A view of probably the best hotel in Aswan, The Old Cataract (more properly known as Sofitel Legend Cataract Aswan) and the Nile River with feluccas awaiting custom. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.
The Old Cataract is the place to stay, IMHO, if money is no object. It’s grand and magnificently historic. If you’re not staying in the hotel then do head over there for sunset drinks on the terrace overlooking the Nile, with the high-winged feluccas tacking past. It might be a good idea to dress up a little in case the management decide they prefer only to serve their guests.
Aswan & Abu Simbel, how best to visit them
Elephantine Island on Aswan’s west bank, the almost totally undeveloped side. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.
Aswan is a lovely, relaxed oasis-kind-of-place beside the Nile down south from Luxor, good for a little felucca sailing but not much else.
There are no monuments here but Aswan is on the way to the Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, a 180 mile road trip or short flight.
Aswan suffers a similar problem to Luxor regarding Nile tourist boat overload, though a boat trip down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, stopping off at a couple of wonderful, monumental temples on the way – Edfu and Kom Ombo – is a great way to experience the Nile. They take 3-5 days and may have an onboard swimming pool among other luxuries.
Best: October – May. It almost never rains here, perhaps one day every three years.
Worst: Christmas and Easter school holidays (overpriced and overcrowded) June-Sept (heat).
Aswan Sights. Err, almost none.
The endless Egyptian monuments of Luxor and Cairo can bring any mortal tourist to his or her knees, so any vacation in Egypt should end with a little peace and quiet and an almost complete lack of mega sights.
That’s where Nile-friendly Aswan is onto a winner, as a tranquil retreat from the frantic must-see madness up the river.
Across the Nilefrom Aswan is Elephantine island, the Nilometer and the tomb of Agan Khan. None of the sights come close to what you have already seen further north but make a pleasant short hike if you need the exercise or diversion.
Upstream a bit are the Tombs of the Nobles also make a scenic hike and Nubian villages which are interesting to visit and have a cup of tea and a water-pipe smoke with locals. Take a cheap local ferry there from the Aswan corniche or hire your own felucca.
Edfu temple beseiged by tourists off a cruise ship between Luxor and Aswan. Edfu, Kom Ombo and Philae temples are only accessible by boat these days. Photo by Jim.
An unusual and charmingly old-fashioned paddle cruise ship on the popular route from Aswan to Luxor (or vice-versa), stopped off at Kom Ombo. Photo by Olaf Tausch.
Abu Simbel weather
The good news: No rain! Ever!
The bad news: Between March and November the average high temperature is over 30C/86F and June-August over 40C/104F. But you may need your sweater on the air-conditioned bus/plane!