- Middle east
3 Days in Luxor, the Land of Palaces
Luxor, once the capital jewel of Ancient Egypt is my final stop during my trip here. This place is dubbed the land of palaces because there are several ruins and temples discovered in the area and after traveling 6 hours to the border of Sudan to see Abu Simbel, this was a welcome change. I love Luxor. This place is filled with history, laid back vibe and friendly people and if I were going to live in Egypt, Luxor would be the place.
Egypt Travel Video
Where to Stay in Luxor
Half of my satisfaction came from the hospitality provided by the owner of the Bob Marley House hostel (no paid endorsement here), Maria whom went out of her way to help us backpackers avoid getting scammed and providing us with the best information. The hostel is almost on par to European hostels in terms of services, something I don't see often in Egypt. This is truly the best option you could find if you want cheap and great hostel experience.
Be warned: There are several hostels named similarly in the area that claimed they are THE Bob Marley hostel. They are not, so make sure you go to the right place. This Bob Marley House hostel is NOT the one near the train station with a direction sign out of the gate. These guys were trying to steal customers in the dirtiest way possible by naming their place Bob Marley and putting signs in front of the railway station.
Getting to Luxor and Exploring the City
It was an uncomfortable ride from Aswan to Luxor. Since I had to buy my ticket on the train, I was not assigned with a seat number and because of that, I have moved around like a pinball to accommodate those who had the seat number. Fortunately, the trip was only 3 hours long.
As I arrived in Luxor train station, the sun was already up halfway in the sky. I walked out of the train station and saw a sign directing me to the "fake" Bob Marley "Peace" hostel. Since I did not know that, I followed the sign and found out that the hostel looked nothing like the photos in Hostelworld. I decided to whip out the direction provided by the hostel and made my way back to the main road and got myself to the Television street. I followed the Badr street and eventually found my way to the hostel. The staff gave me free coffee and provided me all the information without pushing me to buy tour packages like most hotels do in Egypt.
As some of you may know, I like meeting new people and Egypt has not been accommodating me in that front. The hostel I stayed in Cairo was empty and there were no hostels in Aswan so I was glad to see many backpackers at the Bob Marley House hostel.
I spent that day walking around the area and exploring the Television street, preparing myself for a big day the next day. Me, Jess (a New Zealander), Kelvin (a French), and Sam (from the States) decided to go on a day tour hitting all the important temples around Luxor. Since there are 5 spots we had to go, it was much more affordable to go with a non-guided tour than by yourself.
Visit all the Ruins Around Luxor with a Tour
At 8 sharp, we were picked up by a coach for our first stop at the Valley of the Kings. Unfortunately, it is forbidden to take photos of the valley. In my opinion, the location was not very photogenic anyway. All the pharaohs are buried in a complex network of tombs scattered throughout the valley.
Our second stop was the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. It is a large complex of temples and tombs in the West Bank of the Nile.
A friend tipped me about how the temple resembled one of the stage in a once popular computer games called "Serious Sam".
The path to the temple was so long, we ended up running desperately to find a shade because the temperature spiked up very fast during the day in Egypt.
The whole complex looked a little too clean for me. I like a ruin that actually looks like a ruin more. This temple feels new for some reason.
Next up, we went to Medinet Habu temple, the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III.
After seeing many Egyptian ruins, I have got the impression that they really do value the scale of their crafts. I mean.. look at this humongous wall carving!
There were several more inside the temple complex. It was like walking through history when I walked in one of these corridors.
Do you want to know how big these statues were? Look at the guy on the right for scale.
The complex consisted of small rooms where you will both find hidden gems like this and an egyptian waiting to ask you for a tip. Very consistent of them.
We also saw the Colossi of Memnon but it was not very impressive so no photos for you. Anyhow, we spent that afternoon, trying out all kinds of local food and saying goodbye to each other as most of them were heading to Aswan whereas I would be staying in Luxor for a few more days.
It was sad to say goodbye to those guys but we made plans to meet up again in Cairo on our way out and we did.
Visit Karnak and Luxor Temple on Your Own
I woke up early in the morning, got on a minivan as per suggested by the hostel staff, and went to the Karnak temple for a few EGP. You can easily visit this place independently without paying a crazy amount of money for a tour.
A pretty damn epic entrance featuring an avenue of sphinxes which leads to the pylon. These sphinxes are ram-headed, symbolizing the god Amun.
This is why I like starting my day early. I got the whole place to myself again.
This is the Karnak Temple Hypostyle Hall which consisted of several gigantic pillars.
It amazes me how they were able to carbon copied each pillar to look exactly the same with a very limited technology they had back then.
The massive columns in the hypostyle hall dwarfed me. Can you feel any smaller?
Many obelisks were constructed in the Karnak temple. One still stands as the tallest surviving obelisk on Earth.
Sitting in the hypostyle hall, being dwarfed by all the pillars really got me thinking about how awesome the human race is. We made the impossibile possible.
After half a day spent in the Karnak temple, my next and last stop of the day was the Luxor temple right in the city centre.
It was only a few minutes away from the Tevelision street and so I decided to have a coffee break and went there right before the sunset.
There's a reason why I chose to visit the Luxor temple last. Luxor temple is one of the few temples that closes late at night which made it the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
My guess is because of the location of the temple, it is much easier for the police to secure the place at night which would be impossible for remote temples like Abu Simbel. Throughout my trip, only Luxor temple is in the vicinity of the city centre.
There is something about Africa that makes watching the sunset an unforgetable experience. I had a similar feeling when I was in Zambia and I had that feeling here in Egypt as well.
It maybe because of the atmosphere of the surrounding that makes the illuminated orange light outstandingly vivid.
If only there were some kind of explanation to all these carvings, that would have make these temples more interesting.
More pillars here, but the ones in Karnak temple were much more attractive.
As the sun set completely, several spotlights were turned on to illuminate and create somekind of a light show. It was as dreamy as it gets.
The good thing about traveling in the desert is that you don't have to worry about bad weather. The weather will always be cleared most of the time.
It was totally worth it waiting and visiting the temple during sunset, a truly unique experience.
Michael and his friend made it to Luxor right before I left so we went out, grabbed a little dinner and talked about how durable my camera was. It was still functioning like nothing happenned.
Getting to Cairo from Luxor
My attempt to try and fit one last activity into my last day failed as my morning hot air balloon ride was cancelled. We woke up at 4 am and by the time it was 6, we had to cancel it and turned back due to strong wind. It was a shame, but I did not plan to do it in Luxor anyway.. my goal is to do it in Cappadocia in Turkey. :)
In the evening, Maria was so kind that she allowed me to stay at the hostel until my bus leaves for Cairo at 9PM. She didn't even mind me using the shower before I left.
I booked a Go Bus ticket online and went to the bus station (near the train station) an hour earlier. The process of getting my ticket was smooth and in no time, I was on the bus with my free lunchbox bound for Cairo.
Souvenior Shopping in Cairo
I slept surprisingly well on the bus, much more so than the train. I arrived in Cairo at 6 AM and went straight to the Freedom Hostel (highly recommended), where I, Kelvin, Sam, Jess, and Yan regrouped. We spent the whole day sleeping, hanging out at the hostel, eating takeaway shawarma from Kazzaz, the best kebab place in Cairo. Joined us later that night was Bridget and Amanda where we went out and explored the nightlife of Cairo, or what's left of it.
Let's just say it was an "interesting" experience going to a club in such a conservative country. We went to the so-called best club in Cairo and it was a sausage-fest. Imagine buffed arab guys dancing to techno music in a dance floor the size of a dorm room in hostel.
It was still fun though as Bridget (she's from the States) decided to show the Egyptian how an American dances at parties. It was hilarious! The night turned out to be pretty awesome, thanks to the interesting people I'd befriended in Luxor.
It was my last day in Egypt so we decided to do some souvenir shopping. There is no better place to do that than the Khan-El-Khalili Grand Bazaar.
As I was trying to pick up a few postcards from this one store, the other store owner dragged me out and told me that his postcard is only 1 EGP each. I guess it is common to steal customers like this here. :)
After revisiting the grand bazaar, it was time to wrap up my trip to Egypt. I said goodbye to my friends again as they were all heading separate ways and I would be flying to Amman the next day.
Even though, the ruins and temples were very nice, I think I have had enough Egyptian ruins for now. I might come back to explore more, especially in the Sinai Peninsula but not anytime soon. I flew out of Cairo to Amman, Jordan the next afternoon and that ended my trip in Egypt.
What do you think about Egypt? Would you travel to Egypt and see the pyramids if you have the chance or is it a little too "well-traveled" for you? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next entry, Jordan.
Further Reading for Egypt
I have plenty of articles to help you more with your trip planning in Egypt. Here is a selection of articles about Egypt you might like:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Egypt? 2 weeks itinerary for Egypt.
- There’s art in scamming people, and there’s also art in avoiding them. Here ishow to avoid getting scammed in Egypt.
- Cairo is the first place you will likely land when traveling to Egypt. Here is a complete guide on things to do, how to visit the Giza Pyramids and more.
- Aswan may be quite far to get to but with Abu Simbel, a stunning ancient Nubian tomb at the border between Egypt and Sudan, it makes it worthwhile to get all the way down there. Check out my travel guide on how to spend 2 days in Aswan and Abu Simbel.
- My praise of Egypt isn’t convincing? Why not let photos tell the story. Check out 22 photos that will inspire you to visit Egypt.
- You can also watch my travel video here: The Only Egypt We Have.
- To see all articles about Egypt, visit Egypt Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Middle East? You can find more on my Middle East Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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