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Overview

The Nile Valley south of Cairo harbors an incomparable wealth of archaeological sites dating to the Pharaonic Era, ranging from painted tombs and bas reliefs to immense statues and restored temples, and it wouldn't be difficult for an enthusiast to spend several weeks exploring the region. For those with limited time, however, the obvious starting point is Luxor, which was the most sacred city in ancient Egypt, and served as capital for almost a millennium, peaking in influence over 1550-1000 BC. Highlights include the central Luxor Temple and outlying Karnak Temple, which were once linked by an avenue of sphinxes and are studded with ...

The Nile Valley south of Cairo harbors an incomparable wealth of archaeological sites dating to the Pharaonic Era, ranging from painted tombs and bas reliefs to immense statues and restored temples, and it wouldn't be difficult for an enthusiast to spend several weeks exploring the region. For those with limited time, however, the obvious starting point is Luxor, which was the most sacred city in ancient Egypt, and served as capital for almost a millennium, peaking in influence over 1550-1000 BC. Highlights include the central Luxor Temple and outlying Karnak Temple, which were once linked by an avenue of sphinxes and are studded with impressive obelisks, pillars and statues. The facing West Bank is even more rewarding, being the site of the Valley of the Kings and several other necropolises whose magnificently painted subterranean tombs date back 4,000 years, as well as the oddly modernist (and, again, fabulously decorated) temple built by Hatshepsut, the most important female pharaoh of the era. Farther south, the town of Aswan has a beautiful location facing the historical Elephantine Island, which can be visited on one of the felucca boats that have plied the Nile since time immemorial. Aswan is the base for day trips to Abu Simbel, whose peerless Great Temple, carved into a sandstone cliff by Rameses II in the 13th century and rediscovered by chance in 1813, was relocated to higher ground block by block when the Aswan Dam was constructed to form Lake Nasser in the 1960s.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Originates in Ethiopia; runs through western Egypt from the southern border north to the Mediterranean Sea
  • Language: Arabic
  • Currency: Egyptian Pound
  • Research: Egypt | Nile
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Temperatures are most comfortable in the northern winter (Oct-Apr) but there's much less overcrowding in summer, assuming that you can tolerate the heat.