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The Valley of the Kings is an actual valley located in Upper (southern) Egypt. The valley is located on the west bank of the River Nile, opposite the city of Luxor standing at the site of the Ancient Egypt city called Thebes (the Greek name).
For a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom constructed burial tombs for themselves and the members of their families in the this place. (The New Kingdom of Egypt or Egyptian Empire is the period from the 16th to 11th century BC of the 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties of Egypt believed to be the height of Egyptian civilization).
Thebes was the capital of the Ancient Egyptian dynasties during the period of the New Kingdom. It stood on the east bank of the River Nile and was the center of worship of the god Amun. The Valley of the Kings is located at the foothill of Theban mountain which was considered a sacred land of the Kingdom of the god Osiris, the Lord of the Afterlife. The mountain is a natural pyramid-shaped peak which overlooks the Valley of the Kings. The Valley itself represents a streambed that remains dry all year round except rainy season and consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the most royal tombs are located) and West Valley which has only one tomb open to the public (the tomb of Ay, Tutankhamun's successor).
Totally, there are 62 tombs excavated by egyptologists and archaeologists from many countries. Not all of the tombs belonged to the king and royal families. Some tombs belonged to privileged nobles and were usually undecorated. Not all the tombs were discovered intact, and some were never completed.
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What Makes It Special
The Valley of the Kings is the focal point of the location with many important archeological sites related to ancient Egypt. The larger area includes the modern city of Luxor (east bank of Nile, the site of the ancient city of Thebes) with ruins of Karnak and Luxor palaces and temple complexes (within the city limits) and temples and tombs on the Theban Necropolis (on the west bank of Nile opposite Luxor where the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens are located).
Because of the archeological and historic significant and large number of structures and relics (with many of them in relatively good shape) related to the Egyptian history, art and religion, this larger area is often called the world's greatest open air museum.
Thebes and its Necropolis are inscribed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site. The area attract many thousands of tourists every year from all over the world.
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Directions To Destination
Luxor International Airport (ICAO: LXR) is a destination for several European and Middle Eastern flight routes, as well as the main southern hub for domestic flights in Egypt. Cairo International Airport (IATA: CAI) is the second biggest airport in Africa and is served by many international airlines. From Cairo to Luxor the flight costs approximately $280 and takes about 50 minutes. From the airport in Luxor you can take a shuttle or a taxi which costs about $8.50 (50 EGP)
By train from Cairo to Luxor: From Ramesses Station Cairo to Luxor and to Aswan (town 81 miles south of Luxor) you can use four different kinds of train:
- Air-conditioned express train with aircraft-style seats. The journey takes about 9 -10 hours of the daytime. First class tickets Cairo-Luxor cost about $15 (90 EGP), 2nd class LE 45 (round trip $28 (165 EGP) and $15 (90 EGP) respectively).
- Overnight air-conditioned express train Cairo - Luxor costs about $28 (165 EGP) one-way 1st class.
- Overnight deluxe sleeper train has a selection of 1- and 2-berth compartments and a club / lounge car. An evening meal and breakfast are included in the cost. Prices are $60 per person one way from Cairo to Aswan.
- Slow trains - 2nd & 3rd class also run between Cairo and Luxor, stopping at most stations - they are cheap, basic and actively discouraged by the Egyptian government which does not recommend them to the tourists.
Tickets can be arranged through most travel agents in the city of departure for a small commission. Otherwise, tickets can be purchased directly at Ramesses Station in Cairo.
Luxor is connected to major Egyptian cities by bus service. Buses leave regularly from behind the Luxor Temple. However, for connections to Aswan and Cairo, the train is recommended. Bus is a good alternative to get to Sinai (via Hurghada--Sharm el Sheik, or over the Suez canal).
Note: all prices are 2011.
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Best Time To Go
The best time to visit is winter from November to March, when daytime temperature stays below 77°F (25°C), with nighttime lows around 50°F (10°C) with occasional rain showers clearing the air. Spring from March to May can be pleasant, but summer temperatures can reach 90-120°F (32-49°C ).
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Where To Stay
- Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor: five-star hotel, rates from $150 - located in Luxor short walking distance from the Luxor and Karnak Temple complex, near to the Luxor Museum, Museum of Mummification, and markets.
- Pavillon Winter Hotel Luxor: five-star hotel, rates from $50 - located in Luxor, convenient place to cross the river and enjoy attractions like the Valley of the Kings.
- Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa: five-star hotel, rates from $190 - located in Luxor on the bank of the river Nile with good views of The Valley of the Kings.
Note: all prices are 2011.
Research and book hotels in or near Luxor, Egypt
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Useful Visitor Information and Tips
- The old capital of Egypt, Thebes is on the West bank of the Nile. It is where most of the ruins and tombs are.
The modern city of Luxor is on the East bank. It is a contemporary city with hotels, restaurants, museums, tourist shops and other attractions. Most visitors (and almost all tour groups) stay on the East bank in Luxor and travel across the Nile river for the tourist sites.
- Upon arrival to Luxor do not negotiate the taxi fees with the people crowded outside the doors to the airport, keep walking until you find a taxi driver in his car and then negotiate the price. Half the people standing by are not taxi drivers.
- The Valley of the Kings site opened: In summer 6am - 5pm, In winter 6am - 4pm.
- If you stay in Luxor you can book a tour from your hotel which will include a round trip boat ride across the Nile and transportation to and from the Valley of the Kings. You can choose from cars, busses, donkeys, camels or a combination of two.
- Today, only a few of the 62 known tombs are open to the public. Eleven of the tombs, including Tutankhamun, Ramesses VI, Amenhotep II, and Seti I, have electrical lighting inside.
- Arrive to the Valley of the Kings early in the morning. The temperatures will be more forgiving, and you will avoid the long lines in the most popular tombs. You can choose only three tombs to visit. Before visiting make some research and select the tombs you might be interested in. It will save you time and effort.
- You will have to buy tickets for yourself and for all camera equipment to enter the tombs. You can buy tickets at many places including the necropolis and entrances of some tombs. The entry ticket into the Valley of the Kings allows to visit any three tombs; its price is $14.30 (84 EGP). This fee does not include the tombs of: Tutankhamun (entrance fee to this tomb is $17 or 100 EGP), Ramesses VI - $8.50 (50 EGP) and Seti I - $5 (30 EGP). All prices are 2011.
- You can either walk to the first tomb or take a shuttle. A shuttle ride (several minutes) from the main ticket office to entrance of the first tomb is not included in the ticket price and costs 5 EGP.
- Most tombs are open on a rotating basis in order to maintain the levels of humidity and carbon dioxide. The net result is that you do not really have a choice which tombs to visit. The tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramesses VI and Seti I are opened every day at regular schedule.
- In hot summer weather you will need light cotton clothes for the day. A wool or fleece for the evening if you are in Luxor between November and March. Comfortable shoes with sturdy soles or sneakers. They will save you from coarse sand and uneven terrain. You will need sunglasses, sunscreen, water, hat and flashlight (not all tombs are very well lit).
- Climbing during the hot summer days is not easy so try to reduce the amount of tombs you want to visit and also be sure that you are not afraid of underground tight spaces which is hot and narrow in many of the tombs.
- Photography is allowed in most tombs with purchasing a permit. The use of flash is prohibited. Keep in mind that most of the artwork in many tombs is covered by protective glass.
- You may also want to include in your tour the Valley of the Queens (a burial place for the wives of Pharaohs and their children) located at the southern end of the necropolis about one mile from the Valley of the Kings. However, despite the large number of tombs, only several are open to public.
- The area where the Valley of the Kings is located consists actually of two branches. The main branch, located on the extension of the access road, is commonly referred to as "Valley of the King." The second (western) is less known. It is called the Western Valley (also known as "Valley of the Monkeys"), an archaeological site with a number of pharaonic burials. The Western Valley is accessed by a 1.3 mile (about 2 km) dirt and stone road off the car park of the Valley of the Kings.
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