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If you’ve landed on this 2 days in Luxor itinerary, it’s likely that you’re planning a trip to Egypt and I’m SO excited for you!
Luxor is sometimes referred to as the “world’s greatest open-air museum” and is well worth visiting on any trip to Egypt. This city lies about 400 miles south of Cairo on the river Nile and the entire city, as well as some nearby sites, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
The city itself borders the river and both the East and West Bank have plenty to offer in terms of history and incredible architecture with some spectacular museums to boot.
It’s nearly impossible to see Luxor in two days—but it is enough to give you a taste of what this incredible city has to offer. If you’re already planning a visit to Cairo or Aswan, you’ll definitely want to add two days in Luxor to your Egyptian adventure.
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Best Things to Do in Luxor
There is a multitude of amazing things to see and do in Luxor (more details below), but there are two absolutely unmissable experiences: the Valley of Kings and Queens and Karnak Temple. Ideally, you’ll arrive in Luxor and get a good night’s sleep before starting your Luxor itinerary. I recommend starting your day early – it’s the best way to avoid the heat and crowds. This itinerary includes the best things to do in Luxor if you only have a couple of days, but if you have some extra time, there are a few bonus activities I’ve included at the end. Enjoy!
Arrival in Luxor / How to Get to Luxor
First things first. To get the most out of a full 2 days in Luxor itinerary, I’d normally tell you to fly from Cairo, especially if you aren’t in Egypt for longer than a week. Luxor is in the south of Egypt – about an hour’s flight from Cairo. The Luxor International Airport is a small airport about 30 minutes from the city center. There are a handful of airlines that fly in and out, mostly from nearby countries in the Middle East such as Qatar and Kuwait. There are seasonal flights from major European cities such as London or Paris, but the easiest way to get to Luxor is from Cairo. Flights from most major airlines run year-round and the flight is a short one-hour trip.
But if you really want to really get a feel for Egypt, the sleeper train is my favorite way to travel between Cairo and Luxor.
- From Cairo: The sleeper train is operated by Watania and tickets can be booked directly on their website. Cabins sleep two and you have the option to book the entire cabin. If you reserve only a single bed, you’re likely to be paired up with another traveler of the same sex.
Your ticket comes with dinner and breakfast, though you’ll have to pay for tea and coffee. There’s supposed to be a lounge car where you can get snacks and drinks (and watch the scenery while the sun is up), but be sure to check because there isn’t always one.
This won’t be the kind of luxurious train you’ve seen in the movies, but it’s comfortable enough and gives you a totally unique Egyptian experience. Pro tip: stash your bags in the recess over the door to free up a little space inside the cabin.
- From Aswan: If you’ve decided to visit Aswan as part of your overall Egypt itinerary (which you totally should!), I recommend visiting Luxor beforehand – it’s about 3 hours north of Aswan. Either way, you can take a train to travel between Luxor and Aswan. Just make sure to book an express train. They tend to be more on-time than the ordinary trains, and you’re able to reserve seats.
Tickets between Luxor and Aswan can be booked at the station or by using the Egyptian National Railways website. Booking is available from 2 weeks before departure and closes 2 days before departure. Look for trains labeled Special Service OD or Speed AC Spanish to book the express trains.
Note: If you have some extra time, I highly recommend doing a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan (or vice versa depending on your itinerary). Note that the cruise may include some of the below activities, so you’ll need to adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Best Time to Visit Luxor
There’s never a bad time to visit Egypt, but if you want to avoid the crowds and scorching heat, plan your trip outside of summer: June, July, and August are hot. Trust me on this one: I’ve visited Luxor both during February and June and wandering through temples is less-than-pleasant during the summer.
The winter in Egypt is mild and if you want the sites to yourself, visit November through March, but the best time to visit Egypt is in the months of April, May, September or October. The weather is warm but not scorching, making it an ideal time to visit both Luxor and other parts of Egypt as well. No matter when you visit, a hat or light scarf (also good if a spring sandstorm kicks up!) is absolutely essential for protecting yourself from the sun. Check out my Egypt packing list for tips on what to wear in Egypt.
The Best Two-Day Luxor Itinerary: Day One on the East Bank
The city of Luxor makes up one-half of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, so the entire city is basically a museum, but there are a few Luxor attractions you won’t want to miss. To prepare you for a busy day of touring, you’ll first want to start with a good breakfast.
Before you arrive in Luxor, you’ll want to book a guided tour of the major sites of the East Bank. This private guided tour is a great option; a guide can help to bring these vast historic sites to life, plus the tour includes transportation. Just remember to bring cash with you to tip your guide (and other people you meet along the way!).
Skip hotel breakfast and start your day early—the light is most beautiful at Karnak temple in the early morning and is typically less busy since the large tour buses don’t arrive until mid-morning.
Once you arrive at the first site, ask your guide for a street food recommendation, and grab a quick breakfast. You’ll find plenty of incredible street food all over Luxor, particularly near attractions. Try some ful from a vendor, a staple Egyptian breakfast food usually served with pita made with fava beans and spiced with cumin, that you can eat on the go while you start your tour.
Karnak is the largest complex of temples in Egypt and covers over two square miles. As you continue through the Karnak, an avenue of sphinxes will guide you from the Luxor temple pavilion to the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak. The highlight of this temple is the hypostyle hall that is somehow even more amazing without its ancient roof. The whole complex is beyond impressive and you’re guaranteed to spend at least several hours exploring the various columns, chapels, and temples in this giant complex. It’s so cool and definitely the best thing to do in Luxor (on the East Bank!)
Note: If you have extra time after Karnak, you can head down the road for a quick visit to the Mummification Museum. It’s tiny (just one room) and can be seen in about 20 minutes. It contains several mummified humans and animals on display, along with the explanatory placards. If you’re tired or short on time, it can be skipped, especially if you’ve been to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Touring Karnak will take at least a couple of hours, and just as the sun gets high in the sky, you’ll be able to grab some shade and admire the antiquities at the Luxor Museum. Although it may seem strange to recommend a museum when there are so many impressive temples in Luxor, this one is spectacular and comprehensive. It features a variety of items that were found in King Tut’s tomb, as well as from beneath the Luxor Temple.
Note: If you plan to do the tour I recommend (which you should!), this is included in the itinerary.
Your last stop before lunch should be the Luxor Temple. All that remains of the previous building on the site is a small pavilion, so this is where having a guide will pay off. As they tell you stories of temples built by King Tut, Alexander the Great, and how later a church was even added under the Roman Empire, the sandstone ruins will come to life.
These temples have changed hands many times over the years and here’s a fun fact: one of the obelisks from the Karnak now sits on the Place de la Concorde in Paris!
Lunch at a Local Gallery
After hours of admiring ancient ruins, it’s time for a change of pace. Once your tour has finished—and you’ve tipped your guide—grab the ferry and make your way to the West Bank. You’ll be hungry and it’s the perfect time for a late lunch at Wannas art cafe. This restaurant is just a half-mile walk from the ferry dock. Enjoy some traditional Egyptian food here in a space filled with local art.
If you’re into art, consider taking a walk down the street and check out Nun Art Gallery. The gallery exclusively features contemporary art in a city filled with ancient history. Be sure to check out their website for events and exhibitions before you go. They offer different art classes that are a great way to spend the afternoon.
Ride a Felucca across the Nile
Early evening is the perfect time to take a felucca ride back across the river. Admire the sunset and views of the Karnak from the water as you float across the Nile. You can negotiate a sunset sail at the dock or pre-book an evening ride for peace of mind.
If you aren’t tired, ask the captain to drop you off on the south end of the Corniche and take a walk by the Nile before dinner. The Corniche is a great way to spend the evening. The space is well-lit and popular enough to be comfortable at any hour, but the view of the light show on Luxor temple at night is incredible.
Dinner at Aisha Restaurant
Located in front of the Sonesta Hotel, Aisha is a fusion restaurant offering spectacular food and equally spectacular service. This is actually one of my favorite spots to dine in Luxor and with the spectacular reviews, it’s clear many others agree. Don’t miss it!
Day Two Luxor Itinerary: Exploring the West Bank
Luxor’s West Bank is sort of a misnomer. The tombs and sites of the West Bank are often miles from the river! The only way to see them all in one day is to arrange a guided tour and even then, you’re bound to miss a few. But this itinerary has got you covered to make sure you see the most important sites.
Hot Air Ballooning in Luxor
Hot air ballooning in Luxor is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you absolutely can’t miss. Book yourself an early morning hot air balloon ride and watch the sunrise over the Nile and the Valley of the Kings. It’ll be too early to get breakfast anywhere but don’t worry—your tour will typically offer snacks!
This trip includes a return shuttle to your hotel, where you can grab breakfast and get ready for your next big day of touring.
The Valley of the Kings and Queens
Get started early on a private tour so that you can miss the crowds and the midday heat.
Your tour will hit a few key sites within the area of the Valley of the Kings and Queens (most of the tombs are clustered next to each other). You know all those spectacular photos you’ve seen of colorful paintings and hieroglyphs? Those were likely taken in the Valley of the Kings or Queens. You could easily spend a whole day here and if you’re in Luxor for more than 2 days, I highly recommend taking your time here. It’s truly spectacular.
First, you’ll visit the Valley of the Queens at the southern end of the Theban hillside. There are over 75 tombs here, but the most famous belongs to Nefertari, the first and favorite wife of Ramses II. The entire ceiling is decorated with hand-painted stars so that his beloved could see the sky from her eternal tomb.
The most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings is the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Because of the immense popularity, you may end up visiting the replica of the tomb near the original but fear not—it is an exact replica down to the smallest detail, so you won’t be missing out on the experience.
The Great Necropolis is a vast area where you’ll see the most impressive of the sites of the day, including the Theban Necropolis. Nestled into the Al Qurn mountain, this burial ground houses several royal tombs, and the level of preservation in this area is mind-boggling.
Most of the tombs will appear empty when you visit them. Sadly, most of these tombs have been pillaged and damaged by tourists or weather over the years. The remaining treasures make up a large part of what you would have seen at the Luxor Museum. In the tombs, you’ll get a chance to appreciate the hand-painted artwork that covers the tombs and the incredible architecture that’s kept them standing for thousands of years.
A must-see when visiting Luxor is the Hatshepsut temple. Built into the cliffs of Deir el Bahri, this mortuary was built by the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, sometimes known as the Queen who became Pharaoh.
She assumed the role of Pharaoh after the death of her husband and continued to rule even after her son came of age. She was one of ancient Egypt’s first female pharaohs and her legacy is felt when in the presence of this 3-story architectural marvel.
Colossi of Memnon
The last stop before you head back to the city should definitely be the Colossi of Memnon. Here, you’ll see two side-by-side statues measuring 60 feet tall. These massive stone sculptures are meant to protect the Temple of Amenhotep III from evil. The supernatural doesn’t end there—legend has it that these structures “sing” in the early hours of the winter mornings and bring luck to any who hear the sound.
Take a lunch break
After about 6 hours in the desert, you’ll be ready for a seat in the shade. Once you’ve had your fill of history, head to Desert Rose Coffee. Be sure to sample some of the fresh local juices as you take in the view of the Medinet Habu from the shaded rooftop patio.
If you aren’t “templed out,” then this temple complex dominated by the memorial temple of Ramses III is well worth a visit. It was dedicated to the god Amon and features carvings of Ramses’ victories in war. It was the administrative center of Western Thebes, the ancient city that was once the capital of Egypt. The temple sits within what was once a fortified enclosure wall, the ruins of which are still impressive.
Dine at Sofra
Sites seen, there’s nothing left to do but eat. For your last meal in Luxor, dine at Sofra, one of Luxor’s top-rated restaurants and a personal favorite. The restaurant serves traditional Egyptian fare and an equally traditional interior. The tilework is all original to the building and the furniture is antique. Though there are beautiful indoor dining spaces, the rooftop terrace is unbeatable. Watch the sun go down one last time over the city of Luxor from here as you enjoy some basboosa, a sweet semolina cake, and some mint tea.
Shop in the Luxor Market
After your stomach has been satisfied, the best way to spend the last few hours of your evening is at the Luxor Market. Grab a taxi or minibus to the train station where you’ll find the market on the other side of the tracks.
Here, you’ll find all sorts of unique trinkets that will make the perfect souvenirs. Just remember that bartering is part of the exchange—and can be a fun way to connect with the locals. If bartering and bustling energy aren’t your jam, I recommend you skip the market.
Best things to do in Luxor Egypt in 3 days and beyond
Good news – there are even more Luxor places to visit if you have the time. I’ve included some of my favorite options below!
Check out More Temples in Luxor
It’s virtually impossible to see all the temples Luxor has to offer. I’ve been several times myself and know I haven’t covered all of them. If you’re in town for some additional time and want to visit more temples, consider Ramesseum (Ramses II’s temple), the Temple of Seti I, and more!
Take a Day Trip Outside of Luxor (for more temples)
If you’re interested in learning more about some of the gods of ancient Egypt, consider a day tour to Dendera and Abydos Temples. The Temple of Hathor (the goddess of love and joy) at Dendera is considered to be one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt and Abydos is dedicated to the god of the underworld.
Alternatively, consider a day trip to Edfu and Kom Ombo. These are closer to Aswan so I’d save this as a day trip from Aswan instead if you’re headed there, but these two are not to be missed. Kom Ombo is home to the Crocodile Museum (complete with mummified crocs!) as well as the temple, and Edfu is home to the Temple of Horus, one of ancient Egypt’s most famous gods.
Travel to Aswan on a Nile Cruise
I know I mentioned this earlier in the post but a Nile Cruise is an incredibly popular activity in Upper Egypt, especially between Luxor and Aswan (or vice versa). You may have to adjust your itinerary slightly depending on the places visited on the cruise, but it’s a relaxing way to spend a few days in Egypt!
Where to Stay in Luxor: the Best Hotels in Luxor
Luxor is home to some of the most incredible historic sites in Egypt so it’s no surprise that the city has plenty of hotels to choose from. Here are my top picks, whether you’re on a shoestring budget or planning a luxurious getaway.
Cleopatra Hotel Luxor (Budget-Friendly)
The Cleopatra Hotel Luxor is on the West Bank and is less than half a mile from the ferry—which is the fastest way to get across the Nile. That means that getting to and from the Luxor attractions is easy on both sides of the riverbank.
The rooms are simple but practical and have air conditioning and free WIFI. Even on a budget, this hotel still features a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of Luxor and a continental breakfast. The crowd is younger which makes it a great place to meet fellow travelers.
Pavillon Winter Luxor (Mid-Range)
The Pavillon Winter Luxor shares a pool with the better-known Sofitel Winter Palace and offers all the same luxuries without the same crowds or expense. There are several restaurants on the property as well as lush gardens. The hotel is French-inspired and only a short walk from major attractions like the Luxor Temple, but also includes a shuttle for guests so it’s easy to get wherever you need to go!
Al Moudira Hotel (Splurge)
On the West Bank of Luxor hides the Al Moudira Hotel. Though further from the city center, this hotel is closer to the Valley of the Kings and includes a shuttle to take you across the city. The property feels like a desert oasis—there is a nearly 20-acre garden on the property with lemon and eucalyptus trees that give the entire place a subtle pleasant perfume.
The rooms are each unique and furnished with antiques meant to honor the Eastern spirit of the hotel. There is also a spa, Turkish bath, and several restaurants—meaning if you’re not careful, you may end up spending your entire two days in Luxor at the hotel!
Transportation: How to Get Around Luxor
Taxis can be a frustrating transportation experience, especially for foreign visitors who don’t want to haggle for their fare or can’t speak Arabic. Although they’re certainly an option, I recommend booking a tour or hiring a private driver for peace of mind, especially for touring throughout the day. However, if you’re interested in traveling around Luxor on your own, there are still several options!
- By car: Uber is not available in Luxor, but I recommend downloading Careem (similar to Uber) and using it to get around on your own. Careem works similarly to Uber and is inexpensive, safe, and hassle-free. The license plates will be in Arabic though, so I recommend saving a screenshot of the English-Arabic numbers on your phone for reference.
- By water: Your options for crossing the Nile to get to the other bank include the ferry, water taxis, or a felucca, the traditional sailboat. The felucca is the most romantic and traditional way, but your speed depends on the wind so it may not be the most efficient use of your time! Instead, opt for the ferry, which is by far the quickest and most authentic way. The port is on the East Bank near the Luxor Temple.
- By bus: Alternatively, if you prefer public transportation, you can get around Luxor by bus, instead. Your hotel or any tour company you book with will typically include a shuttle bus, but public buses are also available. I’ve included more info on how to use the microbus system below, but honestly, I strongly recommend using Careem if you won’t have a driver with you – it’s a fairly confusing system for visitors, especially if you can’t speak Arabic!
To use a microbus in Luxor, you’ll need to flag one down and tell the driver where you’re headed. If they’re going that way, they’ll stop to let you on. Most of these buses are microbuses and there are some stops around the city—including a microbus station directly behind the Luxor Train station that takes you straight to Karnak Temple. Again, this can be a somewhat confusing experience if you don’t speak Arabic, so if you can book a tour, hire a driver, or use Careem, it’ll be a much smoother experience.
Other Practical Tips for Egypt Travel
Visas in Egypt
Americans need to get a visa for Egypt, which can be done either on or before arrival. If you choose to do it online, this is the application. If you prefer a visa on arrival, it costs USD $25 in cash. Bring exact change.
Is Luxor Safe? Travel Safety in Luxor and Egypt
I am no geopolitical expert, but I have traveled to Egypt enough times (eight to be exact) in my life to vouch for my experiences. I have never felt unsafe in Egypt. Many family members and friends have visited countless times over the last few years and have said the same. Plus, the Egyptian government has gone above and beyond in improving security, especially at tourist sites and high-traffic areas. The train station even assigns guards to keep a special eye on tourist groups and travelers! My advice is to be as cautious as you’d be traveling anywhere in the world, but don’t let the media scare you away from Egypt.
Currency in Egypt
Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound, and at the time of publishing this post (February 2022), the rate was about USD $1 to 15.73 EGP. Credit cards are accepted at hotels and nicer restaurants, but it’s generally better to carry cash.
What to Pack for Egypt
I wrote a very comprehensive packing list with everything you’ll need for your trip. Check it out here! Also worth noting: Wi-Fi is notoriously unreliable in Egypt and signal is hit and miss with an international roaming plan. Consider renting a portable Wi-Fi device for your trip.
Other Things to Know
Check out my Egypt travel tips for first-time visitors for common misconceptions and other things you’ll want to know!
There are so many things to do in Luxor, but the people and culture of the city are just as important. This two-day itinerary will make sure you see the sights while still enjoying the local culture and flavor.
Tell me: What do you think of this Luxor itinerary? What else would you do on your Luxor trip? Share in the comments below!
More Egypt ResourcesPlanning a trip to Egypt soon? Check out ALL my posts on Egypt below:
- 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Cairo, Egypt: The Ultimate Cairo Travel Guide
- Egypt Travel Guide
- What to Pack for Egypt: The Ultimate Egypt Packing List
- Pharaohs and Feluccas: Exploring Egypt with Intrepid Travel
- Camping in the White Desert, Egypt: A First Timer’s Guide
- Traditional Egyptian Food Guide: 20 Must Eat Foods in Cairo, Egypt
- Egypt Travel Tips for the First Time Visitor: Expectations vs Reality
- Bellies En-Route Downtown Cairo Food Tour: The Best Thing to Do in Cairo for Foodies
- Visiting the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt: Everything to Know Before You Go
- Where to Stay in Cairo, Egypt: The Best Hotels in Cairo for Every Budget
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