Julie Egypt 19 Comments

Sitting on the bank of Lake Nasser is one of Egypt’s most striking monuments, the twin temples of Abu Simbel. Built by Ramesses II over 3,000 years ago, these temples have stood the test of time. The story behind Abu Simbel becomes even more fascinating when you learn that the entire complex was dismantled and relocated to higher ground, after the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

To get here, you can plan a day trip from either Aswan or Cairo. Travel times can be long (if you travel by land) or expensive (if you travel by air), so is it worth it? Absolutely! The temples of Abu Simbel are some of most impressive and unique temples you will see in Egypt, so it is well worth the visit.

Here’s how to do it.

Where is Abu Simbel?

Abu Simbel is located 300 kilometers south of Aswan and just 20 kilometers north of the border with Sudan. It sits on the western bank of Lake Nasser in a a region called Nubia. Nubia is a large region along the Nile River that spans southern Egypt and northern Sudan.

Location Map

Interesting Facts About Abu Simbel

The temples of Abu Simbel were constructed over 3,000 years ago by Ramesses II, one of the most powerful rulers of ancient Egypt.

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel is dedicated to the gods Amon-Ra, Ra-Harakhti, and Ptah, but it was also erected to demonstrate the might of the Egyptian empire and for the eternal glorification of Ramesses II.

The Small Temple is dedicated to Queen Nefertari, the beloved and favorite wife of Ramesses II (he had eight wives and, depending on the source, as many as 200 children).

Construction of the two temples took twenty years and was completed in 1244 BC.

Over time, the temples were forgotten and slowly covered with sand. In 1813, Jean-Louis Burckhardt rediscovered the temple, finding the top frieze of the Great Temple. Four years later, Giovanni Battista Belzoni managed to remove some of the sand and find the entrance into the temple. Once the sand was cleared away, this became a tourist destination, attracting visitors even at the end of the 19th century.

With the construction of the Aswan High Dam, rising water levels threatened to flood the temples of Abu Simbel. In the 1960’s, the entire complex was dismantled, moved to higher ground, and completely reconstructed. It took the combined effort of over 50 countries and 5 years of work to save the temples.

When you stand in front of the temple, and when you go inside of it, it is hard to imagine that the entire complex once sat at a different location.

How to Visit Abu Simbel

How to Get to Abu Simbel

To visit Abu Simbel, you can do so either on a day trip from Aswan or when flying between Cairo and Aswan.

There are three ways to get to Abu Simbel:

  • Roundtrip flight from Aswan
  • By land from Aswan
  • When flying between Cairo and Aswan

Can You Visit Abu Simbel on a Day Trip from Luxor? No. Technically, you can fly to Abu Simbel from Luxor, but we don’t recommend it. You will have to change planes twice (in Cairo and Aswan) and one-way flight times average 10 to 15 hours.

Roundtrip Flight from Aswan

This is the fastest way to travel between Aswan and Abu Simbel. Flight times average 45 minutes one-way. The flights are timed such that you have roughly an hour and a half to visit the two temples before you catch the flight back to Aswan.

Egypt Air is the only airline that offers flights to Abu Simbel. This airline offers two round trip flights per day between Aswan and Abu Simbel, although this can vary depending on the time of year. Also, when we did our flight search, we did not see any flights on Sundays.

When you book your tickets, you will book them as a roundtrip reservation from Aswan. The flights are direct flights between Aswan and Abu Simbel. Time your flights such that you have roughly 2.5 hours in Abu Simbel, in order to give yourself enough time to visit the temples.

What We Did: We booked a 9:25 am flight Aswan to Abu Simbel and a 1:10 pm flight Abu Simbel to Aswan. Including transportation time to and from our hotel in Aswan, this day trip took a total of 7 hours. However, these flight times vary day by day. 

When flying to Abu Simbel on Egypt Air, the airline provides a free bus service between the Abu Simbel airport and the temple complex. Once you exit the airport, you just hop on the Happy Year Transport bus that is waiting outside of the airport (more about this below). It is already paid for by Egypt Air, but the driver might ask you for a tip.

The bus waits for you at the temple complex parking lot while you tour the temples. You will have about 1.5 hours to visit the temple complex.

You will fly back to Aswan on the same airplane that brought you to Abu Simbel. However, you are not allowed to leave anything on the airplane. If you have anything that you don’t want to carry to the temples, you can leave it on the bus. We left some snacks on the bus while exploring the temples.

As a rough estimate, and with advanced planning, you can expect a roundtrip flight between Aswan and Abu Simbel to cost $325 per person. Check the Egypt Air website for current pricing based on your travel dates.

Egypt Air Plane

By Land from Aswan

You can travel from Aswan to Abu Simbel by land, either by tour or by hiring a driver.

One way, it is a 290 km drive that takes between 2.5 and 3 hours. Most land tours to Abu Simbel take a total of eight hours.

In the past, tourists traveled in a police convoy to get to Abu Simbel. That is no longer the case. You will still drive through police checkpoints but you will not travel in a convoy. 

The Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel offers a variety of land tour options based on the type of vehicle. Pricing starts at $160 per person in a regular car (max 2 people), or $210 per person in a minivan (max 8), or $375 per person in a Pajero (max 2), or $425 per person in a Land Cruiser (max 2). They also have options that will include a guide and your entrance fee. For full details, visit the Sofitel website.

The Movenpick Hotel also offers a land tour. We do not have the details on this, but if you will be staying at this hotel, you can contact them for their pricing information.

Egypt Tailor Made is a highly rated tour company that offers a day trip to Abu Simbel. This tour lasts 8 hours, includes a guide, and it is a private tour. We did not use Egypt Tailor Made for our day trip to Abu Simbel, but we used them for the remainder of our time in Egypt (Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan) and we highly recommend them.

Abu Simbel Close Up

Visiting Abu Simbel When Flying Between Cairo and Aswan

This can be a convenient way to visit Abu Simbel if your itinerary is going to include a flight between Cairo and Aswan.

If you have plans to fly from Cairo to Aswan, you can book a multi-hop flight so that you visit Abu Simbel on the way. Alternatively, if you plan to fly from Aswan to Cairo, you can do the same thing, and schedule a visit to Abu Simbel on the way.

Important Note: All Egypt Air flights to and from Abu Simbel go through Aswan. The Cairo – Abu Simbel segment and the Abu Simbel – Cairo segment will have a stop in Aswan.
For example, if you are flying from Cairo to Aswan with a stopover in Abu Simbel, your flight order will be Cairo to Aswan to Abu Simbel to Aswan. Conversely, if you are flying from Aswan to Cairo with a stopover in Abu Simbel, your flight order will be Aswan to Abu Simbel to Aswan to Cairo.

Tim spoke to an Egypt Air gate agent and was told that the checked luggage does not get flown to Abu Simbel. On a flight from Cairo to Abu Simbel, the aircraft will stop in Aswan and the checked luggage will be removed from the aircraft and held at the Aswan airport until you return later that day. If you start your day flying from Aswan to Abu Simbel, then they will not load your luggage onto the aircraft until your flight returns to Aswan on the way to Cairo.

You need to book this as one reservation so use the multi-destination option on the Egypt Air website or call Egypt Air for assistance.

However, there is one factor to consider. You don’t have to worry about what to do with your checked luggage, since the airline handles that for you. But if you have a carry-on bag, you cannot leave it on the airplane. You will either have to check your carry-on bag, leave it on the bus that takes you from the airport to the temple complex, or carry it with you to the temples.

We ultimately decided against this option because we typically travel with laptops and we did not want to leave those on the bus and we did not want to explore the temple complex with them in our backpacks. That made flying round trip from Aswan a more appealing option to us.

How Much Does this Cost? As a rough estimate, and with advanced planning, you can expect this option to cost $500 per person. Check the Egypt Air website for current pricing based on your travel dates.

A one-way flight on Egypt Air between Cairo and Aswan costs roughly $155 per person, so you are paying $345 more per person to fly to/from Abu Simbel. That number is important when comparing the cost of this option to the other options.

What We Did (And the Reasoning Behind our Choice)

We chose to visit Abu Simbel by flying round trip from Aswan.

Flight costs are very similar to the option of visiting Abu Simbel while flying between Cairo and Aswan. By doing this as a day trip from Aswan, we could leave all of our valuables, such as our laptops, at the hotel.

Prior to our visit to Abu Simbel, we had two big driving days in our itinerary: a huge day trip to Dendera and Abydos from Luxor and a day of driving in between Luxor and Aswan. The thought of spending another day in a car did not sound very appealing.

Going by plane is only one hour faster than traveling by land, but for us, it was a very nice break from land travel. Plus, we were back at our hotel just after 2 pm and the entire day was a nice, leisurely day.

What to Expect on a Visit to Abu Simbel

Getting to the Temple Complex

If you arrive to Abu Simbel by land, you will be dropped off at the temple complex.

If you arrive by airplane, there is an Egypt Air shuttle bus that, for whatever reason, has the title “Happy Year Transport” painted on the side of the bus. This is a free shuttle bus, although the driver might ask you for a tip.

Shuttle Bus

When you exit the airport, there will be numerous taxi drivers offering to drive you the very short distance to the Abu Simbel temple complex. Simply say “no thank you” and board the shuttle bus.

It takes five minutes to drive to the temple complex. When you exit the bus, ask the driver what time the bus leaves to go back to the airport.

You will exit the bus in a small, crowded parking lot. You will see Lake Nasser in one direction and then a series of small buildings in another direction. Walk towards the small buildings.

Abu Simbel Cafe


From left to right, you will see a food stand, a sitting area, and bathrooms (this is the best place to use the bathroom). Walk between the food stand and the sitting area. Once you pass through the food stand you should see a sign pointing towards the temple complex. Walk down the street until you reach the Visitor Center.

Abu Simbel Street

Purchasing Your Tickets

In the Visitor Center, there is a movie that explains how the temples were relocated. Save this for the end of your visit, if you have time. Next to the visitor center is the ticket booth.

Prices for Abu Simbel in 2022 are:

  • 255 EGP per person
  • 133 EGP per student
  • 300 EGP per camera ticket
  • 20 EGP for a tripod

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Photography is allowed inside of both temples with a cellular phone. If you want to take photos with something other than a cellphone, or if you want to shoot video with your cellphone, you must purchase a camera ticket.

To enter the temple complex, you will go through a quick security screening. Follow the paved path to the temples.

The Great Temple

As you walk down the hill, the first temple you will see is the Great Temple.

First View of Great Temple

Visiting Abu Simbel


Four massive statues of Ramesses II stare down at visitors. Sitting next to and between the legs of Ramesses are members of the royal family, including his beloved wife Nefertari, sons, daughters, and his mother. The broken statue was damaged in an earthquake and a portion of the statue sits on the ground in front of the façade.

Tim Rivenbark at Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel in December

Horus Abu Simbel


Inside of the temple, eight statues of Osiris, with the facial features of Ramesses II, fill the first main chamber. There are numerous smaller chambers and vestibules to explore.

Inside Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel Hieroglyphics

Inner Chamber Abu Simbel


Not to be missed is the sanctuary. Located in the back of the temple, this small room contains the statues of deified Ramesses II, Ptah, Amon-Ra, and Ra-Harakhti. Twice a year, on February 22 and October 22, the first rays of the sun penetrate this room (even after the temple complex was painstakingly relocated in the 1960’s).

Abu Simbel Sanctuary

The Small Temple

The Small Temple is a temple of Hathor, dedicated to Nefertari. Of the statues on the façade of the temple, Nefertari is represented as Hathor, with the horns of a cow, a solar disc, and two plumes.

Abu Simbel Small Temple

Once inside, you will see that this temple is much smaller than the one dedicated to Ramesses II. The hypostyle room contains pillars with the heads of Hathor. The hieroglyphics tell the story of the king and queen.


Queen Nefertari

Panoramic Point

If you want to capture both temples in one photo, you can do so from the small covered terrace that sits near the Small Temple.

Abu Simbel Panorama

Exiting the Temple Complex

You will exit the temple complex on a different path. Look for the paved path the leads uphill from the Small Temple. It takes about five to ten minutes to walk back to the visitor center and parking lot. You will walk through a series of souvenir shops to get to the parking lot.

Take the shuttle bus back to the airport or look for your driver in the parking lot.

Spending the Night at Abu Simbel

It is possible to spend the night at Abu Simbel. People who do this are usually here to watch the Sound and Light Show or to catch sunrise at the temple complex.

Top rated hotels include the Kabara Nubian House and the Eskaleh Nubian House.

Abu Simbel Egypt

One last look at the temples of Abu Simbel

If you have any questions about planning your visit to Abu Simbel, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Egypt:

Read all of our articles about Egypt in our Egypt Travel Guide.

You Might Also Like:


Abu Simbel Egypt Travel Guide


Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 19

  1. Avatar for stephen

    Great insight into visiting the temples. I have one question about the camera charge. Do you need to pay for a camera ticket to take photos outside of the temples with DSLR?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  2. Avatar for Jennifer

    This is SO helpful and appreciate you saving us the long drive. Thanks for all the detail and confirming we can do this without a tour/agent.

  3. Avatar for Cheryl

    Hi Julie
    This is a great article about Abu Simble and makes things really clear.

    Did you use a guide to show you around Abu Simbel or can you see enough yourself?

    Also, do you need to pre-book tickets or were the lines fairly short when you were there?

    We are independent traveler’s and love sites like yours that enable you to do your own thing, thanks.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We did Abu Simbel all on our own (booked the flights and visited it without a guide). I think visiting Abu Simbel is very easy to do on your own. It helps to have some kind of printed guide, or read about it before you go, so you know more about what you are looking at (our guide from Luxor gave us an overview before our visit). When we did this (December 2019), there was no line for tickets. I don’t even think you can pre book them in advance, but anyway, I wouldn’t expect long lines here. And then it’s easy to navigate on your own, especially if you follow our guide. Have a great time in Egypt! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Karen

    Hi Julie,
    Great information on the site. We are going to Egypt in October and it happens that we will disembark our Nile cruise on Oct 22, the date of the Sun Festival in Abu. One option would be to fly to Abu that morning and experience the Sun festival (although we would miss the sunrise light hitting the statues) and then stay overnight so we could also see the light show. Then return to Aswan the next morning. Or the second option would be to do the standard up and back from Aswan in one day – in which case we would do it on a different day to avoid the crowds. Is the festival worth it? Is staying overnight to see the light show worth it? I’m torn. Hate to miss something great after traveling all that way, but not sure it’s worth it (crowded, takes a lot of time and nothing else to do there, and from images it looks like you can’t get close to the temples at night (do you have to stay in the “bleachers”?). Would love your perspective.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Those are all great questions but I don’t have answers to all of them, unfortunately. Yes, I agree that it would be a very cool experience to see Abu Simbel at the Sun Festival. However, we have no experience being here during the festival and what to expect as a visitor on this day. However, I found this article which had an interesting approach…visit Abu Simbel a day or two before or after the festival, still have a chance to see the sunrise, but without the crowds. If it’s worth staying the night to see the sun in the temple, it could be worth it. It’s a unique occurrence but I feel like we also had a great experience, spending just a few hours here. Hope this helps! Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Ross

    Hi Julie
    Thanks for the clear and detailed advice.

    Question: Check In Times
    How much time do you need to arrive at the airport, prior to your flight?

    If the flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel is at 11:40 what time do you need to be at the airport?

    Many thanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We checked in 2 hours before our flight, which is what we typically do for domestic flights anywhere in the world. However, it’s a small airport and I believe we had a lot of extra time. I’d rather spend that time waiting, as to not miss the flight, but you might be OK checking in later. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Will

    This website is a lifesaver! Had to do a poster for school and this was really helpful. Really nice images as well!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  7. Avatar for Abhay

    I will be visiting Egypt in the end of March and plan to visit Abu simbel from Aswan. My question is can I visit Abu simbel by bus and return the next day?
    Thank you

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We heard mixed things about staying overnight in Abu Simbel. When Tim spoke to Egypt Air about doing this, he was told that you need permission from the government to stay there. But one of our guides frequently traveled with guests on an overnight stay. So, I am not sure. You could reach out to Egypt Tailor Made, our tour company, for more information. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Marlene Litton
    Marlene Litton

    Could you please advise me as to whether or not we should get Hepatitis B, Typhoid and also Rabies vaccines before we travel to Egypt. I have read various opinions and I am totally confused. Please advise. We are going to Egypt in December.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      In general, it is a good idea to get Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines before traveling. We have not had rabies vaccines yet and from our experience, I don’t think it is necessary for Egypt. Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Chris

    Hello Julie,
    So both flights to/from Abu Simbel were the same day? Im having a hard time wrapping my brain around this. I normally get to an airport 3 hours early. Does the bus drop you off next to the plane or is this a normal airport / security check system in place? I dont see how there’s time to do this (with your times specified) if its anything like a normal airport, even a small one. Also, how can I confirm the bus system to/from airport/temples? Im looking at flights to/from Aswan/Abu Simbel, arrive in Abu Simbel 10:40, Depart at 13:45 same day. To be clear you’re saying there’s enough time back and forth to temple and to make the departing plane in time?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We were confused about this before our visit, too. But everything is arranged that you fly in, buses are waiting, you tour Abu Simbel, and then take the bus back to the airport. You do go through security again but it’s very fast and you don’t have to do the typical arrive 2 to 3 hours before your flight in this circumstance.

      So basically, everything is very well planned out. You arrive at the Abu Simbel airport. Walk right outside and there are buses waiting to take you the short distance to the temple (you don’t arrange these ahead of time and there are no set schedules…it’s essentially a shuttle service). Tour the temple. You will be given a time to get back on the same bus. Get on the bus at that time and go to the airport. After a security check you get back on the airplane.

      Your 10:40 and 13:45 flights should be fine. That gives you 3 hours in Abu Simbel (we had 4 hours which was tons of time). If you are still hesitant, you can confirm the details with Egypt Air. Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Jason


    I really enjoy your blog. It’s very simple, straight-forward, and well-illustrated to give excellent insight into the trip. I know you flew to Abu Simbel, but do you know if the police convoy is still used for the road trip? I have read that the cars leave at 4 AM and must go through police checkpoints. Is this also still the case with other road trips (i.e. Aswan to Luxor, etc.)


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Jason. I’m glad you like our blog! There is no longer a police convoy (for Abu Simbel or any other drive in Egypt), however, there are still police checkpoints. We went through numerous police checkpoints on the drive between Luxor and Dendera. We did not have to do anything…our guide spoke to the police officers. It was always a very quick process. Cheers, Julie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.