The Nile Valley has been the lifeline of Egypt for thousands of years. Emperors and dynasties throughout the centuries ruled vast lands and built astonishing temples.
The main cities along the Nile River Valley are Luxor and Aswan. Luxor is the main draw to the region, with the most well-preserved temples in the world.
Typically when we visit massive temple complexes or ruins, we get sick of them after an hour or two. This was not the case in Egypt. It was amazing to see how each temple is so different and special. The temples in Luxor and Aswan were our favorite parts of Egypt and one of the highlights of all of our travels, ever.
Read on to learn all about the best temples to visit in Luxor and Aswan. Enjoy!
Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.
- Guide to Visiting Luxor
- How to Get To Luxor
- When to Visit the Nile River Valley
- Top Places to See in Luxor (East Bank)
- West Bank Travel Guide
- Top Places to See in Luxor (West Bank)
- Activities in Luxor
- Guide to Visiting Aswan
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Guide to Visiting Luxor
Luxor’s massive amount of temples and tombs date back 3,000 to 5,000 years. For several millennia, this city represented Egypt’s wealth, political importance, and leadership in architecture, sciences, and the arts.
Luxor is split by the Nile River with the East bank housing the train station and most hotels. Aside from the Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple, all the other sites are located on the West Bank. To access the West Bank from the East Bank, a public ferry behind Luxor Temple departs every 10 to 15 minutes.
How to Get To Luxor
The Nile River Valley is easily accessible from Cairo. We preferred the train, which was fast and comfortable.
- Fly: Luxor has an international airport. Prices vary, but the cost from Cairo is around $90 USD.
- Train: There are many trains that go from Cairo to Luxor/Aswan. Trains get full, especially on weekends. We recommend booking a ticket a few days earlier at the station. The tellers may give you a hard time about taking the local train. Just keep asking different tellers until one of them sells you the ticket. There are overnight trains that leave around 10 pm and arrive at Luxor at 7 am. Trains between Luxor and Aswan leave several times a day.
- Tourist Train: There is an expensive overnight tourist train to the Nile Valley that you may find more comfortable than the local train.
- Bus: A few bus companies leave from central Cairo. The cost is comparable to the train, but it’s not nearly as comfortable.
When to Visit the Nile River Valley
Tourist season is busiest between mid-December and mid-January. The best time to visit the Nile River Valley is during the winter between November and February.
Summer temperatures reach over 90 degrees and exploring the temples is difficult under the hot Egyptian sun.
Top Places to See in Luxor (East Bank)
The Luxor Temple, built between 1250 and 1400 BC, is in the heart of the city. The temple was built for gatherings and celebrations and was once connected to the Temple of Karnak by a two-mile avenue of sphinxes.
A great time to visit is late in the afternoon and to stay for sunset to watch the night unfold as the temple lights up.
Temples of Karnak
This huge complex is the second largest temple complex in the world. It has a large area of ruins, some of which are still being excavated, and is a wonderful archaeological site to explore.
The complex houses huge statues, stunning courtyards, the world’s largest hypostyle hall, and the tallest obelisk in Egypt.
Many large tour groups go to the Valley of the Kings in the morning on the west bank, then travel to the Temple of Karnak in the afternoon. Come in the morning before the crowds and enjoy the best of the East Bank.
NOTE: Other sites on the east bank include the Luxor Museum and the Mummification Museum.
West Bank Travel Guide
Visiting the West Bank in Luxor is incredible! There are over a dozen temples to explore. The Valley of the Kings is unlike any other tombs in the world. Expect to visit at most 4- 5 temples/sites in one day.
Ticket Office in the West Bank
The ticket office for most sites on the west bank is 1.8 miles from the ferry. It is next to the Temple of Medinat Habu at the office of the Antiquities Inspectorate.
Medinat Habu and the Colossi of Memnon are both within walking distance from the office, so these are good sites to start or to finish the day.
The Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple tickets must be purchased onsite.
How to Visit Luxor Temples on the West Bank
It is possible to take an air-conditioned tour bus to visit the top four sites on the West Bank, you can book through your hotel.
However, we wanted to have some autonomy over the sites we saw. So we took the local ferry from east to west bank. Then, we took a local microbus to the ticket office. From there, we negotiated for a taxi driver to take us to the temples we wanted to see. This way we were able to avoid the crowds and have some of the temples to ourselves.
Top Places to See in Luxor (West Bank)
Valley of the Kings
The most famous sight in Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, is a must-see when visiting Egypt. This complex is not a temple, but tombs of royalty and many other elitists built along the mountainside. The tombs are dug incredibly deep, often with several rooms and beautifully preserved drawings and artwork.
Ticket entry includes access to three tombs, but nearly half are closed at a time. Ask which tombs are open when purchasing tickets. Additional tickets are required for entry to Rameses 6, West Valley Tomb, and Tut Ankhamon tombs.
Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut
One of the best-preserved temples in Luxor, Hatshepsut, is also the most unusual. This temple looks very modern in design compared to other sites. The colonnades and grand entry are very impressive. The temple is set beneath the dramatic limestone cliffs with incredible views.
Built by Rameses 2, this memorial temple was at one time a beautiful and significant complex. Today, aside from the renovated sections, this temple lies mostly in ruins.
Medinat Habu Temple
This magnificent temple built by Rameses 3 is not as popular as some of the other sites, but it was our personal favorite. Medinat Habu is one of the most picturesque in Luxor.
Colossi of Memnon
These two faceless colossi are enormous and are the first sites when entering the West Bank. The Funerary temple lies in ruins mostly underground and is slowly being excavated. Until that is complete, this free stop is great for a picture.
Note: Other sites on the West Bank include the Temple of Seti 1, the Tombs of the Nobles, and the Valley of the Queens.
Activities in Luxor
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
The sunrise hot air balloon ride over the West Bank with views of the temples, sugarcane fields, and the Nile River is incredible. The views are stunning and for the cost, this is a no-brainer.
Take a Nile River Cruise
Nile River cruises are a popular choice among tourists. Most cruises are three or four days. They originate in Luxor and sail south to Aswan with stops along the way. Common sites on these tours are Esna, Edfu, and Kom Ombo.
Tours are very expensive when booking ahead. It is possible to get last-minute discounted rates when booking a cruise directly in Luxor.
Guide to Visiting Aswan
Aswan is not as popular a tourist destination and does not contain as many sites like Luxor. However, this charming city has impressive temples nearby, great food, and one of the best souqs in Egypt!
Top Five Things to Do in Aswan
Take a Felucca Ride
While you can catch a felucca ride anywhere along the Nile, the sunset felucca ride in Aswan is the best. Boat owners ask for their services on the corniche and start at very high prices. Negotiate a price for the entire boat. Leave around 4 pm for a beautiful sunset.
See the Abu Simbel Temple
This Nubian temple is not far from the Sudanese border and is visited by a tour with a convoy. It is a 3-hour drive from Aswan. Tours start at 3:30 am and finish at around 1 pm. Spend two hours walking around one of the most impressive temples in Egypt.
Visit the Kom Ombo Temple
Kom Ombo is tucked along the Nile in a small and depressing town. There is no reason to stop here unless visiting this temple.
Kom Ombo is along the cruise route and often boats arrive at 3 pm, so it’s best to take the train or hire a car from Aswan and visit this temple around noon. When we visited the temple, we were the only ones there.
Check out the Philea Temple
Located about five miles from Aswan, Philea Temple is a little difficult to get to. Situated on an island, it is accessible only by ferry. To get to the ferry, taxi drivers may claim the temple is farther away and then overcharge, so beware.
Stroll Through the Souq
The souq is located just one block from the train station in the center of Aswan. This is an excellent market and is very pleasant to walk through. It is not extremely busy and cars are not allowed to drive on the road. There are many vendors selling souvenirs, as well as restaurants, cafes, sheesha bars, and juice bars.
That’s It – we hope you have a wonderful time exploring these temples in Luxor and Aswan!
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