Julie Egypt 53 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 $150 to 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 and the Movenpick Hotel in Aswan can arrange a day trip to Abu Simbel by land.

We had a recent comment (April 2024) that hiring a private driver costs between 3500 and 3800 EGP (Thanks Gary!). Many hotels in Aswan can help you set this up. 

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.

Another option is this tour on GetYourGuide that is done as a day trip from Aswan and includes pick up at your hotel. It has the added bonus in that you can cancel this tour up to 24 hours in advance and still get a full refund.

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 $200 to 500 per person. Check the Egypt Air website for current pricing based on your travel dates.

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. Credit cards only, cash is not accepted.

Prices for Abu Simbel in 2024 are:

  • 600 EGP per person (900 EGP during the sun alignment, February 22 and October 22)
  • 300 EGP per student

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.

Egypt Travel Guide

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

EGYPT ITINERARY: With 10 days in Egypt, visit Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel.

TRAVEL ADVICE: Here is list of important things to know before visit Egypt. The Luxor Pass and Cairo Pass can save you a lot of money…learn more in our guide. And we also have information on how much it costs to visit Egypt.

ASWAN: For a list of the top experiences, read our article Best Things to Do in Aswan. We also have a guide on how to visit Kom Ombo, Edfu, and Esna while driving between Aswan and Luxor.

LUXOR: Get on overview on what to do in our article Best Things to Do in Luxor. We also have detailed guides to the East Bank of Luxor, the West Bank of Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings.

PYRAMIDS OF GIZA: Plan your visit with our article How to Visit the Pyramids of Giza. We also have an article about where to get the best views of the pyramids.


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


Abu Simbel Egypt Travel Guide


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Comments 53

  1. Avatar for Tim

    Hi Julie-
    Very helpful; thank you for taking the time to provide all of this. We are starting our day in Cairo, with a lay over in Aswan, then on to Abu Simbel, returning that afternoon to Aswan. We will have checked bags. Am I correct that those bags will just stay in Aswan awaiting our return flight that afternoon? Do you think it’s safe to do so? Not sure what options we have. Thank you! Tim

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, as far as I know, your checked bags will stay in Aswan. Tim spoke to the airline in 2019 and I haven’t heard if things changed since then. You could call the airline to confirm this, since it has now been a few years. I would think it is safe to do so. We flew Egypt Air a few times on our trip and everything always went smoothly in our experience. The only other option would be to schedule your Abu Simbel day trip out and back from Aswan on a different day, but depending on your itinerary this may not be possible. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Tony

    We just flew to Abu Simbel and found this info very helpful so thank you. We took the 9:50a flight and the 1:30p return to beat most of the early tours that drive which we did however there were quite a few people on the plane plus some private tours that drove but it was very manageable. Our flight was running late however they adjusted the return flight time to make up for time lost at the temples since everyone onboard is visiting the temples. Just make sure to ask when the bus leaves to go head back. Our plane was a larger 737 and they had 2 large buses transporting passengers. As you exit the terminal you need to walk towards the parking lot for the bus and just ask/say Egyptair. Most pax onboard our flight was in either 2-3 large tour groups and we had no issues getting tickets as soon as we got off and getting pictures outside before most of them arrived. I felt like we had enough time and after driving from Luxor to Aswan, I’m glad we flew. If your going to fly, book tickets early because these flights will sell out. Our flight was sold out a couple months prior. Bring your passport! You need it to enter the actual terminal and to fill out document/ledger after security. Tickets are currently 600egp and can be purchased online ahead of time. Everything takes credit card these days, no more cash transactions.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  3. Avatar for Vince
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for arti

    Hello, I am travelling with a 5 year old. I was thinking of flying into Abu Simble from Aswan and staying the night and returning back by flight the next day or even a one way car.
    Your thoughts?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      As far as I know, there shouldn’t be any issues with that. Most people do it as a day trip, since the flight costs are the same and it saves checking in and out of another hotel. Just check first to make sure the Egyptian Airlines website allows you to book your flights on two separate days. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Ben

    Hi, thank you for preparing such a detailed guide to Egypt for us. I have spent several days studying your travel guide. How do you eat in Abu Simbel? I wonder if there is a restaurant near the temple where we can have lunch before leaving. Thank you for your answer, I appreciate it!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      There is a cafe or two near the bus stop in Abu Simbel. If you are quick at the temples, you could have time to eat here before getting on the bus to go back to the airport. If I remember correctly, we had breakfast and a late lunch at our hotel in Aswan, just having a small snack at one of these cafes while waiting to get back on the bus. Don’t expect anything great and I don’t remember the names of the cafes, but there are places with food if you need something. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Priyanka

    Hi! Thank you so much for such detailed articles about your trip to Egypt. They are super helpful and I have been relying on them quite a bit. Do you know if I could hire a taxi from Aswan Airport to Abu Simbel and back? If so, do you have any idea how much they’d charge for a family of 4 adults? Some of these tours are quite expensive and I’m looking for a more economical option! Any advice you have would be great 🙂

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Priyanka. I don’t know how much a taxi would cost for the day (we took the flight and it’s now been a few years so pricing has changed since our visit). If you have a hotel booked, you could reach out to them because they would have a better idea of that cost and if it is even possible. Another option is to hire a driver for the day, which you might also be able to do through your hotel. It will be a lot of driving that day, which explains the cost of the tours. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

    2. Avatar for Gary

      I am currently in Aswan and I have had 2 prices so far for a private newish car to take me one for 3500 egp and one for 3800 egp… hope this helps

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