Best things to do in Luxor
Find out more about those top places in Luxor
Few places in the world have as overwhelming a concentration of ancient ruins as the southern Egyptian city of Luxor. Situated on the east bank of the River Nile, the bustling desert metropolis contains a treasure trove of archaeological wonders dating from the era of the ancient Egyptian New Kingdom, which rose to power between the 16th and 11th centuries BC. In the city itself the star attractions are undoubtedly Karnak, the vast religious complex central to the New Kingdom’s theology, and Luxor Temple, which is flanked by colossal statues of pharaohs. To the west of Luxor itself, the steep escarpment of Thebes rises from the river hiding the enigmatic glories of the Valley of the Kings, which is home to 63 frescoed royal tombs. Despite these awe-inspiring attractions, Luxor remains one of Egypt’s hidden gems, as it is largely overshadowed by the Great Pyramids in the country’s north.
Across the iconic Nile from the modern city of Luxor lies the Valley of the Kings, one of Egypt’s most memorable attractions. Designated a royal burial ground by the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, which existed between 1550-1069 BC, the valley is peppered with 63 known grandiose royal tombs and likely others that have yet to be discovered. Tours of the vast complex are highly recommended, as expert guides offer fascinating insights into the history of the New Kingdom and recent conservation efforts.
The UNESCO World Heritage listed Karnak complex is a monumental highlight of any visit to Luxor. Dominating a vast swathe of downtown Luxor, it is host to an array of sanctuaries, obelisks and temples, including the world-famous Temple of Amun – the most sacred in the New Kingdom. Guided tours of the complex are available and are best undertaken in the early morning when the sandstone monuments are bathed in the golden hued rising sun.
As the first monuments visitors have seen for millennia when entering the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, the pharaohs of the New Kingdom designed them to make an awe-inspiring impression. The now faceless statues, which rise nearly 20 meters above the surrounding desert, have been mythologized since the Greco-Roman times when they were said to represent a legendary African king who slayed Achilles during the upheavals of the Trojan War.
An ideal partner to the better-known Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens is another one of Luxor’s world-class attractions. Straddling the southern edge of the Theban Hill, the valley contains 75 known tombs of Egyptian queens dating from 19th and 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom. Make sure to take a tour of the dazzlingly decorated tomb of Nefertari.
Crouching beneath towering limestone cliffs, the Temple of Hatshepsut is one of Egypt’s most evocative scenes. Despite looking modernist in design, the temple was built in the 14th century BC during the reign of the first female pharaoh, Hatshepsut. Guided tours of the magnificent complex are recommended as guides offer insights into the temple’s original layout.
Located in the quiet village of Kom Lolah, Medinat Habu is Luxor’s hidden gem. Backed by the cragged Theban Mountains, the temple was built by Ramses III to commemorate the local god Amun and is bedecked in a spectacular array of colorful frescoes.
The precinct of Amun-Re is one of Karnak’s standout attractions. Lined with sandstone sphinxes, the complex is astonishing from ground level but for those who want to gain a better view of its sheer size why not take a hot air balloon tour that offers a bird’s eye view?