The Valley of the Kings is the burial site for almost all of Egypt’s pharaohs from the 18-20th dynasties (1539-1075 BC). 62 tombs have been found here and 26 of those remain unknown to whom they were for. The valley is located behind the limestone mountains of Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple in the city of Luxor, 600 km south of Cairo. The Valley of the Kings was rightfully listed as a World Heritage Site in 1979.
The reasoning for the burials in this area was the fear of robbers. Pharaohs were mummified and buried along with all their treasures to help them prosper in the afterlife. The tombs were built in a way to confuse robbers and the stacking of furniture up to the ceiling made it difficult for them to trespass. However, most of them were robbed by the time they were rediscovered making it impossible to identify those 26 tombs.
Most of the tombs today are extremely well preserved. The deceased pharaoh is always seen in drawings amongst the gods, especially the underworld gods. The hieroglyphics talk about the afterlife and how to help the pharaoh in their next journey.
THE TOMB OF MERENPTAH
Merenptah was the son of Ramses II and Queen Isetnofret. His 19th dynasty tomb was discovered in 1903 by Howard Carter, who more famously discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. A very long hall leads straight down to the burial chamber where you can see Merenptah’s 4.1-metre long pink granite sarcophagus. Inside were 4 more layers of pink Aswan granite and cream white calcite. Paintings inside the tomb show how his father Ramses II died at an old age and Merenptah became pharaoh at the age of 70 and ruled for 10 years.
THE TOMB OF RAMSES IV
The 20th dynasty tomb of Ramses IV is different from most of the tombs found in the Valley of the Kings. He came into power after Ramses III was assassinated. Ramses IV only ruled for 6 years until his death in 1150 B.C. During that time he began many construction projects but failed at maintaining control over Egypt. The tomb is decorated with the pharaoh’s coronation, vultures, scarabs, stars and scenes from the Book of the Dead. The original sarcophagus rests here and it’s unusually large. This tomb has an absence of pillars and texts regarding the pharaohs guide through the afterlife. It was robbed before early explorers rediscovered Ramses IV’s tomb. This tomb is a must-see. The decor will leave you in awe!
THE TOMB OF TUTANKHAMUN
The most famous among pharaoh’s is Tutankhamun. Why? We hardly knew anything about him when his tomb was discovered. He became pharaoh at the age of 9, he was not powerful nor successful, he only ruled for 10 years and his tomb was not prepared for his sudden death at 19 years old in 1324 BC. There are many theories about how the boy king died. However, scientists performed a CT scan of the king’s mummified body and a chariot crash breaking his leg and pelvis which lead to an infection and blood poisoning is the most accurate cause of death.
Tutankhamun’s popularity arose from the discovery of his tomb. It’s one of the only tombs in the Valley of the Kings that wasn’t robbed. 3, 500+ items were recovered inside and he wasn’t even a successful pharaoh back in the day! You can understand why thieves robbed so many of the great tombs in the area. Tutankhamun’s tomb was rediscovered by Howard Carter after 6 years of searching on November 4th 1922. Carter’s benefactor was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (the man who lived in the real-life castle seen in the TV series, Downton Abbey). Carnarvon and Carter together excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb on November 26th. It took Carter 10 years to excavate, record and clear the tomb.
The tomb’s design is very simple, basic and structured in non-royal style. You can see illustrations of the guide to the afterlife, the opening of the mouth ritual before his mummification and him being welcomed to the underworld by Anubis, Hathor and Isis. Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus contained 3 coffins. The first was made of gilded wood and decorated with protective goddesses. The next layer consisted of coloured glass and important stones. The innermost coffin was made of pure solid gold. The mummy was laid to rest with amulets, jewellery and a gold mask over his head. Surrounding his sarcophagus were 4 gilded wooden shrines. In the treasury room was a statue of Anubis and a shrine that held the calcite canopic chest. Chests of jewellery, model ships, shrines and other treasures filled the entire room. The chamber was filled with chariots, furniture, food offerings, weapons and chests of clothing and ornaments.
HOW TO GET THERE
The west bank allows for the easiest access to The Valley of the Kings. If you’re staying on the east bank and you have a hire car: You can drive South of Luxor, across the bridge and continue towards your destination, taking 40 minutes in total. The other option is to take the public ferry from Luxor Temple across the Nile River for 2EGP and catch a 15-minute taxi. You will come to the main car park where the visitor centre stands.
Inside, you will see a large 3D model of the Valley of the Kings and all of the tombs. You can see the structure and depth of each tomb continue underground in the transparent model.
The visitors centre is where you can purchase your tickets and you can choose to pay extra fees for the excluded tombs you wish to see. Our Intrepid tour guide, Mohammed, has been here so many times with past groups and he knows these tombs inside out. Your guide will let you know which ones you would most like to visit. Whether it be based on historical importance, the preservation of the tomb or the beautiful artwork inside.
If travelling without a guide, research which tombs you would like to visit prior and have a top 5 at least. Each day different tombs are closed to preserve them so be prepared if your favourite is not open to the public!
ENTRANCE FEE, PHOTOGRAPHY PERMIT & TOMBS TO VISIT
The entrance ticket into The Valley of the Kings costs EGP240 (15USD*) and it includes entry into 3 of the following tombs: Ramses I, Ramses III, Ramses IV, Ramses VII, Ramses IX, Seti II, Siptah, Merenptah, Thutmose III, Thutmose IV, Mentuherkhepshef and Tausret/Sethnakht.
For Tutankhamun, Ramses VI and Ay you will need to purchase entrance fees at the ticket office. Tutankhamun (EGP80 / 5USD*), Ramses VI (EGP50) & Ay (EGP20).
Tombs you are currently unable to visit: Ramses II, X, XI. Amenmesses. Setnakht. Seti I. Hatshepsut. Amunhotep II, III. Akhenaten. Thutmose I. Userhet. Maiherperi. Horemheb.
Between 4 of us we paid EGP300 / 18.50USD* to purchase a photography permit. We could use this permit in 3 tombs only. It’s always worth purchasing a permit if you have a high quality camera!
Keep your entrance ticket and photography permit in a safe and easy to reach place because each tomb you enter a guard will hole punch or mark it.
You will then need to purchase a ticket for the Taftaf (electric trains) which costs 4EGP. You will then exit the visitors centre and be greeted by plenty of Taftafs that will take you 10 minutes deep into the valley.
There’s no restaurant at the site and from memory, the visitors centre has a little shop selling pricey food and drink. The public washrooms are even more expensive. Make sure to always carry loose change for the washrooms! In the valley, there’s a large shaded area at the bottom of the valley with seating to give shelter from the blistering sun. As always bring plenty of water, packed lunch, hand-held fan and SunSmart protection.
Bring plenty of Egyptian Pounds to cover the entrance fees and excluded tomb fees if you plan to visit Valley of the Kings & Queens and Hatshepsut Temple all in one day. It’s crucial to bring a student card if you have a valid one as it can save you loads on entrance fees across Egypt.
*Based on currency rates at the time of being published.