tourist attractions in Luxor

14 top tourist attractions in Luxor and easy day trips

Luxor stands head and shoulders above the other cities of Egypt for its vast wealth of temples and tombs. This was the site of ancient Thebes, the great city of the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom pharaohs who covered the banks of the Nile with their gargantuan structures and began with the sprawling tomb structures well hidden amid the rocky valley of the West Bank. The scope of their ambition is best appreciated today in the magnificent Karnak temple complex, but there are so many monuments here that you could easily spend a week just enjoying the elegance and grandeur. Luxor is effectively an open air museum and there is no better place in Egypt to stop for a few days and just lose yourself in the wonders of the ancient world.

1 Paste van Karnak

Paste van Karnak
 

Of all Luxor’s many monuments, the Karnak temple complex has to be its most astonishing and beautiful feat. Within its boundaries is the Great Temple of Amun, the Temple of Khons , and the Festival Temple of Thutmose III, as well as many other buildings. It was not built according to a single plan, but represents the building activity of many successive rulers of Egypt, who vied with each other to add to and decorate this great national sanctuary, which became the most important of the Egyptian temples during the New Kingdom . All the monuments here are on a gargantuan scale, reducing visitors to ant-like proportions as they gaze up at mighty columns and colossal statuary. Even if you’re short on time, don’t skimp on your visit here. You need at least three hours to try to understand the whole complex.

You can easily walk to Karnak from the center along the Corniche road along the Nile, although most people take a taxi due to the heat.

Address: Maabad al-Karnak Street, East Bank

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2 Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings
 

Hidden between rocky escarpments, the famous Valley of the Kings was the final resting place for the kings of the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties. Their main attraction is their beautifully vibrant murals. Since it was believed that the dead man accompanied by the sun god (or perhaps having become one with the sun god) sailed through the underworld in a boat at night, the walls of the tombs were decorated with texts and scenes depicting this journey and the dead man instructing on his course. In the valley are 63 tombs which is a roll call of famous names from Egyptian history, including the famous boy king Tutankhamun . The tombs are open on a rotation system to protect the paintings as much as possible from the damage caused by moisture.

Location: West Bank

3 Temple of Luxor

Temple of Luxor
Temple of Luxor
 

Presiding over the modern center, Luxor Temple is an ode to the changing face of Egypt over the centuries. First built by Amenophis III (on the site of an earlier sandstone temple), it was known as “the southern harem of Amun” and was dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut, and their son the moon god Khons. Like all Egyptian temples, it includes the chapels of the gods with their vestibules and daughter chambers, a large Hypostyle Hall , and an open Peristyle Court , which was approached from the north by a large colonnade.

The temple was added to and changed by a parade of pharaohs including Amenophis IV (who destroyed all references to the god Amun in the temple and added the shrine of the god Aten), Tutankhamen (who embellished the walls of the colonnade with reliefs and in turn destroyed the Temple of the Aten), Seti I (who restored the reliefs of Amun), and Ramesses II (who significantly expanded the temple, adding a new court with colonnades on the north side). During the Christian era, the temple underwent transformation into a church, while in the Islamic period, the Mosque of Abu el-Haggag , dedicated to a revered holy man, was built within the complex grounds.

Location: Corniche, Downtown, East Bank

4 Temple of Deir al-Bahri (Temple of Queen Hatshepsut)

Temple of Deir al-Bahri (Temple of Queen Hatshepsut)
Temple of Deir al-Bahri (Temple of Queen Hatshepsut)
 

The Temple of Deir el-Bahri is beautifully situated at the foot of the steep cliffs along the desert hills, the light-coloured, almost white sandstone of the temple stands out against the golden yellow to light brown rocks behind it. The temple complex is laid out on three terraces rising from the plain, connected by ramps, which divide it into northern and southern halves. Along the west side of each terrace is a raised colonnade.

The terraces are carved out of the eastern slopes of the hills, with retaining walls of the finest sandstone along the sides and at the back. The temple itself was also partially carved out of the rock. Inside, the complex is richly decorated with statues, reliefs and inscriptions. Note how Queen Hatshepsut had presented herself with the trappings of a male pharaoh (beard and short apron) to show that she possessed the authority of a king.

Location: West Bank

5 Luxor Museum

One of Egypt’s top museums, Luxor Museum holds a beautifully displayed collection from the area that tells the story of ancient Thebes from the Old Kingdom through to the Islamic period. The museum’s holdings include the two Royal Mummies of Ahmose I and what is believed to be Ramses I in two rooms on the ground floor, which are worth a visit here alone.

The upper floor has a dazzling display of amulets, silver bowls, funerary and tomb furnishings, and votive tablets that run across the center of the floor space. View the reliefs on the re-erected site of Akhenaten’s Wall here . The 283 sandstone blocks are covered with painted reliefs and originally belonged to the Temple of the Sun of Akhenaten at Karnak.

Location: Corniche, East Bank

6 Medinet Habu

Medinet Habu hieroglyphs
Medinet Habu hieroglyphs
 

With the famous Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Deir al-Bahri being the main attractions, Medinet Habu is often overlooked when traveling in the West Bank, but this is one of the most magnificent temples in Egypt and would be in the West Times hit list. The complex consists of a small older temple built during the 18th Dynasty and expanded in the Late Period, and the great Temple of Ramses III, associated with a royal palace, which was surrounded by a four-meter high walled enclosure.

The main part of the temple was built exactly on the model of the Ramesseum and, like the Ramesseum, was dedicated to Amun. The reliefs here are some of the best you will see in the West Bank.

Location: West Bank

  • High gate
  • Temple of Ramses III
  • South Tower
  • 18e dynastietempel
  • Sacred Lake
  • Mortuary temple of Amenirdis
  • Forecourt
  • 18th Dynasty Temple First Court
  • 18th Dynasty Temple Second Court
  • First court
  • Great Hypostyle Hall
  • Royal Palace
  • Second Court of Justice
  • Second pylon

7 Tombs of the Nobles

Tombs of the Nobles
Tombs of the Nobles
 

If you haven’t had your tombs in the Valley of the Kings yet, look for the Tombs of the Nobles , which may be less famous, but actually contain much better-preserved examples of tomb paintings. The site contains about 400 tombs of various dignitaries dating approximately from the 6th Dynasty to the Ptolemaic era. The tomb paintings here are not so concerned with guiding the dead to the afterlife; instead they present scenes of Egyptian daily life. Specifically, the Tomb of Khonsu , Tomb of Benia , Tomb of Menna , and Tomb of Nakhtare home to some of Egypt’s most vibrant and vibrant tomb paintings.

Of all the tombs here, the Tomb of Nakht (an official and priest of Amun in the 18th Dynasty) is the one to choose if you are short on time. Only the first room has paintings, but they are all excellently preserved.

Location: West Bank

8 Colossi van Memnon

Colossi van Memnon
Colossi van Memnon
 

Next to the road that runs from the Valley of the Queens and Medinet Habu to the Nile is the famous giant statues known as the Colossi of Memnon . Carved in hard yellowish-brown sandstone quarried in the hills above Edfu, they represent Amenophis III seated on a cube-shaped throne, once guarding the entrance to the king’s temple, of which only scanty traces remain. In Roman Imperial times, they were taken to statues of Memnon, son of Eos and Tithonus, who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.

The South Colossus is better preserved than the one to the north. It stands 19.59 meters high and its base is partially buried under the sand. With the crown, which he originally wore but has long since disappeared, the total height must have been about 21 meters. The North Colossus is the famous “musical image”, which brought many visitors here during the Roman Imperial era. Visitors noted that the statue emanated a musical note at dawn, and this led to the myth that Memnon saluted his mother, Eos, with this soft, plaintive note. The sound ceased after Emperor Septimus Severus had the upper part of the statue restored.

Location: West Bank

9 Ramesseum

Ramesseum
Ramesseum
 

The large mortuary temple built by Ramesses II and dedicated to Amun, is located on the edge of the cultivated land, about a mile south of Deir el-Bahri . Although only about half of the original structure survives, it is still a very impressive monument. During the Roman Imperial period it was known as the Tomb of Ozymandias mentioned by the historian Diodorus (1st century BC) and later immortalized by the English poet Shelley in his poem Ozymandias .

The North Tower and the South Tower are decorated with reliefs of Ramses II’s battle with the Hittites, similar to the Abu Simbel reliefs. On the South Tower , the entire left half of the wall is taken up by the Battle of Kadesh. Scenes show Ramses in his chariot against the Hittites, who are slain by his arrows or flee in wild confusion and fall into the river Orontes, while on the right you can see the Hittite prince and the enemy fleeing to their fortress.

Inside the First Court are the remains of a colossal figure of the king, estimated to have originally measured 17.5 meters in total height and weighed more than 1,000 tons.

10 Valley of the Queens

Valley of the Queens Elena Pleskevich / photo modified
Valley of the Queens Elena Pleskevich / photo modified
 

The tombs in the Valley of the Queens mostly belong to the 19th and 20th dynasties. A total of nearly 80 tombs are now known, most of them excavated by an Italian expedition led by E. Schiaparelli between 1903 and 1905. Many of the tombs are unfinished and without decoration, resembling mere caves in the rocks. There are few incised inscriptions or reliefs, with much of the decoration consisting of paintings on stucco. Unfortunately, most of the tombs are currently closed to the public.

The Valley of the Queens is most famous for the Tomb of Queen Nefertari , which has been closed for several years due to preservation issues. The best open tombs in the area are the Tomb of Prince Amen-her-khopshef , a son of Ramesses III, who well-preserved colors on its murals, and the Tomb of Titi .

11 Mortuary temple of Seti I

Mortuary temple of Seti I
Mortuary temple of Seti I
 

The Mortuary Temple of Seti I is dedicated to Amun and to the cult of the king’s father, Ramses I. Unfinished by Seti I, decorated by Ramses II with reliefs and inscriptions, rivaling contemporary work at Abydos. The temple was originally 158 meters long, but all that remains is the sanctuary with its various halls and chambers and some meager fragments of the courts and pylons.

For those interested in ancient Egyptian ornamental work, the Temple’s Hypostyle Hall contains some excellent examples of reliefs. On the roof plates above the central corridor are the winged solar disc, flying vultures and the names of Seti I, enclosed in serpents and flanked by two rows of hieroglyphics. The low reliefs on the walls depict Seti I and Ramses II making offerings to various gods, including, on the right, Hathor of Dendera suckling Seti.

12 Deir el-Medina

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Deir el-Medina

Deir el-Medina is home to a small temple, the remains of a workers’ village (where the craftsmen of the royal tombs lived), and the tombs of the workers themselves. It is well worth a visit for the murals decorating the tombs, which are a vivid representation of daily Egyptian life.

Don’t miss the Tomb of Sennedjem who was a 19th dynasty artist. It has a vaulted burial chamber and reliefs and paintings on religious themes, including a fine representation of a funeral feast. The contents of the tomb – discovered in 1886 – are now on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

Location: West Bank

13 Banana Island

Feluccas on the Nile
Feluccas on the Nile
 

When you’ve had your fill of temples and tombs all day, there’s no better way to relax in Luxor than to take a felucca to Banana Island . Five kilometers upstream from Luxor, this tiny palm-fringed island is the perfect chilled-out contrast to the history-rich treasures of the West and East Bank. Hop on a felucca in the late afternoon after a long day of temple and tomb viewing, and sit back to gaze at the views of the Nile as the captain raises the sail and glides you upriver. Sailing back just at sunset will give you a view of the river at its most majestic.

14 Mummification Museum

This small, but fascinating museum explains the processes behind the ancient Egyptian practice of mummification in a series of well-explained and informative displays. The exhibits feature actual mummies (both human and animal) and the tools (including the spatulas used to scrape off the dead person’s brain) used in the mummification process. It’s probably not the best museum for anyone particularly squeamish, but the clear information boards and well-thought-out exhibits are a must for anyone wanting to learn more about the burial practices of the pharaohs. Be sure to check out the mummy of Maserharti, a high priest of Amun in the 21st dynasty that is extraordinarily well preserved.

Location: Corniche, East Bank

Where to stay in Luxor for sightseeing

We recommend these excellent hotels and resorts near the River Nile and the ancient temples of Luxor:

  • Hilton Luxury Resort & Spa: 5-star luxury, overlooking the River Nile, multiple restaurants, infinity pools overlooking the river, beautiful spa.
  • Jolie Ville Hotel & Spa – Kings Island, Luxor: mid-range pricing, private island, beautiful grounds, three outdoor pools, tennis courts, fitness center.
  • Steigenberger Nile Palace Luxor: affordable prices, Nile River views, beautiful pools, evening entertainment, tennis courts.
  • Nefertiti Hotel: budget hotel, central location, rooftop terrace, friendly staff.

Day trips from Luxor

Temples of Abydos

Temples of Abydos
Temples of Abydos
 

The great necropolis complex of Abydos is one of the oldest necropolises in Egypt and is associated with the first Egyptian capital of Thinis. It was here that kings and high court dignitaries were buried during the 1st and 2nd Dynasties, and the rituals of royal burials were first celebrated to symbolize the transient and recurring nature of all things earthly. The site is centered around the beautiful Temple of Seti I and is a beautiful day trip from Luxor.

Location: 162 km north of Luxor

Temple of Hathor in Dendera

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Temple of Hathor in Dendera

Although Dendera Temple lacks the magnificence of earlier temples like those of Abydos and Karnak, it impresses with its fine proportions and dignified adaptation to its purpose. The abundance of reliefs and inscriptions on the walls are excellent examples of Late Period Egyptian decorative art. Dendera itself was once the capital of Upper Egypt and the scant remains of this once great city lie on the west bank of the Nile opposite the modern city of Qena.Αεροπορικά εισητήρια

Location: 76 km north of Luxor

Come Ombo Temple

Come Ombo Temple
Come Ombo Temple
 

The Kom Ombo Temple, twins dedicated to the gods Sobek and Haroeris, was built on a unified plan, which actually housed two temples in one building. The temple was also embellished with reliefs by Philometor, Euergetes II and Neos Dionysos. One of the finest Ptolemaic temples in Egypt, its lavish decoration dates back to a time when Kom Ombo’s position next to the Nile made it one of Upper Egypt’s most important commercial and trading centers.

Location: 168 km south of Luxor

Temple of Horus at Edfu

Temple of Horus at Edfu
Temple of Horus at Edfu
 

The 2,000-year-old Temple of Horus is almost perfectly preserved, and the history of its construction and a description of the entire structure are written in long inscriptions on the outside of the enclosure wall, particularly on the north side of the east and west sides. Construction began in 237 BC, under the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes I, and was completed in 212 under his successor Philopator. Its relative youth, compared to the temples in Luxor, means it is in much better condition than other temples and remains one of the best places in Egypt to truly imagine the grandeur of ancient Egypt.

Location: 110 km south of Luxor

Temple of Khnum, Esna

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Temple of Khnum, Esna

In the center of Esna, freed from the rubble of the later centuries and now nine meters below the current street level, is the Temple of Khnum, the local ram-headed god and his associated goddesses Neith and Satet. The outer walls bear reliefs and inscriptions of Roman emperors. On the southern side, Domitian is depicted striking his enemies in the presence of Khnum and Menheyet, and on the northern side, Khnum, with the goddess Nebtu behind him, presents Trajan, also shown striking his enemies, with the sickle sword. The seven-aisled Vestibule was the only part of the temple to be completed and dates almost entirely from the Roman Imperial period.

Location: 56 km south of Luxor

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