Luxor vs Aswan
Luxor or Aswan right for you? In my opinion, these two cities are worth a visit when you travel to Egypt – most people visit both – but they are definitely not the same.
Neither is bad, far from it. Aswan and Luxor offer a lot to potential visitors, from interesting city centers along the Nile to nearby attractions which are some of the most famous and magnificent in all of Egypt.
Hope you read on, whether you need to make a choice between these two cities, or are planning to visit both and just want to set realistic expectations before your trip.
Prepare your trip to Egypt
Whether you choose Luxor or Aswan (or both), certain preparations are necessary for every trip to Egypt. Most importantly, you need to get your eVisa for Egypt well before the trip. While it is possible to purchase a visa on arrival in Cairo, arranging this before you land will significantly reduce your time at the airport.
If you are reading this while the coronavirus pandemic is underway, in the meantime you should consider all of the Covid-19 related preparations you will need to make. In 2021, for example, travelers will have to present a negative Covid test carried out between 72 and 96 hours after arrival, depending on their country of origin. In the future, it may become necessary to show proof of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination to enter Egypt.
Compare Luxor and Aswan
Aswan and Luxor are both located on the Nile, with sandstone (and, frankly, healthy) mountains towering above lush cityscapes and coastlines on either side. From this point of view, the towns are very similar, although I would say the mountains near Luxor are probably more spectacular; the river landscape is more pronounced in Aswan.
It is as much for the mountains themselves as for the treasures they hide. For example, once the difference between Luxor and Aswan is that Luxor is where the Valley of the Kings (and the Valley of the Queens) and the Temple of Hatshepsut are located. Aswan’s Elephantine Island, on the other hand, is at water level.
Generally speaking, staying in Aswan is much more Byzantine than in Luxor, given that the latter is more popular than the former, due to its distance from Cairo. On the other hand, both are home to renowned luxury hotels: Movenpick and Sofitel in Aswan; Hilton and Sofitel in Luxor.
Restaurants and shops
If you like Egyptian food like koshary (or pan-Arab food like Falafel and shawarma), there won’t be much difference between Luxor or Aswan from your point of view. In terms of shopping, the Aswan Bazaar is bigger and more expansive than what you find in Luxor, where individual shops tend to have more interesting products.
As I mentioned earlier, Luxor is closer to the Valleys of Kings and Queens and the Temple of Hatshepsut; this is also where you will find the Karnak temple, the largest in the world. Probably the most popular excursion from Aswan is Abu Simbel Temple, which is quite remote and requires advance reservation for safety reasons.
Why you should visit Aswan and Luxor
As you can probably tell from reading this far, Aswan and Luxor are destinations of merit: mid-sized cities located on the The Nile, with many attractions in their centers as well as within a day’s distance. Rather than saying that one is better than the other, I think these two destinations offer something to your trip that nowhere else can duplicate.
Another reason why I don’t think there is a need to choose between Aswan or Luxor? The trip between them is so amazing. As I mentioned in the last section, the Nile between Aswan and Luxor is one of the most popular places to take a Nile cruise, be it on a traditional Felucca boat or one of the larger and more modern ships that have become common in recent years.
Other FAQ on Luxor and Aswan
Is Aswan better than Luxor?
Aswan is objectively not better than Luxor, but it is better for some things. Namely, if you want to take a day trip to Abu Simbel Temple, or if you want to see up close the ancient Nubian culture which still exists a lot in and around the city of Aswan.
Is Aswan Worth Visiting?
Aswan is definitely worth a visit! Whether you are staying primarily in the city, or taking day trips to Abu Simbel, Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, or even using Aswan as a starting point for a Felucca journey, you will quickly be glad you made the journey to Aswan, almost immediately after your arrival.
How to get from Luxor to Aswan?
Several routes from Luxor to Aswan (and back) exist. If you go for the practicality, the train is probably the easiest. If money is not an issue, a taxi is the most private and comfortable. Finally, if you want to enjoy a picturesque and authentic trip, you can ride a traditional Felucca boat.
The bottom line
Should you visit Luxor or Aswan? That’s not a clear answer, as both offer a lot to those who come, from natural beauty to timeless architecture, fascinating museums and beyond. Frankly, most travelers to southern Egypt end up visiting these two cities, if only because they’ve already bothered to make the trip.