How to See the Nile River
The Nile is Africa’s longest river, flowing north from the Sudanese desert upwards through Egypt. An essential lifeline for many, this legendary body of water not only is responsible for the rich agriculture of the surrounding Nile Valley, it also has been a vital source of transport since ancient times. Cruising the Nile is the quintessential way to experience this aptly nicknamed “father of African rivers,” and Egypt itself.
But what is the best way to cruise the Nile? There are so many ways to take to its waters that it’s difficult knowing where to begin. Options range from evening party boats on which neon lights and dancing are the norm, to slow-going meanders aboard traditional wooden sailboats that call to mind days of yore. Each type of Nile cruise offers its own unique perks, so it ultimately boils down to personal preference and time. Whatever type of excursion you choose, rest assured that they all have one thing in common: the opportunity to fully experience the River Nile and soak in its beauty, as well as the many breathtaking archaeological sites, traditional Nubian villages, and vibrant cities that line its fertile banks.
To help identify the best Nile River cruise for you, here are three distinct ways to experience it, and a comparison of the perks and flexibilities of each Nile tour:
Dahabeya Nile Cruises
Imagine sailing along the Nile waters in the same way that travelers have for millennia. Classic two-masted sailing boats known as dahabeyas have been navigating this ancient river in some form since Pharaonic times. Originally intended as transport for royal families and other aristocrats, these simple yet elegant flat-bottom vessels are a favorite along the Nile, where they’ve become the consummate form of “slow travel.” Today dahabeyas provide a rare opportunity to traverse this iconic river in a way that’s both authentic and elegant.
With only a handful of cabins and a couple of suites onboard, dahabeyas are much more intimate than a traditional cruise ship, making them ideal for private charter. A communal sundeck for lounging is typical, and while there’s a selection of food onboard, these multi-day excursions (dahabeyas typically run 5-day to 7-day Nile cruise packages between Luxor and Aswan or vice-versa) offer a wonderful chance to sample the local cuisine or any of Egypt’s plethora of top-notch restaurants while ashore.
Often adorned with handmade furnishings, though without modern conveniences such as high-powered A/C or lightning-fast WiFi, these small and stylish boats are ideal for anyone who treasures a more relaxed pace, genuine travel experience, and a step back in time.
Luxury Nile Cruisers
If it’s contemporary amenities like an onboard spa and high-speed WiFi that you’re after, consider a luxury cruise for your trip down the Nile. These ultra-luxe, motor-driven vessels feature all the creature comforts, including exceptional food and wine offerings, air-conditioned lounges (especially welcome during Egypt’s often sweltering summer months), and—in the case of the Oberoi Philae—even an outdoor pool. Stylish and sophisticated, they tend to be smaller and more refined than larger party cruises. For a five-star hotel on water, luxury Nile cruises are unbeatable.
Overland with a Felucca Cruise on the Nile
Perhaps you’d rather skip a cruise all together, but still want the essential Nile experience. Consider dinner aboard a felucca, a traditional wooden sailboat that has all the mystique of a dahabeya but is both smaller and geared toward an afternoon or evening experience.
Feluccas offer the best of both worlds—the ability to still savor the river from its magical waters while doing the bulk of your travel on land. They’re also perfect for anyone with a more defined travel schedule and/or a limited amount of time.
For the most pristine Nile waters, a felucca in or around Aswan is the way to go, though seeing the lights of Cairo as they reflect onto the river can be just as breathtaking.
Whatever you decide, watching the Nile sunset as it shifts in colors from orange to gold to red is truly one of life’s great experiences.
The Nile from Shore
If it’s a pure road trip you’re after, GeoEx can still arrange those spectacular twilight views—only from shore. For example, the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan is one of Egypt’s most fabled colonial-era properties, and its picturesque terrace provides exquisite panoramic views—excellent for watching the feluccas float past while you sip a sweet hibiscus tea or cocktail. Skip the Nile cruise and stay on land to get a different perspective.
What is the Best Time of Year to do a Nile Cruise?
One of the main considerations in choosing when to cruise down the Nile, is the temperature. Summer heat can make exploring the antiquities during shore excursions more of a trial than a treat. From the middle of October through February, winter weather means sunny skies and warm days with cool evenings. This is also the most popular time to travel, so plan your Nile cruise holidays well ahead of your travel dates.
Spring and fall usually see fewer travelers with warmer daytime temperatures, which can be appealing to those who don’t mind the heat. A trip in March, April, or early October should still have reasonable weather for a five star Nile cruise or a simple felucca trip along the river.
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To start planning your own adventure along the Nile, contact our Egypt experts at 888-570-7108.
Stayed four days on a houseboat below the Aswan Dam. Every day sailed on the river in this felucca.