Visiting Karnak temple: Everything you need to know

Oct 22, 2019 | Africa, Egypt, Global travel

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(Last updated on: 02/04/2020)

One of the most iconic sights to see in Egypt is Karnak Temple. In fact, Karnak temple was one of my favourite historical sites in all of Egypt! Here’s everything you need to know to make planning your visit a little bit easier…

Karnak temple

What is Karnak Temple?

Often simply referred to as Karnak, it is a temple complex that is actually made up of several temples, chapels, pylons and other buildings. Construction began in the Middle Kingdom. 

The surrounding area was known, in ancient times, as ‘Ipet-isut’ which translates as ‘The most selected of places’. Therefore, it is clear that Karnak Temple was an incredibly important part of ancient Egypt worship and culture. It was the main place of worship during the 18th Dynasty, and was influenced by 30 different pharaohs over the years.

Did you know: ‘Karnak’ itself means ‘fortified settlement’ in Arabic.

What springs to mind when you think of Karnak Temple is probably the Precinct of Amun-Ra. This is the only part open to the general public. There are three other parts that make up the temple complex: the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct or Montu and the Temple to Amenhotep IV – which has been dismantled. These three sections are closed to the public.

Read also: 10 fascinating Egyptian pyramid facts

Where is Karnak?

Karnak Temple Complex is in Luxor. This is in the south of Egypt, which is also known as Upper Egypt. It is on the east bank of the Nile River, and actually lies on the site of the ancient city of Thebes.

Driving to the Karnak Temple complex from the centre of Luxor takes around 15 minutes. It also only takes 6 minutes to drive between Luxor Temple and Karnak – so combining the two is simple and easy.

Luxor has a whole host of things to see and do, and is a real must-visit city in Egypt.

Luxor temple
Exploring the many temples around Egypt

Visiting Karnak Temple

As mentioned, part of the Karnak Temple Complex is open to the public. Entry costs 150 EGP, though if you’re a student make sure you show your ID card as you can get in for a reduced fee!

Visiting Karnak independently is definitely possible, but given the vast size of the temple complex it might be worth hiring a guide when you arrive. This usually costs around 50-100 EGP, and they’ll stay with you for an hour and a half. They can show you the most important parts of Karnak Temple, explain exactly what everything is, and show you the very best photo spots.

Read also: Visiting the Tutankhamun tomb: What you need to know

If you are travelling independently, you can get a microbus to Karnak Temple. These are heralded as the easiest way to travel around Luxor, and they’re cheap too. You can flag them down while they’re en route, and if they’re heading your way you can jump in. It only costs 1EGP per journey! To get a microbus to Karnak, you can definitely grab one from behind Luxor Train Station or from Luxor Temple – if you don’t want to try your hand at flagging one down, that is…

Of course, there are guided tours that take you to Karnak Temple anyway. These tend to be full day trips around Luxor, highlighting the best parts of the city. You can fly in from Sharm El Sheikh, or hop on an air conditioned coach from Hurghada.

If you visit Karnak at night, you can catch the famous sound & light show at the temple complex. It is a 1.5 hour show which recounts the history of Thebes.

This video shows some of the sound & light show!

Places to stay near Karnak

There are various places to stay that are fairly near to Karnak. Luxor has a huge variety of hotels, apartments, hostels and more – so there truly is an option for every type of traveller.

El Mesala Hotel is 1.9 miles from Karnak Temple. There are views of the Nile and Luxor Temple, and reviews praise the fantastic location and helpful staff here. The hotel offers single, double and triple rooms as well as family rooms, and there is free WiFi as well as free public on-street parking for those of you driving to Luxor. They can arrange airport pick-up/drop-off, and there is a pool, BBQ facilities, bar & restaurant and more.

Venus Hostel in Luxor is just 1.4 miles from the temple complex. Reviews cite the staff as being extremely helpful, and you’ll not find any dormitories here. Despite being a hostel, all rooms are private. There is a shared kitchen as well as free WiFi and parking; you can check in at any time, and there is a terrace area too for relaxing in the sunshine.

If it’s luxury you’re after, you’ll find it at the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa; at just 0.9 miles from Karnak Temple, it is one of the closest hotels to the site. It has eight bars, a variety of stunning rooms (from family rooms to spa suites), BBQ facilities, an airport shuttle service and so much more. The spa offers plenty of facilities and treatments, and reviews say how good the food is too!

For a full list of accommodation options available on your travel dates, use the search box below.

Other things to do near Karnak Temple

As mentioned above, Luxor is home to a whole host of things to see and do. Karnak Temple is just one of them, so here are a few other things you can get up to in the area…

  • The Valley of the Kings, and the Valley of the Queens – where royalty was buried, in mummified form.
  • The Colossi of Memnon – two ginormous ancient statues.
  • Luxor Temple – an incredible temple which presides over the area.
  • Medinet Habu – an often overlooked temple that has some wonderfully intact decor and artwork.
  • Carter’s house – if you’re interested in all things King Tut, the home of the archaeologist who discovered him is a must-see. There’s a replica tomb there, too.
  • Banana Island – you can sail down the Nile on a felucca, and head to this palm-shaded island. Come back in the evening and catch the sunset as you travel!
  • Hot air balloon – see Luxor from above, in the early hours of the day when it’s slightly cooler.

So now you have plenty of information about visiting Karnak Temple. Enjoy your trip to one of the most important places in Egypt!


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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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