As Thebes, it was the capital of the ancient kingdom; today Luxor is known as the world’s greatest open-air museum, home to some of Egypt’s most famous temples, tombs and monuments.
Luxor, a city to discover in a land with so much magic, with great culture and its great temples you can walk through the streets among the ruins of the Egyptian empire, surrounded by mysticism and feeling that time has stopped, hence its great attraction as a tourist destination that makes it the most visited city of several decades ago.
Located on the East Bank of the Nile River, was the capital of Egypt for over 1500 years. This city was constructed on the ruins of the former Thebes, a place to which Homer called: “The city of the hundred doors “.
Luxor is home to an incomparable number of ancient Egyptian monuments. Amongst its highlights are the 3400-year-old Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple Complex; the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, and the massive stone statues known as the Colossi of Memnon.
As a small city, visitors can get around Luxor as easily by taxi as by horse-drawn carriage. While the horse-drawn carriage option is a true tourist pleasure, hiring a bike can also be a fun way of seeing the city sights – although only recommended during the day, and not during the hottest times of year!
Most important places to visit in Luxor:
Built around 1400 BCE from Nubian sandstone, the Southern Sanctuary is a graceful temple complex located at Luxor, on the east bank of the Nile.
The Ancient Egyptian temple complex of Luxor has had an interesting history. Founded in 1400 BCE, it was expanded by 18th Dynasty Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun, and later by Ramesses the Great, and under the Roman Empire it was used as fortress and government building.
Luxor Temple – also known as the Southern Sanctuary – is considered to have held a great significance to the Feast of Opet. This annual religious festival involved a procession of the statues of the deities Amun, his wife Mut, and their child Khonsu, from the other grand temple complex in ancient Thebes: Karnak. Later celebrations would see the statues travel down the Nile by sacred boat, and a ceremonial re-coronation of the Pharaoh.
Constructed over the course of two thousand years from around 2000 BCE, Karnak is one of the largest religious complexes in the world and was Egypt’s most important place of worship during the New Kingdom.
Built over two millennia between the years of around 2200 and 360 BCE, Karnak is a massive Ancient Egyptian temple complex that was one of the country’s most important places of worship under the rules of Hatshepsut, Seti I, Ramesses II and Ramesses III. As well as the dominating Temple of Amun-Ra, Karnak is also made up of smaller chapels and sanctuaries dedicated to other deities, as well as grand halls, docks, and a sacred lake. and pylons – the monumental gateways that mark temple entrances.
One of Karnak’s most spectacular sights is the Great Hypostyle Hall. This enormous monument is made up of 134 massive columns – some of them almost 70 feet (21 meters) tall – lined up in 16 rows over an area of 50,000 square feet (5,000 square meters).
Light and sound show
If you’d like to see a different side of Karnak Temple, why not return in the evening to experience one of Egypt’s most famous light and sound shows. Different parts of the temple complex are beautifully illuminated as their dramatic history is revealed to you. This spectacle is put on daily in different languages – English is usually the first show of the day, aside from on Sundays and Wednesdays, when it is second.
Valley of the Kings:
The final resting place of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, the Valley of the Kings is home to more than 60 magnificent royal tombs.
Officially known as The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in the West of Thebes, the Valley of the Kings is home to the royal tombs of the New Kingdom pharaohs (1550 to 1069 BCE).
Chosen for its remote location in a valley opposite the ancient city of Thebes, now Luxor, the necropolis is known to consist of 63 tombs of varying grandeur: from simple pits to complex multi-chambered tombs decorated with exquisite reliefs and paintings.
The tombs are opened to the public in rotation to protect them from the damage caused by the presence of visitors, so access depends on when you visit. If they’re open, our favourites are the tombs of Thutmose III, Ramesses VI, Ramesses IX, Siptah and Ramesses IV.
Tutankhamun’s tomb is also located here in the Valley of the Kings. While it still contains the mummified body of one of the most well-known pharaohs, the huge number objects that were buried with the ancient king are now exhibited in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Valley of the Queens:
The Valley of the Queens, or “the place of beauty” as it was known in ancient times, is the burial site of the royal wives and princesses of Egypt’s New Kingdom.
The Valley of the Queens, located in a neighboring wadi, or valley, to the necropolis of the Pharaohs, is home to the tombs of the royal women of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The wives of Pharaohs, princesses and even a handful of princes were buried here from the 18th through to the 20th dynasties.
One of the best-known Egyptian queens, Nefertari Meritmut was the first of Ramesses the Great’s Royal Wives. Named “Beautiful companion, beloved of Mut”, she was well educated and involved in politics. Among many other nicknames, Ramesses called her “the one for whom the sun shines”, and her importance can be felt immediately on entering her spectacular tomb. Exquisitely colorful scenes decorate the walls of the three chambers and their connecting corridors; while golden stars twinkle down from the ceilings. Ramesses’ love for his first wife is also demonstrated in the enormous rock temple dedicated to her that stands beside his own at Abu Simbel.
Colossi of Memnon:
Legend has it that behind these giants’ voices were heard coming from the statues every sunrise, apparently, this is due to the passage of air through the pores of the statues. Thousands of people have traveled to see these statues. The two giants represent King Amenhotep III. In ancient times these giants, sculpted in quartzite, guarded the entrance to his temple, but it has been destroyed over the millennia. You can’t see their faces clearly because of the severe damage and erosion, but you can take lots of pictures.
It is the memorial temple of Ramses II, according to Egyptian beliefs of the time the mummified body of the pharaoh would go in a boat to the kingdom of the dead, from there would continue to watch over the living, as the pharaoh was like a God for his people more than a human. For the construction of this temple Ramses II, he demanded absolute perfection, so that it would be an eternal testimony of his power.
Temple of Hatshepsut:
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepshut, also known as the Djeser-Djeseru – which meant “Holy of Holies” in Ancient Egyptian – is located beneath a sheer cliff face in Deir el-Bahari, near Luxor.
Also known as the Djeser-Djeseru, the “Holy of Holies” in Ancient Egyptian language, the temple was built for the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the longest reigning female pharaoh, regarded by historians as one of the most successful leaders of Ancient Egypt and as the “first great woman in history”.
The sanctuary is a mortuary, or memorial, temple, constructed in honor of the pharaoh under which it was built. Despite being around 3500 years old, its long colonnaded terrace almost looks like contemporary architecture, and the elegant symmetry contrasts strikingly with the rugged cliff face that loom above it.
In its heyday, the Temple of Hatshepsut would have been surrounded by glorious gardens filled with exotic trees and plants, reached via a sphinx-lined avenue. Over the millennia, as well as the usual erosion and decay suffered by the ancient monuments, the temple was vandalised by Haptshepsut’s stepson Tuthmosis III and the early Christians, amongst others. Nevertheless, thanks to careful restoration, it still retains its splendor and is well worth a visit.
Deir el-Bahari, where the temple is located, is generally regarded to be one of the hottest places on earth. We therefore recommend you visit early to avoid as much of the day’s heat as possible! The early morning light also offers the best illumination of the temple’s reliefs.