Travel tips and advice for Luxor, Egypt: The eight things you should see and do


Every visitor to Luxor wants to head to the Valley of the Kings, where generations of Egypt's rulers were buried, and every visitor to the Valley of the Kings wants to see Tutankhamun's tomb. Yet the boy king's burial place is one of the least impressive in the valley; not surprising, given he died so young. To see how truly grand a pharaoh's tomb could be, visit the joint tomb of Ramses V and VI, which features a pillared hallway and an enormous burial chamber with virtually every surface, including the ceiling, covered in brilliantly-coloured paintings.


The most extraordinary thing about Egypt's ancient monuments is that new discoveries are being made. If you visited Luxor years ago, you will recall the avenue of the sphinxes in front of Karnak temple, and the shorter row of sphinxes in front of Luxor temple. In recent years, archaeologists discovered that these two sets of sphinxes are actually linked – part of a three-kilometre-long avenue that was originally lined by more than 1300 sphinxes. Excavation work is almost complete, and the avenue should be open soon.


At first glance, the tiny tree out the front of the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut is nothing special. In fact, it's barely a tree: more of a withered stump, really. What makes this gnarled myrrh tree so special is the fact that it has apparently stood outside this temple for more than 3000 years. The female pharaoh Hatshepsut was celebrated for her trade mission to the land of Punt, which saw luxury goods such as myrrh trees imported – including, allegedly, this wizened specimen.


Cairo's museums may be filled with ancient treasures, but Luxor's own modern museum displays a rich cache of treasures discovered in the tombs and temples nearby. There are spectacular statues, royal mummies, and a fabulous selection of artefacts that reveal a lot about life in ancient Egypt, from daily tasks such as papyrus harvesting to military technology such as the sophisticated chariots that were one of the army's most important weapons.



There is nowhere else in Egypt like Karnak. The kingdom's holiest temple was embellished by each new pharaoh in turn; the earliest stones were laid at the same time Stonehenge was erected. Allow plenty of time to explore the complex, which covers two square kilometres and includes ornately-decorated chapels, phalanxes of giant statues, a sacred lake and a massive hypostyle hall, studded with more than 130 soaring columns.


If you have ever wanted to feel like Cleopatra sailing down the Nile, a sunset cruise on a felucca – a traditional Egyptian sailboat – is a must. Lounge back on cushions as a panorama of daily life unfurls in front of you, from farmers tending their fields to children playing in front of village houses, while other feluccas tack past. Along the way, keep an eye out for water buffalo and wading birds.


There's a lush retreat in the heart of Luxor that most people never discover: the tropical gardens of the Sofitel Winter Palace, the building that was once the holiday home of Egypt's royal family. The gardens, with their lush plantings and aviaries, are a delightful place to relax. Head to the Central Park bar to enjoy this tranquil oasis.


The twin monoliths known as the Colossi of Memnon originally stood at the entrance to the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. Battered by centuries of floods and scorching sun, the northern statue was almost shattered by an earthquake in 27BC – after which, it began to "sing". The "song", which was described by some as the sound of striking brass, drew many esteemed Romans to witness this miracle. However, the song came to an end a few centuries later, when the Roman emperor Septimius Severus tried to repair the statue, silencing it forever.

Ute Junker was a guest of Bunnik Tours.