The Valley of the Kings (Arabic: Wadi el-Muluk, وادي الملوك; also known as Biban el-Moluk, the "Gates of the Kings") is an Egyptian archaeological locality in the hills immediately behind the West Bank of Luxor. As such, it is one of the most remarkable archaeological destinations in the world - the burial place of most of the pharaohs of Egypt of the New Kingdom.
The tombs within the Valley are designated by a KV number, standing for "King's Valley". The tomb of Tutankhamun, for example, is also known as KV62. On the other hand, the tombs in the Western Valley have been catalogued under WV numbers (WV = Western Valley).
Archaeological excavations continue periodically within the Valley of the Kings; perhaps best known is the American University of Cairo's excavation of KV5, the tomb of the Sons of Ramesses II. Director of this excavation is Professor Kent Weeks, also director of the Theban Mapping Project, granted the permit to map the Theban Necropolis in its entirety - a project now well advanced.
Entrance and hours
Opening hours: Summer daily 6AM–5PM; Winter daily 6AM–4PM.
Admission: LE200 (Jan 2019) for three tombs of your choice (those wishing to view more than 3 tombs must purchase additional tickets).
By taxi or bike are the preferred choices, see West Bank.
Many of the tombs in the Valley are closed to the public periodically for resting and renovation.
Information within the Valley has been vastly improved: (mostly) gone are the old faded signs, now replaced by engraved metal signs detailing the history, architecture and decoration of each tomb, together with detailed plans and diagrams (these have been provided by the Theban Mapping Project, in association with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
To get the best understanding of the tombs within the Valley of the Kings, visit at least one tomb from each of the three main building phases (see below).
- 1 Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62). KV62 may be the most famous of the tombs in the Valley, the scene of Howard Carter's 1922 discovery of the almost intact royal burial of the young king. Compared to most of the other royal tombs, however, the tomb of Tutankhamun is barely worth visiting, being much smaller and with limited decoration. Anyone interested in seeing evidence of the damage to the mummy done during attempts to remove it from the coffin will be disappointed as only the head and shoulders are visible. The fabulous riches of the tomb are no longer in it, but have been removed to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Visitors with limited time would be best to spend their time elsewhere. LE250 extra ticket.
Phase One Tombs
- 2 Tomb of Thutmose III (KV34). One of the most remote tombs in the Valley, at the far end of the Valley and up several flights of steps to gain entry. The climb is worth it though. The tomb is of the typical, early curved plan with a large oval burial chamber. The decoration is unique, being in a simple, pleasing style that resembles the cursive writing of the time.
- 3 Tomb of Thutmose IV (KV43). High in the cliffs above the valley floor, it had been spared the extensive flood-water damage suffered by other tombs, and its wall decorations are consequently very well preserved. The pharaoh's outer stone sarcophagus is also still in place in the burial chamber.
- 4 Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu (KV46). Tthe tomb of Yuya and his wife Tjuyu, the parents of Queen Tiye, the wife of Amenhotep III, and King Ay. It was discovered in February 1905 by James E. Quibell. Until the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922, this was the richest and best preserved tomb found in the valley, and the first to be found with major items in situ.
Phase Two Tombs
- 5 Tomb of Horemheb (KV57). The tomb of Tutankhamon's and Ay's sucessor, the last king of the 18th Dynasty.
- 6 Tomb of Seti I (KV17). It is the longest, and one of the best decorated tombs in the valley. LE 1000, no discounts for students.
- 7 Tomb of Merneptah (KV8). The son of Ramesses the Great, Merneptah's tomb has suffered greatly from flash flooding of the Valley over the millennia. Those paintings and reliefs that have survived, however, are generally in good condition.
Phase Three Tombs
- 8 Tomb of Seti II (KV15). Relatively little is known about the history of the tomb. Seti II was buried there, but he may have originally been buried with his wife Twosret in her tomb in KV14 and subsequently moved to the hastily finished KV15 tomb, perhaps by the later pharaoh Setnakhte, who took over KV14 for his own tomb.
- 9 KV14 (The Joint Tomb). A joint tomb, used originally by Seti II's wife Twosret, and then reused and extended by Setnakhte, the father of Ramses III. It has been open since antiquity, but was not properly recorded until Hartwig Altenmüller excavated it from 1983 to 1987. It has two burial chambers, the later extensions making the tomb one of the largest of the Royal Tombs, at over 112 m. The original decoration, showing the female Twosret, was replaced with those of the male Setnakhte. Even later, the name of Setnakte was replaced by those of Seti II.
- 10 Tomb of Ramesses VI. The KV9 tomb was started by Ramesses V, but usurped after his death by his successor Ramesses VI, who enlarged the tomb and had his own image and cartouches carved in over his predecessor's. The tomb is one of the most interesting in the Valley, with one of the most complete and best preserved decorative schemes surviving. LE100/50 extra ticket.
Western Valley of the Kings
The Western Valley is adjacent to the main Valley and contains a number of remarkable pharaonic burials additional to the main one. The Western Valley is also known in Arabic as the Wadi al-Gurud (the "Valley of the Monkeys"), on account of the representations of baboons in several tomb paintings found within the wadi.
It is nowhere near so commonly accessed by tourist parties as the Valley of the Kings, being located somewhat 'off the beaten track'. The Valley is nonetheless well worth a visit by the determined traveller: its relative quiet and isolation help to evoke the silent and haunting atmosphere at one time characteristic of the main King's Valley (believed by ancient Egyptians to have been watched over by the protective goddess Meretseger, whose name translates as "she who loves silence").
Only the Tomb of Ay (out of 16 available tombs) is open to the public.
Getting there: the Western Valley is accessed by a winding dirt and stone road that begins at the car park of the Valley of the Kings. Visitors must walk for some 2 km between massive boulders, under towering rock cliffs, in order to reach the tombs; although some taxis will take you all the way into the valley. The road is not suitable for cycling.
- 11 Tomb of Ay (WV23). The same working hours as Valley of the Kings. The tomb dates from the very end of the 18th Dynasty and is the burial place of the vizier (chief minister) Ay who gained the throne after the extinction of the line of succession within the ruling 18th Dynasty family of pharaohs. As such, WV23 was the last tomb to be established in the valley. Scenes from the tomb decoration, bearing close resemblance to the style seen in the tomb of Tutankhamun (Ay's predecessor), include a depiction of Ay hunting in the marshes (unique amongst royal depictions in the Theban necropolis) and an assemblage of twelve baboons. The sarcophagus was recently restored and re-installed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, though its orientation is now reversed from the original. Admission LE 60, by means of ticket from the Valley of the Kings' Ticket Office.
- 12 Tomb of Amenhotep III (WV22). Closed to public view while a Japanese expedition undertakes cleaning and conservation work.
Not much except for seeing the tombs.
The Valley of the Kings ticket does not include a tram ride from the ticket office to the entrance of the first tomb. If you are not in a rush take the time to walk. You will save the 3-min tram ride and save yourself LE5.
There are no opportunities of accommodation in the Valley of the Kings. After evening closing it is not allowed to tourists to enter this area.
- Bringing your own small torch to gently illuminate some of the more obscure reliefs is always a good idea.
- Watch out for the guards in the tombs that may offer to take your picture (which is against the rules) for some baksheesh. If they get your camera they can take any sort of picture, then report you to the authorities, which is a big hassle. A camera flash in a tomb will alert the guards to picture taking that is strictly forbidden. You will be given the choice of leaving the site (not just that tomb) or paying a second admission fee.
- Hiking back over the mountain into the valley (Valley of the Queens, etc.) is not allowed anymore and will be prevented by the many policemen standing around.
- Carry a bottle of water with you, if heading to the Western Valley of Kings, especially in summer, as there are no water vendors.
- Do not venture into the narrow Western Valley, if it appears that there may be an exceedingly rare rainstorm - you will probably not survive the ensuing flash flood as it races through the valley.
Visitors to the Valley of the Kings may also visit Luxor's West Bank.