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Abu Simbel is an Egypt Must Do – Here are 10 Things to Know Before You Go

A man and woman pose in front of Abu Simbel, an ancient Egyptian temple with giant statues of pharaohs carved into a mountainside.

Abu Simbel is an absolute must-do if you are traveling to Egypt. This was honestly cooler for me than seeing the pyramids, and I have been dreaming about visiting the pyramids since I was 8. (That’s how incredible Abu Simbel is!)

Part of this had to do with not having hardly any expectations for Abu Simbel (whereas, the pyramids had quite a lot riding on them). Abu Simbel is also a location where photos simply do not do justice, as cliche as that is. I read articles about it, and I had seen photos of it on Instagram, but none of that prepared me for the moment I saw it in person. (Seriously, I just walked around the entire time exclaiming “WOW!” to no one in particular.)

A photo shows the entrance to the Abu Simbel temple and the four giant stone Egyptian pharaoh statues that surround the entrance. The photo is at an upward angle, looking up at the giant statues and the sky.

10 Things to Know Before You Visit Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is a very popular tourist destination with many people visiting it. However, it had a remote, almost untouched feeling to it. (At least in comparison to the pyramids and some of the other sights in Egypt.) This is just the way I felt, at least. There weren’t vendors trying to sell you camel rides or anything like that while you marveled at the glory of these temples. (The pyramids were obviously bananas, with vendors harassing you every 2 seconds!) This was a completely different experience for me.

Hopefully, you’re considering adding Abu Simbel to your Egypt itinerary! Enjoy my list of 10 things to know before you go.

1.) Abu Simbel is a village in Southern Egypt, near the border of Sudan.

Abu Simbel is home to two massive rock-cut temples; one for the great Egyptian ruler Ramses II and one for his chief wife, Queen Nefertari.

A photo of the entrance of Nefertari's temple in Abu Simbel. Six giant stone statues of Egyptian royalty are carved into a mountainside, three on each side of a smaller entrance into the temple. Giant pillars are carved with Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The entrance to Nefertari’s temple in Abu Simbel.

2.) The large statues of Ramses II depict him throughout his life.

If you look closely, you will notice that no two statues are identical (they are meant to depict Ramses II during different phases/ages of his life). They are 65 feet tall!

Four giant statues of Ramses II carved from rock into the side of a large mountain temple. The statues surround the entrance to the Ramses temple at Abu Simbel.

3.) Abu Simbel is not the original location of the Ramses II and Queen Nefertiti temples.

It moved in 1964! The Egyptian government worked with UNESCO and moved the temples to save them from flooding from the Nile River after the High Dam was constructed. (Could you imagine moving these two temples piece by piece and restoring them to exactly as they were found?!)

4.) There is one crumbled statue of Ramses II at Abu Simbel.

This was decided to be left as it was found in 1813, instead of restoring it.

One of the crumbling Ramses II statues at Abu Simbel. The head and bust of the statue has crumbled into giant stone pieces that now sit at the feet of the other statues.
This crumbling statue of Ramses was left as it was found – falling apart.

5.) No guides are allowed inside either of the temples.

Our guide gave us a rundown of the history of the temples while we were driving to Abu Simbel from Aswan. (Funny story – we ended up having the same guide who was quite the weirdo when we visited the Nubian Village. He was slightly better for this tour. But, even having him as a guide again still didn’t take away from how incredible this day was!)

The cavernous entrance of the Ramses II temple in Abu Simbel. A long hall is lined with giant Egyptian statues, and the walls are covered floor to ceiling in artwork. A man stands next to one of the statues for scale.
No guides are allowed inside the halls of the temples in Abu Simbel.

6.) Getting to Abu Simbel is a bit of a journey!

The nearest city is Aswan. You can get there by bus or by flying. There aren’t that many flights from Aswan to Abu Simbel, though. So, if that is something you want to do, be sure to book your flight early! Taking a tour from Aswan is the most popular option (and what we did). It’s a little over 3 hours driving to get there. And while it may look like an easy enough drive, you can’t just rent a car and go yourself. Only licensed operators can get through the various security points. (It also is an incredibly boring drive you’d rather be sleeping for anyways!)

7.) If you take a bus tour to Abu Simbel, you’ll likely be leaving Aswan very early (around 3 am).

However, even though you’ll arrive in Abu Simbel before 8 am, it is still REALLY hot and there is hardly any shade. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, dress for the heat accordingly, and pack a lot of water!

A photo of the tall walls inside one of the Abu Simbel temples. The stone walls and pillars are covered floor to ceiling in ancient Egyptian carvings and artwork.

8.) You CAN pay to take photos inside the Abu Simbel temples. (This includes cellphone photos and digital cameras.)

Until very recently, no photos were allowed inside either of the temples. However, now you can pay a fee to take photos inside the temples. (I believe it was 300 Egyptian pounds, so not exactly cheap.) Yes, you have to pay even if you’re using your cellphone. We were CONSTANTLY getting asked by guards to show our tickets. You DO NOT need to pay if you’re only taking photos of the outside, though.

Worth noting: Our guide said my husband and I only needed one ticket between the 2 of us. This is not entirely true. We’re both pretty photo-crazy and were hollered at by the guards for taking photos at the same time. (Apparently, you can only take photos one at a time if you’re splitting your ticket.) It was a bit frustrating. So, if you’re photo-crazy like us, you might be better off just buying the two tickets, or else you’ll have to make sure only one person is taking photos, and they have the ticket in their hand while doing so. Otherwise, you will have a guard interrupt your photo. (We were even getting stopped by tourists telling us not to take photos because they didn’t realize you could now buy this photography ticket!)

A photo inside one of the Abu Simbel temples. Four giant stone pillars rise to the ceiling, each with a different statue of Ramses II. The pillars, walls, and ceilings are filled with carvings. hieroglyphs, and artwork.

9.) Expect to spend between 1-2 hours at Abu Simbel if you’re on a tour.

Our guide gave us some facts about the temples before we went to them and also took our photos together. We then spent over an hour wandering through the temples by ourselves and taking photos. This was enough time for us to be happy with the experience, but I could have easily spent another hour marveling at their grandeur.

(We had some fun trying to take photos of ourselves outside the temple too!)

A man sits on a bench outside the front of an Abu Simbel temple. He's posing like one of the four Ramses statues that line the front of the temple. Tourists mull around in the background.
A woman sits on a bench in front of the entrance of the Ramses II temple in Abu Simbel. She poses with her hangs on her knees, similar to the giant stone Ramses statues behind her. Tourists in the background line up to enter the temple.

10.) If you decide to stay the night in Abu Simbel, the Nefertari Hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the temples!

I thought that would have been neat. You could spend as much time as you want at the temples and then simply walk back to your hotel. (We drove back to Aswan and then caught a flight back to Cairo that same day – ick!)

Abu Simbel Photo Gallery

More photos of Abu Simbel can be found below. Please feel free to click on them to make them full-sized.

A photo of the front façade of the Ramses II temple at Abu Simbel. Multiple lines of text across the top of the image says "Egypt", "Abu Simbel", and "10 things to know before you go"
A collage of two images; one showing the entrance to the Nefatari temple, and another showing a man and woman posing outside of Ramses II temple at Abu Simbel. A text box in the center of the image says "Must Do in Egypt - What to Know Before You Go to Abu Simbel"
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  1. Could u please share about restaurants in all places u have covered, we r planning to visit in December

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Unfortunately, I do not have any restaurant recommendations for Abu Simbel. When we were in Abu Simbel it was part of a Nile River cruise excursion, so we were eating on the cruise.

  2. marionhappywanderess says:

    I just got a big flow of memories! I visited Egypt and Abu Simbel with my family when I was 12 and I remember it being one of the best parts. It’s been a while, but I remember I also felt like it was better than the pyramids. At that time I was reading series of novels about Ramses II and queen Nefertari and Abu Simbel was already something I was looking forward to visiting.
    When I read you had the same guide you had for the Nubian village I though “omg nooo”! I’m glad to see that didn’t ruin your experience! I guess there weren’t opportunities for him to do the same weird things he did over there.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oh my gosh – that is awesome! I’m so glad you have wonderful memories of visiting here as well. I’m also excited to hear you enjoyed this more than the pyramids too.

      Haha, fortunately – the guide didn’t get a chance to ruin this experience for us! I’m kind of glad Egypt has these rules about not letting guides inside the temples and tombs. It is nice to wander on your own.

  3. Courtney Byers says:

    Oh wow these are such good tips! I didn’t know you can’t have a guide. Where the crown jewels are in London, they don’t allow photos either. You can take them outside though. I think this is becoming more common.

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oh yes. Thank you, Courtney!

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