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How to get to Kalabsha: The least visited great temple in Egypt

Kalabsha temple

Standing as the most off the beaten track great temple in Egypt and as the largest free-standing temple of Egyptian Nubia (after Abu Simbel), Kalabsha was built during the early Roman era, in 30 BC, for the worship of Mandulis, a Lower Nubian sun god. Today, this magnificent temple is considered one of the greatest examples of Egyptian architecture in Nubia.

Remember to also check my guide for traveling to Egypt (itinerary + tips)

Kalabsha temple is located on an island in the middle of the Lake Nasser, next to the Aswan High Dam, and around 16 kilometers from Aswan. Nevertheless, it turns out that this temple is not situated where it stood originally. Due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the temple was relocated to protect it from the rising waters.

Kalabsha temple from a hill
Kalabsha temple from a hill

Can you imagine moving a whole temple to an island? It was possible thanks to the Germans and it took more than two years to move it completely.

Besides the temple, there are other structures and remains that were also relocated to the same island:

Gerf Hussein – A temple dedicated to Ramesses II that had to be reconstructed, since an important part of it was submerged beneath the waters.

Beit el-Wali – Also dedicated to Ramesses II, this temple contains super interesting and colorful paintings, perfectly restored thanks to a Polish archaeological team.

Kiosk of Qertassi – A beautiful and elegant Roman kiosk with 6 columns (4 inside and 2 at the entrance)

Kiosk of Qertassi Kalabsha
The kiosk of Qertassi
The Kalabsha temple, Egypt
Beit el-Wali
An Egyptian painting at the temple of Kalabsha
An Egyptian painting of a person murdering another. WTF?

How to get to Kalabsha on your own?

First of all, I believe you would like to know the exact location, right?

Today, it is still possible to visit the isolated temple of Kalabsha independently. It’s a bit complicated, as it involves taking a couple of local microbuses, hitchhiking and negotiating boat transportation with a local fisherman. It’s quite tricky, but still possible. To get there, follow the steps below:

Step 1 – From Aswan’s main street (Nile Street), take a microbus to Sil. Most of the microbuses go towards the same direction but, just in case, tell the driver that you want to go to Sil. Price: 1EGP

Step 2 – Take a second microbus to El Sadelale (High Dam in English). The microbus will leave you at the beginning of the dam. Price: 2EGP

Step 3: The temple is located on the other side of the dam but, in order to cross it, foreigners need to buy a tourist ticket. This ticket also allows you to visit the High Dam. Price: 30EGP

Step 4 – The visitor section is in the middle part of the dam. For security purposes, walking over the dam is not allowed. How to get there? You would need to hitchhike but don’t worry, as the police officers will stop a car for you at no extra charge.

Aswan High Dam
The Aswan High Dam

Step 5 – Visit the dam. Since you paid for the ticket, why not visit it? Allow yourself 20 minutes to look around it and enjoy the views of the Lake Nasser.

Step 6 – Now, you should go to the other side of the dam. Tell any police officer that you wish to visit Kalabsha temple and ask him if he could stop a car. Get into the car and get out at the end of the dam.

Step 7 – Once at the end of the dam, turn left at the first street. You’ll pass through a few checkpoints, where police officers will ask you some questions. Bring your passport (or a copy, as you might be waiting for you Sudanese Visa).

Step 8 – Having turned left, go straight on, all the way down (200 meters) until you find a bunch of boats and some local fishermen.

The semi-abandoned harbor from where you take a boat
The semi-abandoned harbor from where you are supposed to take a boat

Step 9 – Tell any of those fishermen that you wish to go to Kalabsha. You need to negotiate a price with them. At first, one of them told me 150EGP, but I managed to get it for 100EGP, 1 hour. Not sure if you can get it cheaper.

Step 10 – At the temple, there’s one guy selling tickets. I found him sleeping. Probably, because he doesn’t receive many visitors. Price: 40EGP

Step 11 – On the way back, after the last checkpoints, there’s a small university faculty. From there, you can catch a direct microbus to Aswan (2EGP).

More content about Egypt

A guide for traveling to Egypt
Egypt off the beaten track
How to visit Luxor in 2 days 
Egypt-Sudan border crossing


Kalabsha temple Egypt