Getting Oriented in the Nile Valley and Luxor

Most Upper Nile sights lie near the towns of Luxor and Aswan. Two of the more out-of-the-way monuments, at Abydos and Dendera, are both north of Luxor and can be seen on day trips. Luxor itself has two magnificent temples (the Karnak and Luxor temples) as well as a good museum. On the West Bank of the Nile is the Theban Necropolis, and many of the tombs can be visited in a single day if you organize your time well. South of Luxor, the Temple of Horus at Edfu can also be visited on a day trip. The Middle Nile Valley is actually closer to Cairo than to Luxor, so those sights are often visited as an overnight trip from Cairo.

  • The Middle Nile Valley: Al Minya to Tel el Amarna. Tomb complexes from several dynasties lie around Al Minya. Farther south in Tel el Amarna, the Pharaoh Akhenaton's capital city, the epicenter of a move to monotheism, lasted just a single generation.
  • The Upper Nile Valley: Abydos to Luxor. Powerful pharaohs stamped their marks on the Nile with magnificent temple complexes. Seti I and Ramses II ordered the building at Abydos at the start of the New Kingdom, while the Ptolemies and Romans funded the Temple of Hathor, at Dendera.
  • Luxor. The capital of ancient Egypt in the late Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom eras—and home to two massive temple complexes—Luxor is now one of Egypt's busiest tourist centers and has the widest selection of hotels and restaurants in the Nile Valley.
  • The Theban Necropolis. The burial place of the pharaohs, the landscape on the Nile's West Bank is dotted with vast mortuary temples and extensive rock-cut tombs that constitute a high point in human art and architecture. The most famous of these mortuary temples are in the Valley of the Kings, but standing apart is the Deir el-Bahri, the mortuary temple for Queen Hatshepsut.
  • The Upper Nile Valley: South of Luxor. A rash of temples grace the Nile south of Luxor, including the finest Ptolemaic-era edifice at Edfu and Egypt's only dual-deity temple at Kom Ombo. Most can be visited on land excursions if you are not on a cruise.

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