One of the highlights of my time in Egypt was visiting the Valley of the Kings. It is home to 63 tombs dug into the floor of the limestone valley between three and three and a half thousand years ago. This is a barren desert environment below the prominent peak of al-Qurn, a pyramid shaped hill linking back to the Pyramids of Giza, built a thousand years earlier.
This incredible model in the visitor entrance shows the valley and tombs above and below ground.
I visited three tombs, starting with the incredible Tomb of Ramses IV. This 89m long tomb gradually descended with walls covered in intricately carved and painted scenes from various ancient Egyptian religious books.
At the end is the burial chamber dominated by a huge sarcophagus, contrasting with the vibrant blue ceiling above.
Beyond the burial chamber is a narrow corridor with three side chambers, close to the public, but the local guardians will happily take your camera into the side rooms for a fee. This is pretty standard behaviour at every ancient site I visited in Egypt, a small amount of money will gain you access to where you shouldn’t be, something I was a bit scathing of.
The Tomb of Merenptah is one of the largest in the valley, 160m long with a steep descent passing by an enormous sarcophagus lid.
At the end is a huge columned chamber featuring another sarcophagus and some patches of colour on the walls.
The Tomb of Ramses III at 188m was even longer but less steep. The walls are nicely decorated but ends in a black hole where the burial chamber is currently closed for restoration.
Typically 4,000 to 5,000 tourists visit the valley everyday. I visited between the early morning and lunchtime rushes but it was still uncomfortably busy at times, with limited shade. Apparently it was relatively cool the day I visited, but it was still well above 30C, super dry and exposed to the sun. There are eighteen tombs able to be opened to the public, but only nine are open at any one time, they’re rotated each year to reduce wear and tear on them. One ticket allows access to three tombs at a time, plus a separate 1,000 EGP ticket is required to visit the tomb of Tutankhamum. This is the most famous tomb, but is small and relatively bare so I didn’t visit it.