During the greatest period of ancient Egyptian history almost every pharaoh was buried here in tombs hewn into the rock and decorated with extraordinary art.
To date, 63 tombs have been discovered and there may still be more to come, making this the richest archaeological site on earth. The numbers assigned to the tombs represent the order in which they were discovered, but a better way to approach the valley is to visit the tombs in the order in which they were constructed, as they are presented here. In this way it is possible to witness the flowering and eventual decline of ancient Egyptian tomb art.
Top 10 Features
1 Tomb of Tuthmosis III (No.34)
2 Tomb of Amenhotep II (No.35)
3 Tomb of Tutankhamun (No.62)
4 Tomb of Horemheb (No.57)
5 Tomb of Ramses I (No.16)
6 Tomb of Seti I (No.17)
7 Tomb of Merneptah (No.8)
8 Tomb of Ramses III (No.11)
9 Tomb of Ramses IV (No.2)
10 Tomb of Ramses VI (No.9)
Tuthmosis III (No.34)
Tuthmosis III was one of the first pharaohs to be buried in the valley. His tomb is at the furthest end, burrowed high into the mountainside in an attempt to thwart thieves. The tomb decorations from this period are very crude, with figures rendered as stick people.
Amenhotep II (No.35)
This is one of the deepest tombs in the valley, with 90 steps leading down to the various chambers. Amenhotep II ruled immediately after Tuthmosis III and this tomb has similarly basic wall paintings, as well as containing Amenhotep�s sarcophagus.
This is a very small tomb, but it is one of the most visited thanks to the story of its discovery by Howard Carter. All of the treasures have been removed and visitors must be content with seeing the king�s mummy, which lies inside a gilded coffin.
The introduction of bas-relief in this tomb, in which figures are carved out before painting, shows an advance in tomb art. Not all figures are finished and it is fascinating to see the work in various stages of completion.
Ramses I (No.16)
Ramses I ruled only for a single year and his tomb is correspondingly modest in size. It has the shortest entrance corridor in the valley leading to a small burial chamber. However, the colours of the tomb paintings remain particularly vibrant.
Seti I (No.17)
If you visit only one tomb, it should be this one � the longest, deepest and most lavishly decorated tomb in the valley. The vaulted burial chamber boasts a beautiful ceiling, showing the constellations surrounded by a line-up of deities.
One of the many sons of Ramses II, Merneptah�s tomb almost equals that of Seti I for grandeur. This is the first tomb in which the axis is completely straight, terminating in a tomb chamber containing the pharaoh�s magnificent granite sarcophagus.
Ramses III (No.11)
This is also known as the �Tomb of the Harpists� after the bas-relief of two musicians. Unusually for a royal tomb, its colourful reliefs include scenes of everyday Egyptian life.
Ramses IV (No.2)
Ramses III was the last of the great pharaohs. The quality of the craftsmanship in the tomb of his successor is noticeably poorer than those that came before.
Ramses VI (No.9)
This tomb has very dense decoration, representing sacred texts and imagery, central to which is the voyage of the sun god Ra through the underworld and his victorious reemergence in the morning.
- Make sure you begin by dropping into the Visitors� Centre, which has an excellent scale model of the valley.
- Do not get too ambitious: half a dozen tombs is usually about as many as most people can visit in one trip.
- There is basic cafe�restaurant selling water, soft drinks and snacks at the entrance to the valley.