The Unique Experience of Visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt

Located in Luxor, Egypt is the Valley of the Kings where many of the pharaohs were buried at the base of the mountain. The Valley of the Kings is probably best known for the discovery of King Tutankhamun (King Tut) by Howard Carter in 1922 and you can watch a short documentary at the main entrance showing the removal of the treasures and sarcophagus that were found. You can purchase an extra ticket to go into the tomb of King Tutankhamun, but since he suddenly died at the age of 19, his tomb is small and unimpressive and not really worth the extra entrance fee. Regardless of whether you enter the tomb of Tutankhamun, walking through these tombs is something that you will remember forever.

First View of the Mountain
Colorful Paintings and Reliefs
Sarcophagus inside of Tomb
Walking Through the Tombs
Pyramid Shaped Mountain

After centuries of building the pyramids to house the pharaohs on their journey to the next world, they came to the realization that the pyramids did as much to attract looters as they did to symbolize their wealth and importance. Often the treasures were stolen from the pyramids within a few years, if not months, from the burial of the pharaoh’s mummified corpse. To help conceal their burial locations, the pharaohs started building their tombs in the valley of the mountain Al-Qurn (The Horn) because it was shaped like a pyramid, which symbolizes eternal life. Starting in 2100 BC, this isolated location became the final resting place for at least 63 pharaohs, although new tombs are still being discovered.

Vivid Colors
Boat to Travel to the After Life
Empty Tomb
Entrance to King Tut’s Tomb
Tomb Entrance in the Side of the Mountain

Many of the tombs have been damaged by treasure hunters, floods, and more recently the effects of tourism as people enter these ornately decorated burial sites. In order to reduce the impact of people entering these tombs, the ticket allows entrance into three tombs that are selected on a rotating basis as they restore other tombs. Be sure to bring plenty of water as walking through the Valley of the Kings is hot, dry, and dusty. Fortunately, there is a tram that will take you up the hill to the base of the valley and there are a couple of covered areas to provide some shade from the relentless sun. Also, if you want to take photographs inside of the tombs, you will need to buy a photography ticket, which is 300 Egyptian Pounds (about 18 USD). Through some miscommunication with our guide, we did not have a photography ticket and were stopped by one of the guards, which led to quite an awkward moment. Fortunately we were able to get everything straitened out and our guide returned to the entrance to get us a ticket, but not without some embarrassment on our part.

Market at the Entrance to the Valley of the Kings
Trams to Take You to the Tomb Sites
Ceiling of One of the Tunnels
Painting of the Workers
Hot Day in the Valley

A long tunnel leads to the actual tomb chamber and the longer the life of the pharaoh, the deeper into the side of the mountain is the tomb. On the sides of the tomb are the two antechambers, one that housed food and necessities for the pharaoh in the afterlife and the other that contained the various treasures. The paintings and hieroglyphs are amazingly vivid and tell the story of the greatness of the pharaoh. Regardless of the time of year that you visit, expect there to be large crowds visiting the tombs along side of you. Take advantage of the slower moving lines to fully appreciate the details of the reliefs that adorn the walls as you slowly descend into the heart of the mountain. Unfortunately your guide is not allowed to go inside with you, so they will likely explain what you will see by showing you pictures (which are available for purchase) prior to entering the tombs.

Hieroglyphs and Cartouches
Fascinating Painting
Walking Down to the Tomb Chamber
Scarab Relief
Colorful Details

Touring the Valley of the Kings was an incredible experience and one of the many highlights of our time in Egypt. We recommend getting the photography ticket as it is the only way, other than purchasing post card photos, to truly capture the magnificence of these tombs. Mummification and the building of tombs wasn’t just for pharaohs, there are also the Tombs of the Nobles, those who were rich enough to create a lasting memorial to themselves, as well as the Valley of the Queens. To walk through the tombs with the vivid colors that have survived for three to four thousand years is something that we will certainly never forget.

Beautiful Despite the Damage
Telling a Story
Walking with the Gods
Inside of a Tomb

Wonderful Highlights of a River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan in Egypt

One of our favorite things that we did during our trip to Egypt was to take a cruise down the Nile River from Luxor in the north to Aswan in the southern portion of the country. It is definitely not just one of our favorite memories of Egypt, but is probably one of our best travel memories overall. Even though the overall cruise is only a few days, the sights that you’re able to see are simply amazing. You have the choice of every type of cruise from luxury to economy, but we went with a mid-range cruise, which was still wonderful. We also had a private Egyptologist that took us to the various places where we stopped, which is a must in our opinion since there is so much to learn about the history and culture.

Karnak Temple Complex at Dusk
Empty Tomb in the Valley of the Kings
Hatshepsut Temple
King and Queen Together in the Luxor Temple
Obelisk Reaching Toward the Sky in the Karnak Temple Complex

We spent two days in Luxor, first visiting the east bank of the Nile to see the Karnak Temple Complex. Karnak Temple is considered the second most visited site in Egypt behind the Great Pyramids of Giza and is certainly a perfect place to start the cruise down the Nile River. We even went back to Karnak that first night to see a light show that took you through the temple after hours with an audio narrative describing more of the history. In addition to Karnak Temple, we also visited Luxor Temple, which is also very interesting and Egypt is in the process of restoring the water feature between Karnak and Luxor Temples that is lined with sphynx statues. That night the cruise ship makes its way across the Nile to the west coast where a full day was ahead of us. We visited the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple and the Colossi of Memnon, and also went to an alabaster factory where we purchased a couple of items.

Worker at the Alabaster Factory
Statue of Horus at the Temple of Horus
Both of the Colossi of Memnon Statues
Lotus Columns in the Temple of Kom Ombo
Sunset Over the Nile River

From there we enjoyed an afternoon cruise where we were able to see beautiful sunsets over the Nile River. At night we arrived in Edfu, which would start our third day of the tour. From our cruise ship, we were taken by horse-drawn carriage to see the Temple of Horus. It was certainly a great start to the day. We then returned to the ship where we continued down the river to our next stop of the day, which was at the Temple of Kom Ombo. This would be our last night on the cruise ship as the following day we would tour sites in Aswan before flying back to Cairo.

People in the Background Provide Scale to the Obelisk in the Quarry
Entrance to the Temple of Isis
Looking Out From the High Dam
Walking Down to the Tomb Chamber in the Valley of the Kings
Taking a Cruise Ship Down the Nile River in Egypt

On the final day, we focused on the sites within the city of Aswan, which is most known for its historic High Dam. As with the rest of our time in Egypt, the real highlight were the historic sites that we visited including seeing the ancient granite quarry that still has a partial obelisk carved into the stone. We took a small boat out to see the island of Philae where the Temple of Isis was relocated in order to save it from flooding. Although it was hot wherever we were in Egypt, the temperatures in Aswan were the highest, reaching as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44 to 45 degrees Celsius).

Standing Inside the Karnak Temple Complex
View of the Temple of Isis from the Boat
View of the Temple of Kom Ombo
Riding in the Carriage Through Edfu, Egypt
Colorful Column

It was definitely an incredible, if not overwhelming, experience to see all of those wonderful places. It is possible to extend the tour or to spend more time in Luxor, but we found the full four days to be quite enough as there was so much to see and absorb as it was. Just sitting on the upper deck of the cruise ship and seeing the shoreline of the Nile or even watching the local children swimming and playing in the water gave us time to absorb what we had seen. We would highly recommend anyone visiting Egypt consider taking one of the Nile River cruises between Luxor and Aswan.

What to See in Luxor, Egypt

Luxor is certainly the highlight of any trip to Egypt and there are many wonderful ancient sites to visit. Luxor takes at least a couple of days to truly see and you should divide your time between the west and east banks of the Nile. It is a short flight from Cairo, although it can certainly be reached by bus or car if you prefer. There are plenty of hotel choices in Luxor, but because we were there to start our Nile River cruise, we stayed on board our ship. Out of our entire time in Egypt, many of our favorite memories came from our time in Luxor.

Entering the Karnak Temple Complex

Karnak Temple – After the Great Pyramids in Cairo, this is probably one of the most visited and photographed places in Egypt. We visited both during the day and then again at night for one of the light and sound shows. Regardless of the time of day, it is an amazing location with so many sights to see. From statues, columns, obelisks, to the hieroglyphs and temple walls, it is a labyrinth of fascinating art and architecture.

Empty Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings – If you have watched any mummy movie or ever imagined yourself as an archeologist discovering an ancient site, walking through one of these ancient tombs is a memory that you will never forget. Even though all of the treasures have been removed and can be found in museums throughout the world, seeing where the pharaohs were buried centuries ago is worth the time.

Both of the Colossi of Memnon Statues

Hatshepsut Temple and the Colossi of Memnon – Although these are two separate sights, they are close enough to each other that we are combining them as one attraction. The sheer size of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is amazing to see and it is definitely different than most of the other temples that we visited in Egypt. As for the Colossi of Memnon, it will only take about a half an hour to visit, but seeing these enormous statues that face the Nile River is quite impressive.

King and Queen Together in the Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple – Although not as large as the Karnak Temple Complex, it should definitely be on your list of places to see while in Luxor. There is a road between the two temple complexes that is being reconstructed that will be absolutely amazing when complete. By the time you have visited a couple of the temple complexes, your head will be spinning with all of the historical, mythological, and cultural information that you will be told if you use an Egyptologist guide as we did.

Valley of the Kings from the River

Nile River Cruise – Taking a cruise from Luxor down to Aswan is an incredible experience that you will treasure forever. As you leave Luxor and start to head south, you will see the mountains that house the Valley of the Kings off of the banks of the Nile. It is also a great way to get out of the heat of the desert and travel in relaxing style.

Chiseling the Soft Stone

Alabaster Factories – Going to one of the many alabaster factories is certainly worthwhile, even if you don’t purchase anything. Just seeing the artisans who create unique works of art from the translucent stone makes it something that you should do while in Luxor.

There are many other sites to visit while in Luxor, such as the Valley of the Queens or the Luxor Museum, if you have the time. If you only have two days as we did, we would certainly recommend that you at least visit these particular places.