How to get from Aswan to Abu Simbel and explore the temple of Ramses II on a day trip
Do you want to visit the great temple of Ramses II? Are you looking for the fastest way to get from Aswan to Abu Simbel?
Then you are not alone! Abu Simbel is one of the many fascinating highlights in Egypt (click for my list of the 20 best tourist attractions). The ancient rock temple with its colossal statues of Ramses II. from 1264 BC was relocated by the UNESCO starting from 1964 after the construction of the Aswan High Damn that would have inundated the monument. Originally served as a lasting monument to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Sadly Abu Simbel is not exactly easy to reach.
In fact, a day trip to Abu Simbel could easily cost you 300 US-Dollar per person. This is why I compiled this guide to show you all the alternatives for seeing the world famous ruins. The distance between Aswan and Abu Simbel is 280 kilometers, and you got three ways to cover it: By car, by plane or on a cruise ship (there are no trains in this area). If you want to make sure, this is for you, do read my proper guide to Abu Simbel with tons of pictures (& how it looks like inside). Also, don’t forget to check out my guide on what to wear in Egypt.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons, eh?
Aswan to Abu Simbel by plane
The fastest, easiest and by far most relaxing way to get from Aswan to Abu Simbel is by plane and takes 45 minutes. Egyptair (click for the website) runs at least one flights per day and depending on the season & demand, there are also a couple of charter flights as well and one additional Egyptair flight. They cost around 250 to 300 US-Dollar for an economy ticket. Not sure why it is so expensive, but they probably noticed they can milk tourists and cheap flights are a rarity.
The scheduled flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel:
- Departure Aswan: 10:10 am or 9:55
Arrival Ab Simbel: 10:40 or 10:55
- Departure Abu Simbel: 13:00 or 13:15
Arrival Aswan: 13:45 or 14:00
A taxi from Abu Simbel airport to the temple of Ramses II will take about 10 minutes (usually included in the ticket fare). This means if you take the first flight and leave with the second flight, you’ll have about 90 minutes inside Abu Simbel temple – ample time to explore it all and take a couple of pictures. Please note that you will need around 10 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the temple proper. There are golf caddies available for physically impaired visitors.
It might be a bit rushed, but at the same time, you got enough time to visit Philae Temple or Komb Ombo temple in the afternoon. Under normal circumstances, it will take about 20 minutes to get from downtown Aswan to the airport.
PRO: Fast, relaxed, early arrival
CON: A bit rushed, expensive, only 90 minutes at the temple
Bus from Aswan to Abu Simbel
There is a fairly well-maintained road from Aswan to Abu Simbel (about 283 kilometers). Taking a bus is certainly the cheapest way to get to Abu Simbel and you can expect prices around 150 to 2000 EGP.
All tourist buses will travel in the same police-escorted convoy. There is usually one in the morning (~ around 4 am) and around noon (11:00 am). Both take about 3 hours to get to Abu Simbel, so in all honesty, you can simply book the cheapest, air-conditioned bus you can find. Police convoy sounds weird? Read my guide on travel safety in Egypt!
Most tours will allow you around two hours in Abu Simbel before you will have to take the convoy back to Aswan (return by either 1:00 pm or 7:00 pm) – so you don’t gain a substantial time benefit compared to taking the plane. Plus, Egyptologists are not allowed within Abu Simbel anyway, so there is no advantage to having your tour guide along either.
Most hotels and cruise ships in Aswan will have a standing cooperation with a tour operator and will be able to supply you with an offer for an excursion into that part of the Nubian desert, and this is probably the easiest way to arrange the trip from abroad. If you are staying at a luxury hotel, they will probably ask a substantially higher price (probably around 600 EGP per person), but you will usually drive in a small mini-van as opposed to a big bus with 30-50 seats. If you want the cheaper option, you might want to call one of the budget hotels in Aswan and ask them to arrange the tour for you.
There are a couple of travel agencies in Aswan who offer full day tours to Abu Simbel, High Dam, Philae Temple and sometimes the Unfinished Obelisk as well. Might be a smart move to book it all in one go to save some money and perfect your itinerary, but these are usually quite high priced. Again, a cheap hotel will offer a similar tour for a fraction of the price, but you will travel in a big group.
Also, make sure that the entry fee to Abu Simbel is included, as this will be another 160 EGP!
Note: You will have to book at least one day in advance & tour operators/travel agencies usually require your passport for booking.
PRO: Cheap & well organized
CON: Exhausting trip, only 2 hours at the temple
Aswan to Abu Simbel by Boat
Probably the most relaxed way to get from Aswan to Abu Simbel is by cruise ship. Lake Nasser is an often overlooked highlight in Egypt – especially considering that a couple of other beautiful Egyptian temples got relocated as well, and there is not just Abu Simbel in terms of sightseeing.
These days there are only a handful of cruise ships operating on Lake Nasser (used to be a lot more before the revolution). They usually take 4 or 5 days to get from Aswan to Abu Simbel and you will have the unique chance to explore Amada, the Tomb of Pennut, Derr, Wadi El Seboua and usually the Kalabsha temples.
Lake Nasser can be incredibly beautiful and you’ll even get the chance to see crocodiles (not possible behind the High Dam). You’ll also have the chance to take pictures of Abu Simbel from the Lake and see it the way Ramses II intended it to be seen. For me, a cruise on the nile through Egypt is a must-experience (check out my experience on the fantastic Oberoi Zahra)
As competition between the last few tour operators is pretty high (Steigenberger & Movenpick are probably the most reliable), all are about the same price. For a 4 day cruise, you can expect prices around 550 US-Dollar, per person in a standard cabin, including entry fees to the temples.
PRO: Seeing the other highlights in Nubia, plenty of time inside the temple
CON: Slow, expensive
Cairo to Abu Simbel
There are no direct flights from Cairo to Abu Simbel, BUT there is a very good connection. There is a flight from Cairo to Aswan each day departing at 8:00 am in Cairo. With that Egyptair flight, you can catch the 9:55 am flight to Abu Simbel, arriving around 10:44 am. As far as i know, no other airlines operate within Egypt.
Again, you will have around 90 minutes inside Abu Simbel, before you need to catch the plane around 13:00 pm and your connecting flight to Cairo. It’s easily doable if a tiny tack expensive (around 300 to 400 US-Dollar per person). But if you really want to see the UNESCO World Heritage site, I’m sure it’s worth it. By the way: Make sure to check out my comprehensive Cairo travel guide.
So, this is it. This was my guide to the best way to get from Aswan to Abu Simbel. Got any question? Leave a comment! And pin this guide to your Pinterest board if you liked it!