Dendera is sometimes omitted from the packed itineraries of the tour operators. The temple is located about 60 kilometres north of Luxor, on the west bank of the river Nile, opposite the small town of Qena. Dendara was known in ancient Egypt as Iunet or Tantere, and known to the Greeks as Tentyris, it was the capital of the 6th nome of Upper Egypt and hence a town of some importance. Since antiquity, the population of the town has moved across the Nile to Qena on the east bank. The ancient temple now lies isolated on the edge of the desert. The main temple at Dendara is the most elaborately decorated and best preserved temple of its period. It has survived the years well despite the destruction of the temples of Hathor's consort Horus and their child Ihy, which at one time stood close by.
The temple of Hathor was constructed over a thirty four year period, between 54 and 20 B.C. In 51 B.C. after four years of building activity, Ptolemy XII died leaving the temple unfinished. It is believed that the remainder of the temple was build during the twenty one year reign of his successor, Queen Cleopatra VII. At the time of her death in 30 B.C. the decoration work on the outer rear wall, had just begun.
At the front of the main temple are several Roman period kiosks. After these, is the monumental gateway of Domitian and Trajan, which is set within a massive mud brick enclosure wall that surrounds the complex. The site lacks a colonnade and the two pylons which would normally precede the inner temple. The stone wall that surrounds the inner enclosure is unfinished, but contains side entrances which open to a large hypostyle hall, which was added in the 1st century A.D. by the Roman emperor Tiberius.
On the roof in the southwest corner of the temple, is a kiosk, with four Hathor columns on each side. Sockets in its architraves suggest a barrel shaped timber roof with a double hull and segmented pediment, it is thought that it may have had windows in the roof to let in the sun's rays. In the floor of the chapel there is a light well, allowing light to reach the Horus chapel, located below on the main floor of the temple.
Located at the temple's southwest corner, is what remains of a sacred lake which provided water for the complex, with stairs descending in each corner, this stone lined basin is the best preserved of its type in Egypt. Today, the water has gone, and trees grow within its walls. On the rear outside wall of the temple behind the sanctuary, can be found two waterspouts in the form of lion heads which drained rainwater from the roof. Scenes can be found that depict Cleopatra VII and Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar.