- Bring ancient history to life with a Nile river cruise visiting some of the best attractions in Egypt
- Learn about the mighty Nile river and its vital role in ancient and modern-day Egypt
- Discover the top places to visit – from the Pyramids of Giza to the Temple of Edfu and Abu Simbel
A Nile river cruise is one of the most popular ways to see the wealth of archaeological treasures and cultural attractions Egypt has to offer. It’s a cruise that brings Egypt’s 5,000-year history to life, transporting you back to a time of pharaohs, towering pyramids and Egyptian gods such as Ra and Osiris.
Sailing down the Nile is to immerse yourself in a rich tapestry of story, intrigue, and the development of human civilisation. It’s a cruise that can take you from the ‘gateway to the afterlife’ that is the Valley of the Kings to the vibrancy of modern-day Cairo and its Egyptian museum – held by many as the greatest museum in the world.
Sailing on a Nile river cruise
Since ancient times, the Nile river has been the lifeblood of Egypt. Uniquely, it flows south to north through 11 African countries, emptying into the Mediterranean through the Nile Delta, home to half the population of Egypt. A source of freshwater, food, and transport, the river’s annual floods were instrumental in creating the fertile fields that in ancient times saw Egypt become the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. With the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, the Nile no longer floods, but it remains an ideal way to explore Egypt, gaze on historical sites, and enjoy breathtaking sunsets.
The Nile is lined with attractions that could fill a bucket list several times over, and what better way to tick them off than on a luxury Nile cruise aboard the MS Mövenpick Darakum. Relax on the sundeck to spot a diverse range of wildlife – hippos, turtles, fish, birds, and the Nile crocodile that call the river and its banks home. Or retreat to your well-appointed cabin and reflect on a remarkable day exploring ancient monuments, relics, and museums that bring ancient Egypt to life.
We’ve rounded up ten fascinating attractions on a Nile river cruise.
Top 10 Nile river cruise attractions
1. The Pyramids of Giza
The sheer spectacle and incredible engineering feat that are the Pyramids of Giza have been a defining sight in Egypt through the centuries, and are the last of the ancient Wonders of the World to survive to the present day. The magnificent royal mausoleums were built to last an eternity – and at over 4,500 years old are a testament to the prowess of ancient Egyptian construction. Of the three pyramids situated on the Giza plateau on the outskirts of Cairo, the Great Pyramid at 147 metres high is the most iconic. Even today, scientists remain uncertain about its construction. Step inside, and you’ll be surrounded by intricate tomb art depicting ancient Egyptian life.
2. Abu Simbel
The four, towering statues that dominate the entrance to Abu Simbel welcome you to one of Egypt’s most remarkable monuments. Created to project the power of ancient Egypt over Nubia and its southern neighbours, the main temple of Ramses II is lit by rays from the sun twice each year – once on Ramses birthday, and once on his coronation. There is a smaller temple of Ramses II’s queen – Nefertari – and is one of the few places in Egypt where the male and female statues are the same size. Inside, scripts written on the walls tell tales of Ramses II’s military victories and his personal life.
Dating from 1392 BCE, Luxor is a treasure trove of ancient temples, buildings, and statues all packed into what was once the ancient city of Thebes – the pharaoh’s capital at the height of their power. Dubbed an ‘open-air museum’ for its vast array of archaeological delights, the eastern bank of the Nile is home to the Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple. On the opposite western bank, the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens reside. Exploring Luxor is a must, with the fascinating mummification museum, the Mortuary Temple of Seti I, Temples of the Nobles, and the Luxor Museum all competing for attention.
4. Valley of the Kings
With some of our Nile river cruises starting in Luxor, the Valley of the Kings is an early excursion. Perhaps Egypt’s best-known site after the Great Pyramids of Giza, it was a burial ground for pharaohs from Egypt’s 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. There’s plenty to see on a Valley of the Kings tour, with 63 tombs in the valley itself – the most famous is that of Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. Many of the tombs have vivid wall paintings that are wonderful to witness. It’s worth visiting the nearby Temple of Deir el-Bahari; inside are statues and reliefs of Queen Hatshepsut demonstrating her equal authority to that of male pharaohs.
5. Karnak and Luxor temples
The temple complex of Karnak is the most impressive, beautiful, and largest of ancient Egyptian temples – second only to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat in scale. Prepare to be astounded by the awe-inspiring Hypostyle Hall – its 134 gigantic columns tower 80ft high and are decorated with intricate hieroglyphics; look carefully and you can make out traces of the original paint and colours. Incredibly, this was the site of the first-ever peace treaty, between Ramses II and the Hittites. Hard-to-miss is the great Obelisk of Hatshepsut – it stretches 97ft high, weighs over 300 tons, and has dominated the site for nearly 3,500 years.
6. Kom Ombo
The temple at Kom Ombo is unusual, being dedicated to two deities – the sky god Horus and the crocodile god Sobek – and its unique, perfectly symmetrical layout reflects its dual focus. Each side mirrors the other, with carvings, reliefs, and statues to both gods given equal weight and reverence. It’s an archaeological treasure trove with numerous mummified remains found nearby. Historically, the temple had its own lake complete with sacred crocodiles – thankfully, crocodiles are only found in statues and decorations today.
Our Nile river cruises start or finish in the bustling, exciting, and vibrant city of Cairo. Historical sights appear to be everywhere in Cairo, but it’s the Egyptian Museum that is the jewel in the crown and is a treasure trove overflowing with ancient Egyptian artefacts. You can enter the world-famous Royal Mummy room for a small, additional fee. The Egyptian capital has also been the backdrop for many Hollywood movies. Its exotic appeal has seen it feature in films such as 1963’s Cleopatra, James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me, and the 1974 murder mystery Death on the Nile, which was filmed over seven weeks in the city.
8. Temple of Edfu
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in ancient Egyptian history and mythology, the Temple of Edfu – built in the period before Rome conquered Egypt in 30 BCE – is a major attraction on our Nile river cruise. One of the more famous landmarks in Egypt, it is a complex of courts and chambers decorated with engraved walls and statues. It has weathered the centuries incredibly well and, as the second-largest temple in Egypt, it was built to honour Horus, the falcon-headed god of war.
The site of Abydos is something of an enigma, which makes exploring the complex a fascinating tour of discovery and intrigue. For centuries, Abydos was a sacred place for burials and dedicated to the cult of Osiris, god of the dead. While the Great Temple of Seti I forms the heart of the complex, don’t miss out on the Gallery of the Kings – a comprehensive list of pharaohs and, mysteriously, what look like drawings of modern machines.
Dendera sits on the west bank of the Nile and is home to a temple complex that is remarkable well-preserved – it is widely held as the best-preserved in all of Upper Egypt. Surrounded by a thick mud wall, the centrepiece is the fabulous temple of Hathor, the goddess of love, beauty, joy, and healing. The temple was completed during Roman times and features a relief of Cleopatra and Caesarion, her son by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar.
Start your own Egyptian adventure
Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of ancient Egypt on our Wonders of the Nile: Cairo to Luxor and our Wonders of the Nile: from Cairo to Aswan cruises. Our shorter The Spectacular Nile Plus Abu Simbel and our Spectacular Nile for Solo Travellers cruises are fantastic alternatives and explore many of the highlights of the Nile. No matter which Nile cruise you choose, all create incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
All our Nile river cruises are on the MS Mövenpick Hamees or MS Mövenpick Darakum – two of the best cruise ships sailing the Nile, featuring spacious, air-conditioned cabins and hotel-style beds with fine Egyptian cotton sheets. Locally sourced produce means you’ll able to sample the best of Egyptian cuisine while onboard, including fresh salads, hot flatbreads and delicious hummus and falafel while taking in the sights and sounds of the Nile.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.