Along the banks of the River Nile and amid amazing ancient temples, monuments, and tombs sits the modern city of Luxor. From the late years of the Middle Kingdom through part of the New Kingdom eras in Egypt, the ancient city of Thebes (often referred to as Waset by Egyptians) was located at the site of today's Luxor and served as the Middle and New Kingdom's capital city.
Even after losing the role as Egypt's capital, the numerous temples drew visitors from all over the Mediterranean and Middle East areas. Although the city of Thebes fell to the Assyrian army after standing for over 2500 years, many of the stunning monuments and temples on the West Bank remain standing. Today Luxor proudly embraces both the extensive history of the city that preceded it and the bustling pulse of modern city life with museums dedicated to preserving the area's rich history, a plethora of historical sites to explore, and a wide variety of restaurants offering traditional Egyptian as well as Western foods.
If you're an archaeology enthusiast, a history buff, or a combination of the two, the tombs nestled in the hills behind Luxor's West Bank in the Valley of the Kings (also locally referred to as Biban el-Moluk ("Gates of the Kings")) will prove irresistible. Although not all of the tombs within the Valley are open to the public, the world-renowned Tomb of Tutankhamun (better known by the shortened name of "King Tut") and the incredibly well-preserved Tomb of Ramesses VI are among the tombs that can be toured. Nearby is the Valley of Queens, where you can tour the gorgeous Tomb of Queen Nefertari as well as the simple yet lovely Tomb of Amunhirkhepeshef, the final resting place of a son of Rameses III. Another interesting tomb site within the Theban Necropolis is the Valley of the Nobles. Don't let the plain-looking outside of the tombs fool you; as this site is often overlooked by tour groups, the paintings within these tombs look almost new despite their actual age and depict the daily lives of Ancient Egypt's noble class. No matter which of the tombs you choose to tour, be sure that you are well-prepared before departing to these sites with a small flashlight, sunblock to prevent painful sunburn from the nearly constant hot, sunny weather in Luxor, and plenty of food and water. Even in the dead of winter, the heat of the Egyptian desert sun is not to be underestimated, and the closest restaurants and cafes to the necropolis are still a fair distance from the area regardless of what mode of transportation you choose to reach the necropolis.
Should you find yourself fascinated by the religious beliefs and practices of the Ancient Egyptians, you will certainly have your hands full choosing which of the thirteen majestic temples in the Luxor area to tour if your stay in Luxor does not permit enough time to tour them all! While all of the temples are undeniably worth touring, not all temples receive the same amount of tourist traffic and are ideal picks to tour should you wish to avoid the crowds.
A particularly stunning temple that is sadly often overlooked by tourists is the Temple of Medinat Habu. Having suffered only minor damage throughout the ravages of invading armies and thousands of years of the abrasive qualities of desert sand, the paved courtyard leads to a series of humongous gates ornately decorated with Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics as well as depictions of the ancient gods. Once inside, the beautifully colored hieroglyphics and murals that cover the walls, ceilings and columns will inspire awe at the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the ancients. A visit to the Abu al-Haggag Mosque, constructed in the 13th century, offers a glimpse of more modern Egyptian religious practices while providing intimate views of the Luxor Temple ruins surrounding the mosque.
Not everyone wishes to contend with the desert heat, especially during the summer months, to view the tombs and temples in the necropolis. Whether you wish to avoid the desert heat or simply take a break from the tombs to view the treasures that once filled the royal burial chambers, a trip to the Luxor Museum will offer sights of stunning statues, the mummified remains of Pharaohs, wall panels reproduced from royal tombs, and many more artifacts of ancient Thebes. Informative placards in English and Arabic provide further information about each exhibit. For a more unusual museum experience, check out the Mummification Museum, where you can view various mummified remains as well as tools used in the mummification process. The museum also offers lectures elaborating upon the mummification process beyond the information provided with the exhibits.
A day of taking in the many sights in and around Luxor can raise quite the appetite. For a quick snack, consider visiting a fruit vendor stand of the many fruit stands found near the train station for inexpensive and delicious fruit grown in the fertile Nile Valley soil. Fresh sugar cane drinks can be found at affordable rates at a large number of fruit juice shops along the East Bank should sight-seeing make you thirsty in the middle of the day. As Luxor is split by the Nile, restaurant choices will be dependent upon whether you are on the East Bank or the West Bank. On the East Bank there are restaurants that offer everything from a three-course feast of Egyptian foods to Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisines as well as restaurants that offer Western fare for the not-so-adventurous eaters. While cuisine choices on the West Bank are more limited due to far fewer establishments than on the East Bank, virtually all of the hotels on the West Bank have restaurants on their premises that offer delicious traditional Egyptian food. As the sun sets, a ride in a felucca (small boat) or calèche (horse-drawn carriage) through town affords a lovely view of the city and the Nile as the day fades into night.
No matter whether you're visiting Luxor on a shoestring budget or wish to splurge on a stay at one of luxury accommodations during your time in the city, there are numerous choices of quality hotels in Luxor with friendly, English-speaking staff at any price range. Cheap hotels in Luxor, starting as low as $5 a night and usually found in the downtown area of East Bank Luxor, feature simply furnished and exceptionally clean rooms.
Rooftop terraces are common at these budget hotels, offering a lovely view of Luxor at all hours of the day while relaxing or enjoying flavored tobacco through a water pipe, but particularly during the sunset. If you desire overnight accommodations on the West Bank to be in closer proximity to the necropolis, inexpensive accommodation choices include a camp that offers Bedouin hospitality and a few simply furnished yet lovely budget hotels close to the ferry jetty.
If you prefer posher accommodations at affordable prices, 3 star hotels in Luxor primarily located on the East Bank with rates starting as low as $14 a night for a single room. With brightly colored rooms furnished in a rustically contemporary style, the affordable and comfortable rooms offer a home-like place to relax at the end of each day to rest before taking in more of Luxor's charms the next day. These hotels offer free breakfasts as well as a wide variety of amenities ranging from bicycle rental, in-house restaurants, on-premise pools to assistance with setting up tours of Luxor's many historical sites by helpful and knowledgeable staff. Some of the higher-end 3-star hotels in Luxor also have offer on-site spa services for ultimate relaxation without the hefty price tag of many resorts.
spa services for ultimate relaxation without the hefty price tag of many resorts. To experience the feel of an exotic resort without paying resort prices, 4 star hotels in luxor feature lush sprawling grounds, large pools, and spacious rooms with a mix of modern and Arabesque decor furnished with a sleek modern or ornate antique furnishings for a touch of luxury during your stay. With rates starting at an incredibly modest $56 a night, these elegant hotels offer areas to enjoy indoor games such as billiards and table tennis, well-maintained gardens perfect for afternoon strolls, and in-establishment bars for when you wish to enjoy a cocktail before dining at the elegant in-establishment restaurant. Whether you choose a 4-star hotel on the East or West Bank, these hotels are close enough to Luxor's main attractions to conveniently tour the city's many wonders while still providing the tranquil feeling of stepping away from the bustling nature of the city upon entering your Luxor hotel room.
Seated on the East Bank to provide stunning views of the River Nile and the city, 5 star hotels in Luxor offers unrivaled elegance and amenities. These luxury hotels start at $70 a night, with all-inclusive hotels starting at $150 a night. In addition to a plethora of on-site or nearby activities such as tennis, golf, live entertainment and stunning pool areas perfect for sunbathing and swimming, the luxuriously elegant and modern rooms overlook gorgeous scenery, be it the Nile, perfectly landscaped gardens, or on-site lagoon-like pools. No matter what you may need from laundry service to hiring a taxi to drive you to your next sight-seeing spot, the staff at the front desks will ensure that your needs are met so that you are absolutely comfortable and satisfied while a guest in the establishment.
A shining example that it is not necessary to part ways with the old to make way for the new, Luxor is a highly popular destination for travelers who wish to glimpse into Egypt's extensive past without sacrificing the comforts of the modern era. Whether you're trekking through Luxor by stretching your money as far as it can go or indulging yourself with a luxuriously comfortable holiday in this wondrous city, the historical sights, lovely scenery and spectacular food coupled with incredibly friendly hospitality wherever you choose to lay your head for the night will make your time in Luxor difficult to forget.