Luxor holidays

Experience Luxor

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

The western shore of the Nile River is known as the West Bank and is home to some of the most architecturally significant buildings in the region. Most tourists never venture onto the West Bank, which means the lucky few who cross the river have this quiet strip of Luxor to themselves. Travellers, especially those who come during the high season, will find great respite from the hordes of crowds in this underappreciated area.

One of the most notable architectural sites on this side is the Valley of Kings, one of the country's most popular attractions. In ancient Egypt, the West Bank was always reserved as the resting place for the royals, so tourists who venture here will find many interesting tombs and shrines.

The eastern shore, known as the East Bank, is a complete contrast to the western side. The East Bank is the metropolis of Luxor, home to the city centre and most of the accommodation and nightlife. Although it's not as peaceful as the West Bank, it still has a great deal of historical sites. Both the temples of Luxor and Karnak are located here, as are many of the country's most informative museums. Travellers looking for a bustling city should spend a few days on the East Bank.

The Downtown area on the East Bank is also worth exploring. Authorities have just recently opened new sites to the public, including the Avenue of the Sphinxes and the Temple of Seti.

If there is one place that should not be missed in Luxor, it is the Valley of the Kings. Located on the West Bank of the Nile, the Valley of the Kings is home to 63 tombs of ancient Egyptian royalty. All of the tombs are different from one another and make for an enjoyable excursion. The area marks a significant shift in the Empire's history when Pharaohs decided to be buried in these hillsides instead of the pyramids. This was an attempt to subvert the popular act of grave robbing.

Safaga was once a quiet fishing village, but has grown to become one of the area’s most popular tourist hotspots. Around a three hour drive from Luxor, Safaga is famous for water-sports, and has even hosted the World Windsurfing Championships. The crystal-clear waters also hold attractions for divers: the Abu Kafan Reef and the Panorama Reef are just two incredible, sub-aquatic treasures to be found.

Top Landmarks

The Karnak Temple Complex is an extraordinary arrangement of structures, built in honour of the ancient Theban Gods. Covering two square kilometres, the complex houses several kiosks, pylons, sanctuaries and obelisks. The most popular of all the temples in the complex is the Temple of Amun. Karnak was an important place for ancient Egyptian worshippers and provides great insight into the belief and rituals of the past.

The topic of Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows, the Tomb of Tutankhamun is an extremely popular tourist destination. Only discovered in 1922, this tomb is one of the few Egyptian tombs that remain intact. Along with Tutankhamun's treasures (which are kept at the Cairo Museum) the tomb is an essential part of the country's history and a magical excursion for children and history enthusiasts alike. However, the tomb isn't the only attraction, as the chambers leading to it are covered in amazing wall paintings which tell a great deal about the development of the Arabic language and art.

Standing majestically on the West Bank of the Nile River, the Colossi of Memnon are well-recognised sites in Luxor. The final remnant of one of the largest temples built in Egypt, the colossi once guarded the Pharaoh Amenhotep III's memorial structure. Standing tall at almost 18 metres, the colossi are cut from a single 1,000-tonne block of stone and can literally not be missed.

Though less well-known, the Valley of the Queens is worth visiting. This is where the wives of the Pharaohs were buried, separately from their husbands.

Entertainment

There are several entertainment options in Luxor, ranging from traditional folklore shows to good old Irish pubs. Travellers looking for crowded nightclubs pumping out Western music will have to travel to larger cities like Cairo, as Luxor offers a simpler, more cultural nightlife experience.

Many establishments host traditional Egyptian music evenings, boasting belly dancers, folkloric shows with authentic rababa musicians and if travellers are lucky, snake charmers. Most of these places offer oriental buffets, making for a delicious and cultural experience for everyone involved.

Travellers looking for home comforts will not be disappointed by a large number of Irish pubs. Serving everything from pints of real British lager and the heartiest of pub grub, these pubs are the perfect place to get some respite from the harsh Egyptian sun. Some pubs even show live football matches.

There also a few festivals in the city which can be enjoyed by travellers who are lucky enough to be in the region at the right time. The most famous festival in Luxor is Moulid of Abu el-Haggag, which is held two weeks before Ramadan and characterised by two days of street celebrations. Horse races are a popular way of celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Because the Muslim calendar uses the moon, the date changes each year. From processions and horse-races to stick-fights and drumming concerts, there are activities to satisfy every taste.

Dining Out

Restaurants start operating quite late in the day, opening at midday and catering for the lunchtime rush. Dinner is served at most establishments until 22:00pm.

There is a large variety of dining options in the city catering for those who are interested in sampling the local fare, as well as those who prefer international cuisines. Luxor is one of the best places in Egypt for vegetarian travellers as many restaurants use the region's fresh seasonal vegetables prolifically in their dishes.

While there are plenty of international options, with everything from spicy Indian curries to English fish and chips, there are a few local Luxor dishes which should be sampled at least once. These include delicacies such as kurshari (a lentil and macaroni based meal) and kebabs (grilled spicy meats skewered on a stick and sold on most streets). There's also lovely desserts to appease the most discerning sweet-toothed traveller, including ruz bi laban (a sweet, creamy rice pudding) and muhalabiyya (creamy yoghurt topped with strawberry and blueberry syrup).

To quench the thirsts of parched tourists after a long day in the heat, many refreshing Egyptian drinks are on offer at restaurants. Sugarcane juice is popular with tourists and locals alike, while tamarind juice take some getting used to.

Beach

Luxor itself does not have any beaches, but the city is within close vicinity to stunning bodies of water. The popular beach resort of Hurghada is only a few hours away by bus. Hurghada has a spectacular stretch of beach which is great for sun tanning, but also for water sports like windsurfing and snorkelling.

Romance

While Luxor is known mostly as an 'open-air museum', it also serves as a wonderful background to a romantic getaway. One of the most romantic activities on offer is a sunrise hot air balloon ride over many of the city's famous landmarks. Float over the ancient land while watching an African sunrise with a loved one at your side.

Family

While excursions in Luxor are no doubt informative, they can be tiresome for little ones who are interested in more active pursuits. One way to get them excited about the ancient ruins is to experience the Karnak Temple's sound and light show. Each night, the magnificent complex is lit up in a fantastic display of laser and light manipulations. If this doesn't convert the disinterested traveller then nothing will.

Adventure

Travellers in search of adventure should take full advantage of the region's vast desert areas. Many tour companies can arrange desert safaris of up to several days at a moment's notice. From racing across the golden dunes in a four-wheel drive jeep to sleeping under the African skies with Bedouin tribes, desert safaris are not to be missed.

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

Egypt's official language is Standard Arabic, which is spoken all over the country, including in Luxor. Egyptian Arabic is the most widely spoken dialect in the area, but tourists will find that English and French are prolifically spoken in the tourist and business industries. However, it is considered good manners to at least try and master greetings and pleasantries, so it's worth buying a phrasebook.

Currency

The national currency is the Egyptian pound, which is split into 100 piastres. Large hotels, shops and restaurants accept all major credit cards, including American Express and Diners Club. ATMs are available in all areas, including the more remote towns. Currency can be exchanged in hotels, bureaux de change and large banks, which often provide the most flexible and negotiable rates. When it comes to markets, haggling for a product is seen as something of a good-natured sport. As a general rule, if an item appears to cost as much as it would in the high season, then haggling is acceptable. However, if the price appears to be lower than normal, then it's a question of judgement. Ultimately, visitors are advised that if stall holders do not seem to be prepared to enter into bargaining, the best choice is to politely walk away.

Visas

All travellers to Egypt are required to obtain a visa to enter the country. Travellers from the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and Canada can obtain an Egyptian visa upon arrival at any of the country's airports, by seeking out one of the many bank booths there. However, payment must be made in the currency of your country of origin, although change may be given in Egyptian LE. All other nationals are required to obtain a visa before leaving their home country. Tourist visas are valid for three months. UK visitors wishing to purchase a visa before travelling to Luxor are advised that they will have to buy it, in person, from the Egyptian Consulate or by post. Cheques or currency are not accepted as payment when purchasing visas by post; only Postal Orders are accepted.

Climate

Luxor has a subtropical desert climate, and can reach arid heights. While the average temperature comes in at around 30°C and 33°C during the summer, it can get even hotter. This is the hottest time of the year in Luxor, with temperatures hitting average highs of between 39°C and 41°C. Warm all year round and experiencing very little rainfall, it’s no surprise that Luxor is such a haven for sun-worshipping sightseers.

Main Airports

The main gateway in Luxor is Luxor International Airport. From Luxor, further connections can be made to other cities like Cairo and Alexandria.

Flight Options

A handful of carriers fly to the region. Travellers can get direct flights to Luxor from Europe, including London, especially during the high season in winter. There are also budget options from London-Gatwick.

Travel Advice

Egypt can become overcrowded during the winter high season between the months of May and September. It is advisable that travellers book both flights and accommodation in advance to avoid high prices and full hotels.

Other Transport Options

Travellers can take a train to Luxor, which can prove to be an inexpensive and scenic option. Flights from London can be taken to the country's main port, Cairo, from where a train can be caught from Ramses Train Station to Luxor. There are four different options, including a daytime air-conditioned express, an overnight air-conditioned express and an overnight deluxe sleeper.

Getting Around

Travelling by boat is the only way to get from the East to the West Bank, while the train network is a comfortable way of reaching other regions of the country.

There are taxis at each port waiting to take passengers to their next destination.

Luxor can also be navigated by bicycle. Many of the large hotels hire out bicycles but there are several bicycle rental shops dotted on both the West and East Banks of the river.

Bus

Within the city, minibuses operate on fixed routes, however, there are no maps or schedules. Different routes are marked by colour stickers on the side of minibuses, which can be flagged down at the side of the road.

Train

The city's train station is located in the centre of the town. Trains are mainly used to travel between cities. There are many options available for daily trips, including overnight air-conditioned sleepers.

Ferry

The only way of travelling between the East and West banks is by boat. There are local blue ferries waiting on the side of the river which are significantly cheaper than the touristy feluccas and water taxis. The only disadvantage with taking a blue boat is that drivers only leave when the vehicle is full. There are taxis at each port waiting to take passengers to their next destination. Not only is this an efficient mode of getting from one side to another, but it's scenic as well.

Bicycle and Motorbike

Luxor is relatively small and can be navigated by bicycle. Many of the large hotels hire out bicycles but there are several bicycle rental shops dotted on both the West and East Banks of the river. The East Bank is far more cosmopolitan than the West Bank, so cyclists should keep in mind the increased traffic when travelling from one side to another.

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FACTS

  1. The temples and artefacts in Luxor date back almost 4,000 years.
  2. Islam is the official religion of Egypt. However, other religions are permitted and there are various Catholic and Coptic churches found in the centre of Luxor.
  3. While tourists are not expected to observe the traditions of Ramadan, it is good manners to be discreet or considerate when eating and drinking in public places during this period.
  4. Mosquitoes do inhabit Luxor, however, the threat of malaria is minimal.
  5. Shoes must be removed, before entering a mosque.

FACTS

  1. The temples and artefacts in Luxor date back almost 4,000 years.
  2. Islam is the official religion of Egypt. However, other religions are permitted and there are various Catholic and Coptic churches found in the centre of Luxor.
  3. While tourists are not expected to observe the traditions of Ramadan, it is good manners to be discreet or considerate when eating and drinking in public places during this period.
  4. Mosquitoes do inhabit Luxor, however, the threat of malaria is minimal.
  5. Shoes must be removed, before entering a mosque.

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7 nights from £857/pp