Ram-headed sphinxes ,Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt.
old, ram, sky, amun, tomb, rock, amon, wall, blue, path, stone, ruins, egypt, sheep, luxor, place, cairo, nobody, karnak, travel, thebes, statue, yellow, africa, famous, temple, sphinx, museum, culture, history, african, tourism, antique, ancient, sunlight, alphabet, landmark, corridor, entrance, building, egyptian, outdoors, religion, monument, sandstone, archeology, horizontal, destinations, civilization, architecture



Top choice in Luxor

Karnak is an extraordinary complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks dedicated to the Theban triad but also to the greater glory of pharaohs. The site covers more than 2 sq km; it's large enough to contain about 10 cathedrals. At its heart is the Temple of Amun, the earthly 'home' of the local god. Built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated over nearly 1500 years, Karnak was the most important place of worship in Egypt during the New Kingdom.

The complex is dominated by the great Temple of Amun-Ra – one of the world's largest religious complexes – with its famous hypostyle hall, a spectacular forest of giant papyrus-shaped columns. This main structure is surrounded by the houses of Amun's wife Mut and their son Khonsu, two other huge temple complexes on this site. On its southern side, the Mut Temple Enclosure was once linked to the main temple by an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes. To the north is the Montu Temple Enclosure, which honoured the local Theban war god.

The 3km paved avenue of human-headed sphinxes that once linked the great Temple of Amun at Karnak with Luxor Temple is now again being cleared. Most of what you can see was built by the powerful pharaohs of the 18th to 20th dynasties (1570–1090 BC), who spent fortunes on making their mark in this most sacred of places, which was then called Ipet-Sut, meaning 'The Most Esteemed of Places'. Later pharaohs extended and rebuilt the complex, as did the Ptolemies and early Christians. The further into the complex you venture, the older the structures.

The light is most beautiful in the early morning or later afternoon, and the temple is quieter then, as later in the morning tour buses bring day trippers from Hurghada. It pays to visit more than once, to make sense of the overwhelming jumble of ancient remains.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Luxor attractions

1. Mut Temple Enclosure

0.05 MILES

From the 10th pylon, an avenue of sphinxes leads to the partly excavated southern enclosure – the Precinct of Mut, consort of Amun. The Temple of Mut was…

2. Amun Temple Enclosure


Amun-Ra was the local god of Karnak (Luxor) and during the New Kingdom, when the princes of Thebes ruled Egypt, he became the preeminent state god, with a…

3. Open-Air Museum

0.14 MILES

Off to the left (north) of the first court of the Amun Temple Enclosure is Karnak’s open-air museum. The word 'museum' and the fact that there is so much…

4. Montu Temple Enclosure

0.21 MILES

Inside the Amun Temple Enclosure, there is a gate in the northern wall (on your left as you enter) near the Temple of Ptah. The gate, which is usually…

5. Luxor Museum

1.01 MILES

This wonderful museum has a well-chosen and brilliantly displayed and explained collection of antiquities dating from the end of the Old Kingdom right…

6. Mummification Museum

1.46 MILES

Housed in the former visitors centre on Luxor’s corniche, the Mummification Museum has well-presented exhibits explaining the art of mummification. The…

7. Luxor Temple

1.58 MILES

Largely built by the New Kingdom pharaohs Amenhotep III (1390–1352 BC) and Ramses II (1279–1213 BC), this temple is a strikingly graceful monument in the…

8. Theban Community Library

1.68 MILES

The latest project from Professor Kent Weeks and the Theban Mapping Project is the first open library in Luxor, a free service with general books in…