Top Tourist Attractions in Luxor & Easy Day Trips
| by Assia A. |
| Last Updated March 24, 2023 |
Luxor is one of the most popular cities in Egypt for tourism and offers many tourist attractions and places to visit. The city stands out above all other Egyptian cities because of the absolute wealth of ancient treasures available to visitors.
The large number of famous tombs, temples, and wall paintings makes the town an open-air museum and provides a great opportunity for sightseeing.
Its ancient name was Thebes which was the capital city of the Middle and the New Kingdom. and a place where many of the kings of Egypt were buried in large tombs in and around the Valley of Kings on the Nile’s west bank.
The Karnak Temple complex is, without a doubt, the grandest example of ancient Egypt’s legacy. However, there are many other monuments in Luxor worth exploring- you may easily spend a week and still not take it all in.
This is the place to visit to feel like you’re traveling back in time to when Egypt was at its most magical .
We have prepared this handy, free travel guide of the top tourist attractions in Luxor, Egypt, and recommended easy day trips to help you get the most of your trip.
East Bank Sites
Temple of Karnak
Among Luxor’s many monuments, the Temple Complex of Karnak has to be its most astonishing and beautiful achievement. It’s impressive for so many reasons, but the Temple of Amun, the Temple of Khons, and the Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III is the most important of them all.
The complex represents the building activity of many successive rulers, who competed with one another in adding to and adorning this great national sanctuary, which became the most important of Egypt’s temples during the New Kingdom.
All the monuments here are built on a huge scale, reducing visitors to very tiny proportions as they are looking at mighty columns and colossal statuary. Even if you’re short on time, don’t skimp on your visit to the Temple of Karnak. You don’t need a full day to get the most out of this site, but be certain to allocate at least three hours of your time for the visit.
If you can, find a local tour operator. They will arrange a guide to lead you around and help you understand the various places you’ll visit in this historic city. You can easily walk to Karnak from downtown along the Nile-side Corniche road, but due to the heat, most people take a taxi.
If you don’t have much time, plenty of guided tours is offered that whisk you around the highlights of Luxor East Bank. You’ll visit Karnak and the Luxor temples as part of this tour. It’s a great option that includes two of the major tourist attractions in Luxor!
Located in the midst of the modern city, Luxor Temple is an example of Egypt through the centuries. The site of an earlier sandstone temple, Luxor Temple was built first by Amenophis III and was known as “the southern harem of Amun”. It was dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut, and their son the moon god Khons.
Like any ancient Egyptian temple, the site includes the chapels of the deities, with their vestibules and subsidiary chambers; a large Hypostyle Hall; and an open Peristyle Court, which was attached from the north by a great colonnade.
The Temple of Luxor has been remodeled multiple times by different kings, each one of them was adding his touch according to his religious beliefs.
- King Amenophis IV effaced references to the god Amun within the temple, added the Sanctuary of the god Aten.
- King Tutankhamun had the walls of the colonnade ornamented with reliefs and ruined the Temple of the Aten.
- His successor King Seti I reinstated the reliefs of Amun.
- King Ramses II extended the temple, added a new colonnaded court at the north end.
In Christian times, the temple was transformed into a church. In the Islamic era, a mosque was built in the complex to honor “Sheikh Abu el-Haggag”, a revered holy man.
One of Egypt’s top museums, the Luxor Museum houses a beautifully exhibited collection from the reign of Egypt that tells the story of ancient Thebes, from the Old Kingdom to the Islamic Period.
The museum’s most valuable possessions are the two royal mummies found on the ground floor, The Royal Mummies of King Ahmose I and allegedly King Ramses I, they are worth a visit in themselves.
The upper floor houses a fascinating collection of amulets, silver bowls, grave and tomb furnishings, and votive tablets running across the floor space.
We recommend that you visit the famous Wall of Akhenaten. These 283 sandstone blocks, which originally belonged to Akhenaten’s Temple of the Sun at Karnak are covered with painted reliefs. The reliefs were painted in bright colors, they depict scenes from the life of the pharaoh and his family.
This small, but an intriguing museum in downtown Luxor displays the procedures used in the ancient Egyptian practice of mummification. The display includes the tools and substances used in the process.
The exhibit showcases actual mummies (both human and animal), as well as the tools (including the spatulas used to scrape the dead person’s brains out). The exhibit will give you a better understanding of how ancient Egyptians mummified their dead and the types of mummies they left behind.
It’s probably not the best museum for anyone with any kind of phobia, but the clear information panels and well-thought-out exhibits are a must for anyone looking to find out more about the pharaohs’ burial practices.
The highlight here is the mummy of Maserharti, a high priestess of Amun in the 21st Dynasty which was extremely well preserved with an extraordinary level of detail.
Felucca Ride to Banana Island
The Nile River in Luxor is worth exploring, why not take a Felucca ride to the nearby Banana Island? The boat ride up the Nile to the island from Luxor takes about an hour. Banana Island is a small, palm-shaded island where you can relax and enjoy a meal, or a drink while enjoying the picturesque view of the west and east bank.
You can charter a Felucca with ease, most boat captains are happy to take on tourists from around the city. This is normally an hourly rate with an additional tip. Charter a Felucca to take a ride on the river with plenty of time to see all the sights along the way.
It is all about relaxing and watching the water slowly glide by from the side and the back of the boat. On your way back from the island you can get to see the beautiful Nile’s sunset, you might even get to take a selfie or two while enjoying the view.
Balloon Ride over Luxor
Balloon rides are the perfect way to tour Luxor on a clear day and enjoy the fantasy of the West Bank and other interesting attractions of the city.
Hot air balloon rides typically take off after sunrise and fly over the West Bank giving you the opportunity to explore the magnificent view of the villages, rural areas, temples, and tombs from above.
Flight times vary from around 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on which operator you select. It can be a little difficult to find out exactly how long each balloon tour takes, so it is important to check before you book. The experience can be as much as three hours long, though which includes the pick-up and drop-off time.
West Bank Sites
Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two gigantic statues standing side by side in front of the West Bank’s main West Bank ticket office. The statues, dating back to around 1500 BCE, are among the oldest in the world.
Carved out of hard, yellowish-brown sandstone quarried in the hills above Edfu, these magnificent statues once stood guard at the entrance to the King’s temple, of which only scanty traces remain.
The South Colossus is better preserved than the North Colossus, stands at nearly 20 meters tall, and the base is partly buried under the sand. Its crown is long gone, but it must have stood close to 21 meters tall.
The North Colossus also known as the “Musical Statue”, was a major attraction for many visitors during the Roman Imperial era. People have observed that the statue emits a musical note at sunrise and this led to the myth that Memnon was greeting his mother, Eos, with this soft, plaintive note, the sound stopped once the statue was fixed.
If you want to see the huge site where the original Amenophis III temple once existed, you need to walk behind the statues. The vast site is currently being dug up by archaeologists for more explorations.
Valley of the Kings
Hidden behind the rocky walls of Luxor’s West Bank, lies the Valley of the Kings the final resting place for the kings of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. The tombs’ walls are painted with intricate, vibrant frescoes that have kept many visitors coming back year after year.
It was believed that the dead, accompanied by the sun god (or perhaps having become unified with the sun god), sailed through the underworld at night in a boat, so the walls of the tombs were adorned with texts and scenes depicting this journey and giving the dead instruction on its course.
In the valley lie the tombs of 63 famous Egyptian kings, including the famous boy-king Tutankhamun.
The tombs are preserved under an open-air system to protect them from humidity. The rotating system is also used to conserve the condition of the paintings as much as possible.
As it is one of the major tourist attractions in Luxor, the best time to visit the site is to head here first thing in the morning (the site opens at 6 am) to see them completely without the crowds.
Temple of Deir al-Bahri (Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple)
At the foot of the cliffs, on the west bank, stands the Temple of Deir el-Bahri. There you’ll find something of a spectacle–the white temples contrasting beautifully with the golden sand.
The temple complex is divided into three levels via ramps, with a colonnade along the west side of each terrace.
The Terraces were sculpted out of the eastern hillside, with retaining walls of the finest sandstone along the sides & in the back.
The temple itself was also partly hewn from rock Inside, the complex is richly adorned with statues, reliefs, and inscriptions.
Queen Hatshepsut had herself represented with the attributes of a male pharaoh ( clothing and beard ) demonstrating that she was no different from a male king.
The Great Mortuary Temple of Ramses II, built to honor the god Amun, is located one-and-a-half kilometers south of Deir el-Bahri on the West Bank.
Despite less than half of the structure is remaining (damaged by the 27 BC earthquake), it’s still impressive. Romans knew it as the Tomb of Ozymandias and the English poet Shelley immortalized it in his poem.
The North Tower and the south tower are inscribed with reliefs of Ramses II’s battle with the Hittites, it is almost identical to the one of King Ramses II himself in the temple of Abu Simbel.
The left-hand side of the south wall is dedicated to King Ramses II fighting the Hittites in his chariots. Scenes show him wielding arrows against his enemies, who can be seen either dying or fleeing in panic. The Hittite Prince with the enemy in tow is charging towards the fortress on the right-hand side.
Entry to the enclosure is through a court. Within it is the ruin of a colossal figure of the king, with estimated 17.5 meters of height and over 1,000 tons in weight.
Medinet Habu is a breathtaking temple that can often get overlooked in favor of visiting the Valley of the Kings or the Temple of Deir al-Bahri. However, it is one of Egypt’s most beautifully decorated temples and should be on everyone’s West Bank must-see list.
This complex has temples dating back to the 18th dynasty, one of which is an older, 18th dynasty temple. It also has a Ramses III-era temple with an accompanying palace surrounded by high walls.
The main temple area of Medinat-Habu was built on the same design as the Ramesseum and, like the Ramesseum, it was dedicated to Amun. The reliefs here are some of the very best you’ll find on the west bank.
Valley of the Queens
The tombs in the Valley of the Queens belong to the 19th and 20th dynasties. The tombs were mostly excavated by an Italian expedition led by E. Schiaparelli in 1903-1905. Most of the tombs are unfinished and without decoration, resembling mere caves in the rocks.
There are only 4 tombs open for public visits including the tomb of the ancient Egyptian queen, Nefertiti, which was reopened for public visits with a daily limited number of visitors to preserve its colors and paintings.
The tomb of Nefertari wife of Ramses II (or Ramses the Great) is the best example of a royal burial chamber from ancient Egypt, it is regarded as one of the finest of its kind. It is decorated with scenes depicting Nefertari’s legendary beauty.
The three other tombs that can be seen here include the Tomb of Prince Amenherkhaf, the Tomb of Senenmut, and the Tomb of Kha and Nakht. The walls of these three other chambers are covered with dazzling, highly detailed and richly colored scenes, of these three, the Tomb of Prince Amenherkhaf is the best, as the wall paintings of its chambers have amazing and well-preserved colors.
If you have the time, or just want to explore tombs, then the Tomb of Khaemwaset and the Tomb of Queen Titi both contain interesting preserved scenes.
Tombs of the Nobles
If you’re still looking for more tombs in Luxor’s West Bank to explore, then be sure to stop by the Tombs of Nobles. Although these are much lesser-known, they offer better-preserved paintings which are much more enjoyable than those found in more famous tombs.
This site in the West Bank contains over 400 tombs of various dignitaries, all from different periods. From the 6th dynasty up to the Ptolemaic era. the tomb paintings here are not about preparing the deceased for eternity, but rather showcasing ancient Egypt’s daily life.
The Tomb of Sennofer, Tomb of Rekhmire, Tomb of Khonsu, Tomb of Benia, Tomb of Menna, and Tomb of Nakht are among the best-preserved examples of vivid and vibrant paintings that still attract visitors today.
If you don’t have time to go all the way, make sure you check out the amazing Tomb of Sennofer and Tomb of Rekhmire, as they are home to detailed paintings portraying scenes from the men’s daily lives, work, and family life.
Deir el-Medina, located on the West Bank of Luxor, is home to a small temple, the remains of a workers’ village, and the tombs of the workers themselves. It’s a great place to visit for the wall paintings, which differ in style from those that decorate the pharaoh’s tombs and are a vivid portrayal of everyday Egyptian life.
The Tomb of Sennedjem is a burial place with a vaulted tomb chamber and reliefs and paintings on religious themes, including a fine depiction of a funeral banquet. The tomb and its contents were discovered in the late 1800s and are now on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
After you’ve visited the tombs, take a walk up to Deir el-Medina’s temple, which is just above it. It’s a nice little temple that dates from the Ptolemaic era and was built to house a statue of the goddess Hathor.
Mortuary Temple of Seti I
The Mortuary Temple of Seti I on Luxor’s West Bank is dedicated to Amun and to the cult of the king’s father Ramses I. This ancient monument was begun by Seti I and finished by Ramses II. It features reliefs and inscriptions that compete in quality with the contemporary work at Abydos.
The temple is still one of the most impressive structures in the city of Luxor. The entire temple complex is 158 meters long. While the majority of the structure is gone, the remains of the temple are impressive. Its hypostyle hall is one of the best examples of Egyptian architectural design.
On the rooftop of the museum’s main hall is the Egyptian Museum’s Solar Disc, symbolizing the sun god Ra. It’s flanked by two rows of hieroglyphics (symbols) with Seti I on top.
The low reliefs on the walls depict Seti I and Ramses II making offerings to various gods, including Hathor of Dendera.
Tomb of Tutankhamun Replica & Carter’s House
This mud-brick house was the home of Carter for the duration of his search for Tutankhamun’s tomb. There is also in the garden here, a replica of the tomb of Tutankhamun from the Valley of the Kings. It’s an exact copy of the original, including the fine details such as dust on the walls.
It is a joint project between Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities and Factum Foundation for Digital Conservation as an experiment in the modern preservation of monuments from potential damages caused by the huge number of visitors’ negative effect on tombs’ atmosphere.
Carter’s house was restored back to its original state, and it even retains some of the photos that were taken when he lived there. The house also displays interesting photographs that document his work.
Day Trips from Luxor
Temples of Abydos
The ancient Necropolis of Abydos in Egypt is among the oldest necropolises in the world, dating back to the early second millennium BC. It associates with the first capital city of ancient Egypt, Thinis. Kings and high court dignitaries were buried here during the 1st and 2nd dynasties. Rituals to honor the deceased were first celebrated here to symbolize their temporary nature and recurrence in life.
The site is centered around the Temple of Seti I, which is feted as one of Egypt’s most complete temples still standing today which makes it an architectural gem. Most visitors are here simply to visit the temple, but there are numerous cemeteries and small ruins to also explore in the surrounding area.
You can visit Abydos for a day trip from Luxor, which takes around 2 hours drive in each direction.
Temple of Hathor at Dendera
Although Dendera Temple is smaller than the earlier Karnak temple, it’s an impressive monument to Egyptology. The size of the temple and the profusion of reliefs and inscriptions on the walls make it a wonderful example of the decorative art of the Pharaonic Late Period.
Dendera was once the center of power for Upper Egypt and the city was built on the Nile near the point where it meets the eastern edge of the Nile valley. The temple was built in the year 2250 BC.
Dendera is 76km north of Luxor. The main form of transport is taxi-tour although there are also regular buses and trains that connect the town with Luxor. The most direct way to get here is by car, which is the easiest option.
Temple of Khnum, Esna
The temple of Khnum, the ram-headed local god, is located nine meters below the present street level in the center of Esna.
The outer walls bear reliefs and inscriptions date back to the Roman era. On the south side of the temple is depicted Domitian, holding a sickle, beating his enemies. On the north side is shown Khnum, with the goddess Nebtu standing behind him, presents Trajan, also shown holding a sickle, beating his enemies.
The seven-aisled Vestibule of the Temple of Amun was the only part of the temple that was completed. It was also built during the Roman Imperial Period. The temple is located at Esna, Egypt about 56 km south of Luxor which is an hour by car.
Travel Tips to Make the Most of Your Visit to Luxor
Tombs and Temples Half-Day Tour
- If you have limited time to spend in Luxor, we recommend taking the Luxor West Bank Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple private tour. It’s a comprehensive four-hour tour that includes three temple visits and heads on over to Deir al-Bahri (the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut) to explore one of the most famous temples in Egypt.
Tombs and Temples Full-Day Tour
- If you’re looking for a one-stop ticket to the top 5 sites in Luxor, the full-day tour is just for you. In addition to the popular Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings and more, this tour includes a visit to the Luxor Museum.
Best Time to Plan Your Luxor Activities
- Luxor is a very hot place during the day so it is best to go around sunrise or sunset times. If you get up early, the sights open early as well. It’s really a win/win situation.
Recommended Tours in Luxor
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