Back in 2016, the Egyptian government opened two tombs that have never before been available to the public: the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings and the tomb of Nefertari in The Valley of the Queens. In my opinion, both should absolutely be on your Egypt trip itinerary. But! Each tomb cost around 50USD to enter (as of November 1, 2018), which might be more than you’re prepared for a day trip. We debated, and initially decided we’d only pick one, which led us to asking every local we met which was more worth visiting.
It was a matter of hot debate—literally the split was 50/50. In the end we decided that though it was quite pricey for both of us to go, it was worth it. Both tombs were spectacular, but we had a clear winner at the end of the day. If we had to make the choice, we’d pick…
The tomb of Seti I versus the tomb of Nefertari
Visiting the tomb of Seti I
Our visit to the Valley of the Kings already included two extra tombs: the tomb of Ramses V / VI and the tomb of Tut Anhk Amun. We were so undecided about visiting the tomb of Seti I, in fact, that we didn’t buy a ticket at first. It was a game-time decision, and it was a good one.
The tomb of Seti I is the largest in the Valley of the Kings. Visitors descend slowly down a wide, white hallway. The color is rich and the paint still looks fresh. In some places, you can even still see the streaky brushstrokes. Seti’s tomb features different carvings than in other tomb: distinct hairstyles, a cow being milked, and surprisingly, rabbits. The hieroglyph details were carved as well as painted, and looked rich and life-like. The tomb culminates in a massive chamber with an arched ceiling. It was absolutely stunning. Golden figures on a black field, easily two stories from where you view. From that chamber, the tomb descends deeper, but visitors are only allowed as far as this point. Which brings me to one of the drawbacks. Yes, it is the largest tomb, but you don’t get to see all of it.
Unlike at the tomb of Nefertari, visitors to the tomb of Seti I can stay below for an open amount of time. But similar to Neferari, you’re technically not allowed to take photos. The guides at Seti I were running a smooth operation around photo-taking. First they asked for 50USD to take photos, which we refused. But by the time the one guide had walked us to the end chamber, he was willing to take 200 Egyptian pounds. Because we were the only ones inside, he also led us past the barricades and into several of the antechambers. Again, something that never would have happened if we were with a big group.
Visiting the tomb of Nefertari
We visited the tomb of Nefertari on the early afternoon, when The Valley of the Queens was mostly deserted. Here’s another perk of touring Egypt independently—you can wait out the tourist groups and get the sites and tombs to yourself if you’re patient enough. Technically tourists are only allowed in Nefertari’s tomb for ten minutes due to fear of degeneration. But because we were alone and the guide liked us, we spent almost double that. The guides seem to feel a particular pride for her tomb. They painstakingly turn on the lights and the humidifier for each visitor—as soon as you leave, it all goes dark again.
The tomb of Neferari is much smaller than Seti I’s. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in splendor. I can’t lie, tears sprang into my eyes when I walked into her tomb. The paint is stunning—rich and vibrant earth tones contrasted with pure gold. There’s a huge diversity of illustration. You’ll see animals, children, trees, and different foods. A lovingly-rendered portrait of Nefertari, depicted in a floating white gown, wanders through these rich carvings. In fact, this tomb focused deeply on both the gods and the mummification process. Small details, like carvings of the canopic jars, further enrich the space.
Like her temple at Abu Simbel, the tomb also contains no mention of her husband, Ramses. His presence shows in other ways. The space is an obvious labor of love—not just a tomb but a tribute.
Should I visit the tomb of Seti I or the tomb of Nefertari?
The difference between the tomb of Seti I and the tomb of Nefertari comes down to construction versus decoration. In terms of construction, I’d rate Seti I a 10/10 and Nefertari an 8/10. In terms of decoration, I’d rate Seti I an 8/10, and Nefertari, well…a 12/10.
In terms of cost: as of November 2018, the cost for Nefertari was going up. Both require the additional purchase of the Valley of the Kings/Queens ticket, respectively. Because the Valley of the Kings has many other splendid tombs to visit, Seti I’s tomb is somewhat more of a bargain. I personally found the Valley of the Queens a little lackluster outside of Nefertari’s tomb.
Simply put: plan to visit both. The cost is a little steep, yes, but if you’re more than mildly interested in Egyptian history and Ancient Egypt, you shouldn’t skip either. Besides, who knew how long the tombs will stay open?