Luxor, a city on the east bank of the Nile River in Southern Egypt, is often referred to as the “world’s greatest open-air museum,” as it is home to some of the most well-preserved ancient monuments and structures in the world. The city, which was once the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes, boasts the famous Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts.
The Valley of the Kings, located near Luxor, is a sprawling necropolis that contains the tombs of famous pharaohs and nobles from the New Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. Among the most famous tombs is that of Tutankhamun, whose treasures are now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Luxor is not only a destination for history lovers, but it also offers a range of activities for all types of travelers. Visitors can take a hot air balloon ride over the Nile, visit the bustling markets, or take a felucca ride on the river, providing a mix of cultural, adventurous, and relaxing experiences.
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Attractions & Things to do in Luxor
1. Karnak Temple
The Karnak Temple is one of the most famous ancient sites in Egypt, located on the east bank of the Nile River in Luxor. It is a vast complex of temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, and was the main place of worship for the god Amun-Re.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and the heat.
2. Luxor Temple
The Luxor Temple is another magnificent temple complex located on the east bank of the Nile River. It was dedicated to the god Amun, his wife Mut, and their son Khonsu, and was connected to the Karnak Temple by the Avenue of Sphinxes.
Travel Tip: A visit to Luxor Temple is best enjoyed in the evening when it is beautifully lit up.
3. Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a famous burial site located on the west bank of the Nile River. It contains the tombs of many pharaohs from the New Kingdom period, including the famous tomb of Tutankhamun.
Travel Tip: Remember to purchase a separate ticket if you wish to visit the tomb of Tutankhamun as it is not included in the general admission ticket.
4. Valley of the Queens
The Valley of the Queens is located near the Valley of the Kings and contains the tombs of many queens and princesses from the New Kingdom period. The most famous tomb in this valley is that of Queen Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II.
Travel Tip: The tomb of Queen Nefertari requires a separate ticket and it is recommended to purchase it in advance as the number of visitors is limited.
5. Temple of Hatshepsut
The Temple of Hatshepsut, also known as Deir el-Bahri, is a stunning temple located on the west bank of the Nile River. It was built by the female pharaoh Hatshepsut and is one of the most well-preserved temples in Egypt.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes as there is a bit of a walk to reach the temple.
6. Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that once stood at the entrance to his mortuary temple. Although the temple has long since disappeared, the statues remain and are a popular stop on any tour of the west bank.
Travel Tip: This site is usually visited on the way to the Valley of the Kings and does not require a separate ticket.
7. Luxor Museum
The Luxor Museum is one of the best museums in Egypt and contains a carefully curated collection of artifacts from the Theban region. Highlights include statues of Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun, as well as items from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Travel Tip: The museum is air-conditioned and provides a welcome respite from the heat.
8. Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu is the mortuary temple of Ramses III, located on the west bank of the Nile River. It is one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt and contains some of the most detailed and colorful reliefs.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget to visit the small palace located to the south of the temple.
The Ramesseum is the mortuary temple of Ramses II, located on the west bank of the Nile River. Although it is not as well-preserved as Medinet Habu, it is still an impressive site with its fallen colossus and detailed reliefs.
Travel Tip: Bring a hat and plenty of water as there is little shade at this site.
10. Tomb of Ay
The Tomb of Ay is located in the Valley of the Kings and is one of the few tombs that is open to the public. Ay was the successor to Tutankhamun and his tomb is similar in design to that of Tutankhamun.
Travel Tip: This tomb is not as crowded as some of the others in the Valley of the Kings, making it a more peaceful experience.
Unique Activities in Luxor
1. Hot Air Balloon Ride over Luxor Relics at Sunrise
Experience the magic of Luxor from above with a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Float over the ancient relics and get a bird’s-eye view of the breathtaking landscape. This activity offers a unique perspective of Luxor’s historical significance and natural beauty.
2. Motorboat Tour of Luxor’s Nile River & Banana Island
Embark on a motorboat tour of Luxor’s Nile River and make your way to Banana Island. Enjoy the serene waters, lush landscapes, and the opportunity to explore the island known for its banana plantations and unique ecosystem.
Day Trips from Luxor
Aswan is located about 200 km south of Luxor and is home to many important ancient sites, including the Temple of Philae and the Aswan High Dam.
Travel Tip: Consider taking a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan, which will allow you to see many of the sites along the Nile River.
2. Dendera and Abydos
Dendera and Abydos are located to the north of Luxor and contain some of the most important and well-preserved temples in Egypt. The Temple of Hathor at Dendera and the Temple of Seti I at Abydos are particularly impressive.
Travel Tip: This day trip can be done by car or as part of an organized tour.
3. Edfu and Kom Ombo
Edfu and Kom Ombo are located between Luxor and Aswan and are home to two of the best-preserved Ptolemaic temples in Egypt. The Temple of Horus at Edfu and the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris at Kom Ombo are both worth a visit.
Travel Tip: This day trip can be done by car, as part of an organized tour, or as part of a Nile cruise.
Where to stay in Luxor
Luxor, Egypt, is a city rich in history and culture, offering a variety of hotels that cater to different needs and preferences of travelers. Whether you’re looking for luxury, budget-friendly options, or something in between, Luxor has a hotel that will suit your requirements. Here are six hotels in Luxor, each catering to a specific type of traveler:
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Steigenberger Nile Palace Luxor – Convention Center (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Situated in the heart of Luxor, this hotel provides modern accommodation with breathtaking views of the Nile. The rooms are spacious, air-conditioned, and equipped with satellite TV.
- Price: € 76 per night
- Rating: 9.1 (Superb)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: A stunning example of Victorian architecture, this prestigious hotel is a short walk from Luxor Temple and offers high-standard facilities.
- Price: € 112 per night
- Rating: 9.1 (Superb)
3. Budget Hotel
Nefertiti Hotel Luxor
- Description: Overlooking the ancient Luxor Temple, Nefertiti offers comfortable rooms with air conditioning and a private bathroom. It’s conveniently located near Luxor’s railway station.
- Price: € 23 per night
- Rating: 8.5 (Very good)
4. Hotel for Families
Iberotel Luxor (★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: This 4-star hotel boasts a unique heated pool floating on the Nile. It overlooks the Theben Hills and offers rooms with private balconies.
- Price: € 43 per night
- Rating: 8.3 (Very good)
5. Hotel for Couples
Pavillon Winter Luxor (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located in the heart of Luxor, this hotel offers warm hospitality and overlooks the River Nile. It’s just 100 meters away from the Luxor Temple.
- Price: € 54 per night
- Rating: 9.0 (Superb)
6. Hotel for Solo Travelers
Susanna Hotel Luxor (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Facing the Luxor Temple and the Nile, this hotel offers comfortable rooms with satellite TV and air conditioning. It also features an outdoor rooftop swimming pool and sun terrace.
- Price: € 34 per night
- Rating: 8.0 (Very good)
Did you know? Facts about Luxor
- Luxor is often referred to as the “world’s greatest open-air museum” due to the ruins of the Egyptian temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor standing within the modern city.
- The city includes the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.
- Luxor has a population of 422,407 (2021) and is among the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
- The main god of the city was Amun, who was worshipped together with his wife, the Goddess Mut, and their son Khonsu, the God of the moon.
- The city played a major role in expelling the invading forces of the Hyksos from Upper Egypt.
- The city attracted peoples such as the Babylonians, the Mitanni, the Hittites of Anatolia, the Canaanites of Ugarit, the Phoenicians of Byblos and Tyre, and the Minoans from the island of Crete.
- The city was attacked by Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal who installed a new prince on the throne, Psamtik I.
- Following the Muslim conquest of Egypt, part of the Luxor Temple was converted from a church to a mosque, known as the Abu Haggag Mosque today.
- In April 2021, Egyptian archaeologists found Aten, a 3,400-year-old “lost golden city” near Luxor, the largest known city from Ancient Egypt to be unearthed to date.
- The economy of Luxor is heavily dependent upon tourism, and the local economy was hit by the Luxor massacre in 1997, in which a total of 64 people (including 59 visiting tourists) were killed.
FAQ about Luxor
What is the best time to visit Luxor?
The best time to visit Luxor is during the winter months from November to March when the weather is cooler.
Is it safe to travel to Luxor?
Yes, Luxor is generally considered safe for travelers. However, it’s always important to stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings.
What are the must-see attractions in Luxor?
The must-see attractions in Luxor include the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
Can I take photos inside the tombs and temples?
Photography is not allowed inside the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. However, you can take photos outside the tombs and in other areas.
What is the dress code for visiting temples and tombs?
It is recommended to dress modestly when visiting temples and tombs. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, and men should wear long trousers.
Is it necessary to hire a guide for visiting the attractions?
It is not necessary to hire a guide, but it can be helpful to have a guide explain the history and significance of the sites.
What is the currency used in Luxor?
The currency used in Luxor is the Egyptian Pound (EGP).
Are credit cards widely accepted in Luxor?
Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants, but it is always a good idea to carry some cash with you for small purchases and tipping.