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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Exploring Sites in Luxor & Hurghada with Kids

Luxor is full of Ancient Egyptian history, so if you’re interested in seeing the historical sights, make sure not to miss this spot! Located in the central part of Egypt, Luxor was the capital of Ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom dynasty from 16th-11th centuries B.C. We spent 3 nights and 2 full days in the area and still didn’t get to a few sites. Later we concluded our trip to Egypt with a 4 day trip out to Hurghada for some Red Sea action and beach time. These are some of the top sites in Luxor & Hurghada to explore with kids.


LUXOR

Getting There

There are an abundant number of transportation options to get to Luxor from either Aswan or Cairo –or basically anywhere along the river. Luxor is a popular spot, as all the Nile River cruises either start or end in Luxor. There is a night train that can take you from Cairo to Luxor, as well as several day trains and flights. As we were coming from Aswan, we took the train. We purchased our tickets at the Aswan train station the day prior to our departure and got seats in First Class for $4 USD/$5 CDN per seat. However, be forewarned that First Class in Egypt is not like First Class in most other places; however, it did have soft seats and Air Conditioning. They actually had the AC cranked up so much in the train car that we had to ask if they could turn it down a bit!


Upon arrival in Luxor, you can either stay on the East or West Bank of the Nile. We stayed on the West Bank, which meant a ferry ride across with our bags from the train station. It is a bit of a long walk with bags if headed to the ferry, so you could take a taxi to the river. (Unfortunately, there was no Uber in Luxor.) There are two options to get across: either hire one of the men with boats who are on the shorelines trying to get your business OR you can take the public ferry across. You will have to do some negotiating to get a rate for the boat, but if you take the public ferry it is a standard 5 EGP per person ($.30 USD). There will also be several taxi drivers on the other side trying to get your business as well and they often start high with their prices. As we got off the ferry, we had a local guy stop and offer a taxi service for 10 EGP for 1 km. ($.60 USD)


SITES ON THE WEST BANK OF LUXOR
Valley of the Kings

One of the most well-known sites in Luxor (ancient city of Thebes) is the Valley of the Kings. It was here that over 60 Pharaoh tombs were discovered in the hillsides on the west side of the Nile River from Old Luxor. To get there, you would need to get transportation to the sites either by hiring a taxi, doing an organized tour or there is even the option of renting a bike to ride there. We found a local who was willing to take us to the sites for a decent price, so we hired him to take us there for 200 EGP – he took us to the Valley of the Kings and then to Queen Nefatari’s temple for the day. One thing to note about the tour guides at Valley of the Kings, is that the guides cannot enter the tombs. Therefore, they have to do all the explanations outside the tombs while the tourists go inside on their own.

Looking towards the valley with all the entrances into the Pharaoh tombs in Valley of the Kings.
Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt.

The cost to enter the Valley of the Kings was 240 EGP ($15 USD/$19 CDN) per adult and 50 percent off for children 6+ years old. [However, if you are going to be doing almost all the historical sites in Luxor, then a Luxor Pass might be worth looking into, as it is $100 USD per adult & $50 USD per student to get you free entry into the different Luxor archeological sites, except for Queen Nefatari and Seti I tombs.] Once entering the site there is a tram for 4 EGP for the round-trip ticket that takes you to the main site. For the less than 30 US Cents we found it very worth the price for the couple minute tram ride, as you are entirely exposed in the sun in the walk to the tomb sites. The ticket price includes entrance to 3 of the 8 open tombs. The specific tombs that are open changes from time to time, so what may be open now, may not be open later.


At the time of our visit (October 2021), the following tombs were open and available to visit:

KV 1 – Ramesses VII

KV 6 – Ramesses IX

KV 8 – Merenptah

KV 11 – Ramesses III

KV 14 – Tausert-Setnakht

KV 15 – Sety

KV 16 – Ramesses the First

KV 47 – Siptah


We did a lot of research ahead of time and it seemed like the general consensus that the best ones to visit were: KV 2, 6, 11 & 14. However, KV 2 wasn’t open at the time we were there, so we visited KV 6, 11 & 14.


KV 6 – Ramsesses IX

This was one of the smallest tombs that we visited while in Valley of the Kings, but it does have a beautifully decorated passageway to the tomb that showcases imagery from the Book of the Dead. During our visit to the tombs, the kids enjoyed picking out some of the Egyptian gods that they had learned about during our study of Ancient Egypt.


KV 11 – Ramsesses III

This is one of the larger tombs in the valley. It had impressive artwork, as well as a series of levels that lead down to the burial chamber.

Ancient Egyptian art of gods on boat in Valley of the Kings.
Artwork on the wall of KV 11 - Ramsesses III. Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt.

KV 14 – Tausert-Setnakht

This is the largest tomb in the Valley, and was one of our personal favorites. If you decide not to pay the extra ticket price for KV 9, then I would say this tomb would be the most similar feel as that one. This tomb actually contains two tombs, one for Queen Tausert and one for King Setnakht, who enlarged it and added lower passages for a burial chamber for himself.

There are also three other tombs that are available to see as well for an additional ticket:

KV 9 – Ramesses V & VI (100 EGP per person)

KV 17 – Seti the First (1,000 EGP per person)

KV 62 – Tutankhamen (300 EGP per person)


Although the King Tut tomb is one of the most famous, we actually heard that the inside isn’t as ornate as some of the others and it is one of the smaller tombs because he died at an earlier age. This tomb DOES contain the mummy of King Tut though, if that is of interest to you. However, it is supposedly not as well preserved as some of the other royal mummies in Cairo, so we decided to forego this particular tomb. The tomb of Seti the First is supposed to be impressive with its paintings, but it also has the biggest price tag.


We did pay the extra ticket price for KV 9 – Ramsesses I & VI, as it was only $6 USD. This one was one of the largest tombs that we saw in Valley of the Kings and was interesting as it had a long hallway, different levels and a large burial chamber. The artwork on the ceiling, depicting the book of the Heavens, was very interesting as well. Within the burial chamber, there was also the pieced together sarcophagus that they found pieces of across the Valley of the Tombs after it was destroyed by grave robbers.

Boy in front of one of the art depictions in the tomb.
KV 9 - Tomb of Ramsesses I & VI- Valley of the Kings. Luxor, Egypt.

One other thing to note was that they do NOT allow cameras in the tomb sites; although they do allow photos with mobile phones to be taken. They have a checkpoint for cameras to be dropped off, but we don’t like leaving our camera at places like that, so we just kept it in our backpack and were never asked to leave it there. If you want to purchase a photography pass, it is about 300 EGP per camera.


Also, a word of warning….within each of the tombs there will be workers who are inside monitoring the tombs. They will offer to take your phone and either take photos of you or take your phone into one of the areas that is not accessible to the public to take better photos. However, this is a not a complimentary service they are expecting some type of payment, so best to just hold onto your phone unless you are willing to pay.


Valley of the Queens

In the Valley of the Queens over 90 tombs of Queens & children of the Pharaohs were discovered in the hillsides. These tombs are smaller and not as grand as some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Admission to the Valley of the Queens is 100 EGP (about $6 USD/$8 CDN) and also allows you entrance into 3 different tombs of the available list that is open. We visited here at the end of the day – around 3:30- 4 p.m. and it was very quiet as most of the big tour groups seem to come earlier in the day.

View of Valley of the Queens from the back of the valley - Luxor, Egypt.
Valley of the Queens - Luxor, Egypt.

The main exception to the more simple tombs here in the Valley of the Queens, is the Tomb of Queen Nefatari. It is supposed to have some of the most vibrant paintings giving you a sense of what these tombs might have looked like thousands of years ago. However, this tomb is one of the more costly admission prices of historical places in Egypt at a price tag of 1400 EGP (about $90 USD or $110 CDN). Being budget travelers, this just wasn’t something that we could fit into our budget, so we just enjoyed many of the online images of it.


Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

This temple located on the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri, is unique in its design compared to other temples in Egypt. It has 3 different levels and was built as a mortuary temple for Queen Hatshepsut & her cult worshippers. Queen Hatshepsut was one of the most powerful & famous female rulers of ancient Egypt. The entrance for this temple was 140 EGP (about $9 USD or $11 CDN) per adult and 50 percent for students age 6+ years old.

Sphinx in front of the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt.

Interestingly, this temple was built here, but the Queen was actually buried in the hillsides of Valley of the Kings, although her tomb isn’t open to the public. Most traces of Queen Hatshepsut were erased by her stepson Thutmose II, supposedly because of jealousy or embarrassment, but when it was uncovered in the 1890s they did a major excavation and restored it back to what you can see today. However, many of the art pieces on the temple aren’t as extravagant as some of the other places we had seen in Egypt.


One mistake we made was visiting this during the heat of the day, as it is completely exposed to the sun and there were many tour groups there. After exploring Valley of the Kings first and then this spot out in the sun, the kids were completely drained. I would instead recommend checking it out either early in the morning or later in the afternoon before closing at 5 p.m. There is also a tram for 4 EGP that will take you from the entrance to the base of the temple that was a must for the kids, as it was hot in the mid-day sun.


Some other sites on the West Bank include: Colossi of Memnon, Deir El-Medina (Valley of the Artisans), Tomb of the Nobles, Howard Carter House and several different Mortuary Temples. However, the kids (and sometimes us) were getting a bit 'temple and tombed out', so we just decided to hit the main sites.


SITES ON THE EAST BANK OF LUXOR
Karnak Temple

This is one of the largest temple complexes in the world and covers more than 100 hectares.. Starting in 2000 BC, the temple was built and was added to over the next 2000 years until the Romans took control over Egypt. Talk about a long-term construction project! The temple was dedicated to three different gods – Amun-Ra, goddess Mut, Montu and Aten. The temple was added to over the 2000 years by different pharaohs and the temple alone was larger than some ancient cities.

Statues lined up at the entrance of Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt.
Entrance to Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt.

One of the most impressive parts about the temple was the huge columns in the Great Hypostyle Hall. There are also several obelisks within the temple site which were impressive to see with the different hieroglyphics on them. Not all areas of the temple are available to the public. However, there are ‘guards’ located in different sections of the temple and they will offer to take you back to some of the non-public prices; however, please note they will expect a tip in return.

People standing next to the huge columns in the hall at Karnak Temple.
Huge columns in the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple - Luxor, Egypt.

One area of particular interest within the temple was the scarab beetle. We had learned about this beetle on our visit to the Pharaonic Village in Cairo, and how the ancient Egyptians believe it brought good luck. They believed that if you walked around it seven times then your wish would come true, so the kids gave it a go. (Although I’m sure they just wished for some new pets!) The statue is located in the northeastern corner of the temple near the sacred lake.

Walking around the Scarab beetle statue seven times to make their wish come true.
Kids walking around the Scarab Beetle at the Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt.

The admission price to visit the Karnak Temple is 200 EGP per adult (almost $13 USD /$16 CDN) and 50 percent off for students who are 6+ years old. The temple is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter months. We arrived around 9:30 a.m. and it was already packed with tourist buses and hot for the day. If you are able to wake up early and come out and explore, I would highly recommend coming as early as possible, as it would be much cooler and less crowded.


Luxor Mummification Museum

This museum is dedicated to explaining the mummification process of the Ancient Egyptians and is a small museum located right along the shores of the Nile on the East Bank. Admission was 100 EGP (about $6 USD/$8 CDN) and again 50 percent off for students 6+ years old.

It had a mummy on display (including animals), sarcophaguses, and showed some of the tools used in the mummification process. However, it was literally a room. While it had some good information, if you go to the Egyptian Museum of Civilization or the National Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, then you’re probably getting the same type of information.


There were a few other sites on the East Bank that we ran out of time for, as the kids were getting a bit burned out with ancient Egyptian sites, as Luxor was our last stop. Some other notable places on the East Bank would be the Luxor Museum and the Luxor Temple.


RELAXING IN HURGHADA

We finished off our time with 4 days in Hurghada. We took Go bus from Luxor to Hurghada, which was over 4.5 hour journey for just $12 USD per seat. Hurghada is definitely a tourist beach town, but one advantage to this is that they had more western amenities, like a grocery store with some of the items from Europe. The Airbnb we stayed at had access to a little beach so we mostly hung out there. However, these were a few of the other places we enjoyed in Hurghada.


Snorkeling Day Trip

We booked a full day boat tour off the coast of Hurghada and enjoyed some snorkeling. The package included transfer to and from the boat, 2 snorkeling spots, lunch and a couple of rides on the tubes. We really enjoyed the day out in the Red Sea and best of all enjoyed the price – it was only 300 EGP ($20 USD or just less than $25 CDN) per adult. Clara was 50 percent of the adult price and Connor, since he was 5 years old, was free. The snorkeling in the Red Sea was one of the best places we have snorkeled – I was really impressed with the colorful reefs and the variety of fish that we saw.


Fish Market

Located just behind the Hurghada Marina & down the street from the El Mina Mosque is the Fish Market. We found this market interesting to look around, as there was such a variety of fish. However, if you can’t stand the smell of fish, then probably best to avoid the area. We also enjoyed dinner at one of the seafood restaurants across the street, so it was definitely fresh!


El Mina Mosque

This beautiful mosque is located in central Hurghada. The mosque is open for visitors, but we were only able to view the inside from a viewing point on the outside. We arrived right during prayer time, we were able to watch some of the locals praying. We had read that there was a place you could borrow a scarf to cover your head, but when we arrived there was nothing around the area offering that service and there wasn’t anyone enforcing dress code to view the mosque. However, I would still recommend to be respectful and cover shoulders and down to your knees.


The beach was the perfect way to end our visit in Egypt. The only thing that would have been more ideal would have been to break up some of the historical sites in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor, as I think the kids got quite worn out from seeing lots of historical places. However, the beaches all tend to be quite a distance away from each other, so maybe not realistic unless you are planning to do multiple flights.


Overall Impressions of Egypt:

Egypt is one of those places that often gets a bad rap. However, these were our personal impressions and overall tips for Egypt:

  • We never felt threatened by anyone, and actually found Egyptians very friendly and hospitable. Most were especially kind & friendly toward our children.

  • As a Western woman, I didn’t feel any type of harassment or disrespect that you often are warned about. I chose to wear either dresses or capris that went below my knees, especially in the city/local areas. That being said, I was always out and about with Alex and almost all people would deal directly with him vs. me. However, that’s more a product of the culture of how business is done here. [I will also say, this is just my personal experience.]

  • All the tourist sites were closely monitored by police and had several checkpoints. However, just do your research ahead of time and know if there are any particular hot spots prior to your visit. For instance, certain areas in the northern Sinai Peninsula, may be prone to more risky activity. However, the main tourist stretch from Alexandria to Aswan has lots of eyes on it, as well as the main tourist beach areas.

  • Come prepared to haggle….and haggle hard! Many goods in Egypt will require some negotiating; even a taxi ride will require your negotiation skills, as there is no set price. We also found many Egyptians will really inflate their starting price. In cities like Cairo & Hurghada, we preferred to use Uber. There was already a set price and you don’t have to worry about any miscommunication due to language barriers because of the app.

  • Be aware that there is an Egyptian Price vs. Tourist Price. You’ll notice this almost at every historical site or museum you visit, as well as restaurants, taxis and shops. Admission prices were one of the things that caught us the most off-guard. In terms of prices back home, they were reasonable – about $10-20 USD per adult ticket. However, when we were visiting several sites in one day, it added up quickly for a family.

Egypt wasn’t all rosy – especially in regards to the haggling and the ease of doing things – but overall, we had a positive experience and are grateful we had the opportunity to see some of these historical sites firsthand.



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