Top 28 Things to See and Do in Luxor
Luxor is Egypt’s most important ancient capital. Located roughly in the middle of the country, it is subsumed into Upper Egypt. Most known for the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is also home to Amun-Ra’s Karnak temple complex, numerous chapels, memorial temples, and a fantastic, non-urban atmosphere. Luxor’s important archaeological sites are located on both banks of the Nile, with tombs and pharaonic memorial temples situated on the West Bank, and the main cult centres on the East Bank. In the present day, Luxor is a hub for the famous Nile cruise, with hundreds of floating hotels and felucca sail boats. The city itself remains small, and has retained an iconic rural feel.
Egyptians in Luxor live mainly off of tourism, although agriculture remains an important staple. With the rise of many million-strong cities like Cairo and Alexandria, Luxor and other cities in Upper Egypt are not experiencing any sort of building boom. In spite of Luxor’s sleep reputation, it is arguably one of the country’s top destinations for tourism on account of its ancient heritage. Egypt remains a safe destination for travelers, and is a relative island of peace when considering Libya to the West and Syria to the North East. Tourist numbers continue to increase slightly, following the January 25th, 2011 Revolution, and the subsequent military coup by Egypt’s current president Sisi.
In Luxor, travelers will likely combine a hotel stay, with touring and a Nile cruise. Rates are extremely competitive on account of the depressed tourism numbers. The city requires a maximum of about three days, but can be comfortably appreciated in just two. At Egyptian Sidekick we believe that the mass tourism model currently dominant in Egypt, with its many detours for the purposes of sale, exposure of groups to hassle and harassment, and tight scheduling, simply cannot compete with the flexibility and cost-savings which go with locally-inspired options like those offered by our local guides and student chaperones. Travelers often do not travel to shop, but to relax, and see the world – this should always put the traveler first.
Luxor has its own international airport (LXR), located in the desert, on the East bank of the Nile. The drive is not too lengthy – about 15 minutes to get into Luxor itself. You will notice that Luxor is a far slower city, without the chaos of Cairo or Alexandria. Because the sites of Luxor are relatively concentrated, travelers will immediately realize that it is the perfect place for independent tourism. With travel becoming ever-more accessible in the modern age, travelers, and travel bloggers of all kinds are steadily challenging those basic assumptions.
Moving around the country independently versus being corralled from site-to-site, often on 44-person tour buses just doesn’t compare with the flexibility of having your own driver, and sightseeing on your terms. Perhaps most importantly, an independent trip to Egypt is significantly cheaper, by anywhere from 35% to 60%. Questions surrounding sustainable tourism also come into consideration – would you prefer nameless intermediaries pocketing your money, or for it to make a bigger impact on the ground, where it really counts.
There are components of any “country-tour”, anywhere around the world, which require hybridization. In the case of Egypt, while the major cities and the Nile Valley can be done independently and cheaply, travel to far-flung oasis often requires individuals who know what they’re doing. This is especially the case when traveling to the Sinai Peninsula, and the Siwa, Dakhla, Bahariya and Kharga oases. So too is the case with the famous Nile Cruise, which is often the highlight of a trip to Egypt.
This doesn’t mean that booking components of your trip before your flight is the right thing to do, but that once on the ground, travelers will have many options to choose from, thus economizing tremendously. This reality is also true for Luxor. Most travelers will see the city and its many wonders under the auspices of a Nile Cruise booking. There is of course nothing wrong with this kind of approach to sightseeing, but if you are looking for an authentic, local flavour, our Egyptian Sidekicks in Luxor know just what to see and do to provide that.
1Karnak is the largest religious space in the world. It features the constructions of many pharaohs across hundreds of years. Its obelisks, pylons, hypostyle halls, and reliefs are superbly preserved and take days to fully appreciate.
2This valley has several dozen tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, including that of Tutankhamun. The tomb of Seti I is the most spectacular, with that of Ramses IV not far behind. At times, the Valley can be the hottest place in Egypt.
3The Colossi are the flanking statues of the memorial temple of Amenhotep III, arguably the pharaoh who presided over Egypt’s golden age. The temple was purposefully built on the flood plain, and the yearly flow did not allow it to survive.
4The memorial temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s most famous female pharaoh has been painstakingly reconstructed by the Polish archaeological mission to Egypt. Terraces, friezes, courtyards, and several of Hatshepsut’s Osiris-like figures have be restored.
5The memorial temple of pharaoh Ramses the Great, is an impressive, ruined structure. It has the colossal fragments of one of the largest statues of Ramses II ever transported from the granite quarries of Aswan, referred to as “Ozymandias”.
6The Queens’ Valley has several incredible tombs, most notably that of pharaoh Ramses II’s Great Wife, Nefertari. There is speculation whether the site contains additional tombs since ancient Egyptian royalty took on several wives.
7Perhaps one of Egypt’s most intact memorial temples, belonging to the warrior pharaoh Ramses III. It features intact pylon gateways, colonnades and friezes with original paint. Ramses III is credited with defeating the famous Sea Peoples.
8The temple had been added to by generations of pharaohs, right up to the Roman period. Its East bank location, and southern orientation to the complex at Karnak suggests that it is a temple to the Ka, or living spirit of the pharaoh.
9The memorial temple of Seti I is in poor condition, having been ransacked for its stone. Its location on the West bank of the Nile makes it easily accessible from the Valley of the Kings. Seti I is the father of the famed Ramses II.
10The “Place of Truth” as it had been called in ancient times is the site of a walled-worker’s village, built solely for tomb construction and funerary decoration for the Valley of the Kings & Queens.
11The Luxor museum may not have the breadth of items found in Cairo, but its pride is the uniqueness of its collection. Some the pieces include a reconstructed wall from Amarna, the capital of the monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten.
12The tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy pharaoh, has some incredible reliefs, many of which depict the pharaoh as Osiris. The mummy of Tutankhamun remains in the Valley of the Kings.
13A hot-air balloon flight in Luxor is an incredible experience. Flights only occur in the early morning, with the rising sun. Balloons take off on the West Bank.
14Howard Carter has a mixed reputation in Egypt as many of his finds became “lost” and found their way to his private collection. It is difficult to judge the man by today’s rigorous standard, but his tenacity has to be applauded.
15Luxor, just as any other city in Egypt, has a picturesque market for foreign travelers and locals alike. You will see spices, produce and lots of trinkets. This is a quintessential photographic experience which should not be missed.
16The village of Qurna is an infamous place. Built atop the tombs of the Theban nobility, and the upper and middle classes of ancient Egypt. It has been dubbed the city of thieves. A single find can sustain a family for generations.
17Transport yourself to the days of Agatha Christie and her world-famous and unique “Death on the Nile” atmosphere. This hotel is a colonial gem, graced by Lord Carnarvon, Albert I of Belgium, and of course Howard Carter.
18This mosque sits atop the ruins of Luxor temple, on the East Bank of the Nile. It stands as an incredible contrast between Egypt’s ancient and Islamic heritage.
19The temple is relatively unknown, and can be found on the West Bank of the Nile, right next to the temple of Medinet Habu. The temple was built under Egypt’s Greek Ptolemies.
20Merenptah is the 13th son of Ramses the Great, and his successor. The first twelve did not outlive their father. Merenptah’s reign may have been short, but he prolonged Egypt’s golden age.
21Montu was the ancient Egyptian falcon-headed god of War. The site does not have much that remains, but is only a short distance from Luxor, located on the East Bank of the Nile.
22This avenue of sphinxes is the most famous in all of Egypt. Before the onset of urbanization, the avenue ran from Karnak to Luxor temple. Much has since been restored.
23The goddess Isis, mother to the falcon god Horus, and wife of the murdered Osiris has its temple West of Ramses III’s Medinet Habu memorial temple. The temple is part of the ‘Malqata South’ area.
24The temple of Seti I at Abydos is a significant distance North of Luxor. Most travelers who intend to visit this marvel will do so from their base in Luxor. The temple has some of the best reliefs in all of Egypt.
25Dendera, much like Abydos is further afield. It is a reasonable distance from Luxor, and features fantastic paint and depiction of the famous Cleopatra and her son Caesarion.
26Luxor, like any city along the Nile, has a waterfront promenade that runs for kilometers. However, travelers are likely to be constantly asked about carriage and felucca rides.
27Some travelers opt to go for a short felucca ride to Banana island, which is in fact the Western shore of the Nile opposite Luxor, where there are rural homes and banana plantations.
28The Egyptian god of war, Montu also has a temple at Medamud. It is located about a 5 kilometer drive North East of Karnak temple. It is a relatively quiet area, off of the beaten path.
Looking for answers to common questions?
Looking for a complete list of Admission Rates?
Have additional questions?