The West Bank of Luxor in Egypt is also the gateway to the amazing Valley of the Kings, and a string of pharaonic mortuary temples vies with the richly-decorated Tombs of the Nobles and the workmen's village, Deir el-Medineh, for the visitors’ attention.
The West Bank is even more of an archaeological paradise than the East Bank. The vast majority of visitors to Luxor tend to stay on the East Bank, which is the busy Egyptian city. The West Bank has a more relaxed vibe, and has a good selection of accommodations and restaurants.
Entrance and tickets
Most sights, tombs and areas have an entrance fee of LE40-80. And as usual, students get 50% off. If you intend to visit all archaeological sights, you would end up paying around LE1,000, not to mention the inexplicable LE1,200 for the Tomb of Nefertari, the LE1,000 for the Tomb of Seti II, and LE250 for Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings (Jan 2019). Alternatively you can opt for a Luxor Pass costing US$200, which allows entrance to all Luxor sights during 5 consecutive days.
If you are on a tight budget, however, a fair share of sights can also be explored from the outside for free without entering them but still having a decent picture, namely when hiking around the area—see a potential itinerary below. There are many closed tombs in the Tombs of Nobles area that are interesting to see, because often they allow a sneak through the gate—just walk around. Furthermore, the hill between the Tombs of Nobles and the large mountain range offers great views of the area, Ramesseum and the Temple of Hatshepsut. You just have to get into the Tombs of Nobles area, either directly from Deir el Medineh, directly from Deir el-Bahari, somewhere along the main road or with a single ticket to any of its tombs from the dedicated carpark/entrance.
1 The major ticket office is on the left at the end of the straight main road coming from the ferry port, right when you enter the archaeological area. Except for the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and Deir el-Bahari, you will have to get your tickets there.
- See the Luxor page for getting to the Luxor area.
From the airport
Taxis are the only reasonable option. It is easy to find them when you arrive. If you are unused to bargaining, it is better to arrange a pick-up in advance with your accommodation. But this will most likely neither give you a better deal. Expect to pay LE50-100 depending on your bargaining skills for the 20-km ride.
From the train station
Taxis are available but, if on a budget and if you're reasonably mobile, it is a short walk to the ferry jetty from the railway station. Walk straight up al-mahatta and then round the tip of the Temple of Luxor to get there. A taxi ride from the station to the jetty should run to about LE10. Hotels on the West Bank are all within easy reach of the jetty.
By ferry from the East Bank
By far the quickest, most authentic and romantic manner of crossing the Nile to the west is by ferry or motor launch.
- 1 National Ferry (baladi ferry) (It departs from its dock close to the ticket gate for the Temple of Luxor). There is no schedule. Ferries depart when they have filled up or until a decent period of time has passed. This should not take longer than 10 min. Be wary of the few high pressure salesmen who might be on board, hoping to snare you for a taxi fare or accommodation offers: these may or may not be bargain. LE5 for foreigners, LE0.5 for locals.
- 2 Motor launches (No set dock, but close to the National Ferry. They set out from wherever they can pick up an agreeable customer.). The advantage of a launch being able to get going immediately. Prices vary widely, depending on your negotiation skills, LE20 per launch as of Oct 2018.
The West Bank's archaeological sites are spread out.
In summer the temperature varies from hot to extremely hot. So, the easiest way to get around is by hiring a taxi for the day. This will set you back about LE250 from the West Bank, depending on your ability to haggle (Oct 2018). For a return trip to a particular site the price should not be more than LE100 for a minibus that takes up to 9 people. If your negotiation skills are reasonable, it is cheaper to hire a taxi by yourself, if not, you'll save yourself a lot of grief by asking your hotel to arrange one. In either event, bargain a bit because in Egypt the first price is always on the high side.
Many accommodations offer organised tours with a driver from the accommodation to and between the major archaeological sites. However, their schedule is quite tight and fixed. They will not appreciate any effort by their passengers to change the pre-defined tour, schedule and visiting times, mostly only 20 min at a site. They will also sometimes try to spend 30 min at a souvenir shop of their choice to get commission. In addition, you may be expected to visit and pay for a sight, even though you might not be interested in it. Such inexpensive tours start at LE50 per person. But if you find 4 people in your hostel or hotel, the taxi might be the more convenient option.
Bicycles are available for rent at hotels (LE10-20) and beyond the ferry jetty on the West Bank (LE30-40). In summer, be aware that the heat can be quite intense and the bikes tend to be primitive. Carry plenty of water. However, with a bicycle, you cannot walk much around, like between Deir el Medineh, the Valley of Nobles and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
By micro bus
Regular micro buses leave from the ferry to Gurna. If you can find your way onto one you'll get there on the cheap for LE2. The sites are usually 0.5 to 1 km away from the main road so you'll have to walk to get there.
Once you get to the archaeological area, by taxi or mini bus, it is entirely possible to hike the area at the foot of the mountains. There are small police stations along the hill tops. They should not hassle hikers. If it is too much hassle to find a micro bus towards the beginning of the archaeological area, walk the 3.5 km from the ferry port to Medinet Habu.
For the Valley of the Kings you may need to use a taxi or another mini bus to get there.
It is no longer possible to hike up the mountain to the Valley of the Kings. Any such attempt will be prevented by the local police officers paying close attention.
It's a place of the Theban Necropolis, which was used for ritual burials for much of the Pharaonic period, especially during the New Kingdom. One of its most remarkable parts - the burial place of most of the pharaohs of Egypt of the New Kingdom - described in a separate article 1 Valley of the Kings.
- 2 Medinet Habu (Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III) (the ticket office is 800 m northwest of this site, where the dirt road leads to Medinet Habu). A remarkable temple built by Ramses III that gets relatively few visitors. If you do not want to enter but simply walk around the temple and take a picture from the outside viewpoints, enter from the sealed road just southeast of the dirt road, which starts from the main road (between the ferry port and the archaeological area) just about 150 m before this main road turns right. The sealed road leads directly to the entrance of Medinet Habu, but without ticket you won't get in. LE80.
- 3 Colossi of Memnon (right before entering the archaeological area along the main road towards it). Two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned in the 18th Dynasty. No admission, view from the roadside.
- 4 Valley of the Queens. LE100, incl. entrance to all 3 available tombs, except for Nefertari one, which requires a separate ticket. LE300 for photo.
- 5 Tomb of Nefertari (QV66). The Great Wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II's tomb was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli (the director of the Egyptian Museum in Turin) in 1904. It is often called the Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt. Often closed for restoration through long periods, in 2006 the tomb was restricted to visitors once again, except for private tours of maximum 20 people purchasing a license . The Getty Conservation Institute monitors the tomb regularly. LE1,200 (max 10 min), no discounts for students.
- 6 Tomb of Amun-her-Khepeshef (QV 55). Amun-her-Khepeshef was the eldest son and appointed heir of Pharaoh Ramesses III. The tomb includes a sarcophagus, but the colors seem to be too strong to be thousands of years old.
- 7 Tomb of Titi (No. 52).
- 8 Tomb of Khaemwaset (QV 44). Built for a son of Pharaoh Ramesses III.
- 9 Deir el Medina. Originally called Set Maat (the Place of Truth), the village was built to house the Royal tombs' workforce of literate priest-craftsmen (the "Servants in the Place of Truth"), on the reign of Amenhotep I, the community's patron, worshipped here along his mother Ahmose-Nefertari. Its abundant domestic and written remains (thousands of ostraca) make it the very best-studied Ancient Egypt community to date. LE100.
- 10 Ptolemaic Temple.
- 11 Tomb of Ramose. The tomb of a famous Scribe in the Place of Truth. It consists of a court and a chapel. The chapel is decorated with scenes showing Amenhotep I, Ahmose Nefertari, Horemheb and Tuthmosis IV. Another scene shows King Ramesses II followed by the vizier Paser offering before the Theban Triad: Amun, Mut and Khonsu
- 12 Tomb of Senedjem. The burial place of Servant in the Place of Truth Sennedjem and his family. It was found undisturbed in 1886.
- 13 Tomb of Peshedu. The burial place of Servant in the Place of Truth Pashedu and his family
Ozymandias of Egypt
- 14 Ramesseum (Mortuary Temple of Ramses II - the Great), Gurna. The site of the Ramesseum includes the fallen colossal statue of the pharaoh that inspired the sonnet Ozymandias by Shelley, now the focus of a major restoration project. It stood 17 m (69 ft) high, weighed in excess of 1,000 tons and was transported from Aswan in a single block. The pylons of the temple preserve depictions of the famed Battle of Qadesh waged by Egyptian forces under Ramses II against the Hittite Empire, the city of Qadesh lying in central Syria, then the contested boundary between the two great ancient empires. Behind the pylons, where visitors now enter the temple, the Second Court features a portico fronted by massive statues of Ramses II in the form of Osiris, the god of the underworld. A hypostyle hall occupies the centre of the temple, featuring a well-preserved and painted ceiling. The stone-built temple buildings are surrounded by the remains of a mud-brick royal palace and storage magazines. LE80.
- 15 Temple of Merneptah, Gurna. Museum closed. Found immediately adjacent to the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Merneptah (the 13th son and eventual successor to the long-lived Ramesses II) was re-opened in 2002 as a new attraction after the careful and effective reconstruction of the temple foundations and lower courses by a Swiss archaeological team. (The temple was first excavated by the famous English Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in 1904 and was the scene of his discovery of the so-called Israel Stela, featuring the earliest recorded mention of Israel in ancient sources, now to be seen in Cairo's Egyptian Museum). Although not featuring the inscribed wall reliefs and towering columns associated with many Egyptian temples, the Merneptah temple nonetheless now provides an unsurpassed impression of the layout of a 19th dynasty funerary temple with many interesting architectural details. A small partly-subterranean museum is also to be found on site, in which many of the magnificent painted reliefs and sculpture (many usurped by Merneptah from the nearby Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III) are displayed. Sadly neglected by many visitors to the West Bank, the site and museum are nonetheless well worth a visit. LE40.
Tombs of Nobles
Tombs of Nobles (Sheikh Abd el-Gurna), Gurna. Named after the doomed tomb of the local saint. This is the most frequently visited cemetery on the Theban west bank, with the largest concentration of private tombs. Free admission to the grounds.
- 16 Tombs of Khonsu, Userhat and Benia. LE40.
- 17 Tombs of Menna, Nakht, Amenemopet. LE60.
- Tombs of Ramose, Userhat and Khaemhat. LE60.
- 18 Tombs of Sennefer and Rekhmire. LE40.
- Tombs of Neferenpet, Thutmose and Neferskheru (Khokha). LE40.
Deir el-Bahari. A complex of mortuary temples and tombs. The first monument built at the site was the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, it was constructed during the 15th century BCE. Amenhotep I and Hatshepsut also built extensively at the site.
- 19 Temple of Hatshepsut. One of the more impressive sights on the West Bank and different to most other temples in Egypt. Beautifully located at the foot of the mountain, making for a great picture. LE100, LE6 for the train to the entrance and back.
- 20 Temple of Montuhotep II (right next to Hatshepsut). closed for renovation. Part of the Hatshepsut ticket.
- 21 Tombs of El-Assasif. LE60.
- 22 Tomb of Parennefer (TT188) (right next to El-Assasif). Unusual tomb, carved and decorated solely during the early years of the rule of Akhenaten. The tomb is decorated with sculpted scenes, some of which were painted. The scenes were all badly damaged and the name of Parennefer was carefully removed. Its scenes may be the first to show Queen Nefertiti. LE40.
Dra' Abu el-Naga'
The necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga'. is located just by the entrance of the dry bay that leads up to Deir el-Bahri, and north of the necropolis of el-Assasif. It was probably used as a royal Necropolis for the kings of the Seventeenth Dynasty, and contains the possible tomb of Amenhotep I, Tomb ANB. It was also used as a cemetery for officials of the New Kingdom administration in Thebes.
- 23 Temple of Seti I. The memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Ramses the Great's father. The entire court and any pylons associated with the site are now in ruins, and much of the eastern part of the complex is buried under the modern town LE60.
- 24 Carter's House (at the bottom of the road, not up on the hill). A lonely, domed building on the hill above the intersection where the main road to the Valley of the Kings meets the road to the Temple of Seti I. Represents the house in which Howard Carter lived for the years he spent searching for the tomb of Tutankhamun. LE80.
- 25 Tomb ANB. It's the possible tomb of Amenhotep I.
- 26 Temple of Isis (Deir el-Shelwit), Shalwit. A temple to Isis from the Greco-Roman period. First excavated by Karl Richard Lepsius in the mid-19th century, LE40.
- Hike the hills and area at the bottom of the mountains, between the temples, tombs and sights.
- Hot air ballooning, see Luxor.
- The most recommended sights are: Medinet Habu, Ramesseum, Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings.
- If you are on a tight budget and just want to hike around and take some pictures (from the outside) consider the following route (6 km): Medinet Habu, Deir el Medineh, Tombs of Nobles (directly or with any single ticket to the tombs), Temple of Hatshepsut, Ramesseum (from the road).
Souvenirs, alabaster, perfume, etc.
- 1 Tutankhamun Restaurant (200 m south of the ferry landing). Fixed menu, with a choice of mains that varies with what is in season. LE90 set menu, drinks LE15-25. Sometimes they play a trick of refusing to show a menu or bringing the one without prices and then overcharging you later.
- 2 Sunflower Restaurant (very near the ferry dock, on your left if your back is to the river), ☏ . Su-Su 11AM-11PM. Rooftop restaurant with a great view, very good food, and friendly staff. Very relaxed. Alcohol served. LE91 for a set menu of traditional Egyptian food, drinks LE20-30.
- 1 Amon Hotel, El Gezira (West Bank) (Follow the signs to Pharaoh's Stables from the ferry jetty), ☏ , , fax: . On a quiet side street this is an excellent mid-range choice. The hotel has a beautiful tropical courtyard garden and the owner, Ahmed, is a great source for all things in Luxor, including fair prices. Breakfast is included and a traditional Egyptian dinner available on request. Some rooms with AC, all with attached bath. LE25-50, AC Doubles LE200.
- 2 Gezira Garden Hotel, el Gezira, West Bank (Near the ferry). El Gezira is family-owned and has 11 air-conditioned rooms LE60/80 single/double, breakfast included.
- 3 Marsam Hotel, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms arranged around a charming courtyard restaurant overlooking the fields behind the Colossi of Memnon. One of the most peaceful spots on the West Bank.
- 4 El Phardous Home, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. A peaceful oasis near the Valley of the Kings mountain on the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor in Egypt with 11 double and 2 single rooms and can provide full or half board. Owners are Norwegian and Egyptian, and the standard suits anyone looking for an inexpensive, clean, peaceful and friendly place to stay. Single/double LE120/230.
- 5 [dead link] Al Salam Camp (Bedouin-style hospitality), Ramlah Village, West Bank, ☏ (Ahmed), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Peaceful, friendly family-run hutted camp ideal for independent travellers and close to all the sites. Children are welcome and will find many playmates. Very inexpensive, wonderful food, trips and activities, and a real taste of local life. LE15-30.
- 6 Hotel Sheherazade, El Gezira (West Bank) (As for the Amon Hotel. The Sheherazade is opposite the Amon), ☏ . A delightful hotel with simple but perfectly adequate rooms around a courtyard. The staff are excellent. Breakfast is included and the restaurant is open most of the day serving a mixture of foods, including excellent Egyptian style food. LE100-200.
- 7 Hotel al-Moudira, ☏ , fax: . 54 double rooms with a distinct Oriental feel: domed ceilings, latticework, hand-painted frescoes. Swimming pool and spacious grounds. US$150-200.
- 8 Nile Valley Hotel, Gezirat el Bairat, West Bank (Near the ferryboat landing), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Small family hotel with swimming pool, 21 rooms with attached bath, AC, TV, fridge, and a rooftoop restaurant with views of the Nile and the temple of Luxor. Airport/rail station pickup available. €15/22 single/double.
- Carry plenty of water, wear sensible shoes and a hat, strongly consider sunscreen. The West Bank is too amazing to be spent in pain and discomfort, and bring a torch as some of the tombs are quite dark.
- Hiking up and down the mountain was an issue in the past and some travelers slipped along the way up or down the Valley of the Kings. This is not permitted anymore. However, take care when ascending any other things, which are far less solid than used to in Europe.
- Do not use a credit card as some shops are masters at fraud. You may get your money back at home, but best to use cash and bargain.
The sites in Luxor are nothing short of spectacular. So, it is best to be organized.
- A flashlight! It is dark in the tombs and the lights don't always work either because they don't or because the caretaker can't be bothered with turning them on.
- Plenty of small notes and coins. Parting with LE1 notes/coins is almost the cost of being a tourist in Egypt and can magically open 'closed' tombs, light up dark chambers, or get rid of a particularly pesky tout.
- Each of the tombs has a guardian who will let you in, show you around, tell you that photos aren't permitted, but he'll look the other way for a little bakhsheesh. Some will be happy if you slip them LE10 or 20, others will pester you for more if you "only" give them LE50. The guardians are paid very little as almost anybody in Africa, but tips are at your discretion.
- Water is available outside most of the sites but not always readily available inside. However, it is advisable to take enough water with you. At the Temple of Hatshepsut, the cafe will gladly sell you a soft drink for LE50, but that also allows you to sit the only shade available. Drink sellers in the bazaar by the ticket office will charge LE20.
- If you don't know Osiris from Anubis, it might be a good idea to read up a bit before you go. Otherwise, you'll wonder what the fuss is all about.