Updated: May 20
I did a boat load of research before I traveled to Egypt with my dad in December of 2019. He was going for work (mostly), and I was ecstatic to tag along!
I did a TON of research and sent my "Must See Sites" over to my dad's local contacts. They told me it was way too much to accomplish in the time allotted, but we decided a Nile Cruise was the best and most efficient way to try...
And it was amazing!!
Laying in my cruise cabin warmed by the Egyptian sun, watching the banks of the Nile River float by through the window...
Witnessing scenes of animals and farmers tending to a landscape that hasn't changed in hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
It was truly magical.... And I want to share a piece of that experience with you!
So here are my rankings of the top 9 temples and tombs from my Nile Cruise (plus all the logistical details even my extensive research DIDN'T cover).
The cruise ship I was on is the Radamis II. It's pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of price (you get what you pay for with these things). The food was great. There was a buffet with lots of different options and the staff was lovely. If you have any specific questions about this cruise ship, leave a comment below and I'm happy to answer!
Some Nile cruises come with their own travel guide and itinerary that's included with the price of your stay. Others don't and the travel company you use to book your trip just assigns you a guide.
I had an incredible tour guide named Samuel Ramzy.
(You can learn more about him right here)
He arranged the entire thing just for me and my "Must See" itinerary. From transportation, to meals off of the boat, to running out in the middle of the night to get me some allergy medicine, Samuel was on top of it.
Having a good tour guide really elevates the whole experience when you're in Egypt, and there is simply no one better than Samuel.
So you have two choices when it comes to your Nile Cruise tour guide:
Take your chances with a regular travel agency and hope you get a good one.
Click here to book Samuel for your Egyptsy adventure and rest assured you've got the most trusted, knowledgeable and passionate guide around!
Hokay, let's dive into the temple & tomb rankings.
You'll find the cost of entry for each site as of December 2019 -- in Egyptian pounds (EGP) and USD -- plus everything you need to know before you go.
#9: Valley of the Kings
Entry Price: 240 EGP ($15.38 USD)
It's hard to put anything in last place, and you're probably surprised this is my pick. But something has to go last and if I'm being super critical, the Valley of the Kings was expensive, physically draining (you have to climb up and down some pretty steep tombs), and crowded when compared to #8 on this list.
Oh, and in my opinion King Tut's tomb is overrated. It's pretty empty and nothing special once you've seen the other tombs in the Valley. It also costs 300 EGP or $19.23 extra to enter Tut's tomb on top of the 240 EGP you already paid to get in. I recommend saving your money for a museum ticket in Cairo where you can actually see what was inside King Tut's tomb -- that's well worth it!
#8: Deir el-Medina & Tomb of Pashedu
Entry Price: 100 EGP ($6.41) & 30 EGP ($1.92) respectively
These two sites are located in the vicinity of the Valley of the Kings (just short bus ride away), but in my opinion they were way cooler. This area is collectively known as the Valley of the Artisans because it's where the workers who actually built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were buried. There are no high or low relief hieroglyphs like in the Valley of the Kings (meaning the hieroglyphs are not carved into the stone, but painted onto a flat surface).
The colors are incredibly vibrant and I was blown away by how well the paint has withstood the test of time. These sites are cheaper and less crowded than the Valley of the Kings as well. Honestly, if I wanted to save money I would skip the Valley of the Kings and do this instead!
#7: Luxor Temple
Entry Price: 160 EGP ($10.25)
All of the temples on this list are amazing but one had to come last and for me, that's Luxor. We visited at night so that could be why it wasn't my favorite (but it's still VERY worth seeing!) It's sometimes called the "world's greatest open-air museum" with good reason.
There's a rich history behind every statue, nook and cranny of this place and it's well worth a visit! Maybe just try going during the day to fully appreciate it. Oh, and make sure to ask your guide to show you the ladies' favorite hieroglyph. ;-)
#6: Kom-Ombo Temple & Crocodile Museum
Entry Price: 140 EGP ($8.97)
This temple was super cool and unique because it's dedicated to 2 gods instead of the usual 1: the crocodile god, Sobek, and the falcon god, Horus. There are lots of interesting hieroglyphs and sketchy stories about the priests who used to run this temple (if Samuel is your guide, you'll get all the juicy details).
Your ticket also comes with access to the nearby mummified crocodile museum which is creepy and interesting (in a good way!). Make sure to ask your guide about about the "pit" on site and what it was used for.
#5: Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple (Hatshepsut’s Temple)
Entry Price: 140 EGP ($8.97)
This temple was incredible and one of my personal favorites because it was built by Hatshepsut, one of Egypt's only true female rulers. Of course, she depicts herself as a man in her reliefs to elevate her status, but it's an incredible temple. It backs right up to a colossal cliff that dwarfs the massive 3-tiered temple.
It's located near the Valley of the Kings (#9) and the Valley of the Artisans (#8) on this list, so if you're in the area, this is a MUST SEE.
#4: Temple of Philae
Entry Price: 180 EGP ($11.54)
Here we go, now it's getting good! The Temple of Philae is dedicated to the most popular goddess in Egypt -- the Goddess Isis -- and it was simply breath taking! The temple was almost completely submerged in water after the Aswan Low Dam was constructed in 1902. Luckily they moved the entire thing, preserving it for us to enjoy today.
You have to ride a small boat just to get to this incredible temple because it's on a little island surrounded by water -- which in and of itself is a neat experience. The images and columns are just stunning. I can't recommend this temple highly enough!
Now, before we get into the top 3, I have to give an...
Honorable Mention: Boat Ride to Nubian Village & Botanical Garden
Price: 200 EGP ($12.82 for up to 4 people) & 35 EGP ($2.24) respectively
So this is not a temple or a tomb, which is why I've listed it as an honorable mention. It's also not on the typical Nile Cruise itinerary. I specifically asked to do this and I'm so glad I did! While the cruise boat was parked in Aswan, Samuel arranged a ride on a small river boat out to the Aswan Botanical Garden and a nearby Nubian (local) village. It was absolutely fabulous and perhaps one of my favorite parts of the whole trip!
I got to sink my feet in the Nile River (if you go during the summer, bring a swimsuit!), we had the opportunity to ride camels (for much cheaper than they charge at the Pyramids of Giza), I held a crocodile and had a hookah served to me by a child the same height as the hookah itself -- it was wild!
It was incredible to experience the local culture up close and personal like this and I highly recommend asking your guide to do this while you're in Aswan.
Okay, now we can move on to the top 3... you ready?!
#3: Abu Simbel Temple
Entry Price: 240 EGP ($15.38)
Abu Simbel is one of the most iconic temples in Egypt and I'm sure you can see why! It was built by Ramses II and he didn't want you to forget it (his mug is all over the place). Like the Temple of Philae, Abu Simbel had to be relocated to preserve it from rising water, which is an incredible feat when you see how massive this complex is!
Now, I'm here to give you the real Egyptian mint tea, so the reason Abu Simbel isn't higher on my list is because it takes about 3 hours to get there from Aswan via car or bus. The price listed above is just the entry fee, your transportation to the site will be extra. And the drive is just... bland, boring desert (especially compared to #1 on this list). It's also a very popular site, meaning it's super crowded. For those reasons, it lost a few points in my book but it's definitely one of the largest and most impressive temples I saw while I was in Egypt and well worth a visit (especially on your first trip)!
#2: Karnak Temple
Entry Price: 200 EGP ($12.82)
Wow, the Karnak Temple in Luxor blew me away! This is an absolutely massive temple complex with some of the most in tact and impressive columns I saw while in Egypt (only #1 on this list rivals them). It's a pretty popular destination -- meaning it is crowded -- but because the complex itself is so massive and spread out, you don't feel crammed or bombarded by people everywhere.
This place had so many cool sites and backstories you could literally spend days just soaking it all in. Some of my favorite attractions were the world's tallest obelisk, the sacred lake and the lucky scarab beetle. I'll be visiting this place every time I go to Egypt because there's just so much to see!
#1: Dendera Temple Complex
Entry Price: 120 EGP ($7.69)
Hold on to your Hat(hor) because #1 on this list is none other than the Dendera Temple Complex dedicated to my favorite Egyptian Goddess, Hathor (get my "hat" joke now?). In my opinion, this temple is the most underrated temple in all of Egypt, and here's why...
First of all, it's one of the most well-preserved temples in Egypt with massive columns still vibrant with their original coloring.
Like Abu Simbel, you will have to pay extra for your transportation out to this site (usually from Luxor), but unlike the pretty boring 3-hour ride to Abu Simbel, the drive to Dendera is only about 1.5 hours long and just gorgeous! You ride through several small villages and really get a sense for daily life in the rural Egyptian countryside.
And because it's not on everyone's itinerary (this is another temple I specifically asked to see) and it's off the beaten path... it was virtually EMPTY. After several days of being surrounded by other tourists everywhere you go, I can't tell you how nice it is to have some breathing room and the space to take photos without other people getting in the way.
And if you're an Ancient Aliens or Egyptian conspiracy theory fan (like me -- no shame in that!) you'll get to witness the mysterious Dendera lightbulb and Dendera Zodiac reliefs at this site!
I cannot recommend this temple highly enough. It was hands down my favorite and 100% worth the extra time and planning it takes to get there!
I hope you enjoyed this list of the 9 temples and tombs you must see on your Nile Cruise!
Thanks so much for reading and if you have any questions, leave a comment below. I'd love to support your Egyptsy adventure any way I can. :-)
Stay tuned for lots of other Egyptsy content coming soon!