For many visitors to Egypt, a cruise on the River Nile is a must. Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan are among the cities that lie on the Nile and can all be visited in the course of a cruise holiday.
The world’s longest river is magnificent in and of itself. It also provided a fertile valley winding through a desert land, where the ancient Egyptian civilization flourished. Almost all the most famous and impressive monuments are found close to its banks, as are today’s major cities.
Fortunately, Nile river cruise holidays in Egypt are not in short supply. There are many options to book the perfect Egyptian cruise, whether you want to relax, experience the majesty of Egypt’s ancient past, or a combination of both.
What to See on a Cruise along the Nile
The Nile has been seen as a life-giver since ancient times. For thousands of years right up to the present day, the vast majority of the population of Egypt has been concentrated along the course of the river.
Common River Nile Cruise Stops
Both present-day cities and ancient wonders are found along the River Nile. Most cruises stop at some of the following places:
- Luxor — known in antiquity as Thebes, this ancient city was the seat of the pharaohs. It is known today as being like a huge open-air museum thanks to its numerous monuments. The magnificent Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens are located closeby, as is the Temple of Hatshepsut. Learn more with this guide to Luxor.
- Aswan — another important ancient city, Aswan is home to the Philae temple complex, also known as “the Pearl of the Nile”. Visitors can take excursions from here to the immense temples of Abi Simbel near the Sudanese border.
- Cairo — the capital of Egypt is a multifaceted metropolis steeped in history and interesting architecture from the Coptic churches of Old Cairo to the grand mosques of Islamic Cairo.
- Giza — home to arguably the most famous pyramids in the world and the Great Sphinx. While most cruises will not make a separate stop at Giza, it is easily accessible from Cairo itself.
Types of Nile River Cruise in Egypt
Boats have always been a big part of life on the Nile. Today, there are around 200 vessels on the river catering for tourist cruises.
Different kinds of cruise ships include:
- Modern cruise ships — these tend to offer luxury cabins, modern facilities, and often onboard swimming pools.
- Steamships — steamer cruises allow guests to experience what traveling Egypt was like over a century ago in these Victorian-era vessels.
- Dahabiya — traditional-style yachts used in the past by aristocrats. Most modern dahabiyas have more modern cabins and traditional-style sundecks. However, they lack heating, so are recommended for summer cruises, but not winter.
Cruises can also vary by the length of time they last. The shortest are 3 days on faster vessels, while long Nile cruises from Cairo to Aswan can take up to 15 days.
Some of the most popular cruises include:
- Lake Nasser
There is also the option of doing a Nile river cruise and stay holiday, with nights in a hotel at one of the destination cities before, after, or during the cruise.
How to Organize a Nile Cruise
For people who want to go on a vacation to Egypt that includes a river cruise on the Nile, the first step is obtaining permission to enter the country. For most nationalities, this means applying for a visa.
For citizens of certain countries, this process is now much easier and straightforward thanks to the introduction of the Egypt eVisa. The application can be done online, avoiding the need to visit an embassy and wait in line. Learn if you meet the requirements for an Egypt eVisa.Apply for eVisa
Where Is the Closest Airport
If the first step in organizing a Nile cruise is applying for an online visa, the second is knowing how to reach the point of embarkation.
Most visitors to Egypt fly into Cairo International Airport. This is Africa’s second-busiest airport with flights to and from a large number of destinations. This is perfect for visitors whose cruises depart from Cairo. For those who begin their cruise at Luxor, there are regular internal flights between the 2 cities.
Another option is to fly directly to Luxor International Airport. However, there are far fewer international flights to Luxor and some flights only run at certain times of the year.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Do a Nile Cruise?
Egypt is a desert country, and while the area around the Nile is green and fertile, temperatures are very high in the summer months (usually 30-40°C during the day). Some travelers may find this heat too intense.
Winters can be fairly cold at night, but pleasant during the day. Many people hold the opinion that the best time to go on a Nile river cruise is between October and April.
What Do You Wear on a Nile River Cruise?
Egypt is a hot country, so loose, comfortable clothing is recommended.
Women traveling to Egypt are also advised to dress fairly conservatively, especially when the cruise ship stops at a city. While Egypt is nowhere near as strict as some Muslim countries with regards to how women dress, shorts, revealing tops, and short skirts are likely to attract unwanted attention and possibly anger from locals.
On the boat itself, how you dress is less important, as most of the guests will be fellow tourists.
Learn more with our guide of what to wear in Egypt.
Package Deals and Other Nile Cruise Tips
Many cruises down the Nile can be purchased as a package deal. While the details of these packages may vary company to company, many will handle much of the organization for you. This may include making hotel reservations for you in the case of cruise and stay holidays, providing tour guides speaking your language, and organizing sightseeing excursions.
If, on the other hand, you choose to explore cities like Cairo and Luxor alone, it is advisable to hire local guides. Ignore touts offering things like $1 camel rides — they will certainly cost more than this. Ask your guide to organize these things for you.
Additional Nile cruise tips
Further considerations to take into account when cruising the River Nile:
- Make the most of downtime onboard the cruise ship — seeing all the sights can be exhausting and relaxing on deck or in the pool might be just what you need.
- Get to know the cruise staff — they are often eager to share their culture, music, and history with guests.
- Engage in onboard entertainment, such as traditional music and dance.