There are no pyramids in Luxor, but ancient Egyptian dynasties built colossal buildings, hidden tunnels, and monuments in Luxor including Karnak, the Temple of Luxor, Valley of the Kings, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and Temple of Ramses III.
1. Visiting the Second Largest Temple Complex: Karnak Temple
The Karnak Temple is thought to be the second largest temple complex in the world after Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This temple complex is the most visited tourist area in Egypt after the Great Pyramids of Egypt. For 2,000 years starting about 2000 BC, many rulers built temples, obelisks, monuments, and buildings there.
Karnak is on the east side of the Nile near the river. The Hypostyle Hall consists of 134 columns. Ramses II is thought to have built most of the hall. The Obelisk of Hatshepsut is the second biggest of all the ancient Egyptian obelisks, and it is about 30 meters tall. The historical inscriptions are important. The conquest of Israel is listed in detail as are other historical details. In the temple complex area, there is a museum called the Karnak Open Air Museum.
2. Admire the Splendid Luxor Temple
It is thought that construction started in the 14th century BC. The construction was continued by Ramses II. There are huge pylons and obelisks. It is smaller than the Karnak Temple. The Luxor Temple is about 3 kilometers or two miles away from Karnak Temple. Both of these are on the east bank of the Nile.
3. Take Luxor Balloon Ride Flying Over the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings was a burial ground for the New Kingdom dynasties of Egypt. Tutankhamen and Ramses II both have monuments in the valley. About 11 tombs are currently open for tourists to visit.
It is another of the most popular tourist places in Egypt. This is partly because there is a balloon tour flight center in the valley that is very popular with tourist. The Luxor balloon rides give you an opportunity to get a view of the monuments and structures from above. Seeing the Valley of the Kings and the region from balloon is very popular, and hundreds of people do it almost every morning.
We recommend doing a predawn balloon ride to catch the dawn while in flight. The predawn rides generally cost about 120 USD or more. You can get early morning flights after dawn for about 80 USD.
For more information about the Luxor Balloon rides including pricing information, hours, FAQs (frequently asked questions), and how to book and plan for a flight, read Tips for Taking the Hot Air Balloons in Luxor.
Related reading: How to Plan Your First Trip to Egypt — 7 Easy Steps
4. Visit the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (the Most Powerful Female Rulers of Egypt)
This temple is huge and is one of the things to see near the Valley of the Kings. There are three levels to the temple. It has a spectacular location in front of a big red cliff. It was dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut who was one of the most powerful female rulers of Egypt. It is an amazing sight to see the temple structure from balloon.
5. Walk to the Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu
The west side of the Nile has lots of other temples and tombs to see. But probably a favorite for most tourists is the Temple of Ramses III because it is huge. There are courtyards, pylons (grand entrance gates), and halls. There are inscriptions detailing the defeat of the Sea People during the rule of Ramses III. The Temple of Ramses III is close enough to the Valley of the Kings that you can walk there in about 40 minutes. It is about 3 kilometers (2 miles) away.
Suggested reading: Best of Luxor and Aswan: Short Tour Planner
6. Appreciate the Arts in the Temple of Dendera
The Temple of Dendera is about 60 kilometers or 1½ hours from Luxor by driving. When you are in the Luxor area, Dendera is a highlight to go see if you have the time. It is also visited by tourists during a Nile cruise since it is only about 4 km (2.5 miles) from the Nile and is a regular stop for cruise ships north of Luxor.
Dendera is very impressive and takes up an area of two city blocks. There are many things to see including a Roman Gateway of Domitian and Trajan, a Roman Mammisi (a place to give birth), and the main building in the complex called the Temple of Dendera. It is noted for having original paintings and inscriptions that are still clear and colorful.
How Much Time Is Needed to Tour Luxor?
The area is so big, we suggest touring will take about three days. This will give you time to also go see the nearby Temple of Dendera complex too that is only about 60 kilometers away. Both sides of the Nile have amazing highlights, but if your time is short, then the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings are the must go to locations.
How to Get to Luxor
Most tourists fly to Luxor or take a cruise ship there. Luxor is in an out of the way area between Cairo and Aswan. So taking a cruise ship is convenient. Some cruise ships travel from Cairo all the way the way to Luxor. Cruise ships became even more of a popular way to travel after 2020.
Cruise ship: Luxor is a regular cruise ship stop. The cruise ships are generally safe, hygienic, and relaxed. Most of the cruise ships that stop in Luxor either begin in Luxor and go south to Aswan in 4 to 7 nights, or they begin in Aswan and travel to Luxor within 3 nights. You might be surprised that prices can be quite low.
Nile cruise tour. You can see Luxor on a Nile cruise.
Recommended visiting duration: 4–7 days
Other ways to go to Luxor:
- Vehicle or taxi from Cairo: Driving takes a little more than 8 hours from Cairo International Airport (CAI).
- Flight from Cairo: A flight from Cairo Airport (CAI) to Luxor Airport (LXR) takes about an hour and might cost about 100 to 150 USD. The airport in Luxor is conveniently close to the highlights. The Luxor International Airport is located 7 kilometers (a little more than 2 miles) east of the city of Luxor.
- Train from Cairo: The train takes about 10 hours. You can take a sleeper cabin train for about 90 or 100 USD. First-class tickets might cost about 24 USD.
- Vehicle or taxi from Aswan: Driving takes a little more than 3 hours from Aswan.
For more about taking a cruise ship to Luxor, Aswan, and places along the way, see: Best Times to Take a Nile Cruise (Aswan–Luxor).
Touring Egypt with Global Highlights
For anyone who is willing to explore Luxor, going inside the big structures and tunnels is no doubt an essential experience. With a knowledgeable guide on tailor-made trip, you can tour around in more comfort and safety, and your guide can explain the various places and their history. You can go to the places you enjoy and journey at your own pace as everything is well taken care of.
Why Travel with Global Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
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