An up-to-date travel guide revealing the five best tombs in the Valley of the Kings that you need to visit when in Luxor, Egypt.
The Valley of the Kings is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world. This valley confines the ancient resting grounds of the great pharaohs of dynastic Egypt. It’s a place where visitors can thoroughly explore elaborate tombs via an underground network of tunnels and beautifully preserved burial chambers.
However, a first-time visit to the valley can be quite confusing. That’s because there are over 63 tombs excavated in this tiny area! And, archeologists are still unearthing more.
That’s why I’ve compiled this quick resource revealing the 5 best tombs in the Valley of the Kings, so you can better plan your visit to one of Egypt’s greatest landmarks.
- About the Valley of the Kings
- How Many Tombs Are in the Valley of the Kings?
- How to Get to the Valley of the Kings
- About the Entrance Tickets
- Map Showing the Different Tombs In the Valley of the Kings
- Where to Stay in Luxor
- 5 Tips for Visiting the Valley of the Kings
- More Egypt Travel Inspiration
About the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most remarkable necropolises in Egypt. Located beneath the ancient Theban Hills just outside of modern Luxor, this barren valley was chosen as the sacred burial ground during the New Kingdom of dynastic Egypt (1539-1075 BCE).
The ancients selected this site as it sits beneath the peak al-Qurn, (dehent), a natural pyramid mountain dominating the landscape.
Tourists have marveled at this iconic location since even Roman times. In fact, in some tombs, you'll find instances of Latin and Greek graffiti, some dating back as far as 278 BCE!
While the high priests buried the pharaohs with all of their greatest treasures, little remained for modern archeologists to discover. This is because grave robbers have cleared out most of the Valley of the Kings' tombs since ancient times. One famous exception is Howard Carter's celebrated 1922 discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, whose tomb had remained untouched for millennia.
Today, Egyptologists and local authorities maintain preservation with guarded entrances and a network of security cameras.
How Many Tombs Are in the Valley of the Kings?
In total, there are 63 royal tombs so far discovered in the Valley of the Kings. As far as Egyptologists are aware, there is only one remaining tomb yet to be discovered; that of Ramses VIII, who only ruled Egypt for a single year at most.
This is likely why the late pharaoh's tomb remains undiscovered– since the construction of royal burial tombs only commences at the beginning of their rule. It is then only completed upon their death, meaning the longer the reign, the larger and more elaborate the crypt.
This is the reason why many historians believe that Tutankhamun's tomb remained hidden for so long. The boy king's reign lasted less than 10 years and was very untimely, which meant his tomb was relatively small and therefore more difficult to find in this considerable valley.
The majority of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings are closed off to the public. However, there are currently 11 tombs that visitors can explore.
Tombs open to the public include:
- KV1 - Ramesses VII
- KV6 - Ramesses IX
- KV8 - Merenptah
- KV9 - Ramesses V & VI - extra ticket required
- KV11 - Ramesses III
- KV14 - Tausert-Setnakht
- KV15 - Seti II
- KV16 - Ramesses I
- KV17 - Seti I - extra ticket required
- KV47 - Siptah
- KV62 - Tutankhamun - extra ticket required
Tip: This list is updated as of my last visit. However, it's important to know that the best tombs in the Valley of the Kings close periodically and are swapped out with another tomb.
How to Get to the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is located in Upper Egypt on the west bank of the Nile River, approximately 45 minutes from modern day Luxor (ancient Thebes).
Below are the best ways to get to the valley from Luxor.
On An Egypt Tour
If there's one travel destination on earth that is better visited with a guide, it's Egypt. There are just so many important sites to visit that seeing all of them independently is a monumental task that almost always ends up more expensive and lengthy.
During my recent trip to Egypt, I traveled with a world-class tour company called TravelTalk Tours, which included a trip to the Valley of the Kings after the Luxor hot air balloon experience. I highly recommend checking out this company for those still planning their Egypt itinerary.
For the readers visiting Luxor independently, you'll find that there are loads of tour companies running day trips to the Valley of the Kings. Below I've linked the best-reviewed and most cost-effective options
From Luxor: VoK East and West Bank Full (or Half) Day Tour - $
From Hurghada: Luxor & VoK Full Day Trip - $$
Nile Cruise Option: From Luxor: 2-Nights to Aswan incl. VoK - $$$
If you're intent on making your own way to explore the best tombs in the Valley of the Kings, you can do so by taxi.
The journey takes approximately 45 minutes and will cost between 200-300 Egyptian pounds. Alternatively, you can take a ferry across the Nile to the west bank, which costs 5 EGP for tourists. This departs from near the Luxor Museum.
From here, the journey will be closer since you won't need to cross the Luxor Bridge.
Tip: Note that if you're taking the taxi you will need to try to get one back too. This isn't always the easiest and good luck bartering for a fair price on the return journey! Otherwise, I've been told that it is also possible to hire a taxi for the day, but it'd likely be cheaper to book a tour (above).
About the Entrance Tickets
Valley of the Kings Entrance Price: 245 EGP per person
To enter the Valley of the Kings, tourists are required to pay an entrance fee of 245 EGP, payable at the entrance. This does not include a tour guide but does include transport from the entrance to the valley via a small electric golf cart-style bus.
The standard entrance ticket includes entry to three tombs only. There are guards waiting at the entrance to all of the tombs who will stamp your ticket.
However, visitors can also buy a special ticket to enter additional tombs, which I've listed below. Note that these tombs are not included on the standard ticket, which is required regardless.
- KV9 - Ramesses V & VI - 100 EGP
- KV17 - Seti I - 1,000 EGP
- KV62 - Tutankhamun - 300 EGP
If you're interested in visiting these special tombs, of these three, I recommend Seti I and Tutankhamun (more details in the below list of best Valley of the Kings tombs).
Photography Passes in 2023
After reading a few older blogs, it seems that it used to be the case that visitors would need to purchase a special "photography pass" to take photos inside the tombs, even with a phone camera.
However, as of 2023, visitors are free to take photographs with their cell phones without purchasing this pass. The signs around the entrance seem to indicate that a pass is still required for large "professional" cameras, but a price was not displayed.
Regardless, I took my large R5 mirrorless camera in and was never asked once to pay a fee. I asked my guide about this and he told me not to worry about this extra pass anymore.
Map Showing the Different Tombs In the Valley of the Kings
With the logistics out of the way, let's dive into this travel guide to the best tombs in the Valley of the Kings!
Below is a useful map that will help you orientate yourself within the archeological site.
Note that the tombs I recommend visiting below are all luckily, quite central. This is good news because it can get very hot in this valley!
Still planning a trip to Egypt? Don't miss my comprehensive Egypt itinerary, covering all the highlights & attractions you won't want to miss.
So, What are the Best Tombs to Visit in the Valley of the Kings?
Here's the list. Remember, tourists can only visit three out of the eight tombs included in the standard ticket. Below I've recommended five tombs to visit, the last of which will require additional entrance tickets.
Of course, you'll definitely have a great time if you only visit three tombs in the Valley of the Kings. However, the additional tombs are well worth the extra costs in my opinion.
1. Tomb of Ramesses IX
The first tomb I recommend exploring is that of Ramesses IX, designated as archeological site KV11. The tomb entrance is located just north of the rest area, quite close to the entrance and opposite the tomb of Tutankhamun and Ramesses. This tomb is included in the general ticket.
Ramesses IX (also written as Ramses or Rameses) was initially named Amon-her-khepshef Khaemwaset and ruled Egypt between the years 1129-1111 BCE.
His eighteen-year reign placed him as the third longest-serving ruler of the 20th Dynasty, resulting in quite an impressive tomb. Nevertheless, it was clear that his death was untimely since his tomb was only roughly half-finished. This is evident by the presence of large incomplete sections further into the tomb.
Ramesses IX is one of the most popular tombs to visit in the Valley of the Kings, primarily due to the magnificently decorated burial chamber at the end of the tunnel. Here, you'll see an amazing vaulted ceiling with well-preserved imagery of Nut, the goddess of the sky.
The corridor leading down to the main chamber is also beautifully adorned but protected by a sheet of glass. While much of the paint is missing on the corridor walls, you'll see impressive astronomical ceilings and lintels with immaculately-preserved paint.
Tip: If you want to get sneaky to try to get into more tombs on the general entry ticket, you could try to get the guard to stamp your ticket from another site in Luxor such as the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut since they look identical.
2. Tomb of Ramesses III
The second Valley of the Kings tomb worth visiting on the general ticket is that of Ramesses III, designated as KV11. You'll find this one west of the rest area opposite Ramesses V & VI and Tutankhamun.
Ramesses III ruled the New Kingdom between 1186-1155 BC, which is an impressive reign of over 31 years. During his time, Ramesses III faced many political and military struggles but managed to defend successfully against many invading threats including the Sea Peoples and the Libyans.
Ramesses III's tomb is one of the best-preserved tombs in the Valley of the Kings. It's absolutely massive, with a steep staircase covered in deep and detailed reliefs and leading down to broad corridors embellished with beautifully decorated hieroglyphs.
Furthermore, the main corridor leading to the large columned hall has one of the most magnificent ceilings out of all the best tombs in the Valley of the Kings. This astronomical ceiling is very well preserved with very little damage.
3. Tomb of Merenptah
The final tomb you should consider entering on the general ticket is that of Merenphtah, with the designation KV8. This tomb is located directly opposite the rest area down a small path, passing Tutankhamun's tomb.
Pharaoh Merenptah ruled during the Nineteenth Dynasty and was likely already around seventy years old when he ascended to the throne. His father was Ramses II or Ramses the Great, perhaps the most celebrated Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, and to who the great temple of Abu Simbel is dedicated.
Although Merenptah's reign didn't last nearly as long as his father's, he was still credited for several military campaigns, as well as for moving the administrative capital back to Memphis. Due to his old age, he died just 10 years into his rule. Surprisingly, his burial site is remarkably immense and credited as being the second largest tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Merenptah's tomb features a steep staircase and a long, 160-meter corridor. There is a large pillared chamber leading down to the main burial chamber. This room features illustrations from the Book of Gates, as well as a beautiful winged Ma'aat on the lintel.
What makes this tomb unique are the several huge stone sarcophagi within. The main one is located in the enormous burial chamber, which is a huge pillared hall with a vaulted ceiling. On the walls are depictions from the Book of Caverns and the Book of Earth.
4. Tomb of Seti the First
Extra cost: 1,000 EGP
By far, the best tomb in the Valley of the Kings to visit is that of Seti the First, or Seti I, designated as KV17. This one is located on the path leading east after passing the rest area. Yes, the tomb of Seti the First is the most expensive tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but it is well worth the extra cost.
Seti the First ruled Egypt for roughly 15 years between 1294 or 1290-1279 BCE (the dating is disputed). He was the father of Ramses II and is best known for his remarkable building works during his rule.
Seti I was responsible for many grand temples including the temple of Seti at Abydos, the temple of Gurna, the temple of Elephantine, and the continued construction of the great hypostyle hall at the Karnak Temple.
It's no wonder then why his tomb is so incredible. This is a 137-meter long masterpiece with very well-preserved reliefs in most of the eleven chambers and side rooms. The colors on the walls are some of the most vibrant in the necropolis and the carvings are magnificent.
5. Burial Chamber of Tutankhamun
Extra cost: 300 EGP
Finally, the last tomb you should visit in the Valley of the Kings is that of Tutankhamun– the boy king. This tomb costs an additional 300EGP to enter. Visitors will find this one directly opposite the rest area.
King Tut's tomb is the most famous tomb due to the fact that its discovery was quite recent and that it remained completely unmolested by grave robbers for thousands of years. Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb in 1922 resulted in several invaluable treasures, including his famous golden headdress. All of these have now been moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
King Tutankhamun ascended to the throne at the age of just eight years old and ruled for less than a decade from the years 1332-1323 BCE. While he was very young, he is credited for restoring the Ancient Egyptian religion after his father Akhenaten's dissolution.
Most likely due to an untimely death, Tutankhamun's resting place is very small and unimpressive compared to the rest of the amazing tombs in the Valley of the Kings. There is not much more than a short, undecorated passageway leading to a narrow burial chamber lacking many carvings.
However, the highlight for almost everybody is the fact that Tutankhamun's mummy still lies resting inside the tomb.
Where to Stay in Luxor
Luxor, the ancient capital of Thebes is nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Gates" due to its many temples and historic sites.
Most of the attractions in the city itself, including the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple are situated on the east bank of the Nile. However, there are also many great hotels on the west bank, with cheap and easy boat crossings available.
Make sure to read my comprehensive guide to the best Hotels in Luxor, or take a peek at the three top picks below for each budget.
- Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa - Nestled on the bank of the Nile River the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa offers luxury-styled rooms and facilities with a spa and a total of seven bars. This is the ultimate luxury resort in Upper Egypt.
- Steigenberger Nile Palace - Located in the heart of Luxor this hotel showcases a beautifully decorated interior with large open rooms. The buffet is one of the best I've ever had and the rooms are incredibly affordable for the luxury you get.
- Sweet Hostel Luxor - The best budget/backpacker option is the Sweet Hostel. Guests are offered a free la carte breakfast each morning and the location serves as a great base to explore Luxors landmarks including Luxor Temple– which is only a 9-minute walk away!
5 Tips for Visiting the Valley of the Kings
Heading to explore ancient tombs in the Valley of the Kings? Below are some useful tips you'll want to know before you go.
1. There are Actually Two Valleys Here
The wadi (valley) is broken up into two sections, the East Valley and the West Valley. However, all but one tomb are located in the East Valley, which is designated as the Valley of the Kings. The West Valley contains the tomb of Amenhotep III (WV22) and is known as the Valley of the Monkeys.
The Valley of the Queens is a separate valley where high priests buried the wives of the Pharaohs and is located approximately 15 kilometers away.
2. Tour Guides Cannot Lecture Inside the Tombs
To avoid congestion and to keep the silence, tour guides are not allowed to lecture inside the tombs.
Therefore, if you book a tour, you will likely be explained everything either outside the tomb entrance or at the nearby rest area.
3. Single File Please
Being one of the most significant places in Egypt, you can expect the necropolis to become crowded. While in the tombs, it's best to walk in a single-file line.
Tip: the Valley of the Kings opens at around 6 AM. If you can help it, I highly recommend getting there early to beat the crowds (and the heat)!
4. It can get Very Hot!
The desert climate often results in blistering temperatures. Be prepared for very hot conditions at almost any time of the year when walking between the tombs.
The rock-cut tombs themselves are usually a lot cooler since many lead far beneath the surface.
5. Expect to Spend a Lot of Time Here
While it's possible to rush through the tombs, expect to take between 1-2 hours to really explore each one.
If you're planning on visiting all the best tombs on this list, then you'll want to dedicate at least 5-6 hours to the pursuit.
Plan Your Egypt Accommodation
Still in the planning stages of your trip? Perhaps you're booking on the fly. The below accommodation guides will help you plan where to stay in Egypt.
More Egypt Travel Inspiration
I hope that this guide revealing the 5 best tombs in the Valley of the Kings has helped prepare you for one of the most incredible experiences in Egypt!
I'll continue to update this guide to make sure it stays relevant. However, tombs open and close regularly. So, in order to help me and future readers out, please let me know in the comments if things have changed during your visit.
For now, check out some of my other Egypt travel guides and blogs to get you inspired for the trip of a lifetime!
Destination Guide: Things to do in Aswan, Egypt
Sunday 12th of February 2023
Thanks for the great post.