Each temple in Egypt tells a different story, either visually or Historically. The temple of Abu Simbel tells you an astonishing story of a transposition. You may have already read about the Philae temple that was also transposed Plus, the road trip to Abu Simbel is what made us fall in love with the place evern more!
Let us take you on perhaps the most beautiful road that we have ever travelled.
- Where to stay
- How to reach
- Why you should make a road trip to Abu Simbel
- Things to know before you go
- Fascinatinf facts and stories
- Mistake that we did & you should not do
Can you stay at Abu Simbel?
We made Aswan our base for two nights and three days for our day trips to Abu Simbel, Philae temple and Nubian village on different days. We stayed in Basma Aswan.
Abu Simbel is closer to the Sudan border than to Cairo. Travellers who plan to cross the border to Sudan (which isn’t as easy asit sounds) prefers to stay in Abu Simbel and the rest stay in Aswan. Abu simbel town is smaller, so the options for restaurants, resorts and hotels are limited here.
While waiting for the ticket at the temple entrance, we met a couple from England. They were crossing the border to Sudan the next day. Seti Abu Simbel is the hotel where they were staying. They mentioned that the view of the lake is breathtaking from their hotel room. Unless you plan to go to Sudan from here, staying in Abu Simbel isn’t a good idea.
How to reach Abu Simbel
- Nearest International airport & train station- Aswan
- Public transport – 2 non-stop buses run daily from Aswan to Abu Simbel – at 4 AM and 11 AM.
How far is it from Aswan to Abu Simbel?
The best way to get to Abu Simbel is by private tours/private taxis. You can book/hire the day trip through your hotels or even near the Aswan Market areas on the previous day. Though it may be more expensive than Public transport, you get to stop for a tea break and watch the sunrise on the never-ending straight roads. Plus, you won’t be in a rush to finish seeing and catch that last bus leaving from Abu Simbel to Aswan.
Why you should make a road trip to Abu Simbel
If you have already read our posts, this is our 7th or 8th Egyptian temple during our trip. Certainly, seeing only Egyptian temples aren’t everyone’s interest. What is that one wow factor that attracted us to Abu Simbel? Here is our after and before thought.
What is unique about Abu Simbel?
The reason to go to Abu Simbel was to see crocodiles in Lake Nasser. Once we went there, we realised spotting Nile crocs aren’t as easy it sounds. So in the hope of seeing crocs and a lakeside temple, A rock-cut temple by the lakeside looked unique.
Is Abu Simbel worth visiting?
The original temple of Abu Simbel was a rock-cut temple. A transposed temple is built in the same way in an artificial concrete cave+ mound to imitate the real temple to its best. When you see the place in real, you will never guess that the mound behind the colossal statues of Ramesses isn’t a real one.
Why is Aswan to Abu Simbel journey the most enthralling one?
Road trips are the best way to savour a place. Litlle we knew was the road to Abu Simbel from Aswan. To cover that 290km, our guide Mahmoud had asked to be ready as early as 4.15 AM. The journey is hardly more than two hours, what is the hurry to leave so early was our thought. However, Mahmoud’s plan was something else – To take us on a journey that we will never forget.
The black asphalt road seems to continue to infinity with the plain land of desert.
The first sun rays turn the sand orange, and the black roads look like a connection to another world – like is the series Stranger things. It is a phenomenal experience to see the sun rising behind an endless flat desert, painting the entire surrounding in shades of saffron. Those sips of Kadkade sitting on a carpet of a local roadside shack to watch this phenomenal sunrise gets imprinted on your mind/soul forever.
This is why I say Abu Simbel is such a place where the saying ” Journey matters more than the destination.”
Travelling on mountainous roads of western ghats, we never knew how it feels to be on the road that got nothing. We experienced something similar on the way to Bawiti. But what you see here on the way to Abu Simbel is plainer and flatter than the road Bawiti. We had never seen such a long stretch of land with nothing. We aren’t philosophical, but the beauty of nothingness is sure to amuse anyone.
Things to know before you go to Abu Simbel
It is a super touristy place. No tour organiser will ever leave this place out of their itinerary. So do expect big groups here.
Abu Simbel temple complex is so vast that you don’t feel overcrowded, even with a huge number of tourists. The migrating birds, turquoise water and Pharohic stories made us unaware of the time. But the sun was there to remind us of the heat. The road that looked surreal and enchanting was brimming with heat while coming back. It was just a straight road with scorching heat. Nearing Aswan, the weather was better and less hot.
Abu Simbel is located on the banks of Lake Nasser. Lake Nasser is famous for Nile Crocodiles! Though we did not spot any near the temple, you do not get over adventurous in the lake waters.
Best time to visit Abu Simbel
The early morning journey to Abu Simbel is the best part, but this road may be a place of “sunstroke” after sunrise, especially in summers. Avoid afternoon journey on this road if you aren’t going by an AC vehicle. Carry everything you will need to protect yourself from heat. Don’t wear thermal wears in winter though you might feel you are about to freeze in the morning. After 10, Abu Simbel turns into an oven, while Aswan remains relatively colder. Best time of the day to visit is before 8 am and after 5 PM. By 10, it was getting hot. So, by 12 or so, it will be very hot.
How much does Abu Simbel cost?
Entrance fees – 200EGP or 1250INR or 18USD / person as of January 2019, excluding photography inside the temple permit ticket. Timings – 5am to 6pm.
How much time to spend here – Spend around 1 to 2hr around the temple.
Facilities around the temple – Cafe with some basic food choices, Clean toilets, Museum, Certified Egyptian guides.
While exiting, you have to come through the market area. Beware of shopkeepers trying to sell fake items and be prepared to face their ranting when you say “La Shukraan.”
If you have time, sit and watch the entire movie of the Transposition of the temple. If you are short of time, you can watch it on youtube later too.
What are two facts about Abu Simbel?
The temple is different from Karnak, Luxor, Edfu and Kom Ombo for many reasons. The main difference is, it is a rock-cut temple. There is no hypostyle hall, no pylons. Giant statues of Ramesses II at one temple and Nefertari at others welcomes you at the entrance.
After the Aswan dam was built, few temples were submerged underwater. The temple of Ramesses II & his queen Nefartari’s also went underwater. In the 1960s Egypt government started relocating the entire rock-cut temple for ten long years piece by piece successfully. So what you see now is not the actual rock mountain behind giant Ramesses Statues – That is a human-made Concrete mountain with original statues, columns and every other part of the temple re-assembled.
If Abu Simbel was built for Pharoah Rameses II, why are we calling it Abu Simbel?
Until an Italian Egyptologist, Belzoni discovered the real hidden Temple in 1817; the world was unaware that there exists a rock-cut temple like this. Belzoni was guided by a Nubian boy named Simbel to his way to finding this treasure. Later Belzoni adopted Simbel. So people started calling this “Abu Simbel ” Abu means Father in Arabic. So the meaning behind this Temple translates to “Temple discovered by Simbel’s father.”
The people watching is a super fun experience here
For some reason, it is fascinating for me to explore the towns near the borders of the two countries. The vibe in such a town is distinct. Sudan’s territory is 65+km away from Abu Simbel. Many backpackers opt to enter Sudan from here ( Though it is not as simple as it sounds, I read)
If you are here, during January you may get lucky like us to witness Ethiopian birds migrating in huge flocks.
Though it was too bright and hot, we managed to spend some time at Aswan High dam – One of the top 10 biggest dams in the world. It is responsible for controlling Nile flood, providing Irrigation for around 30000+km, Irrigation for agriculture in Sudan+Egypt, power generation – basically, it is the reason for Egypt to be the way it is now and also for some beautiful temples to sink underwater. Technology is indeed a double-edged sword.
Mistake that we did & you should not do
The mistake we made was neither making a day trip nor spending 2 hours at Abu Simbel. But it is –
- Not buying a ticket to Photography inside the cave.
- Not knowing about the world’s first astrological site near Abu Simbel. Read ahead so that you don’t make a mistake.
First blunder – Not buying the ticket to Photography inside the shockingly amazing rock cave where you see colourful paintings on the celing and collosal statues line your way. I wonder why our brains had stopped working then. How much money did we save by not buying a ticket to Photograph inside Ramesses temple – around 1500INR. So what did we achieve by saving that much-Nothing but using someone else’s photo to describe it in this post? I am repeating for the nth time, Egypt, unlike other countries, surprises you every time you underestimate it.
Second Blunder – Not knowing About Nabta Palya
Most of us have heard of Stone Henge in England. How many of us know about this 7000-year-old circle of stones arranged to serve as an Astronomical site that lies in the heart of the Nubian desert 100km away from Abu Simbel? I recently read that it lies in the middle of the Nubian desert, which belong to Egypt’s military authority. So you may need special permissions to go there along with a proper escort and solid reason other than “I am curious”.
For some, it may look like useless stones dumped around a circle. The pictures made me feel like this place was a younger cousin of England’s stone henge, but for Ashrith, the ACO mission of Aligning the starts in stone Circle!
Did the road to Abu Simbel turn you also philosophical with its charm? Let us know in the comment section below.