Luxor: West Bank

If you only have time for one other destination outside of Cairo, Luxor is the place to go without question.  No other area in Egypt comes even close to having the sheer number and quality of historical sites that Luxor has.  This one town alone is home to two of ancient Egypt’s most important temples and a necropolis home to some of Egypt’s most famous pharaoh’s and queens.  Simply too big for one post, we are going to break up Luxor into three different ones.  This post will detail the West Bank while the others will focus on the East Bank and our recommended itinerary for Luxor.

Valley of Kings
Even after 3,000 years, the tombs in the Valley of Kings are as impressive as ever. Ramses III Tomb

The Reason You Came to Egypt

The West Bank is the highlight of any visit to Egypt, whether you be an independent traveler or a package tourist.  This is the burial ground of the New Kingdom pharaohs, queens, and nobles which include the likes of King Tut and Ramses II.  With its celebrity residents, and expensive upkeep, it is also the place where you are likely to spend the most money while in Egypt.

Valley of Kings
You could spend hours pondering over the thousands of images in each tomb. Ramses IX

Our guide here will review and detail the four major sites that you should visit while on the West Bank.  It is recommended that you break these sites up over the course of two or three days as is brutally hot during the day and exploring the countless tombs can lead to sensory fatigue pretty quickly if you try to crunch it all into one day.  Be on the lookout for our post that shows you how to break up the West Bank soon.

Valley of Kings
Claire inside Ramses III tomb

Note that there are countless other sites to explore on the West Bank, but if you have visited temples such as those at Abydos, Dendera, or Aswan, these are easily skippable.  We will list the entrance fees of all the attractions at the end of this post.

Valley of Kings

The name itself suggests the epicness of this burial ground.  Today the area is most famous for the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb and all the treasures it held which are now on display in the Egyptian museum.  With 63 tombs discovered to date and a constantly rotating list of tombs open to the public, no one visit can truly see it all, and the valley will leave you wanting and a yearning to come back and explore more.

Valley of Kings
Staying out in the blazing sun just long enough to take a picture

As the list of tombs open to the public constantly changes, it could be very possible that the tombs we discuss here may be closed when you visit.  Due to this, it is important to do extensive research before hand and come up with a list of six to ten tombs you are interested in visiting and choose from that when you see the current list at the ticket office.

Valley of Kings
Well preserved image of Osiris. Ramses III tomb

At any given time there are usually around 10 tombs open to the public.  From that list, you can visit any three on one admission ticket (160 EGP $8.89).  A ticket to King Tut’s tomb is an additional 200 EGP ($11.17) and a visit to Seti I’s tomb costs 1000 EGP ($55.84).  If you want to take photographs, the photography ticket costs another 300 EGP ($16.75).

Tomb of Ramses III (KV11)

This was by far the most impressive tomb in the valley that we saw and is where we spent most of our time (over an hour and a half).  The reliefs that line the tomb are in excellent condition with their colors remaining rich and vibrant.  The tomb is rather long and with so much to see it takes a lot of time to visit it properly.

Valley of Kings
Colorful hieroglyphs line the beginning of the tomb of Ramses III

The first corridor, upon entering the tomb, is covered mostly with colorful hieroglyphs taken from the Book of the Dead with small depictions of different Gods lining the upper sections.  The ceiling is covered with stars and spells set on a bright yellow background.

IMG_8353
The beautifully intact ceiling of Ramses III tomb

At the end of the corridor is an abandoned tunnel.  The tomb was supposed to be straight but builders ran into another tomb which is why the tomb has a bend here before continuing to the burial chamber.  The reliefs in the bend here are some of the best in the tomb so be sure to spend some time checking them out.

Valley of Kings
Many of the reliefs inside Ramses III tomb are in incredible condition given their age

The next corridor has some interesting scenes that include a human headed serpent and what looks like a rainbow.  The tomb then descends downward towards the burial chamber and is lined with beautifully decorated columns.

Valley of Kings
Strange images inside Ramses III tomb

Although the tomb continues, it is unfinished and structurally weak so visitors are not allowed to go any further than the gate at the bottom of the stairs.  If you bring a flashlight, you can see just how far the tomb continues.  Ramses’ sarcophagus is now in the Louvre in Paris.

Valley of Kings
decorated columns that descend towards the unfinished section of the tomb

Tomb of Merenptah (KV8)

Merenptah was the 13th son of Ramses II and was the eldest son to outlive his father’s reign of 67 years to become pharaoh.  The state of preservation is nowhere near that of Ramses III’s tomb due to the fact that the tomb has been open since antiquity and floods have destroyed most of the artwork on the lower half of the walls.  Despite this, it is still worth a look and was one of the better options that were available during our visit.

Valley of Kings
Some of the better preserved scenes in the tomb

The walls are lined with, you guessed it, spells from the book of the Dead.  Further along is a false burial chamber with two pillars decorated with inscriptions from the Book of Gates.

Valley of Kings
Khepri depicted as a dung beetle

At the end of the tomb is the massive burial chamber which must have been impressive back in the day.  Much of the decoration has faded but the sheer size of the room helps you imagine how beautiful this room would have been.  The king’s sarcophagus remains in the chamber.

Valley of Kings
Sarcophagus of Merenptah

Tomb of Ramses IX (KV6)

Compared to other tombs in the valley, this one has most of its decoration complete and has survived the test of time very well.  Being the most visited tomb of the valley, it can get crowded inside the tomb, but this ebbs and flows so if you stick around long enough, you will have the tomb to yourself to explore in peace.

Valley of Kings
The incredibly beautiful but often crowded tomb of Ramses IX

In the tomb you can see the typical inscriptions found in royal tombs as well as depictions of demons from the Book of the Dead.  There is also two depictions of priests in panther robes to be found in the tomb as well.

Valley of Kings
Inner chamber of Ramses IX tomb where his sarcophagus used to be

Tomb of Tutankhamen (KV62)

The most well known pharaoh to date yet one of the least significant during the times of Ancient Egypt.  King Tut’s rule was brief as he died while still being a teenager and with no real achievements, his tomb wasn’t given too much effort.

The only reason King Tut is so well known today is due to the fact that his tomb is one of the few that had not been robbed over the centuries.  After a tiresome search, archaeologist Howard Carter finally found the nearly 100% intact tomb in 1922 and all the treasures it contained.  It was the single largest find of Egyptian artifacts to be discovered in modern times.  The find became international news and King Tut became a celebrity overnight.

Valley of Kings
A wonderful depiction of King Tut in his burial chamber

The tomb lays mostly unfinished but the small section that does have paintings is spectacular and extremely well preserved.  Vivid depictions of King Tut before the Gods adorn one wall while the other wall has a series of twelve baboons which represent the twelve hours of night.

While you may have seen the pharaoh’s likeness when paying a visit to his death mask at the Egyptian museum, you can stare right into the face of the late pharaoh as his mummy is on display in the tomb.

Valley of Kings
The inner most sarcophagus of King Tut

While photos are not permitted in King Tut’s tomb, tomb attendants will allow to snap a few photographs discreetly (there are cameras int he tomb) for a little extra baksheesh.

Valley of Queens

The tombs in the valley of Queens are similar to the tombs of the Valley of Kings in that they are filled with images of the ancient Egyptian Gods and spells from the Book of the Dead but differ in style and design.  In addition to the many queens that reside here, this was also the burial ground for the pharaohs’ children.

Only 3 tombs here are open at any given time and all of them are included in the ticket you purchase at the entrance into the Valley of Queens.  It costs 80 EGP ($4.47).  There is one other tomb open to the public and it happens to be the most impressive one in all of Egypt, the tomb of Nefertari.  It costs a whopping 1000 EGP ($55.84) to visit.

Here we describe the three tombs that were open during our visit as well as the tomb of Nefertari.  Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures inside of the tombs as most of them are protected with plexiglass, making them not photography worthy.

Tomb of Amunherkhepshef (no. 55)

This was our favorite of the three tombs on the 80 EGP ticket and perhaps the saddest of the tombs.  Amunherkhepshef (say that five times fast) was the son of Ramses III and died in his early teens.  Most of the depictions inside the tomb show Ramses introducing his son (shown with a sidelock) to the Egyptian Gods that will guide him in the afterlife.  There is also a display in the tomb of a mummified five month old fetus which was discovered during excavations in the valley.  The mummy was not a part of the original tomb.

Tomb of Titi (no.52)

The mystery queen, Egyptologists are still not certain which pharaoh Titi was married to.  The wall paintings in this tomb are less preserved than the other two but it is still a wonderful tomb to visit.  The most interesting scene is the one on the back wall that shows Titi standing in front of the Gods Toth and Ptah with the four sons of Horus nearby.

Tomb of Khaemwaset (no.44)

Khaemwaset was another of Ramses III’s sons that died young and follows a similar pattern to the one found in Amunherkhepshef’s tomb.  The celestial ceiling is well preserved in this tomb, with its brilliant golden stars on a deep blue background still gleaming after thousands of years.

Tomb of Nefertari (no.66)

The tomb of tombs, no other tomb in Egypt can compare to tomb of Ramses II’s favorite wife, Nefertari.  Much larger than all of the other tombs in the Valley, Ramses made sure to enshrine his favorite wife in one of the most beautiful and impressive tombs the world has ever seen.  Every surface is brightly colored in scenes depicting the late queen with the Gods of Egypt along with the typical spells from the Book of the Dead that accompany all royal tombs.

The state of preservation in this tomb is like no other throughout Egypt.  The colors are vibrant, with nearly every detail still intact.  Every room seems to tell a different story, with different depictions along every wall.  To put it simply, no other place in Egypt will make you feel closer to ancient Egypt than this tomb will.  It is a masterpiece that you should not miss out on.

The reason for the high ticket price is to limit the number of visitors who visit the tomb.  Due to its incredible state of preservation, there are concerns that visitors will contribute to the paintings deteriorating over time due to the humidity they bring in and not following rules (such as touching walls).  As a result, access to the tomb is limited and tightly controlled.  A limited number of tickets are distributed each day and only 15 people are allowed in the tomb at any given time.  Visitors are given 10 minutes to visit the tomb which goes by fast, so make it count.  All bags, phones, and cameras must be left outside of the tomb.

If you want to try to get more time in the tomb, wait around until there is a lag in visitors as they seem to be less serious with the time limit if there isn’t a line.  We ended up with more than 15 minutes because we waited around for a half hour until there was no one waiting around.  Every minute is precious (and expensive!) in this tomb so make it worth while!  You can find images of the tomb on google to get an idea of what there is to see.

Tombs of Nobles

The Tombs of Nobles date back to the New Kingdom and are extremely well preserved and are surprisingly little visited.  This treasure trove of tombs remains as quiet as it was before all of the tombs here were discovered.  Most tour groups don’t include these tombs on their itinerary and even the large majority of independent travelers either don’t know or lack information about them.  This most likely means you will have them all to yourself when you visit.

Tomb of Nobles
Wonderfully preserved scenes of daily life in Egypt over 3000 years ago

While the Pharaohs buried in the next valley over covered their tombs with depictions of the many Gods and inscriptions from the Book of the Dead, the nobles’ tombs emphasized keeping their high profile lives going in the afterlife.  To accomplish this, the Tombs of Nobles are decorated with scenes from the high ranking officials daily life.   As a result, the tombs offer visitors a look into ancient Egyptian life that no temple or royal tomb can.

Tomb of Nobles
Beautiful depiction of an ancient Egyptian woman

Tombs are grouped into pairs of three, each set requiring an individual ticket.  After a lot of research, Claire and I decided to visit the tombs of Menna, Nakht, and Amenenope which costs 60 EGP ($3.35).  Note that the ticket office is not located at the tombs.  The ticket office is located at the crossroads where the road splits towards the Valley of Queens and Valley of Kings.  You can find the location on maps.me .

Tomb of Nobles
ceiling inside the tomb of Menna

While photography is forbidden inside the tombs, attendants will allow you to take photos for a little extra baksheesh.  Be sure to agree on an amount before snapping away in order to avoid a confrontation.  Even if you do not take any photos, a little baksheesh (5-10 EGP) is expected.

Tomb of Menna (no.52)

This is one of the best tombs you can access at the site.  largely depicting rural life in ancient Egypt, the wall paintings look as if they were painted yesterday.  The colors are vibrant, the details exquisite, and the scenes offer a close up look at life in Egypt over 3,000 years ago.

Tomb of Nobles
Paintings inside the inner chamber of the tomb of Menna

The tomb depicts Egyptian’s going about daily tasks such as hunting, farming, and fishing.  If the attendant lets you, you can go into the burial chamber area where there are scenes of Menna and his wife feasting and celebrating life.

Tomb of Nakht (no.69)

The tomb of Nakht has some incredibly beautiful and intact scenes but we did not take any photographs inside the tomb.  Due to the small size of the burial chamber (you have to squat as you look around), the wall paintings are protected with not so clean plexiglass which keeps visitors from rubbing up against the artwork and prevents the inevitable moisture that tourists bring in from damaging the paintings.  This combined with the dark interior made it not worthwhile to photograph.

The scenes you see in this tomb however will be some of the most interesting you will come across while in Egypt.  In addition to typical farming and hunting scenes, the tomb also contains scenes which shows what the wealthy did for fun.  There are beautiful scenes of musicians with their ancient instruments, as well as some very attractive looking dancers forever in step.

Tomb of Nobles
Claire trying to stay cool at the tombs of Nobles

Tomb of Ameneope (no.148)

This tomb is seriously underwhelming as it has been open since ancient times resulting in most of its artwork being destroyed over time.  You won’t need long in this tomb and be sure to make it the first one that you visit.

Temple of Hatshepsut

Few temples in Egypt create as grand of an entrance as the heavily restored Hatshepsut temple.  Built directly under a 300 meter cliff with nothing but desert below, the temple seems to almost blend in with the environment it is set in.  This is the work of Hatshepsut, the most famous female pharaoh of Egypt.

Temple of Hatshepsut
Outside the impressive temple of Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut ruled as pharaoh of Egypt from 1473-1458 BCE.  She is often depicted like other pharaohs as a man rather than a woman.  Many inscriptions and depictions of her were defaced by her stepson, Tuthmosis III, who took over after her death.  In ancient Egypt, there was the belief that one would cease to exist if all written mentions of a person’s name and likeness were destroyed.  Hatshpsut’s temple was no exception as he made an effort to remove her from existence.  The temple saw further vandalism by Akenaten who removed any references to the controversial God Amun, and further more by Coptic Christians when the temple was converted into a monastery.

Tomb of Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut being suckled by Hathor in her cow form

Despite all this, the temple is still impressive today but do not be expected to be blown away like you were at Abydos or Dendera.

Army of the Pharaoh
soldiers at the ready to protect the kingdom

The lower terrace is currently closed to visitors, so a visit to the temple really begins on the middle terrace halfway up the central ramp.  On the southern side of the terrace is a room and chapel dedicated to Hathor.  Hathor headed columns line the room here and a depiction of Hatshepsut being suckled by Hathor in her cow form can be seen on the outer wall.  The colonnade has some interesting artwork, describing the divine birth of Hatshepsut as well as an expedition to the land of Punt full of depictions of foreigners and exotic plants and animals.

Tomb of Hetshepsut
Image of Anubis with offerings

The upper terrace is lined with statues of Osiris but the real treat of climbing up here is to get a look at the Sanctuary of Amun, which still retains much of its color and artwork.

Entrance into the temple is 80 EGP ($4.47) and the ticket office is located at the temple.

Tomb of Hepshetsut
Inside the sanctuary of Amun

How to Get There

Most accommodation is found on the east bank of Luxor so your first task will be getting across the Nile.  While you can hire a driver on the east bank, the nearest bridge crossing makes it a 21 kilometer journey just to get there which jacks up the price.

The best option is to take the ferry (leaves very frequently all day) which leaves just behind the Temple of Luxor.  A trip across costs 1 EGP ($0.06) and drops you off where there are plenty of taxi drivers waiting as well as the bus station for local buses (vans) that run routes to communities in the west bank.

Luxor
Looking out over the Nile from the west bank

If you are planning on spreading out the west bank over the course of a few days (which you should) it doesn’t makes sense to hire a driver for the whole day as this will just end up costing you more money.  Here I will explain how to get to the four main attractions as cheaply as possibly without using your own mode of transportation.

Valley of Kings

This is the farthest attraction and will require a solid 3.2 km uphill walk in the desert heat if you choose to take the local bus.  If you choose this method, take the bus to the intersection near Howard Carter’s house, and then follow the sign indicating the direction of the Valley of Kings.

Valley of Kings
Entrance to the valley of Kings

It is best to hire a taxi along the west bank to drop you off at the Valley of Kings.  You can then walk downhill to the Carter House intersection from where you can pick up the local bus (any van passing by) that will take you back to the ferry.  If you stay till closing time, you will have countless offers from the police to drive you down to the intersection on their motorcycles for free.  Don’t count on this however.

A one way taxi to the Valley of Kings should cost no more than 30 EGP ($1.68).  Public buses cost 3.5 EGP ($0.17) per person.

Hatsheput Temple and the Tombs of Nobles

These two sites are right next to each other so it makes sense to see them on the same day.  Both are along the main road that is serviced by public buses.  The only logistical problem here is the fact that the ticket office for the tombs of nobles lies nearly 1 kilometer before the tombs themselves at the intersection across from Nour El Gourna Hotel.  You will have to get dropped off here to buy your tickets.  You can then either wait for another public van to pass by or walk the distance to the tombs.

Tomb of Nobles
Area of the tomb of Nobles

After seeing the tombs, follow the dirt path to Hatshepsut Temple.  After visiting the temple, you can make your way down to the main road and wait for van to bring you back to the ferry.

Valley of Queens

Like the Valley of Kings, the Valley of Queens is a bit out of the way.  Public buses can take you as far the ticket office for the tombs of nobles from where it is a 1.3 km walk uphill to the valley entrance.  A one way taxi should cost no more than 30 EGP ($1.68).  The walk back down to the Tomb of Nobles ticket office is rather pleasant but hot.  You can then take a public bus back to the ferry.

Luxor
Old abandoned homes near the tombs of nobles. The government forced the locals to move away from the tombs, leaving a ghost town in the desert valley

Entrance Fees

Here is a complete list off all admission prices to all Luxor attractions on the West Bank as of 2018.

Temples

Habu Temple: 60EGP
Ramesseum Temple: 60EGP
Temple of Seti I: 60EGP
Merenptah: 40EGP
Hatshepsut Temple: 80EGP

Tombs of Nobles

Sheikh Abd el-Qurna area:
Nakht + Menna + Amenemopet: 60EGP
Rekhmire + Sennefer: 40EGP
Ramose + Userhat + Khaemhat: 80EGP
Khonsu + Userhat + Benia: 80EGP

Khokha area:
Neferrenpet + Nefersekheru + Djehutymes: 40EGP

Dra Abu el-Naga:
Roy + Shuroy + Amenemope: 40EGP

Dair el-Medina area:
Sennedjem + Inherkau & temple: 80EGP
Pashedu: 40EGP

Qurnet Murrai area:
Imnhotep/Hwy + Imnement + Amunemheb: 40EGP

El-Asasif area:
Kheruef + Ankh_Hor + Mentuemhat: 60EGP

Photography Ticket: 300 EGP

Valley of the Kings

General entry ticket (3 tombs): 160 EGP

Rameses 5th & Rameses 6th: 90 EGP

Tutankhamun: 200EGP

Seti 1st: 1000EGP

Photography Ticket: 300 EGP

Valley of the Queens

General entry ticket: 80EGP

Queen Nefertari: 1000EGP

Photography Ticket: 300 EGP

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