Established on the shore of the great Nile river and surrounded by both mango plantations and desert, Luxor is a city of half a million inhabitants and also the world’s greatest open-air museum, containing some the largest and most striking ancient monuments ever constructed.
The history of Luxor (originally called the city of Thebes) dates back to 3,200 B.C. Nevertheless, the city didn’t prosper until the 2,134 B.C., during the 11th Dynasty, when Mentuhotep II brought peace and stability to the region, and Thebes started to grow as a city, becoming, during the 18th Dynasty, in 1,550 B.C., the religious and political capital of Ancient Egypt.
Luxor has been ruled by some of the most famous and important pharaohs and, today, most of their tombs, monuments and temples still remain, very well-preserved, including the tomb of the world-famous Tutankhamun.
Luxor is the most important archaeological site in Egypt and, in this guide, I will tell you all the things to do in Luxor and how to organize your visit in only 2 days.
How to visit Luxor independently, in 2 days and beat the crowds
Unless you go with a tour group, visiting Luxor independently can be quite overwhelming. The list of archaeological sites and things to do in Luxor is so big that visiting every single temple and tomb would take several days, and loads of money as well!
Therefore, unless you have all the time in the world (which most travelers don’t), you have to choose and be pretty organized. Furthermore, most sites tend to be overrun by dozens of tour groups, which could make your visit slightly unpleasant.
So, what should you visit and how can you avoid the tour groups?
Well, avoiding the tour groups is practically impossible but, usually, they seem to follow the same itinerary so, after making some observations, I figured out when it’s the best time to visit each site. In this article, I am going to show you how to visit Luxor independently, in two days, and beat the crowds, based on the best temples and the best time to visit them.
Here you will find (Jump to any content you want):
Travel to Luxor – Entrance Tickets for 2018
Very Important 2018 update: In November 2017, prices of most attractions have increased by 50% versus when I traveled to Luxor for the first time in December 2016. Below, you can find the most updated prices:
Prices for the sites located in the West Bank
Habu Temple: 60EGP
Ramesseum Temple: 60EGP
Temple of Seti I: 60EGP
Merenptah: 40EGP (museum closed)
Isis Temple: 80EGP
1. Sheikh Abd el-Qurna area (11 tombs) :
Nakht + Menna + Amenemopet: 60EGP
Rekhmire + Sennefer: 40EGP
Ramose + Userhat + Khaemhat: 80EGP
Khonsu + Userhat + Benia: 80EGP
2. Khokha area (3 tombs):
Neferrenpet + Nefersekheru + Djehutymes: 40EGP
3. Dra Abu el-Naga (3 tombs) :
Roy + Shuroy + Amenemope: 40EGP
4. Dair el-Medina area (3 tombs)
Sennedjem + Inherkau & temple: 80EGP
5. Qurnet Murrai area (3 tombs):
Imnhotep/Hwy + Imnement + Amunemheb: 40EGP
6. El-Asasif area (4 tombs) 60EGP:
Kheruef + Ankh_Hor + Mentuemhat: 60EGP
Where to buy the tickets – Typically, for all the above sites, you should buy the tickets at the office located next to the Nourh El Gourna Hotel. These are the exact coordinates: 25.722725, 32.604387.
Valley of the Kings
General entry ticket, including 3 tombs of your choice: 160EGP for any 3 tombs
Additional tickets for:
Rameses 5th & Rameses 6th: 90EGP
Seti 1st: 1000EGP
Valley of the Queens
General entry ticket: 80EGP
Additional ticket for:
Queen Nefertari: 1000EGP
Where to buy the tickets – For this 2 sites, tickets are bought at the site itself
Prices for the sites located in the East Bank
Luxor Temple: 100EGP
Luxor Museum: 160EGP + 50EGP (Photo)
Mumification museum: 80EGP
Karnak Temple: 120EGP
Karnak (open air museum): 80EGP
Karnak – Mut temple: 80EGP
Opet temple: 80EGP
Where to stay in Luxor?
Backpacker Hostel – Bob Marley Peace Luxor Hostel – This is, definitely, the most famous hostel in town. With plenty of backpackers, it offers 2 and 4 bed-dorms, as well as private rooms. Excellent location, great breakfast, good Wi-Fi and friendly staff.
Budget Guest House – Luxor Guest House – Located on the shore of the Nile River, on the West Bank side, but right next to the ferry station, this guest house is one of the best-rated places in town, and it’s easy to understand why. Excellent service, breakfast, super clean rooms and everything at a very affordable price. This place is perfect for both couples and independent travelers.
Mid-range Hotel – Amon Hotel – With a very beautiful and lovely garden, Amon Hotel is another great choice in town for mid-range travelers. A hotel with a real character, the staff is some of the friendliest ever, very kind and informative. The food is also great and the location better than ever. A great choice for families and couples who are visiting Luxor.
Top-end – Hilton Resort and Spa – The Hilton is the top-rated top-end hotel in Luxor. Located on the shore of the Nile with excellent views to the sailing boats, this luxury hotel is everything you can expect from the world-wide famous Middle Eastern service.
Things to do in Luxor: 2-day itinerary
Luxor is composed of three main archeological areas:
West Bank – Located on the west of the Nile, the West Bank contains a large number of tombs and temples spread across the area, including the Valley of the Kings.
Karnak Temple – Situated a little bit outside of the city, Karnak is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia.
Luxor Temple – This huge temple complex is situated right in the middle of the city.
Following my guide, you can easily visit all the three sites in only two days. Allow one full day for the West Bank and one full day for both Karnak and Luxor temples.
What to see in Luxor on day 1: The West Bank
All right. First of all, you need to bear in mind that the West Bank is composed of 14 archaeological sites, plus the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, spread across a huge area. Visiting them on foot isn’t really an option, as several kilometers separate them. The only way to visit them is with a tour group (which sucks), by taxi (which is expensive) or by bicycle, which is the coolest option if you want to do it independently. I rented a bicycle from my hotel for only 30EGP a day ($1,80).
How to get there?
If you are staying on the East Bank (which is where most of the hotels are), you need to take a ferry across the Nile river. There are local boats that cross the river every 15 minutes and cost only 1EGP. Where do you take the boat? Here:
Which archaeological sites should you visit?
Like I said, in the West Bank, there are 14 different archaeological sites plus the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Visiting all of them would require several days, so you need to choose what you would like to visit.
Please note that each of these sites has a separate ticket. See previous prices.
After talking to one archaeologist and a couple of locals, these were the sites I chose, based on their importance, architectural beauty and also the number of visitors they receive (note that this is merely a personal opinion):
Habu Temple – The mortuary temple of Ramses III, located inside Medinat Habu is, according to many archaeologists, one of the most underrated sites in the West Bank. Why? Because despite its huge dimensions and architectural and artistic importance, many tourists decide to skip it.
Seti temple – Despite being located in one of the greenest areas, next to a palm grove, the Seti temple receives very few visitors. Seti I died before the temple was finished, so his son Ramses II was the one who actually completed it.
Tombs of the Nobles – The Tombs of the Nobles are an important archaeological site composed of more than 400 tombs. Some of them are open to the public and, since the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens receive all the focus when it comes to tombs, the Tombs of the Nobles don’t get the attention they deserve but, the truth is that their paintings and hieroglyphs are impressive and very well-preserved. The tombs that are open to the public are divided into groups of three, each group requiring a separate ticket. I chose the Tombs of Nakht, Menna & Amenemopet. Why? Because I was told that they had very colorful paintings.
The Valley of the Kings – When you visit Luxor, this will be one of the highlights of your trip, as the Valley of the Kings is where the greatest of the great pharaohs that ruled in the New Kingdom rest in peace. There is a total of 63 impressive tombs, each very different from each other. The entrance ticket allows you to visit three of them. Yeah, I know. Again, you need to choose. The tombs of Tutankhamun and Ramses VI have separate tickets. Which tombs should you visit? One archaeologist recommended me to visit: Nerenptah, Ramses IV and Tuthmosis III and, of course, buying a separate ticket for Tutankhamun. The Valley of the Kings is, definitely, one of the best things to do in Luxor.
These are the locations of the 4 sites I recommend:
How to beat the tour groups?
Like I said before, avoiding the tour groups when you visit Luxor completely is practically impossible but, for some reason, most of them start with the Valley of the Kings. For this reason, you should leave the Valley of the Kings for last. It closes around 5 pm, so you should get there at 3:30 pm, when most people leave.
Therefore, when you wake up in the morning, go straight to the ticket office. No need to say that the earlier you go, the fewer people you’ll find. Once you get your tickets, visit the Habu Temple first, before the visitors come. When you finish, ride to the Tombs of the Nobles afterwards, visiting the Seti Temple. Take a lunch break and, around 3 pm, head to the Valley of the kings.
Important note: Due to the crisis, most of the restaurants are closed so, I highly recommend bringing your own food.
Day 2: Karnak and Luxor temples
The second day is pretty straightforward, as you only need to visit Luxor and Karnak temples.
How to beat the crowds?
Easy. Since the Temple of Luxor is situated in the city center and also opens at night, many tour groups and people decide to visit it during the evening hours and the Karnak Temple during the morning hours. Therefore, you just need to do it the other way around. Wake up as early as possible to visit the Luxor Temples and, after lunch, around 3 pm, head to the Karnak Temple (3km).
Important: Opening hours vary per temple and season. Some of them open at 6am while other at 8am. I suggest you ask at your hotel. Furthermore,pPlease note that both temples receive visits all day long. As I said, avoiding the crowds is impossible but, my suggested timings are definitely the least busy ones.
Mainly built during the New Kingdom by both Amenhotep III and Ramses II, the Temple of Luxor was constructed to worship Amun Ra, the greatest of the Gods, considered as the God of the Kings and the King of the Gods. The Avenue of the Sphinxes, which actually connected Luxor Temple with Karnak Temple is impressive, as well as the giant statues of Ramses II. Together with the Valley of the Kings, for me, this was among the best places to visit in Luxor.
Between the Luxor and the Karnak Temples, if you have time, you can also visit the Luxor museum.
Karnak was the most important religious complex in Ancient Egypt and today, this is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia. In this huge complex, everything is built at a super giant scale. From its huge decorated pillars to the obelisks, statues and kiosk, the Karnak Temple will definitely leave you breathless. According to one local, it took around 2,000 years to finish it completely. Can you imagine?
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