One of the biggest highlights of Egypt is the Valley of the Kings. The most famous pharaohs are buried here in tombs deep underground with all their splendor. Most famous is of course the tomb of Tutankhamun with all its gold and valuables. Nowadays you don’t see much of that splendor anymore – you have to go to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for this – but the tombs still make a huge impression on any visitor. The unique craftsmanship, the magical vibe and beautiful hyroglyphs are like a fairy tale. In this blog I’ll you give 25 practical tips and detailed information for your visit to the famous Valley of the Kings.
Where is the Valley of the Kings?
# 1 The Valley is on the east bank near Luxor. You’ll probably have a place to sleep on the west bank, so you will have to cross the Nile to get to the Valley. You can have your taxi take a detour via the bridge, or you can take a boat across the river and take the taxi from there.
# 2 We paid 70 EGP for the boat and 160 for the taxi. Our taxi waited at the Valley of the Kings and then brought us for 70 Egyptian pounds to the Hatshepsut Temple and 40 pounds to the Medinet Habu Temple.
# 3 From the Nile to the Valley of the Kings you’ll pass the Menon Colossi. Have your taxi stop here to also visit these sights. The colossi are huge pharaoh statues and the only remnants of the death temple of one of the old pharaohs. Excavations are still being made here. Admission is free.
# 4 Other monuments on the east bank are close by, such as the Hatshepsut Temple and the Medinet Habu Temple. I therefore recommend you to combine these highlights to create a day trip on the east bank.
# 5 The queens are in the Valley of the Queens, also not far away. Apart from a few female pharaohs, the wives of the pharaohs are not in the Valley of the Kings. They have their own burial place: the Valley of the Queens. You can also visit them and that is not far away from the Valley of the Kings.
What is the best time to go?
# 6 Do not expect to have the tombs for yourself. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Egypt, so it is always busy.
# 7 It is busiest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so come before or after. Between those times, most tour buses with day trippers from the coastal town of Hurghada are in the Valley. It can get so busy that you sometimes have to stand in line for each tomb and you can only shuffle through a tomb.
# 8 In the summer, it is extremely hot in the afternoon and therefore the quietest. If you are willing to withstand temperatures of more than 40 degrees, consider going on a summer afternoon.
How do you prepare?
# 9 Take your own drinks and food. The Valley only has one restaurant and the prices are very high. Where you normally pay 5 Egyptian pounds for a can of coke in a supermarket, expect to pay 50 pounds here.
# 10 The only toilets are at the entrance to the Valley and at the visitor center. The ones at the visitor center are the cleanest.
# 11 The tombs only really come to life when you read (or watch) in. I love documentaries about ancient Egypt and luckily there are dozens of them. Also about the Valley of the Kings! Search on YouTube for the best documentaries about the Valley and you will learn everything about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, why the pharaohs built their tombs here and about all those grave robbers. One of my favourites is the “Secrets of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings” series. Check out the first episode here:
What does the Valley of the Kings cost?
# 12 The standard ticket costs 240 Egyptian pounds per person. A discount applies to students with a student card and an adjusted rate also applies to children. However, the entrance prices often change, so there is a good chance that the price will be different again in a few months.
# 13 This ticket gives access to three tombs of your choice. So do you want to visit more tombs? Then you still have to buy another ticket. Guards punch a hole in your ticket at each tomb. After three holes you can no longer use your ticket.
# 14 The tombs of Tutankhamun, Seti I and Ramses V & VI are not included in the price. You can only visit these three tombs with a separate ticket.
# 15 A ticket to the tomb of Tutankhamun costs 300 pounds, Seti I 1000 pounds and Ramses 100 pounds. And yes, you read that right. You can only visit the grave of Seti I for 1000 Egyptian pounds, so more than all tickets combined. In this way, the number of visitors remains reduced and the tomb protected.
# 16 Buy the extra tickets directly at the visitor center. Otherwise you have to go all the way back later and that’s both unconvenient and unnecessary. Make sure to the individual tickets for the extra tombs with your entrance ticket right away.
# 17 A standard ticket is also required for visiting the extra tombs. So even if you only want to visit the special extra tombs, you will have to buy the standard ticket for 160 pounds anyway.
# 18 The train costs 4 pounds. It is not difficult or hard to walk the 300 meters from the visitor center to the entrance of the Valley, but nobody does that. The train only costs 4 pounds and runs back and forth, so you might just want to use it as everyone else does.
# 19 You need a 300 pound photography ticket if you want to make any photos. The rules about photography often change and not all guards follow them. It might also be just too busy in the tombs for that. When we were there, you officially had to buy a 300-pound photography ticket for taking photos. We were allowed to take photos with your phone and you only needed this expensive ticket to use a professional cameras. This is the case with many temples and sights in Egypt.
# 20 Make sure you have cash with you. Think in advance which tombes you want to visit and make sure you have the money in cash. We have not encountered any ATM on the east bank, and you can not often pay with credit or debit cars in Egypt. Even if there is a machine for this, it doesn’t always work.
# 21 Also bring small change for the guards. The guards of the tombs will probably offer you to show an extra side room or to point out the most interesting hieroglyphs. A tip of 10 to 20 pounds should be enough.
What is it like to visit the tombs?
# 22 Not all 63 tombs are open for visitors. It changes which tombs are open. The sign at the visitor center shows which are opened at that moment.
# 23 The tombs are unfortunately empty, but beautifully decorated. Many tombs have been found empty by archaeologists anyway, because grave robbers got there first. The tomb of Tutankhamun is a well-known exception. But even if valuables have been found in the tombs, they are no longer there. In the tombs you can see at most a large stone sarcophagus. The decoration of the tombs is of course still present. The murals and hieroglyphs are beautiful.
# 24 The death mask of Tutankhamun is not here, but his mummy is. An important exception to the empty tombs is Tutankhamun’s mummy. All other treasures are moved and you can admire them in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but the mummy is still here.
# 25 The reconstruction of the tomb of Tutankhamun is perhaps more impressive. An exact replica has been made at the old house of Howard Carter, the man who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. Fewer tourists come here and – unlike the real tomb – you can view all rooms of the replica. We skipped this museum due to a lack of time and energy, but we were told it is an amazing place to visit. Th exhibition about the discovery in Carters house is said to be worth a visit as well. A replica of the (expensive!) tomb of Seti I is currently being made as well. It was not yet clear where it will eventually be rebuild.
# 26 A guide is not required and is not allowed in the tombs. Each tomb has a sign with a brief explanation and a map of the tombs. If you’ll prepare your visit with watching some interesting documentaries (tip 9), you don’t need a guide anyway.
# 27 The tombs are a narrow underground system with impressive murals. The tombs all lead underground to the central burial chamber. To get there, you walk through narrow corridors deeper into the earth or mountains, interspersed with rooms where once valuables were stored. Almost all walls are – or once were – painted and carved with hieroglyphics. The deeper you get, the warmer it can get.
# 28 Note the clashes between the tombs. Sometimes mistakes were made when excavating a new tomb. The grave diggers suddenly ran into an earlier tomb. Oops! An example is the tomb of Ramses III that hit into that of pharaoh Amenmesse. To correct this mistake, the tomb of Ramses suddenly makes an illogical twist to the right. Make sure to take a look in the niche in front of you to spot the hole in the floor to the other tomb.
# 29 Use the Theban Mapping Project to choose the most beautiful temples. Of 63 tombs, usually eight are open and you can visit three of them. Choice overlad? The Theban Mappin Project website offers detailed descriptions of all tombs, so it makes the perfect decision aid.
# 30 You can have the tomb of Seti I for yourself. Not everyone is willing to pay for a ticket of no less than 1000 Egyptian pounds. So there is a good chance that there is nobody in the tomb when you visit it. This tomb is also much larger than the others with a length of 137 meters and several large rooms. You can’t visit the last part of the tunnel though. Check this video out for some footage of it: