Luxor and the Valley of the Kings
The easiest way to visit Luxor is certainly by plane straight away from Cairo. But if you have more time, you can complete your adventure with a road-trip heading to the Red Sea. Then, it will take you 3 hours driving in the desert from Hurghada, to finally reach Luxor and its lavish nature that stands beside the river Nile. It is honestly not exaggerated to state that “The Valley of the Kings” offers the most F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C view of the Nile and definitely the most stunning sunrise I ever experienced, overlooking hot air balloons rising above the mountains.
You will find below the list of the most iconic sites to visit in Luxor and Aswan – you can explore all these places by yourself, but be aware of your time management! Otherwise, another great option would be an organized tour – Get Your Guide proposes many of them including transportation from your hotel and an English guide at a very competitive price!
If there is one temple you should not miss while visiting Luxor, it is definitely Karnak!
Built-in the ancient capital of Egypt called Thebes in the past, Karnak Temple holds the most majestuous and impressive antique architecture in Luxor – often referred to the World’s greatest open-air Museum. Indeed, the ancient capital still unveils marvellous treasures of the past and keep attracting millions of tourists per year!
Karnak will welcome you with an impressive alley of sphinxes, followed by two colossal statues of Ramses, leading to the next room where majestuous pillars still stand like in the old time! The site is absolutely magnificent, revealing scenes between gods and kings from the past, and its impressive hieroglyphs on all the walls.
Karnak has the singularity of its dual construction plan – Vertical to get closer to the gods, and Horizontal to access the royal areas.
Karnak has been part of a massive plan of conservation led by UNESCO and you will be able to see their work on many parts of the temple. Especially the Temple of Konshou on the corner right of the site, reveals impressive frescoes with vivid paintings in excellent condition, displayed inside the building itself.
Colloses of Memnon
To continue your visit, you will have to take the road towards Medinet Habu Temple, crossing the peaceful river Nile. The two Colossi of Memnon will appear on the side of the road, ruling the ancient entrance to the temple of Amenhotep III, and being the only sculptures still standing from it today.
Medinet Habu Temple
This temple was one of the most decorated I have visited in Luxor. Behind its impressive entrance door, stands a square architecture surrounded by massive pillars with statues. The wall paintings still unveil vivid colours such as red, blue and yellow – offering a priceless travel in time!
If you are an early bird, take advantage of the sunrise to discover the beautiful temple of Queen Hatchepsut – the place can be extremely packed during the day! This beautiful temple, built directly into the rock of the mountain, uncovers beautiful wall paintings and amazing ceilings fully covered of stars representing the clear night sky from the ancient time.
The magnificent entrance of the temple showcases an impressive line of identical statues. All of them represent the Queen Hatchepsut as a male Pharaoh, a non-negligible detail which highlights her desire to enforce her power to the society.
While visiting Luxor, I highly recommend a sunset boat tour on the Nile! After a long day running around all the temples, you will enjoy the city through another perspective, way more peaceful and relaxing!
Located in the centre of the city, Luxor Temple remains one of the iconic building that resisted the time and transformations of the old town – even if today the mosque Abu Haggag stands atop its ruins.
Only one massive Obelisk still stands at the entrance of Luxor Temple, being part of a duo, the second one residing today in the Place Vendôme in Paris.
To continue your adventure, the best way to travel from Luxor to Aswan remains the train. Expats will be redirected to the VIP wagons, where comfortable seats and AC await – so don’t be so worried about the local experience! Early tickets will enable you to make the best out of your visit to Aswan, and even see the most iconic sites in one day!
Once you reach Aswan, you will have to choose a taxi driver – as I suggest you to pay once for the full day – it will be the easiest way to optimize your visit and be sure someone will be waiting for you (some sites are very far away and without transportation services nearby).
The unfinished obelisk is another incredible beauty from the past – carved directly on the side of the mountain, this massive rock of marble unveils the construction of this impressive monument, never finalized due to a massive crack on the middle.
Let’s cross the Nile and discover the antique treasures of Philae! As soon as you step in the island, you get immersed in the ancient time! Walking along the giant pillars still intact which lead to this impressive entrance, where the king is defeating his enemies, surrounded by protective gods.
Impressive and majestuous – the temple remains very peaceful, as very few tourists were there at the time of the visit (maybe lucky us!), unveiling unbelievable historic treasures engraved on every single wall.
Did you know that Philae Temple has been entirely moved because of the flooding in the past? Such an incredible performance when you see how massive is the place and its amount of details!
Discovering Aswan, it is also going to meet the Nubian culture on the other side of the Nile – where people will welcome you to their colourful houses with a big smile on their face!
Indeed, we had the chance to be greeted by one of the villagers and get tea on his rooftop – it was a memorable local experience! (We even said Hi to his crocodile in the living room) We got to see the real-life in Aswan and discover his vision of life – focusing on meditation and covering the basic needs, the life seemed calm and peaceful as the Nile, far away from the consumerism of our societies.
Local villagers present their handmade collection in small huts along the Nile – from silk weaving workshop, paintings, music instruments, and home decorations – you will definitely find a unique souvenir to bring back home!
As curious and surprising as it may seem, you will find crocodiles in every house of the Nubian Village! The bigger, the better!!! The dead ones are proudly exhibited on the top of the main entrance doors and the living ones in a cage on the corner of the living room!
This list sums up my short visit to Aswan but the city has so much more to offer and deserves definitely more days to discover all its temples. Moreover, the famous Abu Simbel is one of them, located 3 hours away from Aswan – you will need to take a tour if you want to go and come back on the same day. I have personally tried the services of Get Your Guide and would highly recommend if you are looking for an organized tour.
Wishing you a happy adventure in Upper Egypt!
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