With its sumptuous temples and tombs, the former religious capital of the pharaohs is the queen stage of a stay in Egypt. Our advice for making the most of the most beautiful sites.
500 kilometers south of Cairo , nestled between the desert and the green banks of the Nile, the city of Luxor reveals some of the most fascinating jewels of ancient Egypt . 3,400 years ago, what was then called Thebes was the capital of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, the golden age of Egyptian civilization. Its current name, “al-Qosour” in Arabic, refers to the many vestiges of this time. Listed by Unesco , they have made Luxor one of the most visited and renowned sites in the country.
In this article you can read about 5 must see attractions in Luxor:
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Dedicated to the deity Amon, the Karnak temple is a testament to the ingenuity and extravagance of the pharaohs. Over 3,400 years ago, this sacred temple held the highest significance in Egyptian religion. Spanning an impressive area of over 2 km², it stands as the largest religious complex ever constructed in Antiquity. Throughout nearly 2,000 years of its construction, numerous pharaohs, including the renowned Seti I, Ramses II, and Ramses III, contributed to its magnificence.
One of the architectural highlights is the great hypostyle hall, adorned with a forest of 134 columns. Gaze upwards to marvel at the grandeur of these columns and the intricate hieroglyphs adorning them. Be sure not to miss the towering obelisk erected by Queen Hatshepsut, the tallest standing obelisk in Egypt at an impressive height of 29.5 meters.
Our recommendation: Karnak is the second most visited site in Egypt, following the pyramids of Cairo. To avoid crowds and the sweltering heat, consider visiting early in the morning or late in the day. The site is expansive, so plan several hours for your visit, wear comfortable shoes, and bring an ample supply of water.
The temple of Luxor
With its entrance guarded by the imposing colossi of Ramses II and a beautiful 26-meter obelisk, Luxor Temple will impress you as soon as you arrive. In 1830, the second obelisk originally present was donated to France by Mehemet Ali.
Also dedicated to the god Amon, the temple is located 2.5 kilometers from Karnak. At the time, the two shrines were connected by an aisle of 1,300 sphinxes. Today, there are only a few dozen left that you will see at the entrance. They were intended to protect the pharaoh during his annual procession between Karnak and Luxor: the Opet festival. Inside, you’ll see bas-reliefs depicting this ceremony, including offerings to Amun and musicians playing drums.
Our advice: as the hours are late, take the opportunity to stay in the temple at night. With the lighting and the calm that takes over the place, the atmosphere becomes magical.
After the visit, take a break at the Aboudi Coffee Break bookstore-café to enjoy a beautiful view of the temple and leaf through interesting books about the country.
The Valley of the Kings
In this narrow valley that winds between the arid reliefs of the Libyan desert hide real treasures. You are here on the west bank of the Nile, on the side of the setting sun, symbol of the abode of the dead, in opposition to the east bank where the temples of Karnak and Luxor dedicated to the god Amon are located. It is the place chosen by the pharaohs of the New Kingdom to house their tombs. If the kings of the Old and Middle Kingdoms were buried in huge pyramids, those of the New Kingdom preferred discretion to avoid (in vain) looting. Large amounts of gold and jewels accompanied them to the afterlife. Among the most beautiful tombs, admire those of Seti I, Ramses III, Ramses IV, Ramses VI.
Our advice: after your visit, stop by the Ramesseum Rest House café (phone: 201 061 848 160). The owner, Mohammed Abdelrassoul, comes from an emblematic family of tomb discoverers and will be happy to tell you his story!
The Valley of the Queens
To the south of the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens is the necropolis of the royal wives, princes and princesses of the 19th and 20th dynasties. Less visited than the Valley of the Kings, it is home to nearly a hundred tombs. You will discover wonders in a calmer atmosphere. Do not miss that of Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramses II. With its almost intact decorations and bright colors, it is one of the most beautiful tombs in Egypt.
One kilometer away, the site of Deir El Medina is worth the detour. You will see the tombs of the artists who worked on the tombs of the Valley of the Kings. As you leave, also stop at the Colossi of Memnon, two monumental sculptures, the last vestiges of the temple of Amenhotep III.
Our advice: the tomb of Nefertari being fragile, the number of visitors per day is limited. It is recommended to come early. If you want to visit it, buying the Luxor Premium Pass is worthwhile.
The mortuary temple of Hatshepsut
It’s hard not to be amazed by this majestic mortuary temple built to the glory of Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s first female pharaohs. Built at the foot of the ocher mountains on the west bank of the Nile, it seems embedded in the cliff. You will be struck by the symmetry and perspective of its architecture. The building is made up of three terraces with, at each level, a portico supported by a row of pillars. On the third portico, observe the pillars with the effigy of the queen. She is represented as a man with a fake beard, a sign of the struggle she had to lead to be accepted as a female pharaoh. Monumental access ramps reinforce the feeling of grandeur.
Our advice: as the temple is facing due east, go there early to take advantage of the first light that illuminates the cliff. Don’t miss the third terrace and its panoramic view of the Nile Valley.
Places to stay
- At New Memnom . For an immersion in both rural and ancient Egypt, we advise you to stay on the west bank of the Nile, far from the hustle and bustle of the city center. This small family hotel is located 2 km from the Valley of the Queens and 7 km from the Valley of the Kings. You will be very close to the archaeological sites and will enjoy a magnificent view of the sugar cane fields. From €35 per night.
Address: Memnon Street, West Bank (just outside the Colossi of Memnon).
- At the Iberotel. On the east bank of the Nile, closer to the city center of Luxor, this property will offer you stunning views of the river, a beautiful outdoor swimming pool and modern rooms. 10 minutes walk from Luxor Temple. From €44 per night.
Address: Khaled Ibn El Walid Street
Where to eat
- At Panorama Restaurant. Located between the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings, this canteen is a pleasant stopover between your visits. You will enjoy a large terrace with a panoramic view of the cultivated fields of the Nile valley on one side and the Theban mountain on the other. Simple Egyptian cuisine at affordable prices.
Panorama Restaurant , Zamzam, New Qurna
- At Aladdin’s Kingdom. To enjoy a pleasant setting on the banks of the Nile, Aladdin’s is a great option. In a large garden planted with banana trees, you will taste Egyptian dishes while watching the feluccas pass on the river.
Aladdin’s Kingdom , Banana Island, Al Bairat Al Gorf.
What to buy
- For traditional gemstone jewellery, statuettes and handicrafts, the Old Shop (phone: + 201 001 212 168) is a good address.
- For works by contemporary artists, take a trip to the Luxor Art Gallery. Memnon Street, Al Qarna