Luxor travel guide

"I visited and I did not like anything except the sarcophagus!"
“I can not read the hieroglyphs!"
There was no TripAdvisor in the days of Ancient Egypt, but that didn’t prevent visitors from leaving their opinions of the Valley of the Kings in Luxor (once ancient Thebes), as Polish archaeologists discovered in the tomb of pharaoh Ramesses VI, by translating graffiti left on the walls 2,000 years ago.
Not for nothing is Luxor, Egypt’s capital during its most dynamic and powerful age, known as ‘the greatest open air museum in the world’.
As for modern-day tourists, they began to arrive in their thousands following the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, and tantalising rumours of a ‘curse of the pharaohs’ took off. The labyrinthine temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak are located on the east bank of the Nile, the Valley of the Kings where pharaohs were buried on the west. And of course Luxor is also an ever-popular departure point for a classic cruise vacation on the Nile.

Read our Luxor travel guide for more details.
Luxor is/isn't...

Luxor is…

a window into Ancient Egypt, and the lives of its pharaohs, on the bank of the Nile.

Luxor isn’t…

only spectacular by day – the evening light show at Karnak Temple is much more tasteful and photogenic than you might think

What does visiting Luxor entail?

Luxor lies almost 700km to the south of Cairo, across both banks of the mighty River Nile. On the east bank is the modern city (in Ancient Egypt Luxor was known as Thebes) which encompasses the remains of the Luxor and Karnak temple complexes. On the west bank is the Valley of the Kings, where many of the most powerful pharaohs and nobility of Egypt’s New Kingdom were laid to rest in rock-hewn tombs and chambers, constructed by workers from the nearby village of Deir el-Medina. Close by is the Valley of the Queens, where the pharaohs’ wives and children were buried. Together, the valleys form part of the Theban Necropolis. Crossing the Nile to explore the sites on both banks was once done solely by small boats or ferries, but there is now a road bridge a few kilometres upstream of the city.

Given its distance from Cairo, many people opt to fly to Luxor, but we recommend taking the overnight sleeper train which leaves around 8pm and arrives in Luxor around 6.30am. It can be hot, and not especially comfortable, but there is something really special about the experience that you just don’t get when arriving by plane. Plus, of course, avoiding domestic short haul flights dramatically slashes the carbon footprint of your vacation.
Besides being one of the key destinations for understanding ancient Egypt, Luxor is also either the embarkation or disembarkation point for many River Nile cruises. If you’re on a small ship cruise in Egypt then more likely than not you’ll spend a day or two moored up in Luxor, enough time to take in at least a few of the most important sites such as the temples and the Valley of the Kings. If you have the time, some operators can also arrange bike hire for you to explore the countryside a little. Balloon flights, always a popular excursion here, are not generally included in the tour price but you should be able to arrange an early morning or evening flight with little difficulty – your tour operator is usually the best place to start for advice on reputable companies to use, as Luxor is like any busy tourism destination in that it does attract rip-offs and con artists.
Guided tours of Luxor’s various landmarks will typically depart early in the morning in an effort to beat the worst of the heat and the crowds. You might assume it will be cooler in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings than outside, in fact it is usually a few degrees warmer. Not all of the royal tombs are open to visitors, but you’ll normally visit three or four. There is no substitute for a tour guided by the a local – true, a close reading of a good guide book will give you much the same information, but a) you’re supporting an economy that is heavily reliant on tourism, and b) you can also glean a great deal of information about modern Egyptian culture from a local guide that no book can tell you.

Is Luxor wheelchair accessible?

It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than you might expect, is the short answer. Many of the temples, tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, and accommodations and restaurants in Luxor are manageable to get around by wheelchair, and there are also wheelchair accessible Nile cruises available with lifts between decks. There are some steep slopes in places and rocky ground which can be uncomfortable, but if you are traveling with someone, or are able to walk a short distance unaided, then you should be fine. Some operators may also be able to assist with getting on and off boats, or pushing the chair for you if required, and they should also be able to tell you which places in Luxor are not suitable for wheelchair users.

Our top Luxor Vacation

Nile cruise vacation in Egypt

Nile cruise vacation in Egypt

Discover ancient temples & tombs & travel by Nile cruise boat

From US $2249 to US $3049 9 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 1 Apr, 8 Apr, 15 Apr, 6 May, 27 May, 23 Sep, 30 Sep, 7 Oct, 14 Oct, 21 Oct, 28 Oct, 4 Nov, 11 Nov, 18 Nov, 25 Nov, 2 Dec, 9 Dec, 23 Dec
2024: 6 Jan, 13 Jan, 20 Jan, 10 Feb, 17 Feb, 24 Feb, 2 Mar, 9 Mar, 16 Mar, 30 Mar, 6 Apr, 13 Apr, 27 Apr, 4 May, 25 May, 21 Sep, 28 Sep, 5 Oct, 12 Oct, 19 Oct, 26 Oct, 2 Nov, 9 Nov, 16 Nov, 23 Nov, 30 Nov, 7 Dec, 21 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Luxor or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to visit Luxor

Luxor is a desert city, and one of the driest in the world. It’s typically a few degrees warmer than Cairo, and inside the tombs and temples it can get hotter still. Between June and August the mercury can easily reach 40°C which is why the best time to visit Luxor is definitely during the Egyptian winter, spanning November to April. December to February are the peak travel months (even in January the temperatures average around the high 20s°C), and will mean longer queues at the most popular sites. You can also expect it to be pretty busy around Christmas and Easter.

Luxor Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)
“Be prepared for the heat. It exhausts you along with touring the sights. Remember to have a good siesta! A personal guide means you understand and learn more and they are very good at getting rid of unwanted hawkers.” – Janice Gould on an Egypt tour

Responsible tourism

Luxor is a safe place for travelers, but the economy, dependent on tourism, was crippled by a major terrorist attack in 1997 and the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. For that reason if you want to travel responsibly in Luxor then think local: your accommodation, your meals, your guides – anything you can do to help your vacation spend reach the local economy.

The Nile has always been Egypt’s main water source, but as with many rivers around the world it is suffering badly from pollution. One of the leading causes is waste water and fuel from cruise ships, which is why you should consider a responsibly operated small ship cruise, or even better a wind-powered felucca.

Mass tourism has also had negative effects on many of Egypt’s monuments. An example is the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, where humidity caused by human breath has led to fungus and increased humidity, damaging wall paintings and forcing visitor numbers to be restricted.

Most people choose the convenience and speed of a flight when getting from Cairo to Luxor, but short haul flights are more environmentally damaging than long haul, since most fuel is used during take-off and landing. Consider taking the overnight train instead: more exciting, romantic and environmentally friendly, and as at least one of our well-travelled operators believes, ‘with a little magic to it’.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: VasenkaPhotography] [Guide icon: Spitfire ch] [Is/isn't: gloria_euyoque] [what it entails: Kavya N.M] [Best time: cattan2011]