Nile Cruises

Nile Cruises: Boats and Itineraries for a Unique Experience

The Nile River has been a crucial part of Egypt’s history, serving as both a source of wealth and a means of transportation from north to south, and vice versa. In modern times, Nile cruises have become one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

At Egipto Exclusivo, we specialize in Nile cruises and offer a wide range of options, including different types of boats and routes, integrated or stand-alone packages, and all-inclusive or customizable services. On this page, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about this unforgettable experience, from the types of boats used to the itineraries offered and more.

Types of Boats Used for Nile Cruises

Nile cruises offer a unique way to explore Egypt, and there are three main types of boats used for this purpose: motorboats, dahabiyas, and feluccas. Motorboats are the most modern and complete option, while dahabiyas and feluccas are traditional sailboats. While all three types can be found on Lake Nasser, smaller motor-driven boats can also be found. Here, we’ll review each of these options in more detail.

Motor ship

Motor ship

Dahabiya

Dahabiya

Falucas o falúas

Falucas o falúas

Motor ship

Nile cruise ships are the ideal choice for those who want to experience the Nile in a luxurious and comfortable way. These large boats, smaller than those used for sea cruises, but they are considerably larger than dahabiyas and feluccas, which can sail all year round thanks to the Aswan Dam and the Esna Lock, offer a wide range of amenities that vary from one option to another.

At Egipto Exclusivo, we only work with superior category or 5-star cruise ships, which have a length of around 70 meters and several decks, usually between 3 and 5. These luxurious ships provide a swimming pool, a rooftop solarium, a restaurant, a bar, a disco, a massage room, a large entrance hall, and even a spacious open kitchen where gastronomic workshops and tastings can be held. And of course, air conditioning is a standard feature.

In the cabins, you can expect a bathroom with a shower, a minibar, a television, and other services that are comparable to those of a top-rated hotel. With hundreds of Nile cruise ships available, our agency can provide daily departures from the main cities of Upper Egypt. 

Dahabiya Nile Cruise

Dahabiya

In the 19th century, dahabiyas were the preferred means of sailing on the Nile until they were gradually replaced by steamships and later by motor ships. However, in recent years, they have made a comeback and sail the waters of this mythical river once again, for their undeniable charm. Therefore, embarking on a Nile cruise aboard a dahabiya is a journey to the past, to the time when the first Egyptologists and Egyptomania discovered the country.

The dahabiya is a boat that also offers exclusivity and luxury, but in a different way than a motor ship. It is a traditional flat-bottomed barge that can be over 50 meters long and has two large sails, one at the bow and one at the stern.

While it may lack some of the services and amenities that motor ships offer, such as a pool or a dance hall, this shouldn’t be a problem for the traveler who chooses a dahabiya. These travelers tend to be less interested in nightlife and more focused on enjoying the unique environment that surrounds them with all their senses.

In fact, the slower pace of a dahabiya compared to a motor ship is not a disadvantage, but a blessing, as it allows for more leisurely contemplation of the landscape and even listening to the soothing sounds of the river. Moreover, the activities offered on a dahabiya are fundamentally different from those of a motor ship: stargazing or listening to music by the warmth of a bonfire on the shore, for example.

Another advantage of the dahabiya is that, as we will see, it can dock or drop anchor in virtually any location, which is not possible with motor ships. Therefore, this boat makes it possible to visit places of enormous interest that are often overlooked by the majority of tourists who travel on motor ships.

For all these reasons, the dahabiya is the perfect option for those who want to enjoy maximum comfort on their Nile cruises while experiencing a relaxing and harmonious connection with the local culture and environment.

Faluca nile cruise

Falucas or Feluccas

The faluca, also referred to as falúa or felucca, can be considered the small, popular, and humble version of the dahabiya. It has a single sail and can accommodate between 6 to 8 passengers, usually. Therefore, the amenities on board are more limited, such as the lack of cabins.

In cities like Aswan, you will find them everywhere and there are companies and captains that organize multi-day cruises on the Nile, always downstream (south to north) to facilitate navigation. However, this type of vessel is much more popular for small excursions without overnight stays, making it ideal for traveling around the islands of this stretch of the river or to visit the Nubian village, among other examples. Without a doubt, it is the vessel that will literally make you feel closer to the river.

"A trip is lived three times: when we dream it, when we live it, and when we remember it." Anonymous

Itineraries of Nile Cruises

Nile cruises come in different itineraries, with the most popular stretch being the one that goes from Luxor to Aswan. However, the cruises can also be extended to the north and south. Let’s explore the different possibilities below.

Nile River Cruises

Luxor-Aswan, the Most Common Route

The Luxor-Aswan itinerary is undoubtedly the most popular for Nile cruises, for several reasons: its good navigability throughout the year, the excellent tourist infrastructure of the cities, and the abundance of natural and Pharaonic monuments.

These are the main tourist attractions along the stages of this route:

  • Luxor: Temples of Luxor and Karnak, Valley of the Kings and Queens, funerary temples (Hatshepsut, Ramesseum, Medinet Habu), Luxor Museum, Mummification Museum, and many more.
  • Esna: Temple of Khnum.
  • Edfu: Temple of Horus, one of the largest in the country.
  • Kom Ombo: Temple of Sobek and Crocodile Museum.
  • Aswan: Nubian villages, Elephantine Island, Unfinished Obelisk site, and the Temple of Isis in Philae or even Abu Simbel by road.

In this stretch, the Esna Lock plays a significant role in regulating the river’s flow throughout the year. Located north of the city of the same name, the lock enables motor ships to overcome a height difference of about 10 meters to navigate from Luxor southward and vice versa. Its emptying or filling lasts for approximately half an hour, and visitors can take advantage of this technical stop to visit the Temple of Khnum. However, the use of this lock by dahabiyas and feluccas is infrequent.

While the usual itinerary on a dahabiya is Esna-Aswan, Nile cruises on this traditional vessel offer a unique advantage. The slower navigation speed and ease of anchoring or docking anywhere allow for two stops that motor ships do not make. These include:

  • Gebel Silsila: an archaeological site in a section where the banks become rocky and steep. Its sandstone quarries were exploited, and some temples from the New Kingdom are still in good condition.
  • El Kab: another archaeological site in which, in addition to temples from the same period, valuable hypogeal tombs and remains of a large walled enclosure are preserved.

El Cairo-Luxor

Nile cruises between Cairo and Luxor cover a long stretch of over 600 km, and can only be done in the summer when the river level is high enough to ensure viability. In recent years, the number of boats that make this trip has decreased significantly, but the essential stops usually include:

  • Menia and its surroundings, which have important archaeological sites such as Amarna, Beni Hassan, and Hermopolis.
  • Asiut: Coptic Christian monasteries in the vicinity.
  • Sohag: Sohag National Museum.
  • Abydos: with a magnificent temple dedicated to Osiris.
  • Dendera: a great religious complex from the Ptolemaic period.
  • Qena: which has interesting mosques in its urban center.

Lago Nasser

The Great Aswan Dam marks the end of Nile cruises to the south as the First Cataract creates an obstacle that even the ancient Egyptians could not navigate. 

However, the dam has also created a large artificial reservoir, Lake Nasser, which extends about 500 km southwards to the border with Sudan. Thus, cruises that only sail on this large body of water, on boats or dahabiyas of smaller dimensions, offer a different experience than those enjoyed north of the dam. This route offers a quieter and more peaceful navigation, with the same onboard amenities.

Many of these cruises offer the experience of fishing in the reservoir, where the Nile perch lives, a large fish that can reach 2 meters in some cases. Most monuments to visit on the shores were moved here to avoid losing them to the rising water levels. These are some of the essential places to visit on any Lake Nasser cruise:

  • Wadi al Sebua or Valley of the Lions: temples from the Pharaonic (New Kingdom) and Ptolemaic periods
  • Amada Temples: dating back to the New Kingdom era
  • Qasr Ibrim: an ancient fortress that remains in its original location
  • Abu Simbel: a large monumental construction commissioned by Ramses II.

What Does Egipto Exclusivo Offer?

Egipto Exclusivo can plan any type of Nile River cruise for you, from an agile, comfortable, and entertaining experience on a motorboat to a relaxing and stress-free itinerary on a dahabiya, or a more exciting journey aboard a faluca.

Our most popular Nile River cruise package is full board, which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as guided tours of the main monuments along the way. However, we can also create a customized program to include additional services based on your preferences.

In addition, our Nile River cruises come with road transportation included. We take care of all necessary transfers to and from the airport, other nearby cities, and the monuments along the route to ensure a seamless travel experience.

Our Nile River cruises can be planned as standalone vacations or as part of a larger itinerary, which can also include destinations such as the Red Sea coast or the Pyramids of Giza.

Contact Egipto Exclusivo to plan your Nile River cruise today and discover the beauty of Upper Egypt in the best way possible.