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18 UNMISSABLE THINGS TO SEE IN LUXOR, EGYPT
If you are planning a trip to Luxor, how do you decide what to see and do?
This Luxor bucket list contains 18 of the best experiences you can have in Luxor. It will help you to get the sense of this incredible place and all the treasures it holds. You can pick and choose from my run-down of Luxor’s best attractions.
However, if you have a limited time in Luxor, then, at the end of this post, read my recommendations of the absolute 7 must-do things in Luxor.
EXPLORE THE FAMOUS VALLEY OF THE KINGS
If you are going to Luxor and you have time for only one thing to do, then head directly to the Valley of the Kings. It is the top bucket list experience in Luxor.
The Valley of the Kings was home to the tombs of the Pharaohs for a period of nearly 500 years, from the 16th to the 11th century BC, known as the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.
The Valley of the Kings contains some 65 magnificent royal tombs.
Nowadays, their contents are gone. However, you can still see the amazing wall and ceiling decorations with religious images and texts from the netherworld books, designed to guide the pharaohs in their journey to the afterlife.
Before you head to the Valley of the Kings, some advance planning is necessary. You need to know which tombs are open, and which ones are worth visiting, what tickets to buy (regular vs extra), and why you should skip visiting the tomb of Tutankhamen. So review my post and find out all the details.
I visited 9 tombs in the Valley of the Kings and here is my recommended list of 7 best tombs to visit. And, if you are short on time, then I narrowed that list down even more and came up with an absolute 3 must-see tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
VISIT THE TEMPLE OF HATSHEPSUT
Needless to say, make sure you see the Temple of Hatshepsut: it’s a sight to behold. The Temple is built into a cliff face and consists of a series of terraces lined with columns that can be reached by long ramps. It was built by my favorite Egyptian queen who later became a pharaoh – Hatshepsut.
Hatshepsut became the queen of Egypt when she married her half-brother Thutmose II. Upon the death of Thutmose II, she was elected to control the affairs of the state until her step-son Thutmose III was to come of age. However, around 1473 BC, Hatshepsut broke with the tradition and had herself crowned as the pharaoh of Egypt becoming a co-ruler of Egypt with Thutmose III.
We do not know why and how Hatshepsut died. However, when Thutmose III came to power, he had her image and name completely erased. As a result, Hatshepsut remained completely unknown for centuries. Her story is fascinating. I encourage you to read more about her. Check out my post and find out why Thutmose III went to such lenghts to have Hatshepsut’s name complelty erased, then, learn how Hatshepsut was discovered.
At the Temple of Hatshepsut, I found the Southern Colonnade really fascinating. It has reliefs that tell the story of the transportation of two obelisks to the Temple of Karnak. In addition, make sure not to miss the Punt Colonnade which depicts the expedition to the Land of Punt.
HEAD TO RAMESSEUM
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons
The Ramesseum might not be the most popular site in Luxor, however, after visiting it, I came to the conclusion that it was one of the most majestic sites that I visited in Luxor. It definitely should be on you Luxor bucket list.
The Ramesseum is the mortuary temple built by Pharaoh Ramses II.
Today, the temple is in ruins. However, you can still see the remains of the famous 57-foot high statue of Ramesses II which once stood in front of the very first pylon to the temple. In addition, do not miss the stunning Hypostyle Hall with 29 columns which still remain standing.
DISCOVER THE MEDINET HABU
Of all the temples that I have visited in Luxor, I can honestly say that the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III is one of the best preserved temples in Luxor, as well as one with the most decorated surfaces.
In addition, its massive pylons are one of the most formidable that I encountered while touring Egypt. They are masterfully decorated with Ramses III images defeating his enemies.
However, as my guide pointed out, the temple is best known for its reliefs depicting the arrival and the defeat of the ‘Sea Peoples’ during the reign of Ramses III.
I was very impressed by the first courtyard lined with the colossal statues of Ramses III as god Osiris. So, take your time here and get some awesome pictures.
Next, continue to the third pylon, that can be reached by a ramp that goes through a columned portico. Finally, you will reach a huge hypostyle hall. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged. All the columns are reduced to a small fraction of their original height.
TOUR THE VALLEY OF THE QUEENS
The Valley of the Queens is a place in Luxor where the wives and children of the Pharaohs were buried.
As my guide told me, there are about 75 tombs that have been excavated so far. The treasures that were stored inside the tombs, are long gone, however, you can still see some extraordinary decorations which survived up to this day.
Currently, there are four tombs that are open and that can be viewed:
- Nefertari (Tomb 66)
- Khaemwese (Tomb 44)
- Tyti (Tomb 52)
- Amenhikhopeshef (Tomb 55)
However, one tomb that you absolutely cannot miss is the tomb QV66 which belongs to Queen Nefertari. This tomb has the most spectacular paintings. As my guide told me, these painings are one of the best preserved and most elaborate decorations of any Egyptian burial site.
Furthermore, the tomb was restored by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization and the Getty Conservation Institute and re-opened in 1992. Since then, the public access is restricted to only 150 visitors per day. Moreover, to enter the tomb, you will need a special entrance ticket. It costs 1,000 EGP, however, it is all worth it.
STOP BY THE COLOSSI OF MEMNON
The Colossi of Memnon are a pair of giant statues made out of quartzite sandstone. Each statue stands about 18 meters high (65 feet) and depicts Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
Although they look as if they are standing randomly in the middle of nowhere, they actually used to guard the entrance of the first pylon of the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III.
By the way, the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III was one of the largest temples built in Egypt.
Unfortunately, the location of the temple was too close to the River Nile. Each year, when the Nile flooded it would fill the temple. Needless to say, the repeated flooding caused an extensive water damage to the architecture and statuary.
Furthermore, Tthe Colossi of Memnon is famous for singing every morning at dawn.
Strabo, a Greek historian and geographer of the 1st century, recorded an earthquake in 27 BC. The earthquake damaged the statues, especially it shattered the northern figure, causing its upper section to fall away.
Apparently, the damage created a fissure in the rock and hence the singing every morning at dawn. In addition, it is possible, that the reason why the sound was emitted only in the morning was due to the increase in temperature at dawn, and the evaporation of dew that accumulated in the cracks of the rocks at night.
When the Roman emperor, Septimius Severus ordered to have the statue repaired the sound vanished.
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BE AWED BY THE LUXOR TEMPLE
The Luxor Temple was dedicated to Amon, king of the gods, his consort Mut, and their son Khons. Pharaohs Amenhotep III, Ramses II, Tutankhamun, Horemheb, Merenpetah, Seti I, Ramses III, Ramses IV, Ramses VI and even Alexander the Great contributed to the construction of the temple.
Did you know that once the temple was stopped being used, it got buried underneath silt from the River Nile. The extend of accumulation of sand, rubble, and trash was so high that the Mosque of Abu Hggag was built on top of the temple in the 13th century AD.
A visit to the Luxor Temple can be overwhelming as there is so much to see. My favorite two things were the Courtyard of Ramses II and the Processional Colonnade of Amenhotep III. However, to narrow things down, I came up with a list of 11 top things to see.
EXPERIENCE THE SPECTACULAR LUXOR TEMPLE AT NIGHT
If you can do just one thing in Luxor, then you should venture out and see the spectacular Luxor Temple at night.
It is one thing to see the Luxor Temple during the day, however, it takes on a completely different look at night. Your imagination really starts working when you see how majestic and grandiose it looks when it is beautifully illuminated.
If you are planning to see the Luxor Temple during the day and then at night, then, unfortunately, you will need a separate ticket to enter the temple grounds at night. The same day ticket will not work. The entrance ticket is 160 EGP. If I were you, I would head to the temple at about the sunset time. You will be able to capture some pretty awesome pictures.
TAKE A HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE ALONG THE CORNICHE
Get out of the crowd and off your feet and take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the Corniche. Sit back and relax!
The Corniche runs along the River Nile and passes by the Karnak Temple, the Luxor Temple and the historical Sofitel Winter Palace.
In my opinion, the best time to take a ride is in the evening. The Corniche is beautifully lit at that time. Moreover, the famous structures along the passage are illuminated in the evening and they look pretty incredible.
The cost of the horse-drawn carriage rides varies depending on the length of the ride. This is a perfect time to use your bargaining skills. Start off with an offer of 50 EGP and see how the far it gets you.
CHECK OUT THE MUMMIFICATION MUSEUM
I have to say that the Mummification Museum is a true gem and it should not be missed. Also, if you are as fascinated by the mummification process as I am, then you will find the Mummification Museum in Luxor very informative. I enjoyed learning about the embalming materials and looking at the different tools used for mummification.
The museum is open from 9 am till 2 pm and the entrance ticket cost 100EGP.
STEP BACK IN TIME AT THE LUXOR MUSEUM
Image Credit: Matt Howry via Flickr
Do not miss this gem! The Luxor Museum’ collection is beautifully curated among two floors. It is displayed in an uncluttered manner with each piece clearly labeled and well-lit.
The flow of the museum is easy to follow. Start off with the Ground Floor Gallery and make sure to locate the limestone relief of Tuthmosis III, as well as an incredible statue of Tuthmosis III. In addition, do not miss the alabaster figure of Amenhotep with his protector god Sobek. Moreover, take a look at the two royal mummies of Ahmose I and Ramses I.
Next, continue on to the First Floor Gallery. Here, you will be amazed by the display of treasures from Tutankhamen’s Tomb.
The Luxor Museum is open daily from 9 am till 2 pm. And, then from 5 pm till 9 pm.
The entrance ticket is 100 EGP. You are allowed to take pictures, however, you can only use your cell phone to do so. If you want to use your camera, then you will need to purchase an additional ticket for 20 EGP. Only no flash photography is allowed.
GO ON A SUNRISE HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
Hands down, a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Luxor was a bucket list experience for me. Honestly, I don’t know if there is anything more spectacular than drifting peacefully through the sky while the sun gradually reveals the panoramic views of the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
Trust me, you will love it watching the glittering river Nile surrounded by lush green fields as you are passing by the splendid temples of Karnak and Luxor.
It is important that you select a reputable hot air balloon company. Review my post Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Luxor – A Bucket List Experience. It has everything you need to know to plan your hot air balloon adventure.
- To start off, it tells you what hot air balloon company to select and which one I ended up with.
- Then, if you decide on the sunrise ride, you need to take extra steps and ensure that you are picked up at the right time.
- Next, find out step-by-step what to expect at takeoff, during the flight, and at landing.
- Finally, check out my pictures. Even now, they take my breath away!
BE AMAZED BY THE KARNAK TEMPLE
The Karnak Temple complex is massive. It was built over the centuries. Pharaoh after pharaoh rebuilt, expended, restored or changed the existing structures at the Temple of Karnak. Today, the ruins cover almost 250 acres of land.
You definitely need to reserve at least 3-4 hours to be able to see some highlights of the temple complex. My favorite was the Hypostyle Hall. It was built by Seti I and completed by Ramses II. The hall covers an area of about 50,000 sq ft. It contains 134 gigantic stone columns with beautiful capitals. You will be amazed by the sheer size of just the center aisle which consists of six columns with open papyrus capitals on each side. These columns are 21 meter tall with a diameter of over three meters.
But, that is just the beginning. There is so much more to see. To help you out, I compiled a list of my 9 absolute must-see things at the Karnak Temple.
CATCH THE SOUND AND LIGHT SHOW AT THE KARNAK TEMPLE
If you still need more ideas for things to do at night in Luxor, then you have to catch the Sound and Light Show at the Karnak Temple. The shows goes on for about an hour and a half and recounts the history of Thebes (Luxor) and covers the lives of several pharaohs who contributed to the construction of the temple complex.
Above all, you will be able to see the Temple of Karnak beautifully illuminated at night. You will be amazed how incredible this complex looks with all the structures and statues lit up. Do not miss it!
You can purchase the entrance tickets online. The price for the adult ticket is $19.61 and the child ticket (up to the age of 6) is $9.80. Also, make sure to double check the schedule, since shows are done in different languages at different times.
STAY AT THE HISTORIC SOFITEL WINTER PALACE
Hands down, the Sofitel Winter Palace is the place to stay while in Luxor. If it is out of your price range, then just do it for at least one night! It is an experience like no other and it should be on your Luxor bucket list.
The Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel is a historic British colonial-era 5-star luxury resort hotel. Its location is absolutely perfect. It is right on the bank of the River Nile between the Luxor and Karnak Temples.
When you step inside, and look at furnishings and artwork, you will feel as if you traveled back in time. In addition, the Sofitel Winter Palace is surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds. Besides the location and the ambience, I have to say that the service was absolutely impeccable. The attention to detail, really impressed me.
The Sofitel Winter Palace houses 5 restaurants. However, the 1886 Restaurant, which serves French cuisine, should not be missed.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to stay at a place where Agatha Christie wrote her famous 1937 novel ‘Death on the Nile’.
GO FOR A TRADITIONAL EGYPTIAN CUISINE AT SOFRA
Are you looking for a place to try some traditional Egyptian food? Stop searching and head directly to Sofra. You will not be disappointed. It is one of those hidden gems in Luxor.
First of all, you will love the ambience. This place is quiet and comfortable, and beautifully decorated with oriental furniture, copper lamps, and paintings. Second, the service is excellent. They will make you feel at home and go above and beyond to make sure you have a great dining experience.
But, above all, try some different dishes. The menu is in English with a description of each dish, so you should have no problems deciding what to try.
To start off, I suggest some cold and hot mezzes, which are small salads and appetizers. And, to narrow down the selection, how about some roasted aubergines with sesame oil, lemon, parsley, garlic & tahina dip. Yum!
Next, continue with the main dish. They have stuffed duck and pigeon, oven-roasted rabbit, or you can try some chicken stewed in spicy tomaoe sauce. My suggestion is to try a selection of khebabs and add
By the way, they have quite a variety of fresh juices. The list is extensive. I recommend trying the fresh guava juice.
If you still have any room left, then go for a traditional Egyptian dessert called
EXPERIENCE SUNSET FELUCCA RIDE
Photo Credit: Rudiger Stehn via Flickr
What is more perfect than a sunset felucca ride after a long day of visiting the archaeological sites? Second to none, in my opinion!
To start with, make sure that there is some breeze in the forecast, otherwise, it is a no-go. Furthermore, start your sailing right about sunset time, you will get some good photos at that time. However, if you hang on till the golden hour, you will get awesome pictures.
And, finally, be prepared to be amazed by the skyline of Luxor as it gradually becomes all lit up.
So, sit back and unwind as you sail along the River Nile and let the incredible Temples of Karnak and Luxor slide past you.
Your hotel will be more than happy to arrange a felucca ride for you. However, if you want to test your bargaining skills then head to the Corniche. The section between the historical Winter Palace and the Luxor Temple is packed with feluccas. Start your barging at about 100 EGP for an hour of cursing along the Luxor and see if you score a deal.
KICK BACK IN STYLE AT HILTON LUXOR RESORT AND SPA
If you need a little break from all the sightseeing, then I am recommending that you head to the spa located at Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa. It is definitely my top choice for a place where you can relax and get pampered.
First of all, you just want to hang around and enjoy the spa facilities then they are all complimentary. You have a choice of Thermal areas (male and female) which include: steam bath, herbal bath, Lacconium, reflexology basin, experience shower, kneipp walk, indoor waterbeds relaxation room and outdoor thermal garden.
In addition, check out the Spa’s extensive body therapy collection. They offer a hot stone massage, foot reflexology, facials, body wraps and scrubs, manicures and pedicures.
The hours of operation are daily from 10 am to 9 pm.
Check with the hotel for prices and availability.
That’s quite a list, right?
Now, if you only have a few days, what are the most important things to do in Luxor?
My Top Seven Must-Have Experiences in Luxor
- Valley of the Kings
- Temple of Hatshepsut
- Colossi of Memnon
- Luxor Temple
- Karnak Temple
- The Sound and Light Show at the Karnak Temple
- The Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Luxor
Do you want to find out how to put all of these sites and experiences into one epic trip to Luxor? Click here to view my Perfect 2-Day Itinerary to Luxor.
SEE ALL MY FAVORITE SITES ON THE MAP
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