If you are like millions of others around the world, the name of the Valley of the Kings brings to mind one thing – Howard Carter and his discovery of King Tut’s tomb there in the 1920s. Yet, it is so much more than that, and any visit to Egypt should not be considered complete without at least one day spent visiting the amazing and historic Valley of the Kings.
NEED TO KNOW DETAILS ABOUT THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
It pays to know a lot about the Valley of the Kings before making your visit. It is on the western bank of the Nile, close to the city known as Luxor. This area is the historic burial place of many of Egypt’s pharaohs. In fact, for 500 years, they were placed into rock cut tombs in the Theban Hills. Thebes (modern Luxor) was the capital city of Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdom eras. It is considered to be the center of the Theban necropolis and is contained within a wadi (small canyon) that also contains two valleys known as the East and West Valleys.
To date, 63 tombs have been found, though it is well known that more are sure to be found as time passes and excavations continue. The first great interest in the area began in the 1700s and continues to this day, though it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late 1970s and has a much more controlled level of excavation. Conservation is also a big part of the activity in the Valley of the Kings, with tourism centers being created to limit any damage.
FORGET YOUR IDYLLIC VIEWS OF THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
If you are making plans to visit the Valley of the Kings, one of the wisest things to do is set aside any visions you have of pyramids and mastaba mounds, clearly laid out temples and other significant buildings. There is very little above ground in the Valley of the Kings, and for good reason. It was meant to make it hard and difficult to find and rob the tombs of the pharaohs, and so it still retains its bare mounds of sand and unwelcoming appearance.
The good news is that many walkways have been laid down to ensure easy walking from one tomb to another. Not all are open to the public, and even those that are alternate to limit the amount of damage that such simple things as perspiration and moisture might cause. Every day, visitors will use the same trails to reach the tombs that are open and descend into those they can explore or learn more about.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
There is much confusion about what you can do during a visit to the Valley of the Kings. It all begins with your purchase of a permit that allows you to enter up to three of the day’s open tombs. You are allowed to buy more tickets if you wish to enter more than three tombs, and it is advised that you do so if you are there for the day.
If you wish to take photos, you can do so by purchasing another permit, but no flash photography is allowed. There are also separate tickets available for those that wish to visit the most famous tombs in the valley, including King Tut’s, Seti I, and that of Nefertari. You will also need a ticket for the tram that takes travelers into the valley.
There are guides inside of the tombs, but as we have so often suggested for almost all other sites and destinations in Egypt, it is a good idea to arrange for a guided tour beforehand. Not only does this enable you to have a lot of insight into the specifics on each of the tombs, but it lets you customize your experience. Perhaps your goal is to see only those famous sites or to emphasize a specific tomb? No matter what, a good guide or tour can make the most of the experience.
SOME TIPS FOR A VISIT TO THE VALLEY
The heat in the area can be harsh at any time of the year and heading into the valley around the late morning to midday hours can be quite uncomfortable. Because of this, you will want to always try to avoid the incredible heat and the huge numbers of travelers by leaving early in the day.
It can also let you get a prime spot if a particular tomb has a long wait time or is likely to be crowded as the day passes. As one expert said, the group tours usually arrive in the morning and bus tours from the Red Sea area usually appear by 10 AM, so you should go very early or wait until late in the afternoon to dodge the crowds – it can also give you stunning light in the valley!
Remember to bring a flash light as this can help you to enjoy the dark interiors of the tombs, and as is always suggested with a visit into the desert areas of Egypt, bring plenty of water, a good hat, sun screen and sunglasses. If you are planning a long visit, bring some food, too as the only spot to purchase food is back at the tourist center far from the valley itself.
And what about the train that makes its way from the visitor center to the tombs? If it is particularly hot the afternoon or morning of your arrival, it can spare you a bit of discomfort. If the weather is comfortable during your visit, you may want to ask your guide about the walk that runs from the valley to Deir el-Bahri. It is a 45 minute walk and offers truly stunning views of the Nile, Deir el-Bahri, and the rich green farmlands below.
A day spent exploring the tombs of the ancient kings of Egypt is a magical and unforgettable thing. Hiring a tour guide or joining a professionally guided tour will only add to the experience and ensure you have the best experience possible.