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Focal point of “Upper Egypt,” bustling Luxor was built on the site of ancient Thebes, the pharaohs’ capital at the height of their power. Nile cruises set off from here, yet it is worth dedicating a few days to the area for a private Luxor tour. Known as the world’s greatest open-air museum, this extraordinary region boasts the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings, the Karnak complex and Luxor temple on the east side of the Nile and many more tombs and temples on the west side. All told, there are 63 royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, shadowed by the pyramid-esque Al Qurn (The Horn) mountain.

Karnak itself is centered around the massive Temple of Amun-Ra and includes numerous sanctuaries, pylons and obelisks across more than 2 square kilometers – imagine an area that might hold 10 large cathedrals and you’ve captured the grandeur of a place once considered Egypt’s most important place of worship. Take a moment during your private Luxor tour to ponder the statue of Ramses II and marvel at the bas relief that is nearly 3,500 years old!

No private Luxor tour is complete without hot-air ballooning over the cliff-framed Temple of Hatshepsut at El-Deir, the only female pharaoh. Tour the mighty Colossi of Memnon. Enjoy special-access, behind-the-scenes tours to the tombs of Seti I and Queen Nefertari, the latter one of the region’s best-preserved sites. Stroll along the Avenue of the Sphinx with an Egyptologist guide who will answer all your questions and provide fabulous insight into this historically intriguing and staggeringly beautiful country.