The Abu Simbel temples are two huge rock temples perched high on the western banks of Lake Nasser in the village of Abu Simbel. This ancient temple complex is considered as one of the best places to visit in Egypt and form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the ‘Nubian Mountains’.
Today the temples of Abu Simbel, which were originally carved out of a mountainside in the 13th century to honor an Egyptian pharaoh, are open to the public for guided and self-guided tours.
Abu Simbel tickets
|General Admission + Photography Pass||£25|
Plan to buy your ticket to Abu Simbel temples when you arrive in Aswan or at the temple entrance as you’ll struggle to pre-book them online beforehand unless you’re interested in joining a guided tour.
Note that when you buy your ticket from the ticket office you’ll often be charged a small fee for a guide even if you don’t require one. This fee can’t be waived.
Similarly, you might only be able to buy multi-destination tickets, these include access to the Abu Simbel temples and one other place of interest nearby.
The Abu Simbel temples are open daily 5am – 6pm.
History & more information
The Abu Simbel temples were built by pharaoh Ramses II during his reign in the 13th century BC and represent the ambition of Ramses and the beginning of modern engineering.
The complex and its two temples took a total of 20 years to complete, though the start date is up for dispute, and are dedicated entirely to the gods Ra-Horakty, Ptah, Ramesses II, the goddess Hathor, and Queen Nefertari (Ramesses’ wife).
The Great Temple, the one dedicated to Ramses II, is considered the main temple and stands 98 feet tall and boasts four seated colossi at the entrance.
Head through the entrance and you’ll find yourself standing in the inner temple, an area decorated with elegant engravings which pays homage to the gods. The second temple, known as the Small Temple, is located nearby and stands just 40 feet high.
This temple is dedicated to Ramesses’ wife Nefertari and the carvings inside depict the pair making offerings to the gods.
In 1960 both temples had to be moved from their original resting place due to flooding in the previous location. They were lifted to the current site by a team of international UNESCO workers who tirelessly transported each and every piece of the temples (after a worldwide appeal) to protect them from the rising waters of the nearby Aswan High Dam.
Today the temples sit safely 60 meters high above the cliff where they once stood.
Points of Interest
The Main Courtyard
The entire forecourt in front of the temple is open to the public. Climb the steps up to the terraced temple and begin exploring!
The Grand Temple
The Grand Temple is 30 meters high, 35 meters long, and has four seated colossi at the entrance to King Ramses. It is the primary of the two temples.
The Small Temple
The second temple was constructed for the Egyptian Queen Nefertari, Rameses II’s wife.
Carvings and Artwork
Hand-carved pillars, beautiful wall paintings (that are thousands of years old), delicate statues, and much more decorate the walls of the temple.
How to get to Abu Simbel
By tourist bus
One of the most popular ways to access the Abu Simbel temple is by bus on a group tour from Aswan. Day trips can easily be arranged both in advance and last minute, however, note that they usually involve a 4 am start and you’ll likely find the temples a little busy thanks to your fellow passengers!
By Public Bus
Buses leave Aswan once daily from the Aswan Bus Station and the journey takes roughly four hours. This is the ideal option for travelers on a budget who’d prefer to stay the night in Abu Simbel village rather than return the same day.
Alternatively, consider taking a private taxi from Aswan. Taxies can be booked via your accommodation reception desk and, as only a number of taxies are permitted to travel to the Abu Simbel site, it’s worth booking one in advance.
Fly from Aswan to Abu Simbel with Egypt Air and you’ll touch down in just 20-minutes! However, you should be aware that services from Aswan are quite irregular and it’s not uncommon for the flight to be canceled last-minute. Alternatively, fly directly to Abu Simbel from Cairo.
If you’re heading to Abu Simbel temple, there’s a good chance you’re coming from the nearby city of Aswan. If so, there’s plenty of things to do and attractions to see in-and-around this river-side city, check them out below:
- Nubian Museum
- Unfinished Obelisk
- Kitchener’s Island
- Aswan Museum
- Mausoleum of Aga Khan
- Aswan Botanical Gardens
- Jazirat Aswan
- Monastery of Saint Simeon
- Seheil Island
- Temple of Philae
- El-Tabia Mosque
Best time to visit
Organized tours from Aswan tend to arrive at Abu Simbel between 7 am and 11 am so if you’re making your own way here, consider arriving in the late afternoon as not only are the temples quieter, they’re also basked in the warm glow of a setting sun.
If you stick around till evening (6:30 pm) you might catch the Sound and Light Show which is a fantastic opportunity to witness the temples aglow with lights.
Facts about Abu Simbel
- The Abu Simbel Temple complex is actually two individual temples, both rock-cut structures, and both built during the reign of King Ramses II sometime in the 1200 B.C. time period.
- Work on the temples began about 1264 BC and lasted for about 20 years.
- The temple was constructed by the most celebrated Ancient Egyptian; King Ramses II.
- One temple is dedicated to King Ramses II, and the second temple is dedicated to his beloved wife Queen Nefertari.
- In 1964 the two structures of Abu Simbel Temple were cut into many different pieces, and both temples were moved further away from the rising water of Lake Nasser. The structures were moved to a location sixty-five meters above the original spot and two hundred meters further back from the shoreline.
- The temple was first explored in 1817 by the early Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni
- It is believed that the temple was positioned so that on October 22 and February 22, light from the sun would reach the sanctuary. This would light up the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god linked with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark.
- Inside the larger temple, there are three consecutive halls extending 56m (185 ft) to the end of temples where there are four statues for each god.
FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)
Can I take pictures inside Abu Simbel?
It is not allowed to take pictures in the temples unless you have purchased a photography pass (these usually cost around £15).
Should I stay overnight nearby?
To make the most of your visit to Abu Simbel, consider spending the night at the nearby village which has two hotels.
How long should I allow to explore the Abu Simble temple complex?
I recommend a minimum of two hours to explore the temples and suggest you allow even more time if you’re a bit of a history buff or interested in ancient archeology.
Where was Abu Simbel originally located?
The temple complex was originally located at the second cataract of the Nile River, on a site that was sacred to Hathor for a long time before the temples were built. The move to the current location was completed in 1968.
Who found Abu Simbel?
The temple complex was first discovered by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss researcher, although they were first explored by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, who was an early Egyptologist from Italy.
Why is Abu Simbel important?
It is the lasting monument of King Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari. The twin temples of Abu Simbel were built in the 13th century BC and is one of the most well-preserved temple complexes from Ancient Egypt.
Do you have more questions before visiting Abu Simbel in Egypt? Leave a comment below!