If there is one thing you must see in Egypt, it’s not the Karnak temple; it’s not the Sphinx; It’s not even the Pyramids, it’s the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. The most impressive piece of ancient history I’ve seen to this day, the tombs in this snow-white, limestone valley will give you the feeling you are born in the wrong age.
What is the Valley of the Kings
While the pharaohs of the old Egyptian Kingdom liked to parade with their graves by building a massive pyramid on top of them, the modern pharaohs of the new Egyptian Kingdom realized it’s not that wise to advertise where you and your afterlife treasures are buried.
So for a period of 500 years (from the 16th to 11th century BC), they used this rocky valley next to the capital (used to be Thebes, nowadays – Luxor) as a burial ground for royals, high priests, and other elites. The chambers were built in secret, and not even the next pharaoh knew where his ancestor is buried. The construction was starting right after the pharaoh was chosen and continued during all of his life. When a pharaoh dies, the workers had 80 days (the time used to mummify the body) to finish his burial tomb.
What to see in the Valley of the Kings
Well, the pharaoh’s tombs of course. Even though most of them had all of their valuables looted a long time ago, the real treasures are the heavy decorated corridors and chambers. Once you step in the first tomb, you won’t believe your eyes. Nothing in the world comes even close to this..not sure how to call it..piece of art. Deeper you go inside -lower your jaw will drop.
The tricky thing is, even though there are around ten tombs open for visitation, your ticket (160EGP/9USD*) covers only three of them. So, how do you pick which ones? My guide recommended the Ramses III, Ramses IV, and the Merepetah ones, and I can guarantee those three are a sight to be seen. If you want, you can get another ticket and visit three more. As per Raina (my Egyptologist guide) the others worth a visit are Ramses IX, Setnakht, and Seti II. She also warned me that, the Ramses VII one is not in good condition, so stay away from it.
There are three special tombs that require an extra ticket:
– The Rameses 5th & Rameses 6th cost 90EGP/5USD and it was featured in the 2005 BBC documentary series How Art Made the World.
– The most preserved tomb of them all – the one of Seti 1st was only recently open for visits thus making it the most expensive one by far costing 1000EGP/56USD.
– And the third unique tomb is the most famous tomb in the world – the one of the pharaoh Tutankhamun. It was discovered by Howard Carter a hundred years ago, and it’s the one that made the Valley of the Kings world famous. Even though the tomb is quite small, the decorations are bright and beautiful, and there are some extra highlights – King Tut’s sarcophagus and his mummy. Yep, you read that right – his real mummy is still there. The price to see the most famous tomb in the world and the superstar among mummies is 200EGP/11USD.
A few years ago, taking pictures inside the tombs was utterly forbidden (a small “donation” to the guards could’ve gotten you a photo or two though). Nowadays, there is a photo ticket that gives you the chance to get yourself that super cool selfie. It cost 300EGP/17USD, and it can be used in three tombs (besides the special ones).
To go inside the tomb of Tutankhamun is one of the 1700+ ideas I have on my bucket list. See what else is on it!
Where is the Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings is located on the west bank of the city of Luxor.
Want to know what else is nearby? Check out what is out there in Luxor
There are few options to reach the Valley of the Kings:
– You can ask your hotel for bus tours that circle around Luxor highlights. This option will be the cheapest option, but it gives you little to no flexibility on your schedule and no way to avoid the crowds.
– Book a taxi for the day. This option involves quite a haggling about the price and requires some destination and time scheduling on your part, but gives you the chance to visit the valley at the best time.
– Get a guide to a driver. The most expensive option (should be around 30USD per person, per day) is also the one I recommend. All you have to do is get up at the right time and leave everything in your guide hands. Not only you will visit the Valley of the Kings (and other Luxor landmarks) in the best time of the day,
but you will get a lot of knowledge from certified Egyptologist. The tricky part is to find a decent guide though. I was lucky, and I got a super knowledgeable one that not only gave me a ton of useful and interesting information but also tailor-made and my two days in the city and even got me some snacks! You can contact Raina at [email protected].
If private guides are not your thing here are some group tours:
Interesting facts about the Valley of the Kings
– The official name for the site in ancient times was The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes. Or also, Ta-sekhet-ma’at (the Great Field).
– The first tomb discovered was of pharaoh Ramses VII designated KV1 (KV meaning Kings Valley)
– Builders had only wooden and copper instruments to work with. Therefore they took advantage of the available geological features, like caves and cracks, when constructing the tombs.
– All of the amazing decorations inside were created on candlelight.
– The Valley of the Kings was popular tourist attraction since the Roman times. More than 2000 Latin and Greek graffiti have been found inside the tombs, the oldest dating 278 B.C.
– There is a rumor that there was a tablet with a curse inside the Tutankhamun’s chamber, but Howard Carter hid it so the workers wouldn’t know. This deed brought the curse of the pharaohs upon himself and his team. In the next years, 8 of the visitors of King Tut’s tomb perished. Was it a curse, a mosquito or just bad luck, we will never know (most probably mosquitos though).
– There is a little road train, costing 4EGP/0.25USD, from the main entrance to the tombs.
– Most of the Luxor tours start with the Valley of the Kings. Around 10 AM, the groups from the Red Sea arrive too. If you want genuine experience, free of crowds, go there in the afternoon (around 3 PM)
– Guides do not come with you inside the tombs. The guards there will try to show you photo spots and tell you stories, if you listen to them, they’ll expect a tip.
– Even if you get a photo pass, pictures inside King Tut’s tomb are forbidden. If you want to memorize the memory though, there is a perfect replica of the tomb next to the Howard Carter’s house museum.
Howard Carter’s house
A little bit off the beaten track, close to the Valley of the Kings is the house of the British archeologist – Howard Carter. Even though it looks like he just popped out and can return any second, the house is actually a museum where you can see a bit of old England and feel what it was like to live like the real-life Indiana Jones.
Seeing his huge camera, his dark room and his desk, with some of his notes and sketches scattered around, was a very cool experience for me. There is also a complete replica of the Tutankhamun’s tomb in the property. Every detail has been precisely reproduced, including dust and pitting on the walls, the wooden railing, and cracks in the sarcophagus. The only thing missing is the King Tut’s mummy. If you missed the real one in the Valley of the Kings, or you want to have a picture of it, you should definitely check it out.
The house is so cool that a few years ago a couple paid 10000USD to spend a night in it!
Working hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Where to get tickets: From the ticket office next to North El Gourna Hotel and the Colossi of Memnon (exact coordinates – 25.722725, 32.604387)
How to stay safe in Luxor
While I felt perfectly safe in Luxor, Egypt is a developing country which presents various risks.
From food poisoning to pickpocketers, various things may go wrong and ruin your vacation. What I do for all my trips is getting travel insurance from World Nomads. Once you have a few journeys under your belt, you can easily appreciate its tremendous value and the freedom it gives you.
While I sincerely wish you never have to use it, life happens (even more when you are traveling) and it’s always good to be prepared.
*Note: all prices are of February 2018
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoy your Valley of the Kings experience!
If you haven’t planned your trip there yet, find out how I plan my trips!
I’ve got 9 bucket list ideas for Egypt. See my impossible bucket list of 1700+ adventures!
Have you been to The Valley of the Kings?
Share your favorite tomb in the comments below.
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