How to avoid the crowds in Luxor

Egypt’s tourism sector suffered from several major setbacks in recent years, rocked by terrorist attacks and the 2011 revolution. But the country is now firmly on the front foot again, and is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations, with 8.5 million visitors in 2017, up 55 percent on 2016. After all, it’s not like there’s all that many rivals to the Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, or the marvels along the Nile out there.
Most visitors will head either to Giza, Luxor, or both, and Luxor is well-known not only for the extent of its ancient treasures, but also its crowds, as well as the grudgingly admirable persistence of traders, taxi drivers and amateur guides in separating them from their cash. This last is the reason why many people will choose to join an organised tour group in Luxor, simply to avoid some of those pressures, as well as benefiting from convenience and quality guides.
However, joining a tour does mean also accepting a fixed schedule which, in most cases, will be largely the same as other tours in Luxor, visiting the same places at the same times – and you’ll find crowds pretty much everywhere you go. So, what are the best ways to beat the crowds in Luxor?

Not all tours are alike

If you think that organised tours of Luxor are the way to go for you, then look at joining either a small group or tailor made trip. As well as providing you with expert guiding and ensuring that you get from A to B without needing to arrange anything yourself, they tend to have more flexibility than the very large tour groups which have to shuttle snaking lines of people around, often with a raised flag or umbrella at the front leading the way. A typical small group tour will have a maximum of 16 people so that it’s easier to change plans quickly if somewhere is unexpectedly busy, and it also means that participants have greater opportunities to get more detailed answers from their (local) guide.

Don’t rush it

Luxor is a huge place with a great deal to see, far more than you could hope to properly explore in a few days or even a week. For that reason, many Egyptology buffs tend to visit on a regular basis, sometimes every year, seeing a handful of different places each time. Egypt is a pretty inexpensive destination to travel in, and this means you can give each site the attention it deserves.

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Get your timings right

Timing can be everything when it comes to avoiding the crowds in Luxor. If you can get to popular sites early in the morning, or manage the heat of midday, then you will often have them almost to yourself before the large tour groups arrive. These groups will typically arrive by coach, alternating between one or two places in the mornings, and one or two in the afternoons. So there is a sweet spot between the departure of the morning groups and the arrival of the afternoon groups, which tends to be around 2pm to 3pm. This is something that nimble tailor made and small group tours of Luxor can take advantage of with a little forward planning.
The Valley of the Kings opens at 6am, and by 9am is hot and crowded. Meanwhile, because Luxor Temple is open at night, many people choose to see it in the evening. Therefore, you’re better off visiting Luxor Temple in the morning, and Karnak Temple later on.
Other timing tips for visiting Luxor include that old standard: go out of season. February to April and late September to early November tend to be the best time to visit Luxor, with manageable heat and smaller crowds. This also has the advantage of benefiting local people, reducing the pressure of peak season and spreading vital tourism income further across the year.

Join a Nile river cruise

Many of the must-see places in Luxor were built right alongside the Nile, the source of Ancient Egypt’s enormous wealth and power. If you’re on a Nile small ship cruise, then, it gives you a slight time advantage over groups that are staying in hotels further out. Or at the very least enables you to have a more leisurely breakfast. Nile cruises also mean that you can explore many other key sites and landmarks along the river, including Edfu, Kom Ombo, Elephantine Island and Aswan.

Go where others don’t

There are certain places in Luxor that everyone naturally makes a beeline for: the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, the Colossi of Memnon, the temples of Karnak and Luxor. And of course there are plenty of other locations that are just as interesting, but fly under the radar: the Valley of the Nobles – close to the Valley of the Kings – containing the burial chambers of hundreds of Theban nobles, but much less well-known; the workers’ village of Deir el-Medina; and Medinat Habu, the memorial shrine for Ramses III. All fascinating, and all sure to give you a far more relaxed experience with hardly anyone else around, comparatively speaking.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Peter Nicola] [Photo: Julia Barbosa] [Mural: VasenkaPhotography] [Luxor temple: C N]