My first Luxor night was spent on the boat and I went to bed early. Hot air ballooning featured on my itinerary the next day very early in the morning and it was to be followed by an extensive visit to the Luxor West Bank. I woke up when the sky was still dark and my guide drove me to the hot air ballooning park. The launch site was located on the Luxor West Bank and it was a bumpy ride. By the time, I reached the park, busy preparations were already underway and the huge field was scattered with huge balloons. These lay patiently on the field like huge neon flowers and roaring gas fires slowly inflated them. The balloons blossomed in full capacity right in front of my eyes and I watched in dazed wonder as the pilots busily carried about their pre-flight checks. I have never been on a hot air balloon before and for me, it was my highlight of that trip.
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Hot air ballooning over Luxor West Bank
Luxor, being a tourist mecca, offered many such exciting activities to the tourists, and until a recent fire accident, watching the sunrise over the Luxor West Bank from hot air balloon was “the thing to do out there’. Surprisingly, despite my eager anticipation, I did not enjoy hot air ballooning much and found the takeoff or landing to be extremely unnerving. The view from the top, however, was astonishingly beautiful and the rising sun engulfed the tawny hued Luxor West Bank in deep golden shades. Somewhere below, amidst the golden grooves of the sandstone hills, a vast necropolis with its royal tombs, mortuary temples, and other somber establishments lay quietly uninhabited without a soul. The crowd that would descend upon them in hordes during the later part of the day had not yet arrived and the dead lay in undisturbed timeless sleep.
The vast necropolis on Luxor West Bank
An isolated valley marked by the conical mountain peak of Al-Qurn, the Great Necropolis of Millions of Years of Pharaoh spread over quite a huge area. Also known as the Place of Truth and the Valley of the Kings, the princely burial space had 63 magnificent royal tombs, each being quite differently decorated from the other. Over centuries, the Valley of the Kings had attracted an endless stream of treasure hunters, bandits, archaeologists, explorers, and adventurers, and many myths and urban legends revolved it. From the curse of the mummies to blood-curdling supernatural stories, the Necropolis featured in them all and these made me a bit apprehensive about visiting the royal tombs. The reality, however, was farthest from my conjured scary image and tourists, touts and shopkeepers crawled all over the Luxor West Bank like armies of industrious ants.
Colossi of Memnon, the sentinels of the West Bank
The massive faceless Colossi of Memnon was my first stop at the Luxor West Bank and the pair of famous monolithic statues left me speechless. Dedicated to Memnon, the famous Greek king who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War, the faceless enthroned figures stood in front of a newly excavated funerary temple. Originally, said to have been representing the pharaoh Amenhotep III, the Colossi of Memnon is a popular tourist attraction dating back to the Graeco Roman period. A keening sound, caused by wind passing through a crack in the statues gave rise to stories of Memnon’s mother, Eos, weeping over his premature death. A repair job commissioned in the 3rd century AD by Septimus Severus made Memnon stop crying and ever since the faceless ten thousand tonne statues watched over the city of the dead like silent sentinels.
Be prepared for over-tourism and few hassles
My first visit to the Necropolis started after leaving the Colossi of Memnon and I have very vague recollections of that experience. Technically, the entire Luxor West Bank is honeycombed with tombs of the royal family, their nobles, courtiers, priests, and even pets, of which the Valley of the Kings constituted of one zone. The Tombs of the Nobles, Valley of the Queens, ruins of Deir el-Medina/Valley of the Artisans made up the rest of the area and archaeology lovers should dedicate at least two days to enjoy the necropolis to the fullest. Fast forward to 2020 and I happened to visit the Valley of the Kings for the second time. This time, I was already a resident expat of Egypt for three years and understood the weather, the culture, and knew a bit about the historical background. This visit turned out to be a fantastic experience and it drove home one truth and that is, you need time to enjoy the necropolis to the fullest. Only three things remained the same: the blinding heat of the day, a dry roofless walk across the sun-beaten Valley of the Kings, and too many overzealous peddlers selling overpriced water bottles, soft drinks, cigarettes, and horse cart rides.
The tombs at the Valley of the Kings
This time, I visited the beautiful tomb of Seti I and Ramses V and VI. These are the most lavishly decorated tombs in the entire Luxor West Bank ( apart from Nefertari0 and their burial chambers (minus the sarcophagus) were filled with exquisite frescos. Images of various deities, scenes of the netherworld, the journey of the soul, post-death preparation of the body, etc were vividly painted on the walls and most of them revealed the mortuary secrets of that era. Nearly all the tombs consisted of more than one chamber and for centuries the chemically treated, hollowed out, bandaged mummies had lain peacefully buried in their well-planned chambers. Their favourite items, icons of their principal deities, their items of daily use, and sometimes even their pets and servants were buried with them since ancient Egyptians believed that the dead would like to have them around. For them, death was yet another journey for the ageless soul and the ancient Egyptian’s eased the dead’s passage by surrounding him/her with their familiar and favourite objects, animals, and people. The most beautiful part of the Valley of the Kings tomb hopping is the fantastic array of murals and their beautiful restoration gave a fresh breath of life to the thousands of years old artwork.
Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple
On my first visit to Luxor West Bank, I had also visited Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, something that I skipped on my second trip. Located a short drive away under the craggy golden cliff of Deir el-Bahari, Hatshepsut’s temple was a gorgeous rock-cut structure. It had undergone restoration to get remodeled in its original glory and somehow this initiative had wiped out much of its beautiful frescoes. Constructed to commemorate the glory of the patron pharaoh, Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple was also used as the resting place of the boat of Amun, when he traveled to the Luxor West Bank during the Beautiful Festival of the Valley. The temple was indeed fit for royalty. Set into the cliffs, the three-storied colonnaded building was surrounded by a beautiful garden and it glowed a dazzling gold underneath a cloudless, azure blue sky. It is an unforgettable sight and the one that I ended my first visit to the Luxor West Bank.
The magnificent tomb of queen Nefertari
On my second visit, I went to the Valley of the Queens for the first time. A burial site for the wives and the female pharaohs, the Valley of the Queens was a 20 minutes drive from the Valley of the Kings. The tombs here are less grand than the ones in the Valley of the Kings and except for one, they are not as richly decorated as well. The only exception is Nefertari’s tomb and it is a sight to behold. Hailed as one of the finest tombs in all of Egypt, every inch of Nefertari tomb’s three chambers and connecting corridors is adorned with colourful scenes. She was one of the principal queens of the great pharaoh, Ramses II and he was believed to have been head over heels in love with her. Such was his ardour, that the pharaoh, who is credited to building some of the most colossal projects of ancient Egypt, even wrote a love song for her. The love poem had been found inscribed on a door jamb in Abu Simbel, one of Ramses II’s creations. Needless, to say, the tomb he built for his favourite queen was like her shrine: an ode to her beauty, intelligence, importance and it was exquisite labour of love. My Luxor West Bank excursions ended there. I did not manage to visit the Ramesseum and the Habu Temple of Ramses III on either trip, but these give me reasons to return to the ancient city of Thebes soon.
Luxor West Bank Attraction Guide
Luxor is divided into two parts by the river Nile. The East Bank and the West Bank. The temples of Karnak and Luxor are located on the East Bank along with most hotels, banks, tourism offices, and local residences. The Luxor West Bank has some quiet homestays, agricultural land, and the famous necropolis, the Valley of the Kings. The ancient Egyptians believed the West Bank to be the realm of the dead since the sun set there and so most tombs and mortuary temples are located there. Listed below are the best places to visit in Luxor West Bank.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a royal burial ground of many Egyptian pharaohs. The most famous ones to be buried there are Tutankhamun, Ramesses II, Tuthmosis III, and Seti I, along with some powerful nobles, their wives, and children. Some of these tombs are more than 3000 years old and although there are over 60 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, only a handful is open to the public.
- At the moment, only eight tombs are included in the Valley of the Kings ticket.
- A visitor can see three tombs with an entrance ticket.
- An additional ticket needs to be purchased if one needs to see more tombs.
- Additional individual tomb tickets need to be purchased if one wants to visit the following tombs. These tombs are KV9 – Ramesses V & VI (100 EGP per person), KV17 – Seti I (1,000 EGP per person), and KV62 – Tutankhamun (300 EGP per person). The Seti I tomb is the most beautiful and personally, I found King Tut’s tomb to be the least impressive.
The Valley of the Kings Entrance Ticket: 240 EGP
Tram Ticket: 4 EGP
Total Cost with the 3 additional tombs: 1644 EGP
Photo Pass: 300 EGP (this covers all of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings with the exception of Seti I and Tutankhamun)
Where to Purchase Your Ticket: At the ticket office for the Valley of the Kings
Photography in the Valley of the Kings: Cell phone photography is allowed for free in all of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, including the extra tombs. Cameras are chargeable and so is for making a video. For this, you need to buy a photography pass. This costs 300EGP and allows photography inside 3 tombs. This is for both mobile phones and digital/DSLR cameras. You must buy this at the entrance when you buy your normal tickets. There will be no chance to buy one inside. Tripods are strictly prohibited. Have your entrance tickets and photo pass handy at all times. These need to be presented at the entrance of each tomb you enter and it will be hole-punched each time. Since you can photograph only three tombs with this pass, it makes sense to select the most beautiful ones even if it means, you have to shell out a bit extra. Here are the most impressive tombs at the Valley of the Kings: Tomb of Ramses IV – KV2, Tomb of Ramses III – KV11, Tomb of Ramses IX – KV6, and Ramses V & VI – KV9 (requires an extra ticket). For a detailed Valley of the Kings guide, check out this excellent post.
Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
This is one of the most popular sites to visit on the Luxor West Bank of Luxor and gets very crowded afternoon.
Entrance Ticket Cost: 140 EGP
Where to Purchase Your Ticket: At the ticket office for the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Valley of the Queens
The Valley of the Queens was the burial site of the wives of the pharaohs. The dazzling tomb of Queen Nefertari is located here. This tomb comes at an extra price and though it might seem expensive, the tomb of Nefertari is absolutely worth a visit. Since 2019, cellphone photography without flash is allowed inside Nefertari’s tomb. Any kind of camera is not allowed inside the tomb.
Valley of the Queens Main Entrance Ticket: 100 EGP
Ticket for Tomb of Queen Nefertari: 1400 EGP
Photo Pass: 300 EGP (this does not include photography inside of the tomb of Queen Nefertari)
Where to Purchase Your Ticket: At the ticket office for the Valley of the Queens
Mortuary Temple of Ramses II at Medinet Habu
A huge temple complex dedicated to Ramesses III, the Medinet Habu has several courtyards, pylons, and halls, with interesting inscriptions.
Entrance Ticket Cost: 100 EGP
Where to Purchase Your Ticket: At the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office located near Medinet Habu
Colossi of Memnon
The twin statues of Amenhotep III are the first to greet the visitors as they arrive at Luxor West Bank. This is a free attraction.
The Ramesseum is a mortuary temple dedicated to the great Ramesses II. Although not a very popular site, this temple has some interesting ruins especially of an enormous statue of Ramesses II that was once approximately 20 meters high. Since it toppled over many years back, only several large pieces can be seen nowadays.
Entrance Ticket Cost: 80 EGP
Where to Purchase the Ticket: At the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office near Medinet Habu
Deir el-Medina (Valley of the Artisans)
This is the village of the artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. There are some tombs of the more prominent workers. The entrance ticket of the Valley of the Kings includes three tombs and the Temple of Deir el-Medina. For an additional 30 EGP, you can also visit the tomb of Pashedu.
Entrance Ticket Cost: 100 EGP
Additional Ticket for Pashedu Tomb: 30 EGP
Photo Pass: 300 EGP
Where to Purchase the Ticket: At the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office near Medinat Habu
Valley of the Nobles
There are numerous tombs to visit in the Valley of the Nobles as well. The tombs of Sennofer and Rekhmire are the most remarkable tombs of this necropolis. The tomb of Senofer especially is called the “Tomb of the Vineyards” owing to vivid paintings of grapevines on the ceiling.
Entrance Ticket Cost: 40 EGP for the tombs of Sennefer and Rekhmire
Photo Pass: 300 EGP
Where to Purchase the Ticket: At the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office near Medinet Habu
Other attractions on Luxor West Bank
- Temple of Seti I (Entrance Ticket Cost – 60 EGP), Ticket can be purchased at the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office
- Howard Carter House – Howard Carter was the British archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. His house on the Luxor West Bank has been maintained like a shrine with all his personal belongings kept intact. The entrance ticket costs 80 EGP and can be purchased at the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office.
- Hot air ballooning – This is an incredible sunrise experience. Hot air balloon rides take place every day (weather permitted). The cost is around 150 USD/adult and the pick-up is pre-dawn. The price includes transfers to the hotel.
- Alabaster Workshop/Shopping – In Egypt, alabaster is widely used to make vases, lamps, statues, and figurines. Alabaster items make good souvenirs and you can attend a workshop and shop for some at Luxor West Bank.
List of Luxor West Bank sites (tickets to be purchased at the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office)
- Medinet Habu – 100 EGP
- Deir el-Medina – 100 EGP + 30 EGP for Pashedu Tomb
- Ramesseum – 80 EGP
- Seti I Temple – 60 EGP
- Valley of the Nobles – 40 EGP (Sennofer & Rekhmire)
- Carter House Museum – 80 EGP
You need to purchase your tickets for the above-mentioned sites before reaching there. These sites do not have on the spot ticket offices. The camera passes need to bought for the Valley of the Nobles and the Valley of the Queens at this booth.
List of Luxor West Bank sites with their own on-site ticket offices
- Valley of the Kings – 240 EGP (+ extra fees for additional tombs)
- Valley of the Queens – 100 EGP (+1400 EGP for the tomb of Nefertari)
- Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut – 140 EGP
Luxor West Bank Tips
- Since the West Bank has a lot of attractions, it makes sense to list down the sites you wish to see.
- Start with the Valley of the Kings (make sure to include the camera pass, tram ticket, and extra tomb tickets) and then shortlist the three tombs you wish to see and photograph.
- This will help you calculate the overall ticket price at the Valley of the Kings ticket counter.
- The site is well marked with numbered tombs.
- Get hold of a map or take a picture of the map near the tram stop for easier navigation.
- Be prepared to bring sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, and sturdy walking shoes.
- The walk leads all over the hills and the tombs might be crowded.
- People who are claustrophobic may times their visit earlier during the day to avoid the crowd, especially inside the most famous tombs.
- It also makes sense to list down the other sites you wish to visit and purchase their tickets from the Antiquities Inspectorate Ticket Office at one go.
- Confirm your camera passes and their validity.
- Bring drinking water and light snacks to avoid purchasing from the over-priced shops near the sites.
Luxor Pass Details
Luxor Pass has two options. The first option includes all sites and museums open to the public on both the East and West Banks of Luxor, except the tombs of Seti I and Nefertari. These two tombs are included in the second and the more expensive Premium Luxor Pass that includes both tombs as well as all the sites and museums included on the first ticket. The Luxor Pass allows visitors multiple entries to all the mentioned sites and museums and is valid for five days. The first option of the pass that excludes the tombs is US$ 100 and US$ 50 for students. The Premium Luxor Pass option that includes the tombs of Seti I and Nefertari cost US$200, or US$100 if you are a student. Tickets for the tombs of Seti and Nefertari cost of 1000 Egyptian pounds each and can be purchased individually. Only 150 people are allowed into each tomb daily. Only US Dollars and Euros can be used for purchasing the Luxor Pass. It is not possible to pay with Egyptian Pounds, any other foreign currencies, or credit/debit cards. A passport photograph and a photocopy of your passport details page are needed for purchasing the Luxor Pass. A “Luxor Pass” can be bought from an office near Luxor Museum or from Luxor Public Library. Tickets for Nefertari’s tomb can be purchased at the ticket office for the Valley of the Queens, and at the ticket office for the Valley of the Kings for Seti I.
Getting Around Luxor West Bank
You can get around the East Bank of Luxor by taxi, by hiring a guide and driver, or by bicycle. A car with a private guide and a driver is recommended. This will help you enjoy the sites to the fullest since the West Bank attractions are not cheap and arrange your itinerary to beat the heat (and the crowd). If you are hiring a taxi, make sure to negotiate the price for the whole day and the sites you intend to visit. Bike rentals are available for exploring the West Bank, though bear in mind that the terrain is hilly and it is extremely hot there.
Follow the rest of the Egypt series here
- A CLASSICAL EGYPT ITINERARY
- SLOW TRAVELING IN ASWAN
- BLUE GOLD COLOURS OF THE PHILAE TEMPLE IN ASWAN
- ASWAN GUIDE
- ASWAN SOUQ PHOTO TOUR
- KOM OMBO TEMPLE: THE CROCODILE TEMPLE OF EGYPT
- NILE CRUISE GUIDE AND EXPERIENCE
- AN EDFU MORNING
- THE LUXURY OF LUXOR
- KARNAK AND LUXOR, THE BEST OF THE LUXOR TEMPLES
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE