Abu Simbel Temples Guide

Abu Simbel Temples stands as a symbol of Egypt’s grand architecture. For many, a trip to Egypt isn’t complete without seeing Abu Simbel. However, getting there has been tough recently because of strict rules due to safety concerns. This has made some people think twice about visiting.

But there’s good news – it’s now possible to visit again! If you’re planning a trip to Abu Simbel Temples, there are just a few things to keep in mind. In this article, I’ll share a detailed guide on how to prepare for your visit to Abu Simbel Temples , including tips and my own experiences.

What is Abu Simbel?

Abu Simbel Temples Guide

Abu Simbel isn’t just the name of a temple; it’s a place with an archaeological site that includes two ancient Egyptian temples. This site is in the very south of Egypt, right by Lake Nasser, close to Sudan (about 60km away).

Here’s a bit about the two Abu Simbel temples:

And a quick note: Don’t mix up Queen Nefertari with Queen Nefertiti! Nefertiti lived earlier in Egyptian history and was married to Akhenaten, not Ramses II.

Both temples at Abu Simbel are special because they were carved right into a rock cliff, kind of like Petra, but these face Lake Nasser. They were built during Ramses II’s rule around 1200 BC and took almost 20 years to complete.

Want a brief history lesson on these temples? I’ll make it quick!


Abu Simbel Temples Guide

Pharaoh Ramses II believed strongly in his greatness, often comparing himself to the gods of Egypt. Like the pharaohs before him, he wanted to build a temple to showcase his power. But why did he pick Abu Simbel over the thriving city of Thebes (now known as Luxor)? The reason is simple. In Luxor, the favored god was Amon, and there were many temples dedicated to the sun god there. Each Egyptian god had their own city, and Abu Simbel didn’t have a well-known god yet. So, Ramses II chose Abu Simbel to ensure he would be celebrated almost like a god there!

As for the temple of Nefertari, Ramses II was deeply in love with her. Despite having a harem of 30 women, Nefertari stood out and was the pharaoh’s favorite wife. To show his love, Ramses II gave her this incredible temple, detailed and splendid. It was his grand gesture of love towards Nefertari.


Abu Simbel Temples Guide

The Abu Simbel temples weren’t always where they are now. Originally, they sat on a lower part of land near Lake Nasser, close to the Nile River. They had to be moved because the Aswan High Dam, built in the 1960s to stop Nile floods, accidentally created Lake Nasser, which almost drowned the temples of Ramesses and Nefertari under water.

With help from famous people, including Agatha Christie, UNESCO took on a big rescue mission. They called it the “Now or Never” project because it was urgent to lift the temples to a safer spot away from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. This huge job meant taking the temples apart block by block and moving them to a higher ground. It turned out to be UNESCO’s biggest and most expensive project, costing 70 million US dollars. Because of this big move, we can still see these amazing temples today.

Practical information for visiting Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples Guide


The main attraction at Abu Simbel is the pair of temples built by Egypt’s most famous pharaoh. If you go with a guide, you’ll probably start outside the Temple of Ramses II, where you’ll learn about its history. After that, you get to look around inside on your own. Inside, the Temple of Ramses II is just as impressive as anything you’ll see in Luxor, with huge statues along the main hall. Don’t rush; take your time to look at the detailed frescoes and carvings on the walls – they’re really well-preserved. You’ll find rooms filled with engravings too, making it hard to decide where to look first.

Ramses II liked to show himself as a god, so you’ll see statues where he’s as big as deities like Amon or Horus – something no other pharaoh did. This shows how determined he was.

You might spend 20 to 40 minutes visiting the first temple, depending on how long you take to look around and snap pictures .

The visit to the next temple will follow a similar pattern, with explanations first, then free time to explore.

There are sound and light shows at Abu Simbel’s temples in the evening. Here you can read more an book your place.


Abu Simbel Temples Guide

As a reminder, the local currency is the Egyptian pound (LE), more commonly called in English Egyptian Pound. Here are the entrance prices for the Abu Simbel temples (2024):

Safety in Abu Simbel

Egypt has faced challenges like attacks and revolutions, including the Arab Spring in 2011. The Abu Simbel temples are near the Sudan border in the south, where there were tourist attacks years ago. This led to strict travel restrictions in the area. Previously, tourists could only visit Abu Simbel with military convoy escorts, and independent travel was banned.

Now, the situation is much safer, although no place is entirely without risk. The area is now heavily patrolled by the Egyptian army to ensure tourists’ safety. Anyone traveling from Aswan to Abu Simbel must go through 2 or 3 military checkpoints where your identity and travel permissions are checked. You need special permission from the police to pass these checkpoints, which must be shown at each stop. Our guide handled the paperwork for us, which I’ll explain later.

From my experience, I felt safe visiting Abu Simbel. The security measures seem effective and reassuring.

How to Get to Abu Simbel?

Abu Simbel Temples Guide

Abu Simbel is 280 km from Aswan, the nearest major city. Most trips to the temples start from Aswan, organized by travel agencies, private guides, or buses. I recommend starting your journey from Aswan to reach Abu Simbel.

Given its history, the region is closely watched by the Egyptian government, making travel here more regulated than in other parts of Egypt. But, it’s definitely worth the visit, and getting there isn’t as hard as it might seem.

Military escorts for minibusses to Abu Simbel are no longer a requirement, so you don’t have to travel this way anymore.

We went with a private guide in his car. He took care of getting the necessary paperwork and declaring our trip. You’ll need to provide a photocopy of your passport for the travel authorization.

I also recommend booking this day tour with Get Your Guide from Aswan to Abu Simbel with hotel pickup.

My Tips

Just a heads up, tourist buses tend to arrive between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., making the temples very crowded. They usually leave by 10-10:30 a.m., so waiting until then might mean fewer people and a clearer view of the temples.

Our Guide to Abu Simbel

I recommend going to Abu Simbel with Mohammed. He’s an amazing person and we had great talks. Mohammed can drive you to the temples in his comfy, air-conditioned car from Aswan, and maybe from Luxor too (you’ll need to ask him about that since Luxor is pretty far). An English-speaking guide met us there to show us around, thanks to Mohammed.

Mohammed cares about his guests and goes out of his way to make sure you’re happy. He’s professional and kind. I highly recommend him for trips like this.

You can reach him through Instagram @happypharaohtour or call +20 102 362 4697.

When to Visit Abu Simbel?

Abu Simbel Temples Guide

It gets incredibly hot in this part of Egypt, with temperatures sometimes going over 55°C in the summer. Some locals say it’s hit 60°C before! So, I suggest not visiting Abu Simbel (or Egypt in general) from June to July; it’ll be too hot to enjoy anything.

The weather from October to April is much nicer, making it the best time to visit Abu Simbel. Even in winter, the temperature stays around 20°C, so you’ll still be warm.

Staying overnight in Abu Simbel? Yes, it’s possible, especially if you want to catch the sunrise or the night show. When you go on tours or private trips from Aswan, you usually leave early and come back by midday, which is the hottest part of the day. This schedule means you miss seeing the temples of Ramses II and Nefertari during the magical times of dawn and dusk.

But, there’s not much else to see near the temples since the city is pretty small. Not many tourists decide to spend the night in Abu Simbel, so there aren’t a lot of hotels.