What are the most photogenic tombs in the Valley of the Kings?

When visiting the Valley of the Kings, you can buy a photography ticket from the ticket office at the entrance to the Valley for LE300 (about £14.40, or $18), which allows you to take photographs in three tombs. Which are the best tombs to take pictures in? In this article, I’ll give my personal recommendation for the top three tombs.

At the time of my most recent visit (January 2019), there were eight tombs open for visitors in the Valley of the Kings. They were:

  • KV1 – Ramesses VII
  • KV2 – Ramesses IV
  • KV6 – Ramesses IX
  • KV8 – Merenptah
  • KV11 – Ramesses III
  • KV14 – Tausert & Setnakht
  • KV15 – Seti I
  • KV47 – Siptah

The open tombs do vary slowly over time. Typically one closes and a new one opens around about once a year, so the list of open tombs may not be exactly as the list above, but it’ll be pretty close. In addition to the tombs you can visit on the standard entrance ticket to the Valley (which allows you to visit three tombs), there are four additional tombs that you can buy separate tickets for at the ticket office at the entrance to the Valley. They are:

  • KV11 – Ramesses V & VI
  • KV17 – Seti I
  • KV23 – Ay
  • KV62 – Tutankhamun

Of these additional tombs, there’s no photography allowed in the tombs of Seti I or Tutankhamun, and you won’t be able to visit the tomb of Ay unless you’re visiting the Valley privately with your own car and driver, because it’s in the separate Western Valley, not the main Valley of the Kings.

My recommendations for the top three tombs for photography are:

KV11 – Ramesses III

In third place I’d put KV11, the tomb of Ramesses III. It’s beautifully decorated with scenes from the Amduat and the Book of Gates:

Ramesses III, Image 3

There are very well-executed scenes, too, of Ramesses with various gods, such as this scene showing Ramesses making an offering of incense to Osiris and Isis:

Ramesses III, Image 1

and finally the columned hall of the tomb is one of the most beautiful in any tomb in the Valley:

Ramesses III, Image 2

Definitely a tomb worth visiting and photographing.

KV2 – Ramesses IV

In second place I’d put KV2, the tomb of Ramesses IV. This tomb is very close to the entrance of the Valley and has the additional benefit of being virtually level, with no steep steps to negotiate within the tomb.

In the entrance corridor of the tomb are a large number of interesting Coptic graffiti, which are well worth the time to look at:

Ramesses IV, Image 4

Further along there are the standard scenes for a 20th Dynasty tomb from the Book of Gates:

Ramesses IV, Image 3

But the highlight of the tomb is undoubtedly the burial chamber, which is two stories high, and has wonderfully-decorated walls and ceiling, as well as still containing the immense stone sarcophagus of the king:

Ramesses IV, Image 2
Ramesses IV, Image 1

These wall scenes are an absolute delight for photography, and will amply repay a visit. My one caution about this tomb is that because it is so convenient to visit it can get extremely busy, so I’d suggest visiting either early in the morning before most visitors arrive, or late afternoon, when most have left. If you go in the middle of the day, don’t expect to see the burial chamber empty, as my photographs show!

KV9 – Ramesses V & VI

First place, though, goes to KV9, the tomb of Ramesses V and VI (started by Ramesses V, completed by Ramesses VI). This tomb requires an additional ticket costing (at the time of my most recent visit) LE100, which is about £4.80, or $6, but it’s money well spent. This is easily the best tomb in which photography is permitted in the Valley of the Kings, and a tomb in which I can spend several hours, there’s so much to see and photograph.

The tomb has the most complete depiction of the fascinating “Book of Caverns” in any Royal Tomb, and these scenes alone are worth the extra ticket. Here’s a very, very small sample of what you’ll see:

Ramesses VI, Image 6
Ramesses VI, Image 5
Ramesses VI, Image 4
Ramesses VI, Image 3

The highlight of the tomb, though, without a doubt, is the amazing burial chamber. This is an immense space, easily three stories high, with an astronomical ceiling painted in black and yellow:

Ramesses VI, Image 2
Ramesses VI, Image 1

The broken sarcophagus of the king, itself easily the height of a tall man, is dwarfed by the immense space it’s contained within. The two end walls of the burial chamber are decorated with scenes from the “Book of the Earth”, which has its most complete form in this tomb.

You’re not officially allowed to enter the burial chamber, but if the tomb is quiet (which it generally is, since it requires a special ticket), the tomb guardian will generally allow you to climb over the wooden barrier in order to get better photographs of the spectacular end walls of the chamber, particularly if he sees that you’re a keen photographer. A small tip (I’d suggest LE20) is expected for this privilege.

Those are my recommendations for the best tombs for photography in the Valley of the Kings. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please do let me know in the comments below!

All images in this article are copyright Chris Marriott 2019.

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