Luxor, Egypt is the world’s greatest open-air museum. Ancient tombs and temples are scattered along the east and west bank of the Nile River. The Valley of the Kings, Karnak and Luxor Temples, the Temple of Hatshepsut…these are just a few of the best things to do in Luxor.
We spent three very memorable days exploring the east and west banks of Luxor with Ali Elnaggar, an Egyptologist. We have so much information to share with you.
In this article, learn how to plan your visit to Luxor. Find out the best things to do in Luxor, how to plan your time, how to get around, where to stay, and more.
Interesting Facts About Luxor
Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes. From 1570 to 1069 BCE, Thebes was the capital of Egypt. It became an important center of worship of the god Amun. During the period of 1353 to 1336 BCE, this was the largest city in the world, with a population of 80,000 people.
The Nile River splits Luxor into two parts: the East Bank and the West Bank.
The East Bank of Luxor is the location of Luxor town. This is where most Egyptians live and work and it is also where you will find the majority of hotels and restaurants. There are just a few notable sites to visit on this side of the river, but two of these (Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple) are two of the most spectacular sites to visit in Egypt.
The West Bank of Luxor is where the ancient Egyptians buried the dead. Each night, the sun sets on the West Bank, so this became the necropolis, the area that is filled with tombs and mortuary temples, including the famous Valley of the Kings.
Best Things to do in Luxor
This list is organized by geographical location. First, we start with sites on the East Bank, of which there are only four. Then, journey across the Nile River to the West Bank and its long list of archaeological treasures.
East Bank of Luxor
There are four main sites to visit on the East Bank of the Nile River. Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple are amazing and well worth several hours of your time. For those who want to dive deeper into Egyptian history, add the Luxor Museum and the Mummification Museum to your to-do list.
Karnak Temple Complex
Karnak Temple is the second largest temple complex in the world (Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the largest). For over 2,000 years, starting in 2000 BCE, temples, monuments, and buildings were added to the complex. Approximately 30 pharaohs added something to the Karnak Temple Complex.
There are four main sections to Karnak Temple: the Precinct of Amun-Ra, the Temple of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the Temple of Amenhotep IV. The Precinct of Amun-Ra is open to the public and you can visit the Temple of Mut with a special ticket.
Karnak Temple is the second most visited site in Egypt, coming in right behind the Pyramids of Giza. Without a doubt, this is one of the best things to do in Luxor.
To see many more photos of Karnak Temple, take a look at our article The Complete Guide to the East Bank.
Your visit to Karnak Temple also includes the Karnak Open Air Museum. This museum contains the blocks and reconstructed shrines from other parts of the Karnak Temple Complex. You can see the White Chapel of Senusret, the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut, the calcite shrine of Amenhotep II, statues of the goddess Sekhmet, and numerous blocks covered with intricate carvings.
Luxor Temple looks and feels like a smaller version of Karnak Temple, although this temple served a different purpose than many found in and around Luxor. This temple is not dedicated to one particular god or pharaoh. Instead, it may have been where many of the kings of ancient Egypt were crowned. This temple was built in 1400 BC, mostly by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II.
This museum opened in 1975 and it contains artifacts that were found in the Luxor area, as well as artifacts from the tomb of King Tutankhamun. A visit here typically lasts about one hour.
This is a small, somewhat interesting museum about the mummification process. Not only can you see mummified people but there are also mummified cats, birds, and crocodiles. A visit here typically lasts 30 minutes.
For more information about the East Bank of Luxor, including detailed pricing information and hours, and how to plan your time, read our article Complete Guide to the East Bank.
West Bank of Luxor
The list of things to do on the West Bank is very long. The Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut top the list for many visitors but this side of the Nile River is literally a treasure trove of spectacular tombs and temples.
Valley of the Kings
A visit to the Valley of the Kings is not only one of the best things to do in Luxor, it is one of the best places to visit in all of Egypt.
The Valley of the Kings is a royal burial ground for pharaohs from the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties (the New Kingdom of Egypt). Famous kings from this time period include Tutankhamun, Ramesses II, Tuthmosis III, and Seti I, as well as powerful nobles and the wives and children of the pharaohs.
Tomb of Seti I
Tomb of Ramesses V and VI
Currently, eight tombs are included on the main ticket into the Valley of the Kings. Your entrance ticket will allow you to visit three of these tombs. If you want to see more than three tombs, you will have to purchase an additional ticket.There are three additional tombs that you can visit with an extra ticket. Here is the list with the additional price for each tomb.
- KV9 – Ramesses V & VI 100 EGP per person
- KV17 – Seti I 1,000 EGP per person
- KV62 – Tutankhamun 300 EGP per person
Valley of the Queens
The Valley of the Queens was the burial site of the wives of the pharaohs. The tombs that you will see here are smaller and lack some of the grandeur of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, with one big exception.
The tomb of Queen Nefertari is one of the most spectacular tombs that you can visit in Egypt. The level of detail is amazing and the colors are more vibrant that what we saw in many tombs, temples, and pyramids in Egypt. If you want to get an idea of what the tombs looked like 3,000 years ago, put the tomb of Queen Nefertari on your list.
Inside the tomb of Nefertari
Inside the tomb of Amen-Khopshef
Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
This temple, with its three terraces and location in the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri, has a much different appearance than many other temples in Egypt. It is dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut, one of the most powerful female rulers of ancient Egypt.
Colossi of Memnon
The twin statues of Amenhotep III gaze east towards the Nile River. These two statues greet visitors as they arrive on the West Bank of Luxor. From the parking lot, you can hop out and take a photo, or walk down to the statues for a closer view.
Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu
This huge temple complex is dedicated to Ramesses III. There are several courtyards, pylons, and peristyle halls, with inscribed reliefs depicting the defeat of the Sea People during the rule of Ramesses III.
Deir el-Medina (Valley of the Artisans)
The artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings lived here, in an ancient village in Deir el-Medina. Tombs were built here for some of the most prominent workers.
Similar to the Valley of the Queens, these tombs are much smaller and less ornate that those in the Valley of the Kings.
Tombs of the Nobles
In the Valley of the Nobles, there are numerous tombs to visit. Ali recommended the tombs of Sennofer and Rekhmire, since these are two of the best tombs in the Valley of the Nobles.
The Ramesseum is mortuary temple dedicated to the great Ramesses II. At one time, an enormous statue of Ramesses II stood here, with a height of approximately 20 meters. However, it has fallen over and now lays on the ground, in several large pieces.
Temple of Seti I
This temple was begun by Seti I and it is dedicated to Amun-Re. After Seti I’s death, the temple was completed by Ramesses II.
Howard Carter House
Howard Carter is the British archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922. He lived in a house on the West Bank of Luxor, just outside of the Valley of the Kings.
Visiting this house is like stepping back in time to 100 years ago. All of Howard Carter’s furnishings are intact, as well as his camera, personal items, and photographs. Behind the house is a replica of the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
For unforgettable sunrise views of the West Bank of Luxor, you can take a hot air balloon flight. Expect a very early start to the day (pick up times from your hotel can range from 3 am to 4:30 am) but it is worth it for aerial views of the tombs and temples.
For more information about the West Bank of Luxor, including detailed pricing information and hours, and how to plan your time, read our article Complete Guide to the West Bank.
How Much Time Do You Need in Luxor?
To see and do everything on this list, you will need a minimum of three days. If you have less time, you can still visit the highlights.
If you have one day in Luxor, spend the morning on the West Bank. I recommend the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Medinet Habu, and a drive by the Colossi of Memnon. If you are doing very well on time, and if you don’t mind the big ticket price, the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens is amazing. In the afternoon, visit Karnak and Luxor Temple on the East Bank.
With two days in Luxor, split your time between the West Bank and the East Bank. Spend one busy day visiting the West Bank sites and one leisurely day visiting the East Bank sites.
With three days in Luxor, you can visit everything on this list. Add a second day to the West Bank. This gives you one day for the East Bank and two full days for the West Bank.
The Luxor Pass
The Luxor Pass is a single ticket that includes all of the archaeological sites on the West Bank and East Bank of Luxor. There are two versions of this pass.
The standard Luxor Pass includes all of the sites on the East and West Bank, with the exception of the tombs of Seti I and Nefertari. The Luxor Pass costs $100 USD for adults, $50 USD for people under 30 years with a valid student ID card. In euros, the fee is €90 for adults and €45 for students.
The Premium Luxor Pass includes all of the archaeological sites on the East and West Banks, as well as the tombs of Seti I and Nefertari. The Luxor Premium Pass costs $200 USD for adults, $100 USD for people under 30 years with a valid student ID card. In euros, the fee is €180 for adults and €90 for students.
If you plan to visit Luxor for at least two days, with visits to everything we list here for the West Bank, as well the main sites on the East Bank, then the Luxor Pass is worth it.
To learn more about the Luxor Pass, including where and how to purchase it, click here.
How to Get to Luxor
Most visitors will arrive in Luxor by plane or by Nile cruise, but you can also get here by train and by car.
The Luxor International Airport is located 7 km east of the city of Luxor. To get to your hotel, you can hire a taxi at the airport or arrange for a driver (we hired a driver through our hotel).
If you are cruising the Nile River, your tours of the East and West Banks should be included with your cruise.
You can travel by train from Luxor to Cairo and Aswan. Express trains from Cairo to Luxor typically take 10 hours. The best way to do this is to take an overnight, sleeper train between Cairo and Luxor. Sleeper cabins range from $80 to $110 USD for a one-way fare. First-class tickets average 200 EGP and 2nd class tickets average 120 EGP.
If you plan to travel between Luxor and Aswan by train, this typically takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours, with tickets costing 65 EGP to 95 EGP.
You can also drive from Luxor to Aswan (or vice versa). A taxi costs approximately 1400 EGP (based on the information provided by our hotel in Luxor). You can do what we did and hire Egypt Tailor Made for the drive, visiting Esna, Edfu, and Kom Ombo on the way.
How to Get Around Luxor
You can get around Luxor by taxi or by hiring a guide and driver.
Guide and Driver
We recommend getting around by private guide and driver. All of your transportation is taken care of and you get to tour the archaeological sites and museums with a knowledgeable Egyptologist.
We hired Egypt Tailor Made. Ali Elnaggar was our guide not only in Luxor but also in Aswan. Ali is an Egyptologist with over 10 years of experience as a guide. He also works at Karnak Temple and lives in Luxor, so his range of knowledge is very extensive.
If you are staying on the East Bank of Luxor, you can expect to pay 200 – 300 EGP to hire a taxi to take you to the East Bank sites, including Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, and the museums.
The average cost of a taxi is 400 EGP to take you around the sites on the West Bank of Luxor.
These prices depend on your negotiating skills. Make sure you have agreed on the price and the places you plan to visit before getting in the taxi.
Day Trip Ideas from Luxor
If you have more time in Luxor, you can add on day trips to nearby destinations.
Dendera & Abydos
Just north of Luxor sit two of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. The sacred city of Abydos is home to the temple of Seti I. The Hathor Temple in Dendera is one of the most colorful temples in Egypt, with an intricately detailed ceiling and one of the most awe-inspiring hypostyle halls that we saw in Egypt.
From Luxor, you can visit Dendera and Abydos on a day trip. It’s a long day, coming in at around 10 hours, and much of this time is spent in a car. But if you want to see two spectacular temples, this is well worth your time.
If a 10-hour day sounds like a bit much, you can limit your visit to just Dendera. From Luxor, a day trip to Dendera lasts roughly 5 hours, with 3 of that in a car.
Esna and Edfu
From Luxor, journey south along the Nile River to two more temples. The temple in Esna is dedicated to the god Khnum, his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their son, Heka, and the goddess Neith. The Temple of Horus in Edfu is a magnificent temple that was built in the Ptolemaic period and dedicated to the god Horus.
This is a full day trip from Luxor. You can also visit these two temples, plus Kom Ombo, if you plan to drive or cruise between Luxor and Aswan.
Where to Eat in Luxor
On the West Bank of Luxor:
Marsam Restaurant is a highly-rated restaurant on the West Bank of Luxor. Dine on Egyptian and Mediterranean food in their lovely courtyard.
On the East Bank of Luxor:
Al-Sahaby Lane is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Luxor. This restaurant serves a mix of Egyptian and Mediterranean dishes.
Sofra Restaurant is another highly-rated restaurant that serves Egyptian food.
If you are looking for good pizza and pasta, go to Pizza Roma-it. For good Indian food, go to A Taste of India. And if you are looking for a bar, put The Kings Head Pub and Restaurant on your list.
And finally, Aboudi Coffee Break is a café that has a very nice view of Luxor Temple.
Where to Stay in Luxor
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor. This hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in Luxor. It is centrally located in the city, with views of the Nile River and within walking distance of the Luxor Temple.
Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa. This is where we stayed and it was our favorite hotel in Egypt. The views of the Nile River and the balloons that drift over the West Bank are magical. The rooms are large, clean, and quiet. There are several onsite restaurants, a pool, and a fitness room. We loved this place and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.
Nefertiti Hotel. This hotel overlooks the Luxor Temple. Rooms can accommodate up to four people. Breakfast is served on the rooftop terrace.
Bob Marley Peace Hostel. This highly rated, budget hostel offers air-conditioned, dormitory-style rooms. It is just a 2-minute walk to get to Luxor Temple.
Nile Castle. This budget hotel gets great reviews. It is located on the West Bank of the Nile River, so you will have easy access to the West Bank sites, but expect more travel time when visiting the East Bank sites and when traveling to and from the airport or train station.
Articles about Luxor, Egypt:
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