Cruising the Nile River has been one of the world’s top travel experiences for millennia. The journey takes passengers through the heart of ancient Egypt, that storied land of grand temples, monumental sculptures, and rich mythology.
And after a day of touring these stunning archeological sites, passengers can enjoy the velvet softness of a desert evening from the top deck of a boat as it glides along the blue-green waters of the Nile.
Hundreds of boats ply the waters between Luxor and Aswan in the south of Egypt. Most visitors take a short airplane flight from Cairo to either city and then board a boat docked at the Nile. Vessels typically feature anywhere from 40 to 120 cabins and offer cruises lasting for three or four nights, depending on whether they’re traveling up or downriver.
After the intense urban bustle of Cairo, the cruise boats offer a calm and peaceful way to see the scenery of rural Egypt. Watching from the shaded sundeck that tops most boats, passengers can see scenes that at times seem many centuries old. Long-robed men wearing turbans lead donkeys along dusty footpaths, while fishermen ply the waters of the Nile in feluccas powered by triangle-shaped sails.
On board, it’s easy to see why the Nile has always been considered the lifeblood of Egypt, for without its waters the surrounding land is a vast desert. Only a narrow strip of vivid green lines the river’s banks, while endless sand and rocks stretch into the distance just beyond. Boats offer a variety of on-board entertainments that range from talks by Egyptologists to bellydancing performances. Many boats have swimming pools that provide a refreshing place to relax in the heat of the day, and all are air-conditioned. As night falls over the river, soft breezes bring a welcome coolness as the desert sky begins to sparkle with stars.
The best time to cruise the Nile is December to February, but the shoulder seasons from March to April and October to November can also be very pleasant. While prices are lowest during the summer, the hot weather can be oppressive.
For information about planning a trip to Egypt, contact the Egyptian Tourist Authority.
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.