Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
Some 165 km (103 miles) north of Luxor and 10km (6 miles) southwest of Al Balyana, Abydos is one of Egypt’s most spellbinding spots. The area was used as a burial place from c.4000 BC until well into Christian times, around AD 600. The site has been systematically excavated since 1977, and many important finds have come to light, including the tombs of kings from before the 1st Dynasty, causing Egyptian chronology to be extended by a zero dynasty. In 1991 two large ships carrying the dead were found, thought to be 5,000 years old.
The earliest known tomb of a pharaoh, dating back to around 3150 BC, was discovered at Abydos in 1993, containing some of the oldest known examples of hieroglyphic writing. In the dawn of history, Wepwawet, the jackal deity and the original god of Abydos, roamed the desert’s edge guarding the ancestral burial grounds below the dip in the western hills.
At sunset the ancients imagined the golden glow to be the staircase to the afterworld and they wished to be buried at its foot.
Most of all, however, Abydos is associated with the legend of Osiris. From the Middle Kingdom onwards, every pharaoh, as well as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, left some token of their presence or a false stele at Abydos, hoping to gain favour with Osiris in his capacity as Judge of the Court of the Hereafter.
The area is thus a mass of funeral stele, burial grounds, former temples and memorials. But it was the New Kingdom pharaoh Seti I (1291–1278 BC) who was responsible for the most beautiful tribute to Osiris, his seven-sanctuaries temple, the Great Temple of Seti I.
From the temple of Seti I to the Osireion and the Gallery of the Kings, here are the best things to do at Abydos.
The temple is entered through a mostly ruined pylon leading into the First Hypostyle Hall, which was completed by Seti’s son Ramesses II. Beyond this is the Second Hypostyle Hall with 24 papyrus columns, decorated with some of the finest reliefs in the whole country.
These exquisite reliefs on fine white limestone show Seti engaged in performing a multitude of rites in honour of Osiris and the company of gods. The reliefs on the walls on the right are particularly noteworthy. Further on are the seven sanctuaries of the six mentioned gods and of Seti himself; these would have contained their barques behind closed wooden doors.
Seti himself died before the temple was completed, leaving his son Ramesses II to finish the decoration of the courtyards and colonnades, in a clearly less sophisticated way.
In the south wing of the temple, entered from the Second Hypostyle Hall is a long passage known as the Gallery of the Kings, where Seti I and his son Ramesses are shown honouring all the kings that came before them, from King Menes to Seti I.
North of Seti’s temple is the much less well-preserved Temple of Ramesses II, his son, dedicated to the same gods. Adorned with stunning black and pink granite door frames and sandstone pillars, Dedicated to Osiris, its second court is surrounded by Osirid pillars, and its walls depict processions of soldiers, priests and some interesting art depicting the god In-hert.
Vestiges of powerful magic still cling to the sacred precincts in Abydos. It is not unusual to see local women circling the pool of the mysterious building, often said to be the burial place of Osiris but is in fact a cenotaph of Seti I, called the Osireion.
In more recent times the temple attracted the Englishwoman Dorothy Eady, who believed she was the reincarnation of a temple priestess and Seti’s lover. She spent the last 25 years of her life living at Abydos, where she provided archaeologists with details of how temples worked in ancient times. Known as Umm Seti, the Mother of Seti, she died in 1981.
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The best places to stay when visiting Abydos are in the nearby city of Sohag or the town of El Balyana which offer a range of accommodations and easy access to the ancient site.
As the nearest major city to Abydos, Sohag is a popular choice for visitors. The best areas to stay in Sohag are around the city centre, where you'll find a variety of hotels and guesthouses to suit all budgets. There are also some hotels located on the outskirts of the city offering more peace.
This small town just a short distance from Abydos is the alternative. There are several hotels and guesthouses here that offer comfortable accommodations. Some have stunning views of the Nile River.
Make the most out of your visit to Abydos with these tips.
The entrance fee for Abydos Temple is 100 Egyptian pounds.
The temple is open daily from 8am to 5pm (7am to 6pm in summer). Visitors are advised to bring a torch for inside the temples and tombs.
Abydos can be explored through various guided tour options. A popular day trip from Luxor includes transportation and a guided tour of Seti I Temple and nearby Dendera.
Multi-day tours are also available, offering visits to other ancient Egyptian sites like Karnak Temple, the Valley of the Kings, and the Great Pyramids of Giza, making Abydos a part of a larger itinerary.
There is no dress code but we recommend you wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made of breathable materials, such as cotton or linen, to help keep you cool in the hot, dry climate. It is also important to wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes, as you will likely be doing a lot of walking on uneven ground.
Tour operators in Luxor organise full-day tours that combine Abydos and Dendera. Alternatively, hire a private taxi from Luxor and go at your own pace. However, it’s a long day – expect about 10 hours to explore both sites, including the drive.
The nearest airport to Abydos is the Luxor International Airport, which is served by several airlines, including EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, and Air Cairo.
From there, you can hire a taxi or a private car to take you to Abydos. The journey takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.
The nearest train station to Abydos is the El Balyana Station, which is about 12 km away.
You can take a train from Cairo, Luxor, or Aswan to El-Balyana, and then take a taxi or a local bus to Abydos.
You can get a bus from Luxor bus station. The bus station is located in the city centre, near the Luxor train station. Look for a bus that goes to Sohag or El Minya.
The best time to visit Abydos in Egypt is during the winter season, from November to February. During this time, the weather is cooler and more comfortable for exploring the outdoor attractions in the region, including the ancient temples and archaeological sites.
In the summer months, from June to August, the temperatures in Abydos can be extremely hot, with highs reaching over 100°F (38°C). This can make outdoor activities uncomfortable for some visitors.
Spring (March to May) and fall (September to October) are also good times to visit Abydos, with milder temperatures and fewer crowds compared to the peak winter season.
However, keep in mind that temperatures can still be quite hot during the daytime, so it's important to bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and protective clothing if you plan to explore outdoor attractions during these seasons.
Find out more about the best time to visit Egypt.