Aswan is an Egyptian city located on the banks of the Nile River, close to the southern border with Sudan. Although smaller than Cairo and Luxor, Aswan has been south Egypt’s strategic and commercial gateway since ancient times, and offers a range of cultural and historic attractions to explore.
These include numerous island temples on the Nile, the Qubbet el-Hawa cliffside tombs, and the famous Abu Simbel temples south of the city.
Part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, modern Aswan is also full of bustling markets where you can pick up local souvenirs, and its close proximity to the Nile also guarantees many photogenic sunsets over the river.
Read on for a full guide to traveling to Aswan, including the must-see attractions to visit, and how to travel to Aswan by boat or plane from Cairo.
What Is Aswan Known for?
One of the main cities in Egypt, Aswan was originally founded as Swenett, a frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. Swennet was the location of the stone quarries of Ancient Egypt, which specialized in a granitic rock called Syenite.
This unique local product was used to create many of the most impressive ancient monuments in Egypt, including the Pyramids of Giza, as well as a number of statues, obelisks, and monolithic shrines through the country.
Modern Aswan is perhaps best known for being the location of the Aswan High Dam, a rock-filled embankment dam across the Nile. Completed in 1968, the dam resulted in the creation of Lake Nasser, a huge artificial reservoir which borders Aswan to the south.
However, if you look at a map of Aswan, you will see there are a number of historic attractions to visit in the city and the surrounding area, many located on little islands on the adjacent Nile. These include:
- The Nubia Museum, which traces the Aswan region’s culture from prehistory to modern times
- Sharia al-Souk, a busy marketplace selling local crafts
- Philae Temple Complex on Agilkia Island, which includes the ancient Temple of Isis
- Elephantine Island, the location of the Temple of Khnum
- Kitchener’s Island, location of Aswan Botanical Garden, which dates to the late 19th century
- The Unfinished Obelisk, a huge monument on the the Nile’s east bank which lies uncompleted in its originally stone quarry.
- Qubbet el-Hawa, cliffside tombs on the Nile’s west bank decorated with hieroglyphics.
Many travelers choose to take a boat trip on the Nile to reach the various attractions outside Aswan, which also allows them time to take in the peaceful river surroundings on the journey.
Visit Abu Simbel from Aswan
While in the area, visitors are advised to travel to the massive carved rock temples of Abu Simbel, located around 230 km (140 mi) southwest of Aswan on the western bank of Lake Nasser.
The iconic Aswan temples are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Nubian Monuments. The temples were originally carved out of a mountainside in the 13th century to serve as a lasting monument to Pharaoh Ramesses II and queen Nefertari.
In 1968, the entire complex was painstakingly relocated to higher ground to avoid the temples being submerged by the creation of Lake Nasser after the building of the Aswan dam.
Visitors to the the area are easily able to take a day tour to Abu Simbel from Aswan. At least one coach or minibus envoy departs from the city to the temples every day, and takes approximately 3 hours to reach Abu Simbel.
Aswan Weather Conditions
The weather in Aswan reflects the hot desert climate of Egypt and is generally clear, bright and sunny across all seasons. In fact, Aswan is one of the sunniest and driest cities in the world, and along with Luxor, experiences some of the hottest summer days of any city in Egypt.
The summers in Aswan are long and extremely hot, with average high temperatures consistently rising above 40 °C (104 °F) in June, July, August, and September. Average low temperatures fall around 25 (77 °F) during these months.
By contrast, winter in Aswan tends to be short, with mild and pleasant temperatures averaging a high of 23 °C (73 °F) and a low of 8 °C (46.4 °F). Therefore, many travelers consider winter the best time to visit Aswan.
Is Aswan Safe for Tourists?
In general, Aswan is considered a safe place in Egypt to visit for tourism. Nevertheless, travelers are advised to exercise the same caution and common sense as when other visiting other foreign cities.
Street theft and pickpocketing are not common in Aswan, but visitors are nevertheless advised to be vigilant in crowded areas and to avoid carrying around large amounts of money or valuables.
Some additional tips to ensure safety in Aswan include:
- Leave expensive valuables behind in the hotel or accommodation when going out
- Lock car doors and roll windows up if leaving valuables in a parked car
- Avoid walking alone at night, try to remain in well lit public areas if unavoidable
Finally, as certain diseases that can be dangerous may be present in Aswan, travelers are advised to check which vaccines for Egypt are required before planning a trip to the country.
Travel to Aswan from Cairo
Aswan is located approximately 870 kilometres from Cairo, and although it is possible to drive, the journey takes over 10 hours to complete by road. Therefore, most travelers opt for one of the other transport options to reach Aswan from Cairo.
One of the most popular, and most relaxing, options is to take a Nile river cruise from Cairo to Luxor and then on to Aswan. Traveling to Aswan by cruising the Nile from Cairo may take to 15 days, but the visitor is able to take in much more of the Egyptian countryside than if traveling by plane.
Does Aswan Have an Airport?
Aswan has a small airport, Aswan International Airport, located just a few kilometres from the city center near the Aswan High Dam.
Four different airlines operate several daily flights from Aswan Airport to Cairo and Jeddah, and there is also a seasonal charter flight to Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport in France. The majority to flights to Cairo from Aswan take around an hour and a half to reach Egypt’s capital.
Citizens of a number of different nationalities are now able to obtain an online visa for Egypt, which eliminates the need to apply for a visa in person from a government diplomatic office.Get an eVisa for Aswan