According to Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, the Egyptian civilisation was ‘the gift of the Nile’ – perhaps never have so few words so clearly encapsulated the very basis of a whole culture and its empire. The Nile then, as now, is the lifeblood of Egypt and it’s extraordinary just how little has changed along its verdant banks over the millennia. Our five-star Nile cruise explores the mighty monuments, intriguing history and extraordinary artistic masterpieces from the oldest of all the ancient civilisations.
We fly to Luxor, known as Thebes in ancient times and centred on the two great temple complexes of ancient Egypt – Karnak and Luxor. Situated on the East Bank of the Nile, both are dedicated to the sun god, Amun Ra, the giver of life. Karnak’s 134 gigantic columns stretch up to 80 feet high and are covered in hieroglyphics – look carefully for traces of the original colours that are still visible. More than 30 pharaohs added to and improved the site over a period of 600 years, right up to the time of Cleopatra.
The West Bank, where the sun sets, was reserved for the funerary temples of the pharaohs and their underground tombs – the famous Valley of the Kings. Here we’ll have the incredible experience of following in Howard Carter’s footsteps when we enter King Tutankhamun’s tomb and imagine his sense of wonder as he peered through the darkness to discover the one and only pharaoh’s tomb that remains intact. Only three tombs may be visited at a time and these may vary, as some are closed on a rotating basis to protect them from too much exposure to humidity created by visitors.
As our ship sails south, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the passing scenery from the sun deck or plunge pool with a cool drink in hand. We pass the great docks at Esna and spend some time in Aswan, so you can enjoy the town and visit the Aswan High Dam and temple of Isis at Philae, as well as experience an atmospheric afternoon sail on a traditional felucca.
Early next morning we board the short flight for our included visit to the incredible temples of Abu Simbel. This is surely one of the great highlights of any visit to Egypt! Built in the 12th-century BC, the temples were covered with sand and forgotten until their rediscovery in 1813 by the Swiss explorer, Jean-Louis Burckhardt, who also discovered Petra in Jordan. Upon our return to Aswan, we visit a typical Nubian village on one of the islands in the Nile to get a glimpse of local life.
As our ship sails back north, visit the riverside temple complex at Kom Ombo, which is uniquely dedicated to two gods and features some of the earliest depictions of surgical instruments.
Today’s Egyptians are immensely proud of their ancient lineage, and with typical Middle Eastern courtesy and hospitality, they are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you are likely to meet.
You should arrive at the airport to take your direct flight to Luxor. After our arrival late this evening, we transfer to our home for the next seven nights, the five-star Mövenpick MS Hamees.
After breakfast we’ll explore the Valley of the Kings, dominated by the pyramid-shaped El Qorn, or ‘the horn’, the highest peak in the Theban Hills. So much artistic beauty is hidden beneath the barren earth of this hot, dry, rock-strewn valley. The incredible state of preservation and the vividness of the paintings and hieroglyphics are simply remarkable.
It is tantalising to imagine what treasures all these tombs once held, lost to incredibly efficient grave robbers thousands of years ago. One of the smallest but most significant tombs in the valley belongs to the boy-king Tutankhamun, famously discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. As you enter the tomb, you’ll be astounded by the extraordinary beauty of the brightly painted walls – a real privilege! We’ll also enjoy a guided tour around the little-visited mortuary temple of Ramses III, the Medinet Habu. Remarkably well-preserved and surrounded by massive mud-brick walls, which also enclosed sections of the pharaoh’s palace, parts of the temple’s ceiling remain intact and many of the original colours are still visible.
Our tour ends at the temple of Queen Hatshetput, widely regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs and the longest-reigning female ruler of Egypt. The temple, with its three-tiered colonnaded terraces, absolutely dazzles and seems to mirror the dramatic limestone cliffs from which it is partly cut.
We return to our ship at lunchtime and set sail for Esna, where we go through the large locks on the river and moor overnight.
We have an early start this morning to visit the temple of Khnum, the ram-headed god whom the ancient Egyptians believed created mankind on his potter’s wheel. Situated below ground level, the temple is extraordinary for having been built in the first century AD – relatively recently by Egyptian standards! However, its architecture, style and decoration are in keeping with far more ancient temples. On the walls you’ll see Roman emperors dressed as pharaohs giving offerings to the Egyptian gods.
We continue with a stop at Kom Ombo, which you may visit today if you wish, although we normally visit the temple on day 6.
We return to the ship with plenty of time to relax as we sail down to Aswan, where we moor overnight. After dinner on board tonight, you are invited to join our ‘galabeya’ party for all guests. It’s a wonderful chance to partake in a long-running tradition that takes place on all Nile ships!
Today we’ll start our exploration of Aswan by visiting the world-renowned Aswan High Dam, which measures an incredible 364 feet (111 metres) high with a crest length of 12,562 feet (3,830 metres). Completed in 1970, it allowed the annual Nile flood to be controlled by man for the first time in history.
We continue to the temple of Isis, the last built in the classical Egyptian style. Look closely and you’ll notice clues that the temple was reused as a Christian church, with crosses carved into the older reliefs and defaced images of the gods. Originally located at Philae, the temple had to be rescued from the rising waters of Lake Nasser before the completion of the Aswan High Dam.
After lunch, we take to the water on a lateenrigged felucca, the traditional sailboats of Egypt, for a relaxing ride around the beautiful El Nabatat Island. Previously known as Kitchener’s Island, it was gifted to Lord Kitchener when he served as Consul-General in Egypt. With the beautiful setting sun and the gentle wind in your sail, this will undoubtedly be a highlight of your holiday.
We rise early to catch the short flight from Aswan to the small airport at Abu Simbel, located along the shores of Lake Nasser. This is the location of one of Egypt’s most remarkable and iconic monuments, the majestic rock-cut temples of Ramses II and his queen Nefertari. Four towering statues of the pharaoh guard the entrance and testify to the power of ancient Egypt over the kingdom of Nubia and its southern neighbours. The interior of the main temple is lit by the rays of the sun twice a year, on the pharaoh’s birthday and the day of his coronation. The smaller temple to Nefertari is one of the few sites where the statues of the pharaoh and his queen are equal in size. Like the temple of Isis at Philae, the Abu Simbel temples were relocated here to avoid the rising waters of Lake Nasser in an incredible UNESCO-led operation in the 1960s.
We fly back to Aswan in time for a late lunch, with some time to relax on board. In the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a visit to a typical Nubian village and family home on one of the islands in the Nile.
Today you have a relaxing day on board to enjoy the sun deck, pool and bar as the MS Hamees continues its meander back north along the Nile. We call at Kom Ombo, famous for the wonderfully sited riverside temple, which we visit this afternoon. Unique in Egypt, the temple is dedicated to two gods: Horus, the sky god and Sobek, the local crocodile deity. The layout of the temple reflects the twin dedication, with perfectly symmetrical halves and carvings of the two gods on either side.
We set sail this morning back towards Luxor. After lunch, we visit the temples of Karnak and Luxor on the eastern bank of the Nile. The astonishing Hypostyle Hall is the most remarkable part of this vast complex, said to be the largest religious centre of the ancient world. One of the many interesting features is the first documented peace treaty in history, between Ramses II and the Hittites. Another highlight is the great Obelisk of Hatshepsut, carved from a single block of polished red granite. At 97 feet (29.5 metres) high and weighing in at over 300 tonnes, it has stood here for over 3,450 years.
We also visit the smaller, but equally remarkable Temple of Luxor, which was originally connected to Karnak via the two-mile long Avenue of the Sphinxes. Tonight, prepare to experience the popular belly dance show – you may even join in if you wish!
Early this morning, we transfer to Luxor airport for the return direct flight to the UK, after an eye-opening and truly memorable holiday.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin. The price includes:
Please note an Egyptian visa is not included in the price, see below for more information.
Along with a valid passport, UK citizens must have a visa in order to travel to Egypt. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit
Visa cost is US$25 per person. Full details of how and when to apply will be sent with your booking confirmation.
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
Please note that visa costs may be subject to change.
Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths are uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights.
A reasonable level of fitness is required to get the best out of this tour, for example there are no lifts on board the MS Darakum and entry into some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings involves steep descents with numerous narrow steps. Therefore this holiday will not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility.
Daytime temperature levels will also be high for most of the year and in summer months most excursions start early in order to avoid excessive midday desert heat.
Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for Egypt at least a month before departure.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Airport||Ship location||Transfer time|
|Luxor International Airport||Luxor||30 mins|
Peter & Hilary Sparks
We've just returned from Switzerland and would like to thank all at Riviera Travel for a wonderful holiday. Your Tour Manager Kim was excellent in every way, as was the organisation of every aspect of the tour. We will certainly...
Angela & Derek Burridge
We've just returned from our first trip with Riviera - it won't be our last! La Badia Hotel was just as described - a friendly family run hotel with lovely grounds & views. Our tour guide, Linda, was exceptional, nothing too much ...