Egypt is nothing in need of a miracle. Although the forbidding Sahara encroaches from each route, the Nile River splashes a verdant inexperienced ribbon by means of the nation, generally managing to push the desert sands just a few hundred ft again from the riverbank.

One of many world’s longest and most legendary rivers, the Nile travels greater than 6500km (4100 miles) by means of 5 international locations, nevertheless it’s most intently related with Egypt. And certainly, a lot of Egyptian historical past has unfolded alongside the Nile that just about all the nation’s main cities and historic tombs and temples are situated alongside this lush life-giving artery.

The traditional Egyptians used the river as a freeway, dispatching commerce and army expeditions and toting statues of their gods between temples. The fifth century BCE Greek historian Herodotus famously referred to as Egypt the “present of the Nile,” and even now, millennia later, cruising the Nile remains to be one of the simplest ways for vacationers to see Egypt’s presents for themselves.

Able to embark on the journey of a lifetime? Right here’s what it’s essential learn about selecting the most effective Nile river cruises.

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Colourful hot-air balloons fill the sky over a landscape of desert to the right and greenery to the left
See the dramatic contrasts in Egypt’s panorama © Lauren Keith / Lonely Planet 

Why are so many vacationers speaking about Egypt in 2022?

Nowhere else on the earth is the previous so intertwined with the current than in Egypt, and 2022 guarantees to be a blockbuster time to expertise them each.

Lonely Planet named Egypt one of the top 10 countries to visit this year, and the long-anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum is expected to open in November to coincide with the one centesimal anniversary of the invention of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the well-known golden pharaoh and “boy king.”

September marked 200 years for the reason that Rosetta Stone was translated, which revealed the meanings of the hieroglyphs and recaptured information that had been misplaced for hundreds of years. New archaeological discoveries continue apace in Luxor, Saqqara and elsewhere that hold rewriting historical past.

Tourism hit a document excessive in Egypt in 2019 and was anticipated to develop much more in 2020, however everyone knows what occurred then. Like many locations, tourism in Egypt has now entered restoration mode, making the approaching months an ideal – and nonetheless comparatively quiet – time to go to. 

Some Nile cruise corporations continued development tasks which have seen new boats launched on the river, together with the August 2022 debut of the Viking Osiris, a model new 82-passenger vessel constructed particularly to navigate the Nile.

Huge ornate temple towers of Karnak, Egypt
Most Nile cruises run in each instructions between Luxor and Aswan © Lauren Keith / Lonely Planet

Why you must take a Nile cruise whenever you go to Egypt

Whereas cruises would possibly get a foul rap elsewhere on the earth, touring by boat on the Nile is a time-honored custom that stretches again to the pharaonic period.

Alongside the riverbanks, life carries on in the way in which that it has since time immemorial: mudbrick homes poke out from behind the foliage, youngsters wave excitedly at passing ships, a lone man paddles a blue-painted canoe piled excessive with alfalfa for his hungry livestock, palm bushes heavy with golden dates sag as they await the harvest.

In a fast-paced world, alternatives to easily sit again and watch life glide by are few and much between. Sitting exterior on the Osiris’s balcony touring on the pace of the river, I felt like I used to be watching a gradual journey TV present – directly each an outdoor spectator and likewise utterly immersed in it.

In historic instances, mastering the river helped rulers unite the nation, and most temples are constructed inside straightforward attain of the water. Positive, Egypt’s modern-day street and rail community can transport you to those temples overland, however for those who skip a cruise on the Nile, the magic of the journey will definitely be lacking.

An expert points out markings on a wall and explains them to tourists on a guided tour
Native consultants clarify the meanings behind the hieroglyphs as you tour temples and tombs © Lauren Keith  / Lonely Planet

How to decide on a Nile cruise itinerary

The overwhelming majority of Nile cruises function in each instructions between Luxor and Aswan in southern Egypt, making stops in Edfu, Kom Ombo and generally different small cities.

Which Nile cruise you choose will depend on the same old two journey constraints: your price range and your time. Sure boats sail solely on sure days, and Nile cruises may be as quick as three days, however extra generally final 5 days.

Most luxurious cruises on the Nile, together with Viking’s Nile cruises, require signing up for a full Egypt-wide itinerary that begins and ends in Cairo, a wonderful choice for first-time guests.

With little signage at historic websites and costs all the time open to negotiation, Egypt is a tough place for impartial journey. Except you wish to spend your treasured trip time bargaining with taxi drivers and tour guides in every single place you go, it’s finest to hitch a tour on your first go to and depart the logistics to another person.

What I favored particularly about Viking’s Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary is that it contains two uncommon stops that aren’t commonplace ports of name for many Nile cruises. 

The ship travels north of Luxor to Qena for passengers to disembark and go to the beautiful Temple of Hathor at Dendera, the place the ceilings have not too long ago been cleaned, exposing fantastically painted zodiac symbols and the warped physique of the sky goddess Nut, who swallows the solar each night time and provides delivery to it the following morning. 

The boat additionally stops in Esna for the Temple of Khnum, a small however splendidly preserved construction. Look as much as spot the column-topping capitals, every of which has a colorfully embellished, distinctive bouquet of palm fronds, bunches of grapes, lotus flowers and papyrus shoots.

In Luxor, you’ll get non-public entry to the show-stopping tomb of Nefertari – arguably probably the most lovely burial web site in the whole nation (and definitely the costliest at LE1400, about US$72) the place practically each sq. inch is painted in stunningly vibrant bas-reliefs – in addition to the prospect to see the stark dichotomy of Egypt’s landscapes from the sky within the basket of a gently drifting sizzling air balloon.

Excursions of the temples and tombs are led by native skilled Egyptologists who clarify and translate the meanings of the hieroglyphs earlier than your very eyes. 

A couple of corporations provide Nile cruises from Cairo, however these sailings are uncommon, normally working simply as soon as a month – if in any respect – and take considerably longer due to the space concerned. However you’ll get the prospect to take a look at off-the-beaten-track tombs and temples between Cairo and Luxor that see few guests.

A view from within a small cruise ship out onto the Nile River in Egypt
The Viking Osiris is without doubt one of the newer ships cruising the Nile © Lauren Keith  / Lonely Planet

What’s it like on board the Viking Osiris?

Decked out in a glossy Scandi colour scheme of blond wooden and blue textiles which can be drenched in pure gentle thanks to large floor-to-ceiling home windows throughout a lot of the ship, the Viking Osiris is an oasis of calm that’s a deal with to return to after a protracted and dusty day of exploring. 

The cruise ship has 41 cabins throughout three decks, plus two higher ranges with an indoor/outside eating area with home windows that fold away for al fresco evenings, a comfortable bar and lounge with a resident piano participant within the evenings, an infinity-style pool in the back of the boat and a solar deck for days of lazy lounging.

Vacationers can try books from the on-board library’s beautiful assortment to learn up on Egyptian historical past on their voyage.

The visitor rooms are surprisingly spacious, with cozy hotel-like beds, loads of wardrobe and cupboard space, and good-sized loos. Many staterooms include balconies.

The ship is partially powered by photo voltaic panels, and you may see how a lot electrical energy is being generated by the solar in addition to the carbon dioxide financial savings on a display inside.

What vacationers ought to know earlier than visiting Egypt

Almost all nationalities need a visa to visit Egypt, which you will get on arrival on the airport or apply for on-line upfront for those who’d somewhat skip the road. The price of a single-entry Egyptian vacationer visa is USD$25, payable in money on the airport or by card on-line.

Egypt is a standard, Muslim-majority nation, so each women and men ought to gown modestly when visiting. For recommendations on what to pack, native etiquette and extra, verify these 14 things to help you plan your visit to Egypt.

Lauren Keith traveled on the Viking Osiris cruise by invitation from Viking River Cruises.

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