Best Things To Do in Luxor
A trip to Luxor is all about soaking up the city's rich past. For a crash course in Egyptian history before exploring Luxor's ruins, check out the Luxor Museum. Once you've seen the museum's mummies and artifacts, make your way to the city's famous temples and tombs. Though you'll want to plan enough time to see them all, must-see sights include the Karnak Temple Complex, the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
Updated March 9, 2018
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Built to honor Amon-Re (ancient Egypt's sun god) and the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (who was believed to have descended from Amon-Re), the Temple of Hatshepsut stands out for its grand architecture and jaw-dropping landscape. Situated at the base of limestone cliffs in Deir el-Bahri, this funerary temple features three tiers of porticos with statues, pillars and hieroglyphs. You'll also find two chapels inside, plus two ramps that connect the lower terrace to the upper terrace.
Although some elements of this historic structure were damaged from vandalism, many past travelers said this sight is well-preserved and worthy of a visit. To avoid the region's notoriously high temperatures, plan on arriving at opening or just before close. And remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring water since you'll be doing a lot of walking at this attraction.
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As its name suggests, the Valley of the Kings is where dozens of pharaohs were laid to rest. In fact, you'll find 63 royal tombs here, including notable pharaohs like Tutankhamun (or King Tut), Ay and Ramses VI. The tombs are spread across two areas: the East Valley, where the bulk of the tombs lie, and the West Valley, which features steep cliffs and three royal tombs. Both sections sit within view of Al-Qurn, a large pyramid-shaped mountain peak.
According to recent travelers, visiting the Valley of the Kings is a must. Past visitors recommended avoiding the area during the summer, since temperatures rise into the 100s. If you do decide to brave the heat between June and August, pack plenty of water and sunscreen. Though you'll be tempted to snap some photos while exploring the tombs, photography and videography are not allowed on-site. And remember, tombs are periodically closed for renovations, so tombs open to the public will vary depending on when you visit.
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If you're in search of Luxor's largest (and most impressive) collection of temple ruins, look no further than the Karnak Temple Complex. Located about 2 miles northeast of the Temple of Luxor, the Karnak Temple Complex features multiple temples, two obelisks, hieroglyphs and a sacred lake that was used for special rituals. Leading up to the property's entrance is the Avenue of Sphinxes, which connects the site to the Temple of Luxor.
Past visitors noted that exploring the Karnak Temple Complex is like traveling back in time. The temples are large and offer insight into life in ancient Egypt. Keep in mind that it can get hot (especially in the summer) and no drinks are sold inside, so pack water or purchase refreshments at one of the outdoor cafes before entering. And though some travelers enjoyed the attraction's sound and light show, others said it was not worth the additional charge.
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Though additions to the Temple of Luxor were made by many of Egypt's pharaohs (Tutankhamun, Horemheb and Hatshepsut, to name a few), the bulk of this ancient structure was created in the 14th century B.C. during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Ramses II. Notable features of this historic structure include an obelisk, hieroglyphs and an avenue lined with sphinxes. A second obelisk originally from the temple now resides in Paris at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.
Recent travelers said the Temple of Luxor is one of the city's must-see attractions. Though parts of the temple are closed for renovations, visitors say the site is impressive. Travelers suggest checking out the Temple of Luxor before exploring the Karnak Temple Complex, since the latter is a described as larger and more profound. And if you visit during the summer, bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can also wander the temple at night. A sound and light show is offered at the property for an additional fee, but several visitors recommend skipping the show in favor of viewing the lights for free from the surrounding streets.
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Before heading to popular attractions like the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut, stop at the Colossi of Memnon. This pair of statues, which stand about 59 feet tall and depict King Amenhotep III, once guarded the king's temple. Though both statues' faces have suffered significant damage and little remains of King Amenhotep III's temple, the statues' impressive size and the lack of an entrance fee make this site well worth a visit.
Past visitors noted that despite its somewhat random location, the Colossi of Memnon is one of Luxor's best photo spots. If you're interested in learning more about the history of the statues, consider visiting via a local bus tour. Most tour operators, including Memphis Tours and Love Egypt Tours, provide private tour guides with backgrounds in Egyptian history.
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Though this collection of temples isn't as well known as the Temple of Luxor, the Karnak Temple Complex and the Temple of Hatshepsut, Medinet Habu stands out because of its massive funerary temple. Built by King Ramses III to honor Amon-Re, one of Egypt's most popular gods, the property's largest temple features reliefs that depict the king winning various wars. A smaller temple, a chapel and the two-story Syrian Gate are also housed within Medinet Habu's walls.
If you're interested in soaking up local history but don't want to deal with hordes of tourists, past visitors recommend checking out Medinet Habu. This lesser-known temple complex offers more breathing room, meaning you won't have to rub elbows with others to catch a glimpse of the site's hieroglyphs. Several travelers also noted how well-preserved this property is compared to others in the area.
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Though not as glamorous as the Valley of the Kings or the Valley of the Queens, the Valley of the Artisans – known locally as Deir el-Medina – offers a glimpse into the lives of the workers who constructed the area's famous royal graves. A small temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddesses of love and truth can be found on the site, as well as village remains and several tombs. Three tombs are open to the public: Inherka's tomb (No. 359), Sennedjem's tomb (No. 1) and Peshedu's tomb (No. 3).
If you're interested in seeing some of Luxor's best tombs and artwork, visit the Valley of the Artisans. Many recent travelers said these tombs are better than those found in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. And because this site isn't overrun with tourists like others in the area, you won't have to wait in long lines to see these well-preserved crypts.
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The Valley of the Queens is home to more than 75 royal tombs. You'll find an array of queens, princesses and princes buried here, and one of Egypt's most elaborate tombs – the tomb of Nefertari (No. 66) – resides within this valley. Though most of the tombs have been ransacked throughout the years, many still feature bright paintings on their walls.
Although some past travelers said this attraction is worth skipping if you're on a tight schedule, many noted the tombs' decor as a reason to check out the site. Like other Egyptian tombs, photography is forbidden on the property. Also, keep in mind the famous tomb of Nefertari is not open to the public (though special arrangements can be made for an additional fee).
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For a glimpse at Old and New Kingdom artifacts found in and around Luxor, check out the Luxor Museum. Historic treasures housed in this museum include a statue of Tuthmosis III from the Karnak Temple Complex; items buried with Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings; a collection of statues found beneath the Temple of Luxor; and two royal mummies. You'll also find videos that demonstrate the process of making papyrus sheets and how to write hieroglyphs.
Art lovers and history buffs will appreciate the Luxor Museum's impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts. Several recent travelers noted that the museum has an easy-to-navigate layout and that its displays – which are in English and Arabic – were informative, but some found the entrance fees high given the property's size. When visiting, remember that photography and videography are not permitted inside. You may encounter a security guard who offers to take your photo for a fee, but it is best to decline these requests.
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