple in the country. Edfu temple managed to escape damage from the Nile floods and the carvings and hieroglyphics here have been incredibly helpful to archeologists and Egyptologists in terms of learning about the temple rituals of ancient Egypt.

The temple of Edfu is the second biggest temple in Egypt (Karnak being the largest) and took over 200 years to build. Some of the most notable attractions within the temple include the Nilometer, which was used to measure the height of the Nile to help predict future harvests, the Passage of Victory, which depicts the battle between Horus and Seth, and the Hypostyle Hall where you can find carvings of the ingredients and recipes needed to make different perfumes.

Edfu Temple
Edfu Temple

Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo is just a small stop, but the temple is definitely worth a visit. It’s an interesting temple because it is dedicated to two different ancient Egyptian gods; Horus the falcon god and Sobek the crocodile god. Even though it is one temple, it has two of everything: entrances, halls, courts, and sanctuaries.

Another must-see in Kom Ombo is the crocodile museum. Perhaps you saw the human mummies in the museum in Egypt, but here you can see 22 mummies of crocodiles. You’ll even get to see some crocodile coffins- bet you haven’t seen one of those before!


Aswan, in southern Egypt, will likely be the start or end point of your Nile cruise depending on which direction you choose to go. Aswan doesn’t have the massive temples that Luxor does, but it still has plenty to see and do including the Nubian village, the spice market, and the beautiful botanical gardens. From Aswan, you can also see the famous High Dam along the temple of Philae which is dedicated to Horus, and Elephantine Island which has plenty of interesting ancient artefacts.

Aswan is also the gateway for one of Egypt’s most impressive and important ancient attractions: Abu Simbel. Those who want to see this incredible site can take a short flight from Aswan or a three-hour car journey.

Don’t forget, one of the big reasons why a Nile cruise is such a great way to see Egypt is because of the scenic cruising. As you pass through the cities listed above you’ll be able to see some of the monuments and attractions all lit up in the dark. While, during the day, you’ll pass beautiful Nile vistas where you can see local Egyptian communities and gorgeous landscapes.

Typical sailing on the Nile in Aswan, Egypt
Typical sailing on the Nile in Aswan, Egypt

It is also possible to do a longer Nile cruise that starts in Cairo and ends in Aswan, however, these are not as popular due to how long they are. Most people prefer the Luxor-Aswan route as it can be done in less than a week, allowing you to spend the rest of your Egypt vacation exploring others parts of the country. That being said, it is an option if you would like to do a 2-week cruise.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Nile Cruise

How Long Do You Want to Cruise for?

One of the first thing you will want to determine is how long you want to cruise for. Do you only have a couple of days? Or do you have a week? Cruises vary in length, even though go along the same route.

Some cruises are as short as 4 days, 3 nights but to really get the best experience it is recommended that you do at least 5 days and 4 nights. This will give a much better Nile cruise experience and won’t feel as rushed with your private Egyptologist guide.

On the other hand, depending on the type of traveller you are, you may want to make sure you don’t cruise for too long. While Nile cruises are a fantastic and relaxing way to sight-see in Egypt, some people can find them restricting. In this case, you probably won’t want to book a cruise that is one week or longer.

Where Do You Want to Start your Nile Cruise?

Nile cruises start in one of two destinations: Aswan or Luxor. There is no difference between the cruises depending on the start place; you will stop at the same sights and attractions along the way, however, there are a couple of things worth taking into consideration.

When it comes to things to do in Luxor, a lot of people want to do a hot air balloon ride over the Nile and the Valley of Kings. If this is on your list of things to do, you’ll have to plan your cruise around this activity. Since the hot air balloon rides happen at sunrise you will, normally, have enough time to do the balloon ride before your cruise starts. That being said, it is a very early morning start so you may not want to jump from the balloon ride right into sight-seeing which will be the case if you plan for both on the same day.

Alternatively, in Aswan, many people choose to do an early morning trip to Abu Simbel temple in southern Egypt which can be reached by either car or plane. Again, this is an early morning activity that can generally be timed to fit with the cruise, but that is something you will want to check with your tour provider.

Philae Temple in Aswan
Philae Temple in Aswan

Other considerations are; what direction are you going in and what day of week are you leaving on? If you are exploring the country with Egypt tailor made tours, then they will have this discussion with you and plan your Nile cruise accordingly.

What Style of Nile Cruise are you Looking for?

There is a lot of variety when it comes to Egyptian Nile cruises. The cheapest and most basic option is one of the felucca boats. While these may be traditionally charming, don’t expect much. You’ll sleep on the deck and, it is important to note, not all feluccas have toilets on board.

Chances are, that’s not quite what you had in mind for a Nile cruise, but there are plenty of cruises with private rooms and proper plumbing. Of course, these vary as well. Do you want a top of the line, luxury cruise with nightly entertainment and fine dining? Or, are you just looking for something comfortable with private rooms and normal inclusions? You’ll find several options to fit both of these styles of cruising.

Sonesta St. George Nile Cruise
Sonesta St. George Nile Cruise

What is your Budget for a Nile Cruise?

This point ties in closely with the section above. Obviously, the more basic the cruise the cheaper the price. Keep in mind though, Egyptian cruises aren’t necessarily on par with those that we are used to in North America. Not that there is anything wrong with that (and some companies and big brands are) however, it is something to keep in mind so you don’t end up too surprised.

Remember pricing also will affect your inclusions. Things you will want to look for are meals, drinks, air conditioning, and guides. In terms of guides, you’ll find options that include a group guide for a large number of people or a private guide for just you and your party. It is definitely worth your while to have a private guide for your Egypt guided tours.

That being said, Egypt Nile River cruises can be very affordable. In fact, depending on the type of cruise you do, an Egyptian Nile cruise might actually end up costing you less than if you were to visit all these sites and travel by land. Either way, one of the best things about adding a Nile cruise to your itinerary is that there truly are options for all budgets.

Farah Nile Cruise
Farah Nile Cruise

The Best Nile Cruise Ship Companies

When looking at Nile cruise options it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the options, especially when it comes to Nile cruise ship companies.

Once you have the type of cruise you are looking for and an ideal budget in mind, you can start comparing companies. There are dozens of options, however, to make things a little easier we’ve selected some of the top picks for your consideration.

High-End Ships

High-end ships for Nile cruises really are top of the line and ideal for those looking into Luxury tours in Egypt. The cabins are a good size and often decorated in a modern but elegant design. Many of these ships feature award-winning chefs and additional facilities such as an onboard fitness room, rooftop swimming pool, or even an onboard spa. Additionally, professional Egyptologist guides for all attractions and sites along the way are included in the price of your luxury Egypt tour. These ships differ in size but tend to have somewhere between 30-50 cabins on board.

Sailing down the Nile in luxury style
Sailing down the Nile in luxury style

Some examples of the top high-end ships for a luxury Nile River cruise include:

Good Quality but More Affordable Ships

The above-mentioned ships are stunning, but, may not fit your budget. That’s ok though because there are still several beautiful ships that will offer you an incredible Nile Cruise experience for a more affordable price.

These ships are still tastefully decorated but may not be up to quite the same standard as those that are considered high-end. Meals on board tend to be buffet style rather than a la carte, and while some include additional features such as spas, pools, or fitness centers, they aren’t quite as common. As with all other Nile cruise ships, professional Egyptologists are included to guide you through the temples and sites that you will visit along the way.

Movenpick Royal Lily Nile Cruise
Movenpick Royal Lily Nile Cruise

Some of this good quality but more affordable ship options include the following:

Whatever you decide on in terms of your cruising style, you can bet that an Egyptian Nile cruise truly will be the highlight of your Egypt luxury vacation.

Are you ready to Plan Your Egypt Vacation? Here at Osiris Tours, we pride ourselves in providing the best Egypt tours for your needs and interests.  Get in touch with our team here and let us help you plan your Nile cruise to make sure you get the most out of your Egypt vacation.