Best time to visit Valley of the Kings and top tips for visiting

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Valley of the Kings is one of the most iconic places to visit, not only in the Nile Valley, but in the whole of Egypt. It should be an absolute must on any Egypt itinerary. But there are so many conflicting reports of when is the best time to visit Valley of the Kings that it can be really confusing to plan a trip!

It’s difficult to see everything in Luxor. There is so much to see that even long visits can end up feeling like a bit of a whistle-stop tour. It can be overwhelming for first-time visitors to choose exactly what to see and narrowing down the options.

On our time in Luxor, we knew Valley of the Kings was a real must, as well as Karnak Temple. We had read a lot about which tombs to see – seems everyone has different opinions here! What confused us was whether or not to book with a guide, how long to go for, when to go to avoid crowds, could we trust the guides on the day… it was all so much to think about! Our time in Luxor was really short, so we also needed to consider when we could fit everything in.

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Emma and Murray are standing holding hands and looking over their shoulders at the camera. They are smiling and behind them is a rocky valley of stone mountains.
The Valley itself where the tombs are

About Valley of the Kings

So what is Valley of the Kings?

Essentially, it’s a valley of tombs. It’s one of multiple valleys uncovered in the last few centuries, along with Valley of the Queens and Valley of the Workers. It’s the resting place of almost every Pharaoh from the 18th – 20th dynasties. Excavators are constantly uncovering new tombs, but at the moment there are 62 that we know about. The main section has the most visited tombs, but you can also go deeper into the valley to see more.

Each of the tombs is beautiful in its own way. They are all decorated with paintings and hieroglyphics, which represent different legends and stories. Some are more elaborate than others but almost all are worth visiting. The management rotate which tombs are open to the public in order to limit damage to the paintings. CO2 from human breathing and oils on our skin can damage the art, so they need to limit how much time the rooms are open to the elements. For this reason as well the guides will usually not enter the tombs with you and talk.

A sandstone wall inscribed with colourful hieroglyphics.
So many beautiful hieroglyphics

Is it worth visiting Valley of the Kings?

In our opinion, yes, it is one of the best things to do in Egypt. We couldn’t quite get over how spectacular it is in person – the pictures really do not do it justice!

We went at a very busy time of day, and still found it really enjoyable. We’d absolute recommend it to anyone.

How to get to Valley of the Kings

Getting to Luxor

Valley of the Kings lies right on the East bank of Luxor city, so the first thing to do is to get to Luxor!

From Cairo, you have a few options:

Train – the train is probably the most comfortable way to get from Cairo to Luxor. You can try to book tickets online, though it’s usually easier to book them in person. In Cairo station, tourists need to book at the other end of the station from locals. This is because tourist train tickets are actually more than 5 times the price of local tickets. The government have said that this is to ensure tourists take certain trains for their own safety, but it has caused some controversy.

Bus – because of the expense of the trains, most backpackers take the option of the bus. We were no different. You can book buses in Egypt on GoBus. Unfortunately, the website is a bit hit and miss, but luckily, you can also book buses in person at GoBus offices in Cairo or other cities.

Car – if you are travelling as part of a tour, have a car or have booked a driver, you can drive from Cairo to Luxor. The journey takes about 7-10 hours depending on traffic in Cairo and Luxor

You can fly between Luxor and Cairo but with such a short distance, we prefer not to recommend this unless you are really short on time, as there are plenty of other possible modes of transport.

Emma is standing in a long corridor leading down to a tomb in Valley of the Kings. The walls are sandstone and inscribed with hieroglyphics
The tombs off the beaten track are much quieter!

Getting from Luxor to Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings is on the West Bank of the river Nile, however most accommodation in Luxor is on the East Bank. From the East bank, you have a few ways of getting there:

  • You can take a tour. Usually this will include a guide as well, so it works out pretty good value. This is the tour we’d recommend if you choose this option.
  • You can take public transport. The ferry ports in Luxor are on the map below. Note there is only one public ferry route – the additional marker is a hotel ferry and it’s private. After this, you can take a bus from the West Bank or you can pick up a taxi. If you go with a taxi, make sure you haggle!

Even from the West Bank, you won’t be able to walk to Valley of the Kings as it’s too far.

When is the best time to visit Valley of the Kings?

Like many of the historical sites in Egypt, finding an uncrowded time to visit is… well, honestly, pretty impossible. We did manage it in some temples, like Abu Simbel, but for the most part, if you have a busy to moderate schedule in Egypt, you kind of have to make your peace with the fact that some sites you visit are going to be crowded. The only way to avoid is to stay for ages and try your luck with various time slots. Valley of the Kings is no exception.

A lot of guides will tell you to go early, but (because so many guides say this), actually everyone goes at this time. The Nile cruises tend to run to Valley of the Kings on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so it’s definitely best to avoid these days. If you choose to visit on any other day, we’d say go mid-morning to early afternoon. You should have the best luck at this time and find the crowds are easing off.

How can you get tickets to Valley of the Kings?

You can buy tickets on arrival and they vary in price, depending on which tombs you choose to visit (lower prices for residents). The tickets for the ‘main tombs’ are 220 EGP per person. The main tombs on display rotate for preservation purposes, so they might be different from one visit to the next.

It’s very easy to book tickets and in our experience, the queue doesn’t get too long. At this point, you can choose which of the tombs you want to visit. There are a lot to choose from, but like I said, they rotate the main three on display. You can choose to visit only the main tombs or else choose additional tombs to add on.

It’s best to decide in advance which tombs you’ll be visiting, otherwise you can really hold up the queue! Which brings us to our next question…

A tomb in Valley of the Kings. It is full of people, but the walls are inscribed with colourful hieroglyphics
The main tombs are very busy

Which tombs should you visit?

The advice we had before visiting was to visit the main three main tombs (which at the time we visited were KV8 – Merenptah, KV11 – Ramses III and KV15 – Sety II), BUT also to make sure that we added on Ramesses V and VI. We had this tip first from a friend and secondly from a local guide. It turned out to be invaluable. We’ll tell you exactly why below, but first we’ll just explain the different options.

Which tombs are included in your ticket?

In your main entrance ticket, there will be 3 of the following 10 tombs included, and these 3 tombs rotate, so it is a bit of a gamble which ones you’ll actually see.

KV1 – Ramesses VII
KV2 – Ramesses IV
KV6 – Ramesses IX
KV8 – Merenptah
KV11 – Ramesses III
KV14 – Tausert-Setnakht
KV15 – Sety II
KV16 – Ramesses I
KV43 – Thutmose
KV47 – Siptah

These tombs are really interesting and pretty, however they are generally quite busy. Though they’re a little narrow, luckily, the ceilings are high, so unless you are especially claustrophobic, you should be fine. The queues to enter are however often a little long, and you will be surrounded by people throughout.

Additional tombs to visit

You can then choose to add on any combination of the below three tombs:

KV9 – Ramesses V & VI (180 EGP per person extra)
KV17 – Seti I (1,800 EGP per person extra)
KV62 – Tutankhamun (500 EGP per person extra)

As you can imagine, Tut’s tomb is generally very popular and one of the most often added extra tombs. We opted not to visit it ourselves and actually didn’t regret the decision at all.

The tombs we visited

KV8 – Merenptah
KV11 – Ramses III
KV15 – Sety II
KV9 – Ramesses V and VI
KV23 – The Temple of Ay – this was another tip from our guide in Cairo

In our opinion, this was the best combination. Here are the reasons behind our choices to add the extra temples.

Note: Seti I – we did hear that this tomb is absolutely incredible and really worthwhile. To be 100% honest, we really couldn’t justify an additional 40 USD each, so we didn’t even consider it. If you have the budget, apparently it is spectacular.

A wall of a tomb with beautiful hieroglyphics. Part of the design has been rubbed away

Tomb of Ramesses V and VI

This is actually one tomb, but two pharaohs are buried there! Apparently Ramesses VI liked Ramesses V’s tomb so much, he decided he wanted it for himself too.

We added on this tomb because it wasn’t on the main circuit and, we were told, therefore, would be less crowded. This was correct. Our guide in Egypt also told us it was stunningly beautiful and he was so right. This was, without doubt, the most beautiful tomb we saw in the valley. The colours are extremely vibrant and vivid still – honestly, we can see why Ramesses VI wanted in on it!

The Tomb of King Tutankhamun

We opted not to visit Tutankhamun because apparently it is quite plain (comparatively) and we had already seen his display in Cairo (the Egyptian museum). This was confirmed by another couple we met in Valley of the Kings who said that indeed it wasn’t the best tomb they saw and they would skip it next time. The thing Tutankhamun’s tomb does have is his mummy and coffins. If you have an interest in seeing this, then his tomb is a must. Again, we had seen mummies in the NMEC in Cairo so we were happy to skip it.

We had also heard that King Tut’s tomb is in fact an exact replica of the Tomb of Ay, which we were already visiting.

The Tomb of Ay

Like we said above, this was a suggestion from our guide in Cairo. We initially thought it was a bit random, as we didn’t see it mentioned anywhere else, and it wasn’t in the main tomb complex – it’s a bit out of the way, in a fully separate part of the valley.

However, once we got there, we were so happy we decided to add it on. Firstly, we found out it’s an exact replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb, so we felt less bad for missing that! The tomb itself is OK. Honestly, at the risk of being reductive, there are better tombs. The added value of this tomb though was that we got to walk through the valley itself to visit it, and the scenery was incredible.

The walk itself is around 25 minutes and, if you are able, we highly recommend walking. We honestly felt like we were in a film-set the whole time. Bear in mind though, it is very open, so in the sun it is hot! Sun protection is a must. We were also completely alone the whole time we were walking.

If you are not able to walk, you will need a car as the train doesn’t go this way. The best way to do it is to ask a taxi driver to wait for you and take you up there, otherwise many tours will visit it.

A blue painted ceiling with hieroglyphics on all of the walls of the tomb.
Such colourful tombs

Do you need to buy a train ticket inside Valley of the Kings?

At the ticket desks, you’ll have the option to buy a ‘train ticket’. This is 10 EGP and basically takes you from the entrance to the valley itself.

We did buy this ticket as we were under the impression it was a long train (you would assume…), but actually we really wished we hadn’t. For us, it was a waste of money and resources, as the walk from the entrance to the valley is less than 10 minutes, and it’s a straight line. You can’t go wrong.

On the other hand, if you have access needs, it’s great that this option exists! It’s also very cheap and it’s electric, so it’s not like they’re wasting fuel.

Do you need a guide to visit Valley of the Kings?

The short answer is no, you don’t. It isn’t mandatory. In our opinion though, it does add a lot of value to your trip.

We booked a guide on arrival who claimed to be an Egyptologist and he was excellent. Guides claim to be Egyptologists at a lot of the sites in Egypt and you start to stop believing it, but this guy almost certainly was. He was one of the most knowledgeable guides we’ve ever had and we gained so much out of it.

You definitely need to haggle if booking a guide, as the initial asking price is often extremely high, and not what you are expected to pay.

Why don’t the guides go inside the tombs?

There are two main reasons: the first is to ease congestion. The three main tombs are very busy, as we said, and queues can be very long anyway. Therefore, guides are requested to remain outside the tombs so they don’t hold them up by talking or explaining things.

The second reason is to be reduce CO2 inside the tombs, which can damage the artwork. When the guides talk, their breathing can cause unnecessary damage. For this reason, they also ask responsible tourists to keep talking to a minimum inside the tombs.

Instead, the guides will usually give you a short overview outside the tomb and leave you to explore yourself.

A row of Egyptian human hieroglyphics inscribed on the wall of a tomb.

How long do you need for Valley of the Kings?

We spent around 3 hours in the Valley itself (including the Tomb of Ay) and it was perfect. If you are visiting more tombs than we did, of course you may need more, and if you only visit the main three tombs, you probably would not need very long at all.

Top tips for visiting Valley of the Kings

For the abridged version, here’s a summary of our top tips for Valley of the Kings:

  • If you’re booking a guide at the entrance (which we recommend), haggle like mad and try to join onto a larger group
  • Tip your guides if you book one, it’s customary in Egypt
  • Go around 11am or midday for slightly quieter viewing and avoid Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (when the cruise ships arrive)
  • Book tombs off the main circuit (as well as the main three) for fewer crowds and more time to stop and admire
  • Unless you have access needs, skip the train and walk to enjoy the valley views
  • Don’t talk inside the tombs to avoid damaging the art!
  • If planning to visit the Temple of Ay and you don’t want to walk 25 minutes to get there, arrange with a taxi driver to stay and wait for you

That’s it!

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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