The West Bank of Luxor in Egypt is even more of an archaeological paradise than the East Bank. A string of pharaonic mortuary temples vies with the richly-decorated Tombs of the Nobles and the Workmens' Village of Deir el-Medineh for the traveller's attention. The West Bank is also the gateway to the amazing Valley of the Kings. Although the vast majority of visitors to Luxor still tend to stay on the East Bank, a growing number now consider the West Bank as a good accommodation option - once you're awake, no need to bother crossing the river.... all the sights are right at your doorstep.
(See the Luxor page for getting to the Luxor area.)
From the airport
Taxis (100LE) are the only reasonable option. It is easy to find taxis when you arrive but, unless you are adept at bargaining, it is better to arrange a pick-up in advance from your hotel. Expect to pay anywhere between 50LE and 100LE depending on your bargaining skills for this 20km ride.
From the train station
Taxis are available but, if on a budget and if you're reasonably mobile, it is a short walk to the ferry jetty from the railway station. Walk straight up al-mahatta and then round the tip of the Temple of Luxor to get there. A taxi ride from the station to the jetty should run to about LE10. Hotels on the west bank are all within easy reach of the jetty.
By ferry from the East Bank
By far the quickest, most authentic and romantic manner of crossing the Nile to the west is by ferry or motor launch.
There used to be two ferry services until recently: a tourist ferry (now superseded by the road bridge) and the local residents' ferry (baladi ferry). The baladi ferry costs 1LE for foreigners, 25 pt for locals, and departs from its dock close to the ticket gate for the Temple of Luxor. There is no set schedule: ferries depart when they have filled up or until a decent period of time has passed.
Make an effort to smile and chat with the locals - you'll be using their ferry boat after all! But do be wary of the very few high pressure salesmen who might be on board, hoping to snare you for a taxi fare or accommodation offers - check their offer out, feel free to bargain.... if it's good, take it, otherwise a firm, but polite "No, thank you" (la shukran) should do the trick.
Motor launches have no set dock - they set out from wherever they can pick up an agreeable customer. Prices shoulf be around 5-7LE, 1-1.50LE per person if travelling in a group of 5 or more. The advantage of a launch, of course, is being able to get going immediately.
The West Bank sites are spread out and the temperature varies from hot to extremely hot so the easiest way to get around is by hiring a taxi for the day. This will set you back about 250 LE from the East Bank and about 100-150 LE from the West Bank (*). For a return trip to a particular site the price should not be more than LE100 for a minibus that takes up top 9 people. If your negotiation skills are reasonable, it is cheaper to hire a taxi by yourself, if not, you'll save yourself a lot of grief by asking your hotel to arrange one. In either event, bargain a bit because in Egypt the first price is always on the high side. (*) Mohamed Omran Ali (+201225578071, taxi no. 421) offers a trip to the major attractions (Colossi of Memnon, Valley of Queens/Kings, Hatshepsut) for about 4-5 hours from the West Bank for 60 LE + tip (December 2011).
Bicycles are available at hotels (LE10-20/day) as well as near the ferry jetty (first left after you leave the ferry area). Be aware that the heat can be quite intense and the bikes tend to be primitive. Carry plenty of water. Also, with a bike, you cannot walk over the hills from one valley to another.
Regular pick-ups leave from the ferry to Gurna and if you can find your way onto one you'll get there on the cheap for less than 1LE. Note, however, that the sites are usually 0.5 to 1km away from the main road so you'll have to walk to get there. The best way to use pick-ups is to take one to old Gurna, walk to Deir al-Bahri along the road (or hitch a ride), then walk to the Valley of Kings over the mountains (about 45 minutes), then walk back to Deir al-Medina (or even Valley of the Queens if the heat hasn't got to you), ending up in New Gurna for a pick-up ride back to the jetty.
Once you get to the tombs area, by taxi or bus, it is entirely possible to hike the hills in-between each area. There are small police stations setup along the hill tops. They shouldn't give any hassle to hikers. The trail going up from Deir el-Bahari is just outside the ticket booth along the road. The trail going into Valley of the Kings drops in behind KV42, next to the "No Climbing Mountain" sign. The trails into Valley of the Queens, Deir el Medineh and Gurna are also outside the ticket areas. Don't forget your water!
For an amazing experience take a donkey ride or horse ride through some of the villages on the west bank,to where the real people live,and see them go about their daily lives.You will get plenty of smiles and waves(especially from the children)and no one will try to sell you anything.Go to Pharaoh's Stables by following signs to the Amon Hotel. It's just a short walk from the ferry terminal,so don't be convinced that you need a taxi! They have wonderful horse trips too,and some of the temples can be visited on horseback.The sunset evening ride is an experience not to be missed.They will take you places where the big coaches can't get to,and you will see more of the real Egypt,and its friendly people.Well worth a visit. www.pharaohstables.com
The sites in Luxor are nothing short of spectacular so it is best to be organized.
- the Colossi of Memnon, free admission, view from the roadside
- Medinet Habu (the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III), admission LE 20 - the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III
Valley of the Queens
- the Tomb of Nefertari
- the Tomb of Amunhirkhepeshef
Deir el Medineh
- the Workmens' Village
- the Tomb of Inherka
- the Tomb of Senedjem
- the Tomb of Peshedu
- the Ptolemaic Temple
Ozymandias of Egypt
- the Ramesseum - the common name given to the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses II (the Great). The site of the Ramesseum includes the fallen colossal statue of the pharaoh that inspired the sonnet Ozymandias by Shelley, now the focus of a major restoration project. Originally 17 m (69 ft) high, the statue weighs in excess of 1000 tons and was transported from Aswan in a single block. The pylons of the temple preserve depictions of the famed Battle of Qadesh waged by Egyptian forces under Ramesses II against the Hittite Empire, the city of Qadesh lying in central Syria, then the contested boundary between the two great ancient empires. Behind the pylons, where visitors now enter the temple, the Second Court features a portico fronted by massive statues of Ramesses II in the form of Osiris, the god of the underworld. A hypostyle hall occupies the centre of the temple, featuring a well-preserved and painted ceiling. The stone-built temple buildings are surrounded byb the remains of a mud-brick royal palace and storage magazines.
- the Mortuary Temple of Merneptah, admission LE 10 - found immediately adjacent to the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Merneptah (the 13th son and eventual successor to the long-lived Ramesses II) was re-opened in 2002 as a new attraction after the careful and effective reconstruction of the temple foundations and lower courses by a Swiss archaeological team. (The temple was first excavated by the famous English Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in 1904 and was the scene of his discovery of the so-called Israel Stela, featuring the earliest recorded mention of Israel in ancient sources, now to be seen in Cairo's Egyptian Museum). Although not featuring the inscribed wall reliefs and towering columns associated with many Egyptian temples, the Merneptah temple nonetheless now provides an unsurpassed impression of the layout of a 19th dynasty funerary temple with many interesting architectural details. A small partly-subterranean museum is also to be found on site, in which many of the magnificent painted reliefs and sculpture (many usurped by Merneptah from the nearby Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III) are displayed. Sadly neglected by many visitors to the West Bank, the site and museum are nonetheless well worth a visit.
- the Tombs of Nobles in Qurna / Gurna (Sheikh Abd el-Gurna)
- the Tombs of Khonsu, Userhat and Benia
- the Tombs of Menna and Nakht
- the Tombs of Ramose, Userhat and Khaemhat
- the Tombs of Sennefer and Rekhmire
- the Tombs of Neferenpet, Thutmose and Neferskheru
- Gurna Discovery
- the Asasif Tombs
- Deir el-Bahari, admission LE 30, 15 (student) -
- the Temple of Hatshepsut -
- the Temple of Montuhotep II -
Dra Abu el-Naga
- the Mortuary Temple of Seti I
- Carter's House - this lonely, domed building - on the hill above the intersection where the main road to the Valley of the Kings meets the road to the Temple of Seti I - represents the house in which Howard Carter lived for the years he spent searching for the tomb of Tutankhamun
- Consider an early morning balloon ride over the ruins of the West Bank. One company that offers this service is Magic Horizon Balloons, but there are others, so shop around...
- . Carter's house is at the bottom of the road, not up on the hill - that was Carnarvon's house
Souvenirs, alabaster, perfume, etc....(Note added...but don't use a credit card. Some shops there are masters at credit card fraud. You may get your money back at home, but best to USE CASH and BARGAIN!
- the Tutankhamun Restaurant, 200 m south of the ferry landing - considered by many to be the best restaurant on the West Bank. "The food is absolutely incredible - Chef Mahmoud has an incredible touch with the spices - curry chicken with apples and bananas is pure delight". Fixed menu, with a choice of mains that varies with what is in season. Prices not the cheapest around, but still hugely inexpensive compared to what you would pay in a hotel.
- Amon Hotel, El Gezira (West Bank) (Follow the signs to Pharaoh's Stables from the ferry jetty), ☎ +20 952 310912, +20 122732754, fax: +20 952 311205. On a quiet side street this is an excellent mid-range choice. The hotel has a beautiful tropical courtyard garden and the owner, Ahmed, is a great source for all things in Luxor, including fair prices. Breakfast is included and a traditional Egyptian dinner available on request. Some rooms with AC, all with attached bath. AC Doubles LE200. LE25-50.
- el Gezira Hotel, el Gezira, West Bank (Near the ferry). built and opened in 1996, el Gezira is family-owned and has 11 air-conditioned rooms LE60/LE80 (single/double) (breakfast inc.).
- Marsam Hotel, ☎ +20 952 372403, e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms arranged around a charming courtyard restaurant overlooking the fields behind the Colossi of Memnon. One of the most peaceful spots on the West Bank.
- EL PHARDOUS HOME, ☎ +20 95 23 13 435, +20 10 60 93 076, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A peaceful oasis near the Valley of the Kings mountain on the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor in Egypt with 11 double and 2 single rooms and can provide full or half board. Owners are Norwegian and Egyptian, and the standard suits anyone looking for an inexpensive, clean, peaceful and friendly place to stay. LE120/LE200.
- Al Salam Camp (Bedouin-style hospitality), Ramlah Village, West Bank, ☎ +20 106 824 067 (Ahmed), e-mail: email@example.com. Peaceful, friendly family-run hutted camp ideal for independent travellers and close to all the sites. Children are welcome and will find many playmates. Very inexpensive, wonderful food, trips and activities, and a real taste of local life. LE15-30.
- Hotel Sheherazade, El Gezira (West Bank) (As for the Amon Hotel. The Sheherazade is opposite the Amon), ☎ 010 558 2431. A delightful hotel with simple but perfectly adequate rooms around a courtyard. The staff are excellent. Breakfast is included and the restaurant is open most of the day serving a mixture of foods, including excellent Egyptian style food. LE 100 - 200.
- Hotel al-Moudira, ☎ +20 123 251 307, fax: +20 123 220 528. With 54 double rooms this is the luxury choice in Luxor if not all of Egypt. The first to bring luxury 5-star boutique-style accommodation (with a distinct Oriental twist: domed ceilings, latticework, hand-painted frescoes) to the West Bank of Luxor! Al-Moudira includes a swimming pool on the West Bank in its spacious grounds. $150-$200.
- Nile Valley Hotel, Gezirat el Bairat, West Bank (Near the ferryboat landing), ☎ +20 95 2311477, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Small family hotel with swimming pool, 21 rooms with attached bath, AC, TV, fridge, and a rooftoop restaurant with views of the Nile and the temple of Luxor. Airport/rail station pickup available. Euro 15/22 single/double.
- Carry plenty of water, wear sensible shoes and a hat, strongly consider sunscreen - the West Bank is too amazing to be spent in pain and discomfort! - and bring a torch (some of the tombs are quite dark).
- Save up plenty of small notes to pay baksheesh to the guides at tombs and temples - they don't provide change!