2 Days in Aswan Itinerary: Best Things to do in Aswan, Egypt

Planning a trip to Egypt? Be sure to add at least 2 days in Aswan to your itinerary! Click to read the best Aswan itinerary from a local!

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If spending 2 days in Aswan, Egypt isn’t already on your bucket list then it should be and this Aswan itinerary will help you get the most out of your visit. I highly recommend combining it with a trip to Cairo (I love Cairo) and Luxor

Aswan is located in Upper Egypt, which is actually in the south, and it’s part of what used to be called Nubia. The culture here is different from Lower Egypt. You’re still surrounded by desert and sand dunes, but along the river are pretty gardens and tons of traditional Egyptian sailboats called feluccas. Aswan is a great place to relax, but there are still plenty of opportunities to see temples and pharaohs as well – you’re still in Egypt, after all!


Best Things to Do in Aswan

There is a multitude of amazing things to see and do in Aswan (more details below), but there are three absolutely unmissable experiences: Philae Temple, the Nubian Villages, and Abu Simbel. Ideally, you’ll arrive in Aswan and get a good night’s sleep before starting your Aswan itinerary. I recommend starting your day early – it’s the best way to avoid the heat and crowds. This itinerary includes the best things to do in Aswan if you only have a couple of days, but if you have some extra time, there are a few bonus activities I’ve included at the end. Enjoy!

Philae Temple is one of the best things to do in Aswan
Philae Temple is one of the best things to do in Aswan

Arrival in Aswan / How to get to Aswan

First things first. To get the most out of a full 2 days in Aswan itinerary, I’d normally tell you to fly from Cairo. Aswan is in the south of Egypt – about a ninety-minute flight from Cairo. But if you really want to really get a feel for Egypt, the sleeper train is my favorite way to travel between Cairo and Aswan

  • From Cairo: The sleeper train is operated by Watania and tickets can be booked directly on their website. Cabins sleep two and you have the option to book the entire cabin. If you reserve only a single bed, you’re likely to be paired up with another traveler of the same sex. 

Your ticket comes with dinner and breakfast, though you’ll have to pay for tea and coffee. There’s supposed to be a lounge car where you can get snacks and drinks (and watch the scenery while the sun is up), but be sure to check because there isn’t always one.

This won’t be the kind of luxurious train you’ve seen in the movies, but it’s comfortable enough and gives you a totally unique Egyptian experience. Pro tip: stash your bags in the recess over the door to free up a little space inside the cabin.

  • From Luxor: The sleeper train stops in Luxor, so it’s a convenient way to add in a Luxor itinerary if you have time. You can take a train to travel between Luxor and Aswan too, but make sure to book an express train. They tend to be more on-time than the ordinary trains, and you’re able to reserve seats. 

Tickets can be booked at the station or by using the Egyptian National Railways website. Booking is available from 2 weeks before departure and closes 2 days before departure. Look for trains labeled Special Service OD or Speed AC Spanish to book the express trains. 

Note: If you have some extra time, I highly recommend doing a Nile Cruise between Aswan and Luxor (or vice-versa depending on your itinerary). Note that the cruise doesn’t include everything in the below itinerary, so keep that in mind should you choose to incorporate a cruise into your itinerary. 

Felucca in Aswan
Felucca in Aswan


Best Time to Visit Aswan

I highly recommend planning your trip to Aswan between October and May. It’s in the desert, after all, and being outside in the summer isn’t much fun. It’s hot in Egypt year-round, and the farther south you go, the hotter it gets.

Fridays and Saturdays are holidays in Egypt so the tourist attractions in Aswan will get busier. If you want to know what it feels like to be a superstar, then go on a Friday or Saturday. Otherwise, avoid those days like the plague.

Whenever possible, visit any temples in Aswan in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler. You’ll be able to find shade or air conditioning in the places I’ve recommended for the afternoons, but a hat or light scarf (also good if a spring sandstorm kicks up!) is an absolute essential for protecting yourself from the sun. Check out my Egypt packing list for tips on what to wear in Egypt!


Aswan Itinerary: Day One in Aswan

The Monastery of St. Simeon

It might seem strange to start the trip in the sand dunes when so much of Aswan centers on river life, but it’s worth venturing across the river to see the Monastery of St. Simeon. Try to time it so you arrive when the monastery opens at 8 am. It’s early, but that’s how you beat the heat when crossing the sand dunes!

The monastery was first built in the 7th century for local saint Anba Hedra, then rededicated to St. Simeon in the 10th century. Though partially destroyed by the troops of Saladin, you’ll be able to see frescoes in the basilica and the benches the monks slept on. 

You’ll need to hire a boat to get to the dock on the west bank of the Nile, and while you can hike up to the ruins, hiring a camel is one of the really fun things to do in Aswan. Like everything in Egypt, you’re going to have to negotiate the price of the ride. You can also negotiate the route they take. Think of it as good practice for visiting markets over the rest of your trip!


Philae Temple

Philae Temple is my absolute favorite of the attractions in Aswan, so if you get a late start, skip the Monastery of St. Simeon and go straight to Philae. The best way to get to the Philae Temple Marina is Careem (the Arab version of Uber) or taxi if you can’t get a Careem. Once you arrive at the marina, you’ll purchase your entrance tickets at the booth before finding a water taxi to take you to the island.

Philae Temple sits on its own island in the middle of the Nile. Incredible when you think that it was underwater for decades after the Aswan Old Dam was built and then transferred block by block to its current site on Agilika Island! It’s possibly the best preserved Ptolemaic temple in all of Egypt, but there are few placards around to explain what you’re seeing, so this is definitely a place where it’s helpful to have a guide.

Tip: If you have time, look for an attendant at the bottom of the stairs to purchase a ticket to climb to the top of one of the pylons (You can also purchase a ticket when buying). Not many people do this and it’s a shame because it gives you an incredible view of the entire temple complex.

Philae Temple in Aswan is on its own island
Philae Temple from The Nile

Lunch at Old Nubian Guest House and Restaurant

Have your boat stop at the Old Nubian Guest House and Restaurant on the way back to the marina (make sure you tell your water taxi driver that you want to do this when negotiating the fare at the Philae Temple Marina). You can also easily grab lunch on the way to Philae Temple if you’re hungry. 

Located on a hill overlooking the marina, this restaurant feels like you found a secret spot to try out some of the seriously delicious Sudanese-Egyptian food (a hybrid of my two cultures, heyyy). Beef tagine and sun bread are two favorites here.


Nubian Museum

After lunch, head back to Aswan to visit the Nubian Museum. This is one of the best things to do in Aswan to get a feel for the distinctive culture of Nubia (the area between Aswan and Khartoum in Sudan). It has a ton of ancient artifacts and exhibits centuries of history, including an exhibit showing how archaeologists saved Philae Temple and Abu Simbel.  

It’s one of the newer tourist attractions in Aswan, so it has good, modern bathrooms (if you’re traveling in Egypt, you’ll know this is a bonus!). It’s also air-conditioned, making the Nubian Museum a great place to go during the hottest part of the day. 

Walk the Corniche

After a busy morning, it’s nice to get out and appreciate the relaxed atmosphere of Aswan. Walk north from the Nubian Museum to Feryal Garden and you’ll see The Corniche, a dedicated path that runs along the bank of the Nile. The view is sometimes blocked by large boats but there’s usually a nice breeze off the water.


Aswan Old Souks

Exploring the souk is such a fun thing to do in Aswan. I could spend hours shopping and eating here. Aswan Old Souks has a nice mix of locals and tourists so it feels more authentic than some I’ve visited. Yes, shopkeepers will still walk alongside you in an effort to sell trinkets, but take it in stride – it’s part of the fun!

The souk is about a mile long, with souvenir shops mostly concentrated on each end. Inside, you’ll find stalls selling spices, clothing, and home goods. Don’t be afraid to haggle if you see something you want. It’s part of the culture here! 

Aswan Souks
Spices at the Aswan Souk

Dinner at El Masry

Before leaving the souk, eat dinner at El Masry. It’s pretty plain inside but I don’t mind the simple booths. The servers are super nice and the food is delicious. Try to save room for the custard dessert if you can. (If you’re not sure what to eat, I’ve got you! Check out my Egyptian food guide here.)

Note: If you’re looking for a more upscale experience with ambiance, consider booking a table at the Panorama Restaurant at the Movenpick Resort instead.


Aswan Itinerary: Day Two in Aswan

Abu Simbel

Though not technically in Aswan, it’s worth making the trip out to see Abu Simbel. There are flights from Aswan but they’re expensive and don’t run every day. I recommend booking a tour instead, which includes transport, entrance fees, and a tour guide. Transport usually leaves between 4 am and 5 am (SO early!) but it takes between 3-4 hours to reach Abu Simbel so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up on your beauty sleep. Trust me, you will not regret the early morning wake-up call!

Abu Simbel is seriously impressive. Just like Philae Temple, it was moved from its original location to its current spot on the bank of the Nile to keep it from being submerged when the Aswan High Dam was finished. The complex is comprised of twin temples, the Great Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Hathor, and both are full of massive statues and hieroglyphics. It is easily the most impressive temple in Aswan.

Lunch on Elephantine Island

You’ll get back to Aswan from Abu Simbel in time for lunch. A favorite restaurant is the Bob Marley Guest House on Elephantine Island. Located near the pier, it’s a good spot to grab a meal with a view. The atmosphere is really friendly, and you’ll be able to get some great suggestions for exploring the surrounding village after your meal.

That said, I’ve had luck finding good meals on the boats in the Nile. These won’t show up on travel sites but don’t be afraid to take a suggestion from a local if they have one.


Nubian Village

There are technically two Nubian villages near Aswan. One is located south of the city on the west bank of the Nile and there’s one on Elephantine Island. They each have their pros and cons, but be sure to visit one of them before you leave (I recommend the Nubian village on the West Bank!). A Nubian village is one of the top places to visit in Aswan. Just take a quick glance at the colorful photos and you won’t need further convincing!

  • Elephantine Island: Because of its location close to the center of Aswan, Elephantine Island can feel a little more touristy than the village farther south. It’s got a great feel though, quiet and cool with breezes off the river. Many of the local families have opened their homes to visitors and it’s a great way to learn about the Nubian lifestyle.

The nice thing about exploring the Nubian village on Elephantine Island is that you’ll be close to other sites like the Temple of Khnum and the Nile river gauges, if you find yourself with extra time to explore.

  • Nubian Village: To get to the village on the west bank, you’ll take a water taxi past all the islands that sit in the middle of the Nile. Try to talk your driver into going past the Salouga and Ghazal Nature Preserve. It’s really beautiful. 

The market at the Nubian Village on the west bank of the Nile is similar to the one on Elephantine Island, but it does feel a little more authentic simply because of its distance from the usual tourist haunts. Families here also open their homes to visitors, so you won’t miss out on that cultural experience. 

Also, if you’re looking for a snack break while here, I recommend swinging by Kato Dool. Although it’s a guest house, you can stop in for drinks, food, and plenty of colorful photos!

Light Show at Philae Temple

In the evenings, Philae Temple has a fun sound and light show with a narration that gives a great feel for the history of the temple and the region. I’ve done it myself and thought it was fun, however, it might feel like temple overkill, especially if you have a temple-filled visit to Luxor as part of your itinerary. If you’re feeling a bit of FOMO, another great way to see the light show is to book a table at Solaih Nubian Restaurant on Bigeh Island. There’s something incredible about watching the light play on an ancient Egyptian temple while eating dinner.

Also, if you’re not feeling up to another trip to Philae after the early start to your day, you can’t go wrong staying in the Nubian Village and eating dinner at Kato Dool. Some of the options, like the tagines, require you to call ahead to order them but there are plenty of other meals to choose from if you don’t do this. If you haven’t tried Omm Ali yet, Kato Dool makes one of the best versions of this traditional Egyptian dessert in Aswan. 


Reminder: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for your trip in case things (hopefully don’t but often do) go wrong. I’ve learned my lesson about travel insurance the hard way. My go-to insurance is World Nomads cause they’re awesome and easy to deal with. Be sure to check out the different plan options to pick one that’s right for you!


Best things to do in Aswan Egypt in 3 days and beyond

Good news – there are even more Aswan places to visit if you have the time. I’ve included some of my favorite options below!

Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden on Kitchener’s Island is a nice place to go for walks and picnics. It isn’t very big but the plants are gorgeous and exotic. There’s a cafe near the dock, but it’s pretty pricey and the food isn’t great so if you can, take your own snacks and a blanket. 


Tombs of the Nobles

Just north of Kitchener’s Island is a tomb complex called the Tombs of the Nobles that is still being excavated. You won’t be able to access much of the complex, but six of the tombs are open to the public. The tombs don’t see nearly as many visitors as some of the other sites, so I suggest hiring a guide if you want to see it. 


Sail on a Felucca

A felucca is a traditional Egyptian sailboat and riding in one is one of the best things to do in Aswan Egypt. A felucca tour can be as long or short as you want it to be, but when it’s warm out it’s really fun to sail to one of the swimming spots around Aswan and take a dip in the Nile! You can find feluccas for day hire all over Aswan.

Visit the Unfinished Obelisk

Not far from the city center is a quarry with a massive, unfinished obelisk. If it had been finished, it would’ve been the biggest obelisk in Egypt but a crack formed in it so they abandoned it. It’s a great example of masonry techniques, but there’s not much here to explain what you’re looking at. I’d recommend hiring a guide (or at least doing some research) if you stop by this attraction.


Kayak on the Nile 

If you’re wondering what to do in Aswan to add more adventure to your life, then kayaking the Nile is for you. There are several options for kayak excursions in Luxor, but in Aswan, your best option is to either contact the local kayak club or inquire about rentals at Kato Dool Nubian House.


Travel to Luxor on a Nile Cruise

I know I mentioned this earlier in the post but a Nile Cruise is an incredibly popular activity in Upper Egypt, especially between Aswan and Luxor (or vice versa). You may have to adjust your itinerary slightly depending on the places visited on the cruise, but it’s a relaxing way to spend a few days in Egypt!


Where to Stay in Aswan

Most of the hotels in Aswan are located near the river, and the availability of reasonably priced water taxis makes it easy to get around Aswan no matter where you stay. There are good options here for every budget. My recommendations are below:

The David Hostel (Budget-Friendly)

The David Hostel is in a great location, about halfway between the Aswan Old Souks and the Philae Temple Marina. The interior is simple but clean and private rooms are available. Plus, the owner knows the area and is more than happy to help arrange transportation and tours. For clean and comfortable accommodation on a backpacker budget, this hostel has everything you’d need.

Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay

Kato Dool Nubian House (Mid-range)

I love the location of the Kato Dool Nubian House. It’s located right on the river in the Nubian Village, with amazing staff. Some of the amenities include a restaurant, a swimming beach, and kayaking. If a mid-range boutique hotel is what you’re after, this is where you should stay!

Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay

Movenpick Resort Aswan (Splurge)

Located on an island in the middle of the Nile, the Movenpick Resort Aswan is a beautiful place to stay. It’s got everything you’d expect from a top resort including gorgeous gardens, a pool, spa, and good restaurants. The rooms have amazing views over the water, including some that look out of the Tomb of the Nobles. What more could you need?

Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay

Kato Dool Nubian Guesthouse in Aswan
Kato Dool Guesthouse


Getting Around Aswan

Aswan is a pretty easy city to get around. Most of the locals speak English, which is helpful. While I generally avoid taking taxis in Egypt because of the haggling over prices, water taxis are a major part of traveling around Aswan.

  • By car: Unfortunately, Uber is not available in Aswan, so you’ll have to take Careem (similar to Uber) or taxis if you prefer to get around on your own. Careem works similarly to Uber and is inexpensive, safe, and hassle-free. The license plates will be in Arabic though, so I recommend saving a screenshot of the English-Arabic numbers on your phone for reference. 
  • By water: Your options for crossing the Nile or visiting the islands are either a water taxi or felucca. Water taxis are faster so I prefer to use them so I can take in more sights. A felucca trip is a fun thing to do in Aswan. If you can fit it in, do it! Either way, get comfortable with haggling for prices on these. 
  • Private driver/tour guide: I can’t recommend a tour guide enough. Hiring a tour guide or private driver is a great option for Aswan. They can arrange transportation (saving money and haggling time), make recommendations on places to eat, help you navigate the souks, tell you what to see in Aswan, and provide insight into all the amazing attractions in Aswan.
Water Taxis are one of many transport options around Aswan
Water Taxis are one of many transport options around Aswan

Other Practical Tips for Egypt Travel

Visas in Egypt

Americans need to get a visa for Egypt, which can be done either on or before arrival. If you choose to do it online, this is the application. If you prefer a visa on arrival, it costs USD $25 in cash. Bring exact change.

Is Aswan Safe? Travel Safety in Aswan and Egypt

I am no geopolitical expert, but I have traveled to Egypt enough times (eight to be exact) in my life to vouch for my experiences. I have never felt unsafe in Egypt. Many family members and friends have visited countless times over the last few years and have said the same. Plus, the Egyptian government has gone above and beyond in improving security, especially at tourist sites and high-traffic areas. The train station even assigns guards to keep a special eye on tourist groups and travelers! My advice is to be as cautious as you’d be traveling anywhere in the world, but don’t let the media scare you away from Egypt.

Currency in Egypt

Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound, and at the time of updating this post (January 2024), the rate was about USD $1 to 31 EGP. Credit cards are accepted at hotels and nicer restaurants, but it’s generally better to carry cash. 

What to Pack for Egypt

I wrote a very comprehensive packing list with everything you’ll need for your trip. Check it out here! Also worth noting: Wi-Fi is notoriously unreliable in Egypt. Consider getting an inexpensive eSIM so you’re always connected.

Other Things to Know

Check out my Egypt travel tips for first-time visitors for common misconceptions and other things you’ll want to know!


So there you have it: the best Aswan itinerary for 2 days in Aswan, with some bonus ideas if you’re wondering what to see in Aswan with a little more time. But no matter how much or little time you have to spend in southern Egypt, there are plenty of fun things to do in Aswan.


Tell me: What do you think of this Aswan itinerary? What else would you do on your Aswan trip?

More Egypt Resources

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