Nile River cruises

The Nile, thought to be the longest river in the world, has been the main artery of Egyptian culture, commerce and agriculture for millennia. Many of the country’s most important temples and monuments were built along the river between Luxor and Aswan, and boat travel is the most practical way to see them.

But it’s not just a matter of convenience. Nile cruises have an undisputable glamour to them, sailing gently from port to port, sipping mint tea on deck at sunset while scenes of everyday river life play out before you much as they would have done during the time of the pharaohs. Villagers plough their fields with hoes and donkey-drawn ploughs, and hang up clothes to quickly dry in the sun outside traditional mudbrick houses, while children play in the shallows.

Cruising is mostly done at night, with shore excursions taking up the days. The river, and popular sites such as the temples of Luxor and Kom Ombo, can be very crowded during the peak months of December and April, but even that can do little to quell the allure of an iconic Nile cruise. Trips usually begin in Luxor and may form part of a longer Egypt vacation, with a flight or overnight train down from Cairo.

Types of boat

Feluccas

The quintessential vessel for cruising the Nile is the felucca. These boats with white canvas sails are a familiarly beautiful sight on the river traveling downstream from Aswan to Esna, and remain as popular as they were thousands of years ago, as their small size means they can get to places that larger cruise boats cannot. Feluccas are not always practical though, as they are reliant on the wind to get around and have very basic facilities. You will sleep on deck, under canvas, and bathe in the river. The flexibility they provide makes them ideal for families and small groups however (usually eight maximum), and even a small ship cruise will often include a night or two on a felucca.

Small ships

These vessels, typically carrying between 50 and 150 passengers, are the most common form of travel on the Nile. They sail between Luxor and Aswan or back, a journey of around 200km that takes between three and four days but is usually stretched out longer. Facilities aboard can be very luxurious, with quite spacious, en suite, air-conditioned cabins, restaurants and bars, sun decks and sometimes even swimming pools. Shore excursions are frequently led by trained Egyptologists, while the evening entertainments are lavish, if on the cheesy side.

Dahabiyas

These houseboats are smaller than the regular cruise ship but have considerably more amenities than feluccas. They look lovely, and traveling on them can be a very relaxed experience. As they are sail-powered, they sometimes need to be pulled along by tug if the wind drops, which of course can potentially cause alterations to your itinerary.

Our top River cruising Vacation

Nile cruise vacation in Egypt

Nile cruise vacation in Egypt

Discover ancient temples & tombs & travel by Nile cruise boat

From US $1399 to US $2099 9 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 14 Dec
2020: 7 Mar, 14 Mar, 28 Mar, 18 Apr, 25 Apr, 2 May, 16 May, 23 May, 6 Jun, 13 Jun, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 3 Oct, 10 Oct, 24 Oct, 31 Oct, 7 Nov, 14 Nov, 21 Nov, 28 Nov, 5 Dec, 12 Dec, 19 Dec, 26 Dec
2021: 9 Jan, 16 Jan, 23 Jan, 30 Jan, 6 Feb, 13 Feb, 20 Feb, 27 Feb, 6 Mar, 13 Mar, 20 Mar, 27 Mar, 3 Apr, 10 Apr, 17 Apr, 24 Apr, 1 May, 8 May, 15 May, 22 May, 29 May, 5 Jun, 12 Jun, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct, 9 Oct ...
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about River cruising or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What will I see?

Small ship cruises generally follow a structured itinerary, while felucca cruises are more freewheeling (or should that be freesailing?). But most trips will take in at least a handful of the key sites along the Nile: the fascinating double temple of Kom Ombo, with a nearby camel market an enjoyable stopover; the Valley of the King and Valley of the Queen, Colossi of Memnon and the ruined temples of Luxor; the well-preserved Temple of Horus at Edfu, dedicated to the Falcon God, and charming Edfu with its Temple of Isis and botanical gardens on Kitchen’s Island. The immense temples of Abu Simbel are set back from the river, but are another popular visit with daytrips by land and air possible.

Best time to take a Nile cruise

The best time of year for cruising the Nile is during the Egyptian winter, between November and April, when temperatures are lowest, yet still range from around 23°C to 35°C. The summer months see oppressive heat, and long days exploring onshore can be exhausting; inside the monuments the air is even more oppressive. Naturally, winter is also the busiest period, so look at the shoulder months of November and April when it can still be pretty hot but there will be fewer other boats on the river.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Clarence] [Intro: ptolemy1024] [Feluccas: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR)] [Dahabiyas: Rémih] [Best time to take a Nile cruise: Steve F-E-Cameron]
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