After an amazing day cruising the Nile, we arrived to Luxor! It was another early wake-up call day. At 3 AM, I stumbled out of bed, anxious to boat across the Nile to get to Luxor’s west bank. If you know me well, you might be wondering why on earth I would do such a thing to myself? For a sunrise hot air balloon ride!! Totally worth the short night.
Night time (or I guess early morning) boat rides are the best! There’s something so peaceful about the river before anyone is on it. It was a bit chilly though, so be sure to bring a sweater! After a short boat ride, we got on a bus to get to the balloons. I was so excited! I’ve always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon, and my dream finally came true in Luxor.
It may seem obvious, but hot air balloons are really hot! We all had to cover our hair or wear a hat to avoid any accidental fires or discomfort from the heat. Despite the chilly weather, I was perfectly comfortable as soon as I got into the balloon. The provider used by Timeless Tours used balloons with very large baskets. There were 8 people in each side of the basket and 4 sides in total. When choosing a provider, make sure that they are putting safety standards before pleasing tourists. There have been recent tragic accidents when providers ignored weather conditions to be able to deliver a trip as promised.
Being in the hot air balloon was incredible! It gives an amazing, panoramic view of Luxor. From the air, you can really see the dramatic contrast between irrigated fertile land and the desert! Our balloon reached 900 meters, which gave an unparalleled view of the valley of the kings (and the entire west bank).
Around 6:30, the sun finally rose and it was absolutely worth the early wake-up call! Watching the sun lazily creep into the sky through splashes of vivid color can’t be beat.
What a start to the day! If you’re looking at doing a hot-air ballon ride in Luxor (and I highly recommend it) it cost $120 booked as a tour add-on through Timeless Tours. I’ve heard there are cheaper prices out there, but I was very happy with the quality and safety of our operator.
After we landed, it was off on a whirlwind tour of Thebes Necropolis (AKA: Luxor’s West Bank). In Ancient Egyptian culture, the West Bank of the Nile was traditionally the land of the dead. So many famous tombs and mortuary temples are located there. Luxor has the highest concentration of UNESCO sites of any place in the world. Obviously, I was unable to see everything in just a day. But here are my highlights of the West Bank!
The Collossi of Memnon were an impressive place to start our tour! They were once part of a massive temple complex built by Amenhotep. The rest of the temple is now ruins, but the colossi remain an impressive guard.
After meeting at the Collossi, we headed to the valley of the kings. Unfortunately, photos are prohibited in the tombs without a permit (which I didn’t know about). Luckily, the Daily Mail visited the same tomb I did, and you can check out their pictures! The colors within the tombs are absolutely spectacular, as is the overall preservation. Some of the paintings look as if they were done last week. The second tomb I visited was the Tomb of Nefertari, which you can check out in this amazing video. A ticket to the valley of the kings includes visits to 3 tombs, but unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the last one I visited. It was also incredible though! A ticket costs 160 EGP (or 80 EGP for students). There are additional tombs you can visit for an extra cost.
After exploring the tombs (and wishing I’d known I could buy a photography permit) it was off to the Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s famous female king. Being a bit of a history nerd, I was SO EXCITED to get to the temple of this amazing king. Most of her carvings and buildings were erased by her successors as she had major family drama. You can read the whole story of Hatshepsut here.
Her temple is nestled into the crags of a cliff, nearby to the valley of the kings. The setting is absolutely stunning and the temple has been beautifully restored. It was super cool to visit such an ancient site of girl power.
These statues of Hatshepsut are really cool, because they combine masculine aspects (such as the fake beard) with clearly feminine features. In all of her depictions Hatshepsut borrowed masculine symbols of power while remaining unmistakably female. Pretty awesome! The temple also has some AMAZING paintings that have been super well preserved. Crazy to think how almost the entire structure would have been painted like this!
Overall, I LOVED Luxor’s west bank. As is frequently the case with group tours, I did wish that I had more time to fully explore the area. But the itinerary was just too packed! I can’t recommend a visit enough! There’s nothing like walking among the ghosts of pharaohs.