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The top 10 things to do in Aswan with kids

Aswan is known for its interesting mix of Egyptian and Nubian cultures and laidback atmosphere. And it’s famous for its beautiful Nile scenery. When on a family road trip through Egypt with kids, this city is worth a spot on your Egypt itinerary. There are lots of fun things to do in Aswan with kids. Think of exploring temples, soaking up Nubian culture and starting your Nile river cruise from Aswan to Luxor. Enough reasons to present to you the best 10 things to do in Aswan with kids!

Why Aswan is a great choice for a family visit

Not all tourists that visit Egypt make it as far as Aswan. That’s why there are fewer tourists here and less crowded attractions. Aswan once was Egypt’s biggest trading hub, connecting equatorial Africa to the Mediterranean Sea. This resulted in an interesting mix of people that stuck around. It’s quite a multicultural city. And the unique blend of Egyptian and Nubian culture is what makes this place worth your while. This also makes Aswan stick out from other cities in Egypt like Alexandria, Cairo and Luxor. And is absolutely one of the reasons why you should visit Aswan.

Sailboats on the Nile at Aswan in Egypt
Nubian restaurant in Aswan in Egypt

The thing all these cities do have in common with Aswan are the temple complexes. You can find beautiful temples in Aswan, like Kalabsha and Philae temples.

The sandy beige colors of the ancient Egyptian buildings are in stark contrast with the colorful houses of the Nubian people of Aswan. Vivid blues, yellows, red and any other color you can think of, are used to paint Nubian houses and shops. All in different shapes, sizes and color patterns. This great mix makes Aswan a feast for the eyes.

Nubian people of Aswan

So, who are the Nubians that live in Aswan? In ancient Egypt Aswan was located just above the first Nile cataract. A cataract is a small stretch of turbulent and bumpy water that makes it near impossible for boats to cross it.

This first cataract on the Nile river near Aswan made for a natural boundary. And thus made Aswan a border town between ancient Egypt and a country called Nubia. During the New Kingdom of Egypt, a large part of Nubia became a part of Egypt. The other part of Nubia became part of Sudan. That’s why you will find most of the Nubian people in Southern Egypt (aka Upper Egypt) and Northern Sudan.

Let’s focus on the Nubian people of Aswan. They live along the west bank and on the many small islands between Aswan’s East and West Bank, in between the cataracts. They speak their own language and have special traditions that are different from the ones of Egyptian people. Nubians are known to be friendly and incredibly hospitable.

Nubian houses are made of mud and painted in different patterns and various colors. The most common colors are blue and orange. During your visit to Aswan you should definitely learn more about Nubian culture. That’s why one of 10 things to do in Aswan with kids is a visit to the Nubian Museum. Little sneak peak into the list ;).

Crocodiles as pets

Nowadays you won’t find crocodiles in the Nile. But there used to be loads of them roaming the river Nile. The Nile crocodile was worshiped when the pharaohs still reigned. God Sobek was part crocodile, part human and the god of evil, envy and war. Nubians wanted to prevent evil things from happening and keep them as pets to take care of them and also mummify them after death.

on the way to Philae Temple near Aswan in Egypt

Unfortunately, crocs are still kept as pets by some Nubians. And if you’re strolling through Nubian Villages there’s a chance you’ll be invited to visit their house to see the crocodiles for a small sum of money. Please don’t do this, because some Nubians keep them as pets with the sole purpose of earning money from tourists. If we don’t pay to see them, hopefully less crocs will end up in captivity.

Is it safe to visit Aswan with kids?

We felt absolutely safe the whole time. It also really helps that there are not many crowds at the ancient Egyptian sights. You don’t feel overwhelmed by all the touts screaming for everyone’s attention.

Things like pickpocketing or theft aren not common in Aswan. But, as I always say, leave your valuables at home. Not just in Aswan or Egypt, but on all your travels.

When to visit Aswan

Before I share 10 amazing things to do in Aswan with kids, let’s talk about the best time to visit Aswan.

Aswan is one of the sunniest places on earth, with July and August being the peak months. Temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius are common during these months. Avoid these months when traveling to Egypt as a whole, but definitely Aswan.

The months leading up to the summer and leading up to autumn are still very hot. The best advise I can give you is to stay away from May to September.

We visited in October and it was still 30-35 degrees Celsius. But the crowds were fewer. And when you do your sightseeing in the early morning and hang in the pool or visit places with aircon in the afternoon, it’s a great time of year to visit Aswan.

November to February are the best months temperature wise, but it’s peak season. Meaning that you pay more than any other time of year.

October and also March and April are overall your best options. Less hot, reasonable prizes and fewer tourists than during winter and summer.

How to get to Aswan

Fly

You’ll probably start your family vacation in Egypt in the capital Cairo. My family and I like to use Expedia for international flights, like our return flight from The Netherlands to Cairo. They usually have some great deals available. But always make sure to double check the prices at the website of the airline to make sure you get the best deal.

For domestic flights, like the one from Cairo to Aswan or Luxor to Aswan, we use 12Go. They offer flight tickets, but also train and bus tickets.

Train

If you need to get to Aswan from other Egyptian cities, like Luxor or Cairo, you can either fly or take a train from these places. Make sure you get tickets for an air-conditioned train and byo toilet paper. Another thing you should be prepared for, is that you’ll depart later than promised. Sometimes an hour or two.

You can book all train tickets via 12Go, like the sleeper train to Aswan that leaves from Cairo. The fertile, green shores of the Nile and buzzing city life can all be enjoyed from the edge of your seat. And when you go to bed you wake up in a completely different environment. Shortly after breakfast your train stops in Aswan. Note that the trains are a bit outdated, but they’re clean.

Getting around Aswan

Aswan is quite big. If you’re not with a tour guide who provides transport you can take a taxi, Careem or Uber. When visiting sights outside the city centre, make sure you make a deal with your driver to pick you up when you’re done. They don’t stick around at the sights to pick up tourists.

Local buses are available in Aswan. The difficulty is knowing where they’re going, it doesn’t say on the outside of the bus. You have to stick out your hand to stop the bus and say your destination. The driver will then tell you whether he’s going there or not, but chances are he or she doesn’t speak English. All in all, I wouldn’t try this with kids.

Now, it’s finally time to share 10 amazing things to do in Aswan with kids!

10 things to do in Aswan with kids

Take a boat to explore Philae Temple

Hitch a ride on a felucca

Check out the unfinished obelisk

Cross the Aswan High Dam

Learn about Nubian culture at the Nubian Museum

Visit the Temple of Kalabsha

Board a ferry to Elephantine Island

Wander through Aswan’s Botanical Garden

Go on a day trip to Abu Simbel

Start your Nile river cruise

Take a boat to explore Philae Temple

Following the realization of Aswan’s High Dam, a few ancient Egyptian sights had to be saved from submerging into the water. The most famous example is Abu Simbel, but also the Philae Temple had to be transferred block by block its original place on Philae Island to Agilika Island.

Boat to Agilika Island

Agilika Island is located a little more over 10km from Aswan center. When you arrive at the Marina Philae Temple you buy your tickets for the temple complex and enter the marina via a gate. Left and right from you you’ll find small motor boats that bring tourists to the temple in about 5 minutes. While you wait for your boat to leave you can buy souvenirs from the many vendors there.

Philae Temple near Aswan in Egypt

Once you arrive on the island, you walk up a site of stairs and you’ll be rewarded with a first glance of the The First Pylon. Its two towers and doorway are the first things you see, before entering the main temple area. Philae Temple is one of the best preserved temple complexes in Egypt and therefore one of our absolute favorites! The details are amazing and intricate.

This is a site often skipped by tourists. Either because Aswan is located to far south, or the visit to Aswan is primarily meant as a layover for a visit to Abu Simbel. And that’s a pity for all who missed it, but a real bonus for the ones who didn’t. Often you and just a handful of others are the only ones on site. You’ll practically have this amazing place to yourself. That’s why Philae Temple is one of the best ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids!

Philae Temple near Aswan in Egypt
Philae Temple Aswan in Egypt

Spend an hour at this sight and don’t forget to look around. Its surroundings are almost as beautiful as the complex itself. Both of them together make for an unforgettable experience.

Philae Temple was one of our most favorite places to visit in Aswan and one of our top things to do in Egypt with kids.

Top tip: visit this place right before sunset. The light is so beautiful and it makes the short boat ride more interesting as well.

Hitch a ride on a felucca

On a felucca on the Nile in Aswan - Egypt
Felucca's on the Nile in Aswan - Egypt

If you haven’t hopped aboard a felucca in any of the other places you visited in Egypt, do it in Aswan. It’s a must do when in Egypt. Because Aswan is known for its beautiful Nile scenery, there’s almost no better place to go on a felucca ride then here.

Check out Nubian life while relaxing on board, hear more about the cataracts and the High Dam and simply chill out for an hour with your kids. Away from the noise and the crowds of the city.

Check out the unfinished obelisk

Unfinished obelisk in Aswan - Egypt

Why is an unfinished obelisk on this list of 10 things to do in Aswan with kids? It’s just a big granite would-be monument. Although this may be true, it’s also quite significant. This is because it taught us more about ancient stonemasonry methods.

The obelisk was abandoned thousands of years ago in the rock quarries of Aswan. It was supposed to be the heaviest single stone monument Egyptians ever created. Three sides of it were completed when masons discovered a large crack in the granite. For that reason it was immediately abandoned. Leaving it half attached to the bedrock it was being carved from.

When looking at the unfinished obelisk you can’t help but wonder how they were able to make a thing like this. And also, how would they carry this enormous monument to its destination? It all makes for an impressive sight and it will definitely be cause for an interesting conversation with your family about the “how’s” and “when’s”.

Cross the Aswan High Dam

The Aswan High Dam in Egypt
Aswan High Dam in Egypt

While the Aswan High Dam isn’t much to look at, it’s got a lot of significance both politically as environmentally and it caused a lot of problems to ancient historic sites in the area, after completion. When you get to know more about these things it extra fun to drive over the dam and snap a picture of it from the East or West Bank.

A nice free thing to do in Aswan with kids.

Pro’s and con’s of the Aswan High Dam

The dam was constructed in the 60s of the last century and took almost 12 years to build. It was build to end the flooding of the Nile River and to bring more hydro-electrical power to Egypt. It indeed ended the flooding and created sustainable electricity across the country. Furthermore, it resulted in more arable land, which was a great bonus.

However, it also resulted in a giant reservoir of water. Now known as Lake Nasser, named after the president who ordered the built of the High Dam. It’s located right near the border of Egypt with Sudan. The sudden appearance of this lake led to the relocation of over 100.000 Egyptians and Nubians.

More than 10 ancient historical sites had to be relocated to other places in Egypt or even other countries. The Temple of Taffeh for instance, was relocated to the Rijksmuseum of Oudheden in our hometown of Leiden in The Netherlands. It was gifted to thank the Dutch for their help with the relocation of other sites near Lake Nasser to elsewhere in Upper Egypt.

A few examples of sites that were relocated to other places in Upper Egypt are Abu Simbel, Philae Temple and Temple of Kalabsha. All part of this top 10 things to do in Aswan with kids.

Do you enjoy this list of the top 10 things to do in Aswan with kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Egypt

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Learn about Nubian culture at the Nubian Museum

Nubian Museum in Aswan - Egypt

Close to the unfinished obelisk you’ll find the Nubian Museum. Here you’ll find info on everything Nubian. Their culture, traditions and history.

In addition to info on the Nubians you’ll also find a corner with pictures of all the sites that were lost because of Lake Nasser.

Tourist trap:  visiting a Nubian Village

So, why do I add a visit to the Nubian Museum and not to a Nubian Village? Unfortunately, the majority of them became tourist traps. In turn making it unliveable for the Nubians. At the beginning of this century some Nubians found that tourists loved visiting their villages and in particular the most colorful houses on the block. As a result more and more Nubians started painted their houses even more vividly and some of the inhabitants started selling trinkets, spices and drinks in front of their houses.

Skip to 2020 and the change was noticeable. Tours bring bus loads of tourists to the villages on Elephantine Island and the West bank. For a small sum of money you can visit the inside of the houses, camel rides are offered in the streets and vendors are lined up in front of the entrances of their homes and that of their neighbours. It turned into a circus. But the worst thing is that with the rise of Instagram and travel influencers the number of tourists rose even higher. A few years later and the situation remains unchanged.

Nubians leave their homes

I am one of the people who saw pictures of Nubian houses on Instagram and added a visit to a Nubian Village to our family’s bucket list. When planning the trip with Egypt Eye Tour (who I highly recommend, no spon), I got the first signal that I shouldn’t. Our guide didn’t say much, but did mention that it wasn’t as authentic as it used to be. I went against his advise and thus we went.

Our guide, George, hadn’t been there for a few years and I saw the shock on his face. He last visited in 2020 and talked to people he had known since he was a child. Lots of the original home owners, Nubians, left because their village had become unliveable. Their streets were constantly overrun by tourists. Tourists entered their homes without asking and even took pictures inside. And the only way they could make a living is by allowing the tourists to enter their yards and homes for some money. George said that this visit with us showed him even more changes in the wrong direction. I didn’t press him for details, because I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable.

This is the dark side of tourism. One that my family and I also cause because of visits like the one to the “Nubian Village”. We left after 10 minutes. When you visit Aswan please be smarter and more responsible than we were and skip any and all Nubian Villages. Go to the Nubian Museum instead.

Camels in a busy street in a Nubian Village in Aswan - Egypt

Don’t pay for a camel ride

Please don’t pay for a camel ride. We saw them get beaten with sticks and they were stressed out. The narrow streets filled with tourists and souvenir sellers loudly promoting their goods were definitely the cause of their distress. It was way to small and crowded for them to walk through. If you want to know more about ethical animal encounters on your family travels, I invite you to read my post about animal abuse in the tourism industry.

We felt extremely sorry for the camels and dromedary and immediately left what once was a true Nubian Village. It’s now unlivable for the Nubians and this is one of the examples where tourism is a bad thing for the locals, the environment and the animals.

Visit the Temple of Kalabsha

Kalabsha Temple in Aswan - Egypt

The Kalabsha Temple is dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis, but never finished. It can be found on the New Kalabsha Island, where it was located to in the 1960s. Yep, because of Lake Nasser and the Aswan High Dam. Before that it was located on the West Bank of Aswan.

If you only have time for one temple in Aswan, definitely pick Philae Temple. If you do have time, combine a visit to the two. They are located about 20min from each other.

Chances are really high, your family will be the only visitors!

Board a ferry to Elephantine Island

View of Elephantine Island in Aswan from a felucca - Egypt

The island of Elephantine covers about 2 square km and is interesting because you can spot excavations of ancient sites here. You can also check out the Temples of Khnum and Sated or just roam around the island.

Some felucca rides start from this island.

And last but not least, Egypt’s oldest Nilometer can be found here. The Egyptians were the first we know of to measure the flow of the water, in their case the Nile, to understand the year’s harvest and did that with the help of a Nilometer. A chamber with graduated columns that are used to measure the depth of water.

Top tip: while roaming around Elephantine Island keep your eyes out for the Old Cataract Hotel. On the other site of the Nile on the river banks, this majestic and world famous 5 star hotel sits on a pink granite cliff. Agatha Christie is known to have lived in this hotel for the entire year of 1937.

Wander through Aswan’s Botanical Garden

Aswan Botanical Gardens on Kitchener Island - Egypt

You can find Aswan’s botanical garden on Kitchener Island. This island once was owned by Lord Kitchener. He imported subtropical and exotic trees and plants and slowly transformed the island into botanical heaven!

Locals and tourists come to the botanical garden to relax and picnic. It’s also a place where you’ll be able to spot lots of birds.

Take a boat or felucca from Aswan pier. Otherwise get a rowboat from Elephantine Island to Kitchener Island.

Go on a day trip to Abu Simbel

Detail part of the Temple of Ramesses II in Abu Simbel - Egypt

Abu Simbel is not located in or even near Aswan. Nevertheless, it’s such a highlight that it has to be part of this list of 10 things to do in Aswan with kids as a daytrip. There’s nothing to do or see in near vicinity to Abu Simbel and Aswan is the best place to base yourself in when you want to visit Abu Simbel.

Getting to Abu Simbel from Aswan by car

Rise and shine very early in the morning, at around 4.30am. Hire a driver, instead of taking mini buses arranged by your hotel or cruise ship. This way you can leave a bit sooner than the mini buses do. They leave around 5.15am. You’ll arrive around 7.30am or 8am.

Abu Simbel is located about 20km north of the border with Sudan and a 300km drive from Aswan. It will take about 3 to 3,5 hours, depending on how long you have to wait at checkpoints along the route. Bring your passport, because sometimes they ask for it.

Temple of Ramesses II

Arriving early is worth it, because we went inside the temple of Ramesses II (aka as Ramses II) with little people around. When we exited it we were greeted by hundreds of people. Before they arrived we could enjoy the place in peace. Just remember to also take your pictures during that first half hour. We forgot and that’s why our pics are filled with other travelers.

The Temple of Ramesses II, whose nickname is Ramses the Great, was carved out of a mountain on the west bank of the Nile between 1274 and 1244 BC. There are four colossal statues of the pharaoh in front the temple. These in itself are impressive but the inside of the temple is even more amazing. Again, because of the building of the Aswan High Dam, the entire temple had to be relocated to its current place. This makes a stroll through the temple extra special. How did they manage relocating all of this and preserving it at the same time?

Abu Simbel in Egypt
Abu Simbel in Egypt

Temple of Hathor and Nefertari

The temple of Hathor and Nefertari is also known as the small temple. It is located on the right side of the temple of Ramesses II. Queen Nefertari was Ramesses II his favorite wife. Hathor the god of love and music. Ramesses II ordered to built this temple for this god and his top wife.

The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the entrance to the temple. The statues are of the king and his queen. Interestingly enough he wanted his statue and that of Nefertari to be the same size. This was unheard of at the time and says something about the love he felt for her.

On either side of the portal another two sets of the duo can be seen. On one Ramesses II wears the white crown of Upper Egypt and on the other he wears the double crown, indicating the unity between Upper and Lower Egypt.

We really loved the inside of the temple as well. Especially all the details. Although I have to say, the bigger temple dedicated to the king was definitely our favorite of the two temples. A day trip to Abu Simbel with kids is a top thing to do in Egypt and most easily done from Aswan.

Start your Nile river cruise

Egypt Nile cruise with kids - blog post
Room on a 5 star Nile Cruise ship - Egypt

It could very well be that Aswan is the end of your ultimate road trip through Egypt, because many people come here while on a Nile river cruise from Luxor to Aswan.

If this is not the case and you want to explore Aswan, Luxor and everything in between, you should definitely go on a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor. Choose between a ship, felucca or dahabiya. The latter being the most eco friendly option.

A Nile river cruise is a bucket list experience you and your family members while remember for the rest of your life’s. It cannot be missed on your road trip through Egypt.

Nubian village near Aswan in Egypt

That’s it for this 10 things to do in Aswan with kids. If you want to do it all you should stay in Aswan for at least 3 days.

If you only have 2 days in Aswan, don’t choose to skip Abu Simbel. It’s a definite must do. It’s better to skip your visits to Elephantine Island or Kitchener Island and visit Philae Temple in favor of the Temple of Kalabsha.

If you have only 1 day in Aswan with kids opt for a visit to the unfinished obelisk, a felucca ride, a taxi ride over the High Dam and a sunset trip to Philae Temple.

About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook group


You might also like


About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook group

Get my FREE eBook!

The Ultimate Beginners guide: Planning a Family Road Trip

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