Karnak Temple

When researching Egypt, I initially thought we could do a quick layover tour to see the pyramids of Giza and call it a day. Boy was I wrong. While the pyramids are worth visiting, the bulk of Egypt’s sights are located along the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. If your time in Egypt is limited, I highly recommend visiting Luxor. With even just one day in Luxor, you can see the main sites. Here’s how to spend one day in Luxor.

How to Get to Luxor from Cairo

There are several ways to get to Luxor from Cairo. The cheapest method is taking the train or bus during the day which takes about 12 hours. For a bit more money, you can save time taking a sleeper train overnight. The fastest way is flying which takes about an hour.

For a more roundabout trip, you could do what we did. We flew to Aswan from Cairo and took a Nile cruise terminating in Luxor. While we visited the East Bank in the evening and the West Bank the next morning, it’s totally doable to visit these sites in one day.

Luxor East Bank

Luxor’s tourist attractions are split between the banks of the Nile. The East Bank has fewer things to see than the West Bank, but both are worth visiting. To visit the following attractions, you will either need to take taxis, hire a driver, or book a tour. Private tours in Egypt are not particularly expensive, so I think this is the best option. It makes it easy to get around and you have a tour guide to explain the history of each site. On the East Bank, you will visit Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple is, in my opinion, the most impressive temple in Luxor. It is the second largest temple complex in the world, behind Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Starting in 2000 BC, over 30 pharaohs added to the complex over the span of 2,000 years. Karnak Temple is the second most visited site in Egypt behind the pyramids of Giza.

Karnak Temple
Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple is located close to the Nile. It was constructed in 1400 BC by Amenhotep II and Ramses II.

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple

Luxor West Bank

After visiting the East Bank, head to Luxor’s West Bank where you will visit the Colossi of Memnon, the Valley of the Kings, and the Temple of Hatshepsut.

Colossi of Memnon

The first stop is a quick one to see the Colossi of Memnon, two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III built in 1350 BC. 

Colossi of Memnon

Valley of the Kings

Next, visit the Valley of the Kings which is a must-see when in Egypt. It is the burial ground of pharaohs from the New Kingdom of Eygpt which covered the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. Tombs were constructed from the 16th to 11th century BC.

Valley of the Kings

There are over 60 tombs at the Valley of the Kings, but only several of them are open to tourists. Your ticket will allow you to visit three tombs. You can visit more tombs for an additional charge. There are also a few tombs, like the Tomb of Tutankhamun, which require an extra charge.

Our tour guide first recommended the tomb of Ramses IV because of the preservation of color in the tomb. This ended up being the coolest tomb we saw.

Tomb of Ramses IV

Tomb of Ramses IV

Next, we visited the tomb of Ramses IX.

Tomb of Ramses IX

Tomb of Ramses IX

Then, we visited the tomb of Merenptah. This one was impressive due to its size.

Tomb of Merenptah

Tomb of Merenptah

Last but not least was the tomb of Tutankhamen, which we paid extra to visit. This is definitely the most famous tomb at the Valley of the Kings, but unfortunately not the most impressive. Nevertheless, I recommend visiting since King Tut’s mummy is on display in the tomb. Also, be sure to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to see the artifacts that were excavated from the tomb.

Tomb of King Tut

Mummy of King Tut

Temple of Hatshepsut

The last stop in Luxor is the Temple of Hatshepsut. This temple, carved into the side of a mountain, was built for the second female pharaoh, Hatshepsut, who ruled from 1478 to 1458 BC.

Temple of Hatshepsut

Temple of Hatshepsut

Have More Time?

If you have more time to spend in Luxor, you may consider these additional stops:

  • Valley of the Queens
  • Mortuary Temple of Ramses II
  • Temple of Seti I
  • Luxor Museum
  • Mummification Museum

Final Thoughts

Luxor has so many cool things to see with the highlights being Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings. If you are debating whether or not you have time to visit Luxor, make it a priority! It’s an essential stop for those interested in Ancient Egypt, and I assume that means you if you are planning to visit Egypt! Even with just one day in Luxor, you can certainly cover the highlights.

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