Amazing Things to do in Aswan with Kids


Aswan is famous for its beautiful Nile scenery and its distinct Nubian culture which is still a strong influence in the region. Due to its location on the Nile River in southern Egypt (Upper Egypt), Aswan was once ancient Egypt’s largest trading centre and the gateway between Ancient Egypt and Africa.

Family friendly places to visit around Aswan, A view of the river Nile in Upper Egypt

Why Visit Aswan With Kids?

The ancient Egyptians chose Aswan as a border for Egypt because it is just above the first Nile cataract. A cataract is a shallow stretch of water so rocky and so turbulent that all river travel is obstructed here. But after the cataract, it is smooth sailing all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

The cataract acted as a natural boundary at Aswan that separated Egypt from its southern neighbour, Nubia.

However, there was a period when Nubia became part of Egypt during the New Kingdom, and as a result, Nubian heritage and culture are very prevalent in Aswan.

Due to this Nubian heritage, your visit to Aswan will feel much more laid back than the frenetic pace of Cairo. Here, the Nile is said to be as clear, blue and as wild as it was 3,000 years ago.

With a unique blend of Nubian and Egyptian cultures, quiet villages, and palm-tree-lined river banks, Aswan is a brilliant place to visit with kids.

In Aswan, you will see many fascinating temples like Abu Simbel and Philae – whose history is even more extraordinary when you realize that they were painstakingly dismantled and reassembled on higher ground to save them from being submerged underwater.

When is the Best Time to Visit Aswan With Kids?

Aswan’s climate is the same as Luxor’s and the best times to visit with kids are between November and April.

The cooler winter season (December to February) is the most pleasant time to travel to Aswan and therefore also the busiest with hotel prices at their highest.

Winter temperatures average 24°C (75°F) during the day and 10°C (55°F) at night.

Summers are unbearably hot and humid and it would be extremely uncomfortable to visit from May to September when daytime temperatures can average 40°C (104°F).

You can learn more about the best times of year to visit Egypt here.


How Long Do You Need in Aswan with Kids?

You can see all of Aswan’s attractions listed here in one (very busy!) day but we recommend taking extra time to leisurely explore the temples and fully appreciate the feel of the region’s unique Nubian culture.

If you are doing a day trip to Abu Simbel, then you will need one additional day.


How to Get to Aswan From Cairo and Luxor with Kids

From Cairo to Aswan

Plane

There are regular flights from Cairo to Aswan and the flight time is about one and a half hours.

Boat

You can now take a Nile Cruise from Cairo. The time is 12 days but you do stop at many attractions along the way.

Note that currently, the Cairo to Aswan cruise only happens once a month (and not during the summer). You can also choose to do the reverse route of Aswan to Cairo.

Train

You can take the sleeper train from Cairo and the trip would take about 14 hours. You most likely won’t get much sleep on the train and it’s not the most comfortable, but it will be an experience you and your family can all look back on and maybe even laugh about.

From Luxor to Aswan

From Luxor, you can arrive at Aswan by train (about three hours), by car (about three to four hours) or by a Nile cruise (2-5 days depending on the cruise package that you choose).

Aswan view from the Nile

How To Get Around Aswan With Kids

Taxi

At the airport, you can easily get a taxi or have your hotel arrange pickup and dropoff.

There is no Uber or Lyft in Aswan but you can always ask your hotel or restaurant to call a taxi for you. Remember to agree on the fare before getting into the cab.

Also keep in mind that if you’re taking a taxi to Philae Temple, you’ll also pay for the waiting time while you are exploring the temple.

Private Car

If you are planning to do a day trip to Abu Simbel, we recommend booking a private car with a guide or a tour package.

Boat

One of the best and most fun ways to get around Aswan is by boat. And there are plenty of them in Aswan! You can choose to hire a traditional Egyptian felucca or a motorboat, and there are also local ferries.

Plane (to Abu Simbel)

Many people visit Aswan as a starting point for Abu Simbel.

By car, Abu Simbel takes three to four hours but there is also the option of flying via Egpyt Air. You fly and return on the same day and the flight time is about 45 minutes each way.

You have about an hour and a half at Abu Simbel before you need to hop back on your return flight to Aswan.


9 Best Things to Do in Aswan With Kids

1. Experience Nubian Culture on Elephantine Island

Elephantine Island is a popular place to visit as well as to stay. With palm tree plantations, vibrantly coloured mud-brick houses and roaming yard animals, you can get a glimpse and feel of Nubian village life.

If you are not staying on the island, you can reach it via local ferries from Aswan pier.

The island covers 2 square kilometres and still has ruins that are being excavated. Within the site, there is the Temple of Khnum, the Temple of Satet (which dates back to the reign of Hatshepsut), and possibly Aswan’s oldest Nilometer.

Aswan Things to Do - Elephantine Island from above

A Nilometer was used to measure the rise and fall of the Nile River. You can go down the stairs to see the Nilometer up close.

At the southern end of the island is the Aswan Museum. It is housed in a beautiful late 19th-century villa. Visit this museum to see its collection of artefacts that span Elephantine Island’s history up to the Roman era.

2. Stroll the Botanical Garden at Kitchener Island

Kitchener Island was once the property of Lord Kitchener. He imported many exotic trees and plants, transforming much of the island into a botanical garden.

Aswan Things to Do - Kitchener Island entrane to the Botanical Gardens
Feluccas arriving at Kitchener Island

It is now a popular attraction in Aswan for both locals and tourists. Many come here just to relax and picnic, or to bird watch while taking a leisurely stroll around the botanical garden.

Kitchener Island can be reached by boat from Aswan pier and even by rowboat from Elephantine island.

3. Set Sail to Philae Temple

The Temple of Philae is one of the most interesting things to see in Aswan. This temple was originally on Philae Island and was saved from underwater submersion by a large scale UNESCO project.

When the Aswan Old Dam was completed in 1902, Philae Island became partially submerged. From 1975 to 1980, the temple was moved to save it from further water damage. It was meticulously dismantled from its original home and reassembled at nearby Agilkia Island.

Aswan Things to Do - Philae Temple from the water

Philae is an Egyptian-style temple built during the Ptolemaic dynasty in honour of the deity Isis. Smaller shrines and surrounding temples were dedicated to Hathor and Harendotes. Later, it was also used by Christians as evidenced by carvings of Coptic Crosses inside the temple.

You can reach Agilkia Island from Aswan by arranging a taxi or private car to bring you to Philae Temple marina. The marina is about eight kilometres south of Aswan and about 20 minutes by car. The taxi will wait for you at the dock while you visit the island.

At the marina, you will have to negotiate hard with a boat captain to sail or motorboat you over to Philae temple. It takes about 10 minutes by boat to reach the island. 

If you want to avoid the hassle of negotiating, you can have your hotel or travel agency book a private tour with a driver and guide.

Once on the island, you can climb to the top of one of the pylons at Philae Temple (for an additional fee) and get brilliant views of the temple complex and of the Nile river valley.

In the evenings, Philae Temple has a sound and light show that is very popular with kids.

4. Explore Kalabsha Temple

Kalabsha Temple is one of the most impressive hybrid Ptolemaic and Roman temples in Aswan and a trip here is best combined with Philae Temple. To reach here from Philae Temple marina would take about 30 minutes by car.

This temple was also relocated (in the 1960s) and was originally located 30 miles to the south but now sits on New Kalabasha Island.

Aswan Things to Do - Kalabsha Temple

Construction of the temple was believed to have begun at the end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty but was not completed until the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus. The result is a unique mix of Egyptian and Roman images.

The temple was dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis. On the island, there are other relocated Egyptian monuments such as Beit el-Wali, the Gerf Hussein, and the Kiosk of Qertassi.

5. Marvel at the Unfinished Obelisk

Many of the statues, obelisks and building materials for temples and shrines all over Egypt were cut from the quarries of Aswan.

You can even visit one of these quarries to see an unfinished obelisk that would have been 42 meters high and the world’s largest had it been completed.

Aswan Things to Do - Unfinished Obelisk

Queen Hatshepsut ordered the construction of this obelisk to complement the Lateran Obelisk which can be seen at Karnak Temple in Luxor. When the obelisk cracked during excavation, the project was abandoned.

This unfinished obelisk gives insight into ancient Egyptian stone-cutting techniques.

6. Visit the Nubian Museum and Fatimid Cemetery

Not too far from the unfinished obelisk is the Nubian Museum, dedicated to Nubian culture and history.

There is an excellent collection of artefacts from the Kingdom of Kush (ancient Nubia) and many historical photos of UNESCO’s incredible project to save Philae Temple and Abu Simbel from the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam.

Aswan Things to Do - Nubian Museum

You can also see photos of other monuments that are now forever lost under Lake Nasser.

If you are still up for exploring, next to the Nubian Museum towards the unfinished obelisk is Fatimid Cemetery which dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries A.D.

The mud-brick tombs are distinctly dome-shaped and for a small tip, the site’s caretaker can show you the best-preserved tombs.

7. Splurge at the Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel

The Cataract Hotel was built in 1899 and is a historic colonial-era 5-star luxury resort and a popular tourist attraction in Aswan.

It has had an impressive guest list including Tsar Nicholas II, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Queen Noor, Jimmy Carter, and Princess Diana. 

Aswan Things to Do - Old Cataract Hotel

Agatha Christie checked in here for a year in 1937 to write her famous novel, Death on the Nile, and part of the 1978 movie was filmed at this hotel. Her original desk and wicker chair are displayed in the lobby. For in-house guests, the hotel offers a free daily walking tour.

You can indulge yourself with a stay at this hotel or just stop by for high tea, lunch or dinner while enjoying unbeatable views of the Nile River.

For non-guests, the hotel charges a minimum food and beverage spend of 300 EGP per person. We recommend making a reservation in case they get busy.

8. Cruise the Nile on a Felucca

Touring the Nile on a Felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailboat, is one of the best ways to go sightseeing in Aswan. After a day of visiting tourist attractions, a sunset cruise is a wonderful way to kick back and relax for an hour or two.

You will find that there is no shortage of boat captains to choose from. Walk along Aswan’s corniche and you’ll inevitably be approached to hire a boat.

Aswan Things to Do - Felucca

The price for a felucca ride is negotiable and what you end up paying depends on your haggling skills. Expect to spend around US$50 for a one-hour ride.

To avoid the haggling, you can have your hotel or travel agency pre-book a felucca tour and everything will be arranged for you.

On a typical two-hour sail, you’ll loop around the central islands of Aswan, flanked by desert dunes on the west bank, village life on the east bank, and temples and palm-tree islands in the middle.

If you want to visit some of the islands and temples and include swimming stops, you can also opt to do a half-day or full-day felucca tour.

9. Snap a Drive-By Photo of the Aswan High Dam

Aswan’s High Dam isn’t much to look at but we have included this site here because of its historical, political and environmental significance. Unless you have a special interest in dams, it’s not worth stopping at.

Best to just take a drive-by photo. Trips to the Aswan High Dam are often included on day trips to Kalabasha Temple and Abu Simbel. Or you can easily hire a taxi to get here as the high dam is located 30 minutes south of Aswan.

Aswan Things to Do - Aswan High Dam viewed from above

You can explain the history of this dam to your kids, especially how it was the reason why so many of Aswan’s monuments were relocated to higher ground.

The Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960s and took 11 years to complete. Egypt’s President Nasser wanted to build the dam in order to end the flooding of the Nile River and to bring more hydroelectric power to Egypt.

The dam did end the flooding, it created sustainable electricity across the country and increased the amount of arable land in Egypt.

However, the dam also resulted in a giant reservoir of water, named Lake Nasser, that displaced over 100,000 Egyptians and Nubians. And it also led to the relocation of numerous temples and historical monuments like Abu Simbel and Philae Temple.

Day Trips From Aswan

Many people visit Aswan just as an extension of their Nile cruise or as a base for a day trip to Abu Simbel. But there are also other day trip options if you are already in the area.

Many multi-day Nile cruise ships will have scheduled stops at Kom Ombo and Edfu.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is one of Egypt’s most awe-inspiring monuments. At the site are two massive temples which were carved during the 13th century B.C. by Ramses II to demonstrate the might of the Egyptian empire over his Nubian neighbours.

Like Philae Temple, the entire temple complex of Abu Simbel was also moved to higher ground when rising waters from the construction of the Aswan High Dam threatened to flood the temple.

Abu Simbel Temple near the Sudan border in Egypt close up

Abu Simbel was not only saved from destruction, but the engineers even recalculated the precise measurements needed to recreate the exact solar alignment of the temple.

This exact alignment ensured that twice a year, on 22 February (the date of Ramses II’s ascension to the throne) and 22 October (his birthday), the rising sun would shine through a narrow opening to illuminate the sculpted face of King  II and those of two other statues deep inside the Great Temple’s interior.

To get from Aswan to Abu Simbel, you can go by land or by plane. Abu Simbel is 280 kilometres south of Aswan so expect transport in a minibus or car to take around three to four hours and a flight time of about 45 minutes.

Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo is located 60 km north of Aswan. By car, it takes about one hour to get there.

The Temple of Kom Ombo is a double temple that was constructed to honour two sets of gods.

Kom Ombo Temple

Half of the complex is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god associated with the fertility of the land along the Nile River. The other half is dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god.

There is a crocodile museum here and kids may take an interest in the mummified crocodiles.

Edfu

Edfu sits 64 km north of Kom Ombo (so a total of 124 km north of Aswan).

You can visit just Kom Ombo or you can combine Edfu and Kom Ombo into one day trip from Aswan. This typically takes 9 to 10 hours total.

Close up of the engravings found at Edfu Temple

The Temple of Edfu is the largest temple dedicated to the god Horus. It was built in the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 237 and 57 B.C.

Nile River cruises between Aswan and Luxor almost always include visits to Edfu and Kom Ombo. You can also visit Kom Ombo and Edfu on the drive between Aswan and Luxor.


Where to Stay in Aswan with Kids

Here are some hotel options that are popular with our readers:

There is also the Nile cruise option between Aswan and Luxor or the new option between Cairo and Aswan.

You can start at Aswan and disembark at Luxor (or continue on to Cairo) or choose to do the reverse. The cruise between Cairo and Aswan only sails once a month and not in the summer.

Nile Cruise Ship

You overnight on the boat and spend much of the day sightseeing the highlights between the two cities, so there is no need to book accommodation in either city.

The price of the cruise will vary depending on your choice of boat – ranging from budget options to super luxurious.

You can find more Aswan accommodation options here:


More on Visiting Egypt with Kids

We have a great selection of articles to help you plan your dream trip to Egypt with your family.

We’d recommend starting with our guide “Planning a Family Trip to Egypt“, then for diving into more of the detail, things to do, and how to plan your days we also recommend you check out:

We’d also highly recommend for family a trip to Egypt to prepare yourself with a few Egypt fact books before you go (and keep one in your day bag if you can!).

The guides and Egyptologists you’ll encounter on your trip do a superb job bringing history to life – but the facts and timelines can get a little overwhelming (for the adults, let alone the kids!).

Have you explored Aswan with kids? Are there any other attractions you’d recommend as family-friendly you’d add to this Aswan family itinerary? Join the conversation over at our Facebook group “Family Travel Middle East“.

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