Nile River
Credit: Getty Images/AWL Images RM

The Nile River, stretching almost 4,160 miles from Uganda to Egypt, is the longest river in the world. Its title as the longest river is challenged only by the mighty Amazon, which has several mouths that make it difficult to determine where exactly the river ends. (Even the length of the Nile is debated, with measurements ranging from 4,160 miles to 4,258 miles.)

During the Nile’s journey north and prior to where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea, the river collects water from from 11 different African countries. Along its route, the Nile passes through a large range of ecosystems: If one were to travel it’s entire length, they would find themselves passing through almost every type of terrain, from high mountains to low, arid deserts to tropical rainforests.

In addition to experiencing the unique and diverse flora, fauna, and ecosystems that exist along the length of the river, there are artifacts and sites left behind by the ancient Egyptians that traveled its banks thousands of years ago. The importance of the Nile’s role in the development of Egyptian civilization is apparent as most ancient Egyptian cultural and historical sites can be found within close proximity to the river.

Today, its importance is no less significant: The Nile is the primary water source for both Egypt and Sudan.

For those looking to experience some of what the river has to offer, here are a few things that should not be missed.

The Ancient City of Aswan

Situated on the eastern bank of the Nile in southern Egypt, Aswan is home to many ancient monuments as well as more modern buildings and structures. The Philae Temple, constructed more than 2,600 years ago in order to honor the Egyptian goddess Isis, is located on the Agilkia Island near Aswan, and was a part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign Project.

While in Aswan, don’t forget to see the Tombs of Nobles and the Monastery of St. Simeon. Aswan can be reached easily by flight, bus, train, or car from Cairo. There are also multi-day cruises that travel between Aswan and Luxor.

Murchison Falls National Park

Located in Uganada, Murchison Falls National Park is home to a stretch of the Nile that boasts a magnificent 141-foot waterfall of the same name. Visitors can get a great view of the falls from the top, which can be reached after a 30-minute climb (accessible from the Paraa launch), or by car.

This park is the largest in Uganda, and is home to a wide variety of exotic wildlife such as hippos, elephants, crocodiles, giraffes, and lions. The best way to catch a glimpse of the wildlife is through a guided tour in which visitors will embark on a safari and a cruise along a stretch of the Nile within the park boundaries.

The Valley of the Kings

While the Pyramids of Giza may be the most famous tombs built by the ancient Egyptians for their Pharaohs, they are not the only ones to see. Located on the west bank of the Nile near the city of Luxor in Egypt, the Valley of the Kings is home to a large network of complex underground tombs built from the 16th to 11th centuries B.C.

Visitors are welcome to descend into the tombs, admiring the ancient murals and hieroglyphs that they will find themselves surrounded by while passing from chamber to chamber. Although there are tours available to take people into the tombs, they are not necessary. The Valley of the Kings can be reached from Luxor by ferry, bus, or taxi.