Last Updated on November 17, 2021 by Nellie Huang
Dive deep into the heart of Egypt and explore the historical center of the country with this 3-day Luxor itinerary.
If Egypt is the historic center of the world, then Luxor would be the crown jewel. Luxor is often called the world’s greatest open-air museum, but that comes nowhere near describing this extraordinary place. As the capital of the New Kingdom in Ancient Egypt, Luxor has an overwhelming concentration of relics.
Luxor has a poetic setting: with the Nile flowing between the town center and the necropolis, backed by the imposing mountains of the West Bank. In contrast to the mayhem in Cairo, Luxor feels like a small sleepy town with an alarming amount of historical treasures. It’s easy to get completely swept away by the rich history and charm of Luxor.
Table of Contents
- 3 Days in Luxor Itinerary
- Current Egypt Travel Restrictions 2021
- How to Get to Luxor
- What You Need to Know about Luxor
- Do You Need to Book a Tour in Luxor?
- Luxor Itinerary Day 1: Visit the East Bank’s Temples
- Explore Karnak Temple
- Wander around Luxor Souk
- Lunch with a View
- Visit Luxor Temple By Night
- Dinner at Al Sahaby Lane
- Luxor Itinerary Day 2: Explore the West Bank
- Go on a Hot Air Balloon
- Visit the Valley of the Kings
- Tips on Visiting the Valley of the Kings
- Best Tombs to Visit:
- 2021 Prices for the Valley of the Kings:
- Wander around the Temple of Hatshepsut
- See the Colossi of Memnon
- Luxor Itinerary Day 3: Explore the Museums
- Visit the Luxor Museum
- See the Mummification Museum
- Lunch at Sofra Restaurant
- Relax by the Nile
- Luxor Travel Guide
- More Luxor Itinerary Ideas
- Where to Go After Luxor?
- How to Get Around Luxor
- Where to Stay in Luxor
- Budget: Nefertiti Hotel Luxor
- Mid Range: Sonesta Saint George
- Luxury: Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor
- Where to Eat in Luxor
- Al Saraby Lane
- Further Reading on Egypt
3 Days in Luxor Itinerary
For those planning 3 days in Luxor, this itinerary will help you make the most of your time there and choose the best things to do in Luxor. This is part of my longer 2-week Egypt itinerary.
Current Egypt Travel Restrictions 2021
Since 1 September 2020, all travelers must present a negative RT-PCR test certificate on arrival (taken no more than 72 hours before departure). Make sure your PCR test certificate is written in English or Arabic and be stamped by an accredited laboratory. No quarantine or mandated testing is needed.
Travel insurance is also mandatory to travel Egypt. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get to Luxor
Most people arrive in Luxor on train or plane. I took a 3-hour train from Aswan to Luxor, which cost 55 EGP or US$3.50 in second class. The journey was relatively fast and pain-free. Check train schedule and fare here.
To get to Luxor from Cairo, most people fly on Egypt Air. A flight from Cairo to Luxor costs around $50 each way and takes just 1 hour. If you prefer slow travel, the sleeper train departs every evening from Ramses Railway Station at 7.45pm and arrives in Luxor at 6.15am. It is expensive, at $100 per person. Check out my 3-day Cairo itinerary.
What You Need to Know about Luxor
Luxor is divided into two areas separated by the Nile River: the West Bank and the East Bank. The West Bank is where the Valley of the Kings and many other archaeological sites are found — it’s much more rural and backdropped by sandstone mountains.
The East Bank is the bustling heart of the city, centred around the ancient Luxor Temple. The center of Luxor is relatively compact and you can walk everyone. The train station is also on this side of the Nile. This is where you’d want to stay. It’s incredibly easy to get from one bank to another. There are many motorboats parked on both banks that are always ready to bring passengers across.
Luxor Itinerary Day 1: Visit the East Bank’s Temples
Explore Karnak Temple
Start your first day in Luxor at the Karnak Temple, just a short taxi ride from the center of East Bank. At its peak, it was the largest and most important religious complex in ancient Egypt. Entrance is 200 EGP ($12). Plan to spend around 2-3 hours here.
Having developed over more than 1,000 years, Karnak Temple is a massive temple complex to which dozens of pharaohs added their own constructions. My favorite part of Karnak Temple is the Great Hypostyle Hall, a wide walkway featuring 134 columns sporting intricate carvings.
Wander around Luxor Souk
Head back to the center of East Bank, where you’ll find the entrance to the Luxor Market (marked with a prominent wooden gate). Take a stroll in the shade and browse through the souvenirs, spices and jewelry. This souk is definitely not as overwhelming as Khan Al Khalili in Cairo.
Lunch with a View
For lunch, head to the nearby Aboudi Coffee Break just in front of Luxor Temple for the best view. Service is great, it’s great for lounging, and they’re happy for you to stay as long as you want. Its international menu has everything from sandwiches to pasta and mocktails.
Visit Luxor Temple By Night
Luxor temple is one of the very few temples in Egypt that closes late at night. Plan to visit at 5pm — this way you’ll get to see the complex both at sunset and by night. There’s something special about seeing the ancient sculptures illuminated with spotlights at night.
The temple complex is larger than it looks from the outside. The entrance alone is over 200 feet (61 meters) wide. The Avenue of the Sphinxes leads to the various chambers, chapels and courts.
Dinner at Al Sahaby Lane
Across the road, you’ll find Al Sahaby Lane — a renown rooftop restaurant that I loved on our first trip to Egypt 13 years ago. The place has become a bit shabby, but the Egyptian food is authentic and the evening atmosphere is fantastic. Try their tagine, falafel, or vegetarian moussaka.
Luxor Itinerary Day 2: Explore the West Bank
Go on a Hot Air Balloon
Rise early for the highlight of your Egypt trip: a hot air balloon ride over Luxor. If you’ve never been on a balloon before, this is one of the best places to go a hot air balloon. The 1-hour ride lets you feast on views of the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the Nile River, and the surprisingly lush green fields of the West Bank.
I booked my hot air balloon ride here and highly recommend it. It was much cheaper than other hot air balloon rides I’ve taken ($70 compared to $150 in Cappadocia), and the pilot was great and communicative.
Visit the Valley of the Kings
From there, it’s just a short hop to the Valleys of Kings and Queens in the West Bank. This is a sprawling area and a guided tour would be the best way to explore the area. I booked this half-day West Bank tour and really enjoyed my time with my female guide, who was fun, engaging and knowledgable.
The Valley of the Kings was the burial place of the most famous Egyptian pharaohs, including King Tutankhamen. There are over 69 royal tombs here (archaeologists are discovering new ones each year) — many of which are lavishly decorated with painted frescoes and carvings.
2021 Prices for the Valley of the Kings:
- Entrance Ticket + 3 Tombs: 240 EGP (US$15)
- Entry into Ramses VI tomb: 100 EGP ($6)
- Entry into Seti I tomb: 1000 EGP ($60)
- Entry into Tutakhamen’s tomb: 300 EGP ($18)
- Tram ticket (from carpark to site): 4 EGP ($0.25)
- *Photography Permit: 300 EGP (US$3) per device
*Photography Permit 2021
For years, the Valley of the Kings had a strict photography ban. Now it’s allowed (and free!) to take photos with your phone only without flash. If you do want to take photos with a camera, you’ll need a photo permit for each device you bring. It covers all the tombs except except Seti I and Tutankhamen.
Wander around the Temple of Hatshepsut
From the Valley of the Kings, it’s just a short drive to the spectacular Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. This large complex was built to honor the Egyptian Queen who ruled as king.
Hatshepsut was one of ancient Egypt’s first female pharaohs. After the death of her husband, she she adopted the title of pharaoh and ruled for more than two decades. The temple itself has been rebuilt by Polish archaeologists and doesn’t feel as original as other sites in Luxor, but the grand entrance and unique location of it – tucked at the base of the mountains – make it worth a visit.
See the Colossi of Memnon
As you leave the West Bank, you’ll pass by the Colossi of Memnon, two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Both statues are quite damaged, having been flooded by the Nile every year.
The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple. With the exception of the Colossi, however, very little remains today of Amenhotep’s temple.
Luxor Itinerary Day 3: Explore the Museums
Visit the Luxor Museum
On your last day, take it easy and stroll along the Nile Corniche to visit some of Luxor’s museums. The Luxor Museum may not be as impressive as the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but it’s definitely more organized with clear labels.
Among the items on display are grave goods from the tomb of King Tutankhamun and the royal mummies of two pharaohs –Ahmose I and Ramesses I.
See the Mummification Museum
Continue along the Nile Corniche and you’ll find the Mummification Museum. It’s a small but interesting museum about the mummification process. You’ll see mummies of birds and crocodiles that were buried together with pharaoahs.
Lunch at Sofra Restaurant
Leave the Corniche behind and walk towards the train station. It’s time for lunch at Sofra Restaurant, one of the most famous restaurants in town. Their classic Egyptian fare makes you feel like you’re dining in a local’s home.
Tuck into a variety of mezze platters – babaganoush, hummus, and tahini-based dipping sauces – then feast on hearty main courses, like slow-cooked lamb shanks or even grilled pigeons for the adventurous foodies.
Relax by the Nile
For the rest of the day, relax by the pool at your hotel (you might need a refreshing dip in that heat!) or take a felucca ride on the Nile River. Luxor is an incredibly stunning place, especially at sunset. Take time to kick back, especially after an intense few days in Luxor visiting temples and archaeological sites.
Luxor Travel Guide
More Luxor Itinerary Ideas
If you have more time in Luxor, there are quite a few interesting archaeological sites nearby worth visiting. Here are some ideas on how you can extend your trip to Luxor. I always book my day trips on GetYourGuide as they’ve consistently given the best rates (plus free cancellation).
- Utopia Island snorkeling trip from Luxor
- 2-Night Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
- 2-Day trip to Edfu, Aswan and Abu Simbel
Where to Go After Luxor?
For those who prefer to travel independently, you have a few options. Most people continue on to Aswan in southern Egypt, close to the border with Sudan. It’s just a 3-hour train ride away. It’s one of the calmest towns in Egypt, and the absolute best place to sail on a felucca along the Nile. Check out my list of things to do in Aswan.
On my most recent trip, I continued to Hurghada from Luxor (since I went to Aswan before that). Hurghada is a beach town along the Red Sea coast, and most people go there to relax and snorkel or scuba dive. It’s a 3-hour bus journey away. It’s cheap and easy, and you can book tickets online on the Go Bus website.
If you’re interested in exploring more of Egypt, check out our 2-week Egypt itinerary.
How to Get Around Luxor
Unfortunately Uber doesn’t work in Luxor, but there are plenty of taxis, horse carriages or mini vans everywhere. The horse carriages may look like tourist traps, but locals use them too and they’re cheaper than taxis. If you’re staying on the East Bank near Luxor Temple, it’s relatively easy to walk everywhere. A taxi ride from the center to Karnak Temple costs just 50 EGP ($3).
Where to Stay in Luxor
Most restaurants, shops and museums in Luxor are located on the East bank, which is where I recommend staying. Hotels in Luxor are incredibly cheap, with many four-star hotels offering rooms for under $50/night.
Budget: Nefertiti Hotel Luxor
Overlooking the ancient Luxor Temple, this budget hotel is where the popular Al Sahaby Lane rooftop restaurant is located. It’s tucked in the Luxor souk and has a central location. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Sonesta Saint George
Probably my favorite stay in Egypt, the Sonesta Saint George (pictured) is a classic four-star hotel along the Nile River on the East Bank. It feels a bit outdated, but offers great value with prices from $45/night. The pool is excellent and restaurants have great food. Check rates here.
Luxury: Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor
A stunning example of Victorian architecture, this prestigious hotel is a short walk from Luxor Temple and is definitely an iconic landmark of Luxor. Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor has a history of hosting royalty and celebrities throughout the years. Check rates here.
Where to Eat in Luxor
Sofra Restaurant is one of the most famous restaurants in town. Their classic Egyptian fare makes you feel like you’re dining in a local’s home. The rooftop terrace is an excellent spot to enjoy some hibiscus tea and shisha. Read Tripadvisor reviews.
The Egyptian restaurant at Sonesta Saint George Hotel where I stayed had great food and the prices were reasonable. It’s located by the pool and Nile River so expect great views especially at sunset. Book a table here.
Al Saraby Lane
This was a rooftop restaurant I loved on our first trip to Egypt 13 years ago. This time round, I went back for lunch, though I recommend coming here in the evening (less warm). The place has become a bit shabby, but the Egyptian food is authentic and view is fantastic. Read reviews.
Further Reading on Egypt
That’s a wrap! I hope my 3 days in Luxor itinerary will help you see the city’s most interesting sights without being too overwhelmed. Feel free to print out this Luxor itinerary or bookmark this and refer it to it during your Luxor trip. If you’re interested in reading more on Egypt, check out these articles I’ve written on the country as well as neighboring countries:
Let me know if you have any questions below. I’d be more than happy to help!
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