I had often heard Luxor referred to as ‘the world’s greatest open-air museum’, though before visiting I couldn’t imagine the sheer magnitude of Luxor’s historical riches. As most of you know by now, Mostafa is Egyptian and we always go back to Egypt at least once a year to spend time with his family. Every time we go, he always makes the effort to show me a new place, and Luxor has been on our agenda for a long time. I adore history, and have always had a keen interest in Egyptology, so it seemed the obvious destination to learn more about Egypt’s rich history. So far on our travels through Egypt, I have loved every single place Mostafa has ever taken me. There is something about Egypt which just resonates with me and it’s a place which I truly enjoy visiting time and time again!
With only a short week in Egypt, (half of that seemingly spend in Cairo’s unmoving traffic!) we didn’t have long to spare for our trip. Luxor is the kind of destination that you could easily enjoy as a 2-week vacation but given our lack of time, we were optimistic that we could fit all of the main sights into 48 hours…. And we were wrong (of course!). We probably could have finished everything if we’d rushed our way around but there is something about being in a city as steeped in culture as Luxor that makes you really want to savour every place and so we did take our time. Never mind, it’s a great excuse to go back!
While there’s so much that we didn’t see in Luxor, we managed to pack quite a lot into our trip. We’ll be sharing with you our itinerary below!
How did we travel? Since we were already in Egypt, we travelled by Egypt Air from Cairo to Luxor airport. From the airport, we grabbed a local taxi to our hotel and ended up using the same taxi driver for our whole trip! He seemed like a great guy as he made an effort to explain to us some of the main attractions on the way and was really reasonable with his pricing (most of the taxis in the city don’t use a meter so it’s best to agree a price with the driver first.) We just took his number and called him every time we wanted to go somewhere and he often waited for us between places. A convenient and hassle-free way to get around!
Where did we stay? We stayed in the beautiful Maritim Jolie Ville Kings Island. The idyllic resort is set on its own private island, connected to mainland Luxor only by a two-way bridge. The grounds of the hotel are absolutely stunning, surrounded fully by the Nile with incredible views as far as the eye can see. The hotel is huge, and rooms are either in the main building or in cute little bungalow-style houses dotted around the resort. We stayed in one of the Superior Deluxe Rooms which was the bungalow style and it was super comfortable. The style of the hotel is traditional luxury, with a lot of dark wood and grand, regal detailing which really fit in perfectly with the style of the city itself. There are two main swimming pools, a kid’s pool and our favourite – the adults-only ‘tranquillity pool’. The crystal clear water of the infinity pool seemed to run directly into the Nile behind it! With four restaurants and three bars, there’s no shortage of places to eat and drink in the resort itself (not that we’re advising you to stay in the hotel for your entire stay, you’d be crazy to miss out on exploring the city!). The hotel even has its own mini-zoo with animals and we could have spent hours just exploring the expansive grounds! It’s a little bit out of the way from the main hustle and bustle of Luxor, 3km from the main attractions but only a short taxi-ride away. For the simple reason that the hotel grounds are so beautiful, we’d definitely stay it was worth it to be that little bit further out!
A funny story – when we arrived at the hotel a lizard ran into our hotel room as soon as I opened the front door! Egypt has a lot of lizards anyway, but given that we were literally staying on an island in the middle of the Nile there were tons! I stayed outside of the room (terrified!) waiting for Mostafa to find the lizard and get it out… but he couldn’t find it! So we shared our hotel room with an unexpected guest for two nights!
What did we do?
We started our Luxor trip off with a visit to Karnak Temple, Luxor’s biggest temple complex. The complex has been built, destroyed and then built again over the course of around 1500 years and was the most important Egyptian place of worship during the new kingdom. At the heart of the complex is the Temple of Amun which was built to be the ‘home’ of the local God in the area. It’s recommended to go early morning or late afternoon for the best lighting. We went pretty early and small cracks of glistening sun-light bounced off the striking temple architecture, making for incredible photos! Going early also means escaping the tiring Egyptian sun for as long as possible, as depending on the time of year it could be unbearably hot around midday.
I especially loved looking at the ancient hieroglyphic writing on the temple walls as it’s always something which has fascinated me. There are so many beautiful spots in the temple and we’d definitely recommend taking your time around it as we saw other tourists rushing through and missing several of the most amazing sites! Karnak Temple is one of the largest historical sites of its kind and absolute must-see when in Luxor. Allow a couple of hours here and wear comfortable walking shoes as the complex is more than 2 sq km and you’ll want to see as much of it as possible! Be aware – there are different entrance prices for Egyptians and tourists in all of Luxor’s historical sites. The price is printed on the ticket and is fixed. We laughed every time we entered at the price difference between mine and Mostafa’s ticket! Having said that, the prices for non-Egyptians are still pretty reasonable and definitely didn’t put us off exploring!
Waking up at 4am is not my idea of fun, but there’s something about watching the sunrise over the city below that made it totally worth it in this case! If you’ve never ridden a hot air balloon, then you MUST do it on your trip to Luxor! It was the most incredible feeling watching the city below wake up and because of Luxor’s varied environment there is literally a different view from every side of the balloon. We floated along the Nile, got a glimpse of the infamous Valley of the Kings, and marvelled at the sight of an orange sky dotted with other balloons, just like ours. Seeing Luxor Temple from above provided a totally new perspective but the highlight of the ride was flying over the town centre and seeing the tiny match box houses, stunning mosques, beautiful churches, and the dawning of another day in Luxor.
We did our balloon ride with Magic Horizon Balloons and couldn’t fault them. They picked us up from our hotel, and drove us to the area in Luxor where all of the balloons depart. Here we met the rest of our group and had all the relevant safety briefings. Then we were off! We thoroughly recommend doing this as part of your trip!
Feet back firmly on the ground, we spent the evening on 'Banana Island'. It’s ‘less touristy’ than the other things on this list, but absolutely worth doing. Travel by boat to the island and see a traditional Egyptian banana plantation and quietly observe the local village life there. For us, this was such a peaceful change from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Egypt, not a taxi horn to be heard! We learned about the history of banana growing on the island and got to sample the local delicacy! I'm actually not a big fan of bananas, but these were amazing! I think Mostafa ate at least ten! Sailing back to mainland Luxor, we drank Egyptian tea as the sun set to the sound of the call to prayer from neighbouring mosques against the stunning backdrop of the river Nile. Bliss!
We spent a full afternoon simply strolling the streets of Luxor and taking in the sites and sounds. There’s so much to see, including traditional markets, mosques and the famous Citadel. Stop for a tea or taste Egypt’s famous ‘Koshary’ - a blend of chickpeas, rice and pasta with fried onions and tomato sauce!
Walking around Luxor, we stumbled across a gem of a restaurant! Jewel of the Nile is a small, homely restaurant with British and Egyptian owners Laura and Mahmoud. Perfect for tasting authentic Egyptian food or eating something a bit more European – they even do a traditional British roast! The owners are lovely and we really recommend giving this place a try!
Honestly, there are so many places in Luxor we didn’t get to see and we’ll definitely be staying longer on our next visit! It’s a city so culturally and historically rich and really worth making a trip to if you’re staying in a more tourist area like Sharm el Sheikh or Hurghada. If you’ve been or are planning a trip, we’d love to know your thoughts!
What did we miss? Let us know your ultimate Luxor recommendations!
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