Aswan is an even smaller, even hotter town about three and half hours south of Luxor. Although we flew from Cairo to Luxor (recommended, since flights are relatively cheap - around US$100), we opted to take the train to Aswan. The train cost just a few dollars for "first class," but lacked air conditioning and looked like it hadn't been cleaned in weeks. There was garbage from previous passengers in the seat back ahead of us, and the sweltering heat made the ride almost unbearable. If you want any type of comfort, I would recommend flying, or taking the route many other tourists did and taking a boat down the river.
Aswan itself doesn't have much to offer, but functions as mostly an outpost for travel to Abu Simbel, a large, impressive temple built by pharaoh Ramesses II. You can fly from Aswan to Abu Simbel, but we opted to book a tour with a driver. The drive is about three hours each way through empty desert - again, we recommend flying if possible. Abu Simbel is only about 25 miles north of the Sudanese border, and it is -- you guessed it -- extremely hot. The temple itself is impressive, but it's quite a trek to reach.
We flew home from Aswan to Cairo to Istanbul to San Francisco, with an extremely delayed plane in Aswan, a near missed connection in Cairo, and a missed plane in Istanbul that resulted in an overnight stay in what turned out to be a fascinating, and much more European-feeling, city.
Overall, Egypt was far from an easy trip, but it's definitely not one I regret taking. If you want a relaxing vacation without facing some of the hassles head-on, a tour might be the way to go, but independent travel is definitely possible and we felt very safe. I left with a new-found appreciation of the Middle East, and it's a region of the world I can't wait to return to.