With a name that glorifies all of the Egypt’s ancient past, the Valley of the Kings is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
Located on the west bank of the Nile, across the ancient city of Thebes (now known as Luxor), Valley of the Kings is unremarkable. However, beneath its barren surface lie more than 60 rock-cut tombs. These tombs were created between the 16th and 11th centuries BC. Its main purpose was to house the dead pharaohs of the New Kingdom.
The valley has two distinct sections — the West Valley and the East Valley. These valleys contain tons of tombs. Almost all of them were looted in the ancient times. However, the murals and hieroglyphs that cover the walls of these royal tombs offer an irreplaceable insight into the funerary rituals and beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians.
The Valley in Classic Times
After years and years of research and study, a lot of historians believed that the Valley of the Kings was used as a burial place from 1539 BC to 1075 BC (almost 500 years). That’s a lot of time!
Did you know? The first ever tomb carved at this place was of pharaoh Thutmose I and the last one is believed to be that of Ramesses XI.
Now, the thing that still confuses some historians is that – why Thutmose I chose this valley as the place for his new necropolis? Some think that the presence of al-Qurn (sacred to the goddesses Hathor and Meretseger) may have inspired him. Another reason that may have inspired his decision could be the isolation of this place. May be it could have be much easier to guard the tombs against potential raiders, couldn’t it?
Only he could have known the truth right?
In spite of its name, pharaohs were not the only ones present in Valley of the Kings. Instead, the major part of tombs belonged to favored nobles and members of the royal family.
Moreover, skilled workers who lived in the nearby villages of Dier el-Medina, constructed and beautifully decorated both East and West valley tombs.
Fact: They are so gorgeously done and maintained that it have been a focus destination from tourism point of view for thousands of years.
Also, the inscriptions that were left by the Ancient Greeks and Romans can still be seen in many tombs. Mainly in the tombs of Ramesses VI (KV9) which has more than 1,000 sample of ancient graffiti.
In recent times, the tombs have been the matter of major exploration and excavation.
In the 18th century, Napoleon, a French political figure, took charge and found detailed maps of the site of Valley of the Kings. But throughout 19th century, many historians, explorers and archaeologists continued to uncover new burial places. Until, an American Explorer, namely, Theodore M. Davis declared that the site was fully explored and excavated.
Unfortunately, in 1922, he was proved to be wrong when Howard Carter, a British archaeologist unveiled the tomb of Tutankhamun. The riches found in the tomb of Tutankhamun made it one of the most popular archaeological discoveries of all time.
Did You Know? In 1979, the Valley of the Kings was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Theban Necropolis. And has still been the matter of major exploration and excavation.
Best Tombs to Visit in the Valley of the Kings
Tourists can only view only 18 of the valley’s 63 tombs and they are rarely open at the same time. The authorities of Egypt rotate the timings of tombs in order to reduce the damaging effects of mass tourism – increased carbon dioxide, friction and humidity level).
Moreover, dehumidifiers and glass screens are used in several tombs to protect the murals and also some other tombs are now equipped with electric lighting.
If you wish to visit Valley of the Kings, then the most popular and best tombs to visit in the Valley of the Kings is that of pharaoh Tutankhamun (KV62). Although, this tomb is much smaller than the other, but still people come here for the boy king’s mummy. It is inside a gilded wooden sarcophagus.
Other important highlights of Valley of the Kings are the tombs of – Ramesses VI (KV9) and Tuthmose III (KV34).
What to See & Do
Former is valley’s largest and one of the most sophisticated tombs which is famous for its carved decorations. They depict the complete text of the netherworld Book of Caverns.
Another famous tomb loved by tourists is latter which dates back to approximately 1450 BC.
The entrance mural shows around 741 Egyptian divinities, while the burial chamber has a beautiful sarcophagus made out of red quartzite.
IML Travel suggests you to plan your visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in order to view the treasures that have been removed from the Valley of the Kings.
The precious treasures include most of the mummies and Tutankhamun’s iconic gold death mask.
NOTE: Several items from Tutankhamun’s invaluable cache have been recently moved to the newly made Grand Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids of Giza Complex. These include his magnificent funerary chariot too.
How to Visit the Valley of the Kings
Travelers travelling alone or with friends can hire a taxi from Luxor. Also, you can take ferry terminal from the West Bank to enjoy a full day tour of West Bank sites. This sightseeing will include the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Deir al-Bahri temple complex.
Hiring a bicycle is another popular option — but remember that the road up to the Valley of the Kings is steep, dusty and hot. Also, it is possible to hike from Deir al-Bahri or Deir el-Medina to reach the valley.
Tips while visiting sightseeing the Valley of the Kings
Start you tour and visit the Visitors Centre. This place has a model of the valley and they also show you a movie about Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. It gives you an overview of what to expect inside the tombs.
Further, there is a small electric train between the Visitors Centre and the tombs, which is a great option and also saves you a hot and dusty walk in just a minimal fee.
Remember to wear a lot of sunscreen, light clothing and bring plenty of water as there is little shade in the valley, and temperatures can be scorching (especially in summer).
Also, do not carry extra weight of camera as photography is strictly forbidden — but a torch can help you to see better inside the unlit tombs.
Tickets are priced at
- 80 EGP (Egyptian pounds) per person,
- Concessional fee of 40 EGP for students
This ticket includes entry to three tombs (whichever ones are open on the day).
You’ll need to buy a separate ticket to visit the West Valley’s single open tomb, KV23. It belonged to the pharaoh Ay.
Similarly, tomb of Tutankhamun is not included in the regular ticket price. You can buy a ticket for 100 EGP per person to visit his tomb , or 50 EGP per student. In old times, as many as 5,000 tourists visited the Valley of the Kings every day, and long queues were part of the experience.
Know other places to visit in Luxor: