holiday in Luxor?
Luxor is Egypt's second do-not-miss with a variety of magnificent temples
and tombs, including the Valley of the Kings, Colossi of Memnon,
Hatshepsut, Karnak and Luxor Temples.
Stay on the calmer west bank if possible (there's now a bridge)
and/or travel around the temples before/ after the package tourist
rush to try to absorb the majesty of the structures outside the
tourist frenzy Photos.
Taking a sailing boat (felucca) onto the Nile (with an Egyptian
skipper) is a delightful way to escape the crowds, especially for
sunset, but - as with taxis - carefully negotiate a price beforehand
- and take your own drink if you want a sundowner.
Luxor needs at least three days and is a few hundred miles
south of Cairo so will require a flight or overnight train journey
- Hustlers/touts are a daily hassle, a little Arabic helps a lot (see 'touts' below).
- Taxi meters don't work so expect endless arguments if you don't
firmly negotiate beforehand.
- The big sights can get horrifically overcrowded in peak seasons
at peak times. Luxor temple can see up to 15,000 visitors a day.
Oct - May.
Worst: Christmas and Easter school holidays (hugely overpriced and
overcrowded) June-Sept (heat).
Luxor general information:
- Cairo's Giza offers the three staggering and world famous pyramids in
the desert on the edge of the city, along with a few smaller but still
worthwhile stone piles a few miles south of Giza. Luxor, on the other
hand, offers all shapes and sizes of temples - ranging from the east bank's
massive Karnak temple to the west bank's tiny Valley of the Kings - statues,
tombs, palm and Nile River vistas.
Luxor's west bank and the River Nile
(once known as Thebes, capital of ancient Egypt) is a town of two halves
bisected by the grand old River Nile, though most of the urban activities
- main transport, hotels, restaurants and shops - happen on the east bank.
The west bank is still a quieter place in spite of the newish bridge connecting
east and west, particularly after the tourist hordes have gone back to
their fancy hotels, though holidaymakers who fancy a simpler, more rustic
experience can find excellent places to stay and passable places to eat
on the west bank.
new governor has been running a a clean up campaign including renovating
the east bank's rail station (the best way to get to/from Luxor from Cairo
is by night train), demolishing unsightly and illegal shops and restaurants
and best of all forcibly moving mooring points for the Nile's floating
hotels/cruise ships which have been stinking up the once-beautiful corniche
for years with their 24/7 marine diesels.
However, there are some downsides...
tourism and a desire to accelerate tourist revenue made a Nile bridge
essential to replace the time-consuming ferry service and one was duly
completed in 2005, 10 miles (16kms) south of Luxor, allowing Red Sea day
trippers (8,000 a day at the last count) to spread themselves all over
Luxor's west bank without lifting a lazy leg.
Inevitably this means a considerable loss of tranquility and rural vistas
to Luxor's quiet side as new hotels and apartment blocks pack in between
the river and the rocks, replacing Egyptian peasants who have been living
and working the ground all their lives with smartly suited concierges
imported from Cairo.
Tutankhamen would be turning in his grave, if he still had one.
The Valley of the Kings, Tutankhamun's tomb
emails from Henry Warren:
From Luxor we went to see the Valley of the Kings where the many of the post- pyramid building pharaohs were laid up. They had wised up to the fact that the pyramids were a bit of a give a way to tomb robbers and thought their bodies would be safer in tombs buried deep in the ground. They were wrong of course because it was only the tomb of Tutankhamun’s that survived relatively intact.
We decided to walk from here (Valley of Kings) over the ridge to the temple of Hatshepsut: the only woman ever to become a Pharaoh. This was another very impressive temple. Unfortunately, it was also the scene of a terrorist attack in 1997 when 58 tourists and four guards were killed. Like all the archaeological sites we visited, it was well guarded and discretely surrounded by policeman on camel back placed 200 meters apart.
The famous Karnak Temple, just down the road from Luxor, was our next stop. This was yet another architectural wonder with its towering carved pillars that once supported a huge roof. You’ve probably seen pictures of it as it was featured in the Agatha Christie film “Death on the Nile”. We visited many other temples to various Gods and Goddesses in and around Luxor that were also truly magnificent. I could go on and on about them, but I won’t.
Nile Cruises: most Egyptian cruise ships ply the Luxor-Aswan route which is safe, scenic and terminates at two of Egypt's most important towns. A week long cruise is about average.
An alternative cruise is a few days from Aswan onto Lake Nasser to visit the magical Abu Simbel temple when all the day-trippers have gone home.
Avoid southern Egypt in summertime as it's massively overheated then.
The cruise boats range from super-luxury to leaky, diesel-powered, style-free but easy plastic barges crammed with a couple
of hundred overheated snappers. Though, to be fair, there are certainly
some fine and beautifully designed Nile cruisers available, at a price. Alternatively if you are long on time, short on funds and tough of body hire a felucca (with captain and crewman) for a more personal and adventurous trip.
We were going to get a Nile steamer up the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, but alas present day steamers are no longer like the ones in Agatha Christie’s time. Modern ones are huge 6 story high floating four star hotels with swimming pools and beach chairs. They are ugly and highly polluting. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle three days in one of these so we caught the bus instead and compensated ourselves with an afternoon sail in a felucca, which was very calm, relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable.
Riding: camels or horses, around the west bank could be interesting.
Sailing: laze for an afternoon or voyage for
a few days down the Nile in a felucca (open old sail boat); a local captain is necessary.
Biking: not much generally, though
tooling around Luxor - especially the rural west bank - on two wheels
is a terrific way to see the sights.
See our Egypt Travel Guide for advice on health, safety and money.