Temple in Luxor at night

Travel to Luxor – Ancient Capital of the Pharaohs

Pharaonic capital and treasure-house of antiquities, Luxor has moved through the ages slowly revealing its antiquities to a world amazed by what the desert continues to reveal. Come here for the two greatest sites in Upper Egypt – the Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple.

The founding of Pharaonic Luxor, ancient Thebes, as a capital dates back to around 2000BCE when the then village of Waset eventually became powerful enough to overthrow the northern capital of Heracleopolis.

During the centuries that followed the village grew into a city, became Thebes and its pharaohs built the stunning archaeological treasures that we see today. The modern city lies on the east bank of the Nile and, 4 km north, lies famous Karnak Temple.

Over the river the west bank is a patchwork of fields and small villages throughout which are spread many more attractions. Chief amongst these and hidden in the mountains is the Valley of the Kings.

Lying just 4km north of town Karnak Temple’s avenue of ram-headed sphinxes leads visitors through an enormous pylon (gateway) and into the Hypostyle Hall, where the enormous pillars and lintels, some still with original paint, amaze visitors. Here you’ll see enormous statues of legendary pharaohs, see obelisks and the Sacred Pool.

Back in town and you can cool off in the wonderful Luxor Museum, a small but well labelled and atmospherically lit repository of finds from the area. Luxor Temple is hard to miss in the centre of the city, especially at night illuminated as it is with floodlights. On the west bank lies the Valley of the Kings.

A winding road leads past the Colossi of Memnon through the fields and into a steep-sided valley to its entrance, beyond which lies the resting place of dozens of pharaohs including Tutankhamun and Ramses the Great. Below the cliffs that shield the Valley of the Kings from view lies Deir al-Bahri, better known as Hatshepsut’s Temple. Famous for its remarkable friezes this is one of Luxor’s great attractions and one not to be missed.

Those lucky enough to have more time should visit the less-visited Tombs of the Nobles whose tombs are well-preserved chambers, the Valley of the Queens, the Ramesseum – Ramses II’s funerary temple, and the wonderful pair, Deir al-Medina and Medinat Habu.

Activities in Luxor

An absolute minimum of two full days is required to see Luxor’s sights in a degree of comfort, and four would enable the enthusiast to see almost everything the town has to offer. A variety of half and full day sightseeing tours are available, as is donkey trekking to the Valley of the Kings and both horse and camel safari’s. An early morning balloon-ride will give a totally different and yet stunning perspective on the area and should not be missed.

Luxor has a variety of pub-style bars, but most people tend to enjoy a meal at one of the local-style restaurants in town.

The sites can all be reached by taxi and, for Karnak Temple, by calesh (negotiate fares for both beforehand). A wise investment however is to visit the sites with a driver and guide, in this way both saving time and, more importantly in such historically-rich sites, giving an explanation of what you are seeing.

  • The Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple are Egypt’s biggest draw after the Pyramids – and for good reason
  • Enjoy a balloon-ride early in the morning for an unforgettable view of Luxor
  • Visit some of the less-visited sites such as Deir al-Medina and Medinat Habu for crowd-free sightseeing at well-preserved sites


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