Do you love ancient history? Ancient Egypt has more than its fair share of attractions for travellers who are keen to explore its mysteries. When in Egypt, exploring the mysteries of Luxor is definitely something to tick off your bucket list.
Luxor was once the capital of ancient Egypt and is one of the most impressive open-air museums in the world.
Home to a number of famous Egypt landmarks, some of the highlights is visiting Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, exploring the mysteries of Karnak and cruising the Nile.
Most people visit Luxor before or after a cruise but two days of exploring Luxor’s temples only offers a sample of Egypt’s delights.
It’s worth spending a few days to explore Luxor as there’s plenty to see.
5 Things to do in Luxor
1- Explore Karnak Temple
The soaring columns and giant statues of Karnak Temple are awe-inspiring.
As you wander through the sprawling Luxor temple complex in Karnak, listening to the guides rattling off historic events, the names of Egyptian Pharaohs, kingdoms and dynasties will become a tangle in your head.
From the statues of the Pharaohs to an avenue of sphinxes, everything in Karnak is huge.
If you’re keen on Ancient Egyptian history, your notebook will be filled with squiggles that are almost as unreadable as the hieroglyphics etched on the soaring walls and pylons.
The ancient Egyptians were an amazing lot and it’s mind-boggling to hear about their incredible feats of engineering.
It’s even more surreal to be wandering through temples that the ancient Egyptians constructed over 4000 years ago.
Karnak temple is the most impressive places to visit in Egypt for its structure and scale.
It was built by 30 pharaohs, from 1965BC and tool about 1500 years to complete.
The enormity of the temple structure and the beauty of the architecture will make you feel small and insignificant.
Sometimes, as you wander past mysterious-looking obelisks you’ll feel like you’re in a science fiction movie.
You might even expect a god or a Pharaoh or an SG1 team of time travellers to appear magically out of nowhere.
It’s easy to see how these temples have inspired writers and movie makers.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the pharaohs were gods and rather quirky ones at that!
They loved to eat lettuce and it was common for them to marry their sisters.
The most famous temple within the sprawling Karnak complex is the Temple of Amun.
This was where the ancient Egyptians believed God lived while on earth.
As you gaze at the soaring pillars of this Luxor temple, you’ll think that the Egyptian gods must have been giants.
2- Luxor Temple
Constructed by Amenhotep III and Ramses II, the Temple of Luxor is a New Kingdom temple dedicated to worshipping Amun Ra.
The Avenue of the Sphinxes connects Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple and is almost as impressive as the statues of Ramses II.
3- Valley of the Kings
Across the Nile River on the West Bank, another of Luxor’s main attractions is the Valley of the Kings, which is where the Egyptian Pharaohs are buried.
The Valley of the Kings is not at all picturesque and actually looks a bit like a mining region.
As the sun roasts the stark, treeless valley, you join the queues of visitors lining up to to see the rock-cut tombs dug beneath the hills.
Of the 63 royal tombs, the most famous is King Tutankhamen’s, which was discovered in 1922 and was the only tomb found with its treasures intact.
Historians always thought it was strange that King Tut’s tomb was much smaller than the other Pharaoh’s tombs.
Recently, archaeologists have discovered evidence of other chambers hidden within King Tut’s tomb.
There’s a belief that the remains of Nefertiti might be buried in one of them.
The tombs are cool and quiet but don’t bother about bringing your camera as photographic equipment (and your regular tour guide) aren’t allowed inside the tombs.
These tombs have an otherworldly atmosphere.
There are etchings of serpents, demons and sacred texts from the Book of the Dead on the walls.
Actually, King Tutankhamen was only a minor king who died before he could amass a substantial fortune.
Yet his riches are a dazzling display of wealth. In the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo you’ll find gold, jewels and figurines.
There are over 3500 treasures in the museum.
The rock paintings inside the burial chambers are exquisite.
Some of these paintings are faded while others have retained their intense colours.
These paintings are meant to scenes guiding the pharaohs through the afterlife.
The entrance ticket allows entry to three tombs of your choice but Tutankhamun’s and Ramses VI’s tombs require separate tickets.
Getting a ticket for Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of the most popular things to do in Luxor.
4- Hatchepsut Mortuary Temple
Nefertiti wasn’t the only influential female in Egypt.
Hatchepsut (1473 to 1458 BC) was a woman who declared herself pharaoh when she found herself in the position of becoming regent for her stepson Thutmose III.
Hatchepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and his first wife.
She married her half brother Thutmose II, who was the son of her father’s second wife.
Actually, Hatchepsut was the only female pharaoh in ancient Egypt and many Egyptologists consider her to be one of the most successful pharaohs.
Hatchepsut ruled with an iron fist.
She is portrayed in many drawings as a man with a beard.
I find this rather curious fact quite amusing when compared to the sight of a giggling group of Egyptian girls dressed in colourful headscarves and long skirts at the Temple of Hatchepsut in Deir al-Bahri.
How to get to Luxor
There are lots of options to get from Cairo to Luxor, including flying with Egypt Air, which is a one-hour flight and is a relatively inexpensive way to travel (flights from about $100).
Another option is to catch the train which leaves from Giza station in the evening and is an overnight journey stopping in Aswan and Luxor. You can book your tickets at the official Egyptian railway website.
If you’re visiting Luxor after an Aswan cruise, it’s a great idea to add a couple of extra days to explore.
While in Cairo, stay at the Kempinski Nile Cairo for a luxurious experience.
How to travel around Luxor
There are several ways of getting around Luxor, including traditional horse and carriage, walking, felucca (which is quicker to cross to the West Bank).
Make sure you haggle hard as the drivers in Luxor will try their best to overcharge you for your trip.
Best time to go to Luxor
Avoid June to August when the weather can get uncomfortably hot.