The Great Pyramid of Egypt is one of the oldest and longest-lasting wonders of the ancient world. Read on to learn more about our visit!
It’s the (unplanned) year of the pyramids! Less than a year ago, I was exploring Xunantunich in Belize and then we visited Teotihuacan in Mexico a few months ago. Of course, we couldn’t visit Egypt without a visit to one of the seven wonders of the world – the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
The Great Pyramid of Egypt – WOW!
Before the Eiffel Tower was built, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,000 years at 481 feet. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built over twenty years, is also known as the Pyramid of Khufu. It’s now 450 feet tall.
Pyramids were built for religious reasons as a pathway to the afterlife. The pyramids’ chambers were built according to the cardinal directions of east and west. As the sun rises and life begins in the east and the sun sets and life ends in the west, so the pharaoh will be able to walk east to west inside the pyramid into the afterlife. Pyramids also served as a monument for the king to represent his legacy.
The efforts to build the Great Pyramid are baffling. How did they build this humongous structure without modern technology? What did their blueprints look like? Researchers have estimated over two million blocks, and the average size of the blocks is two tons! The theory of how it was built includes ramps, water, and many skilled workers.
The pyramid was a beacon and probably unusual to see in a desert, so it attracted attention. This means the tombs were looted and even mummies disappeared. The tombs were stocked with riches, tools, and anything the pharaoh would need when he entered the afterlife.
Should I Go Inside the Great Pyramid?
While climbing the pyramid (past the first landing) is now prohibited, you can still enter the tomb. It’s a fairly quick trip but don’t do it if you get claustrophobic or don’t like being hot. It can also be hard for tall people. The pathway in and out are the same and it’s a narrow journey under short spaces, on steep walkways, and with no ventilation.
It’s cool to say you’ve been inside the pyramid but it’s not life-changing. The final destination inside is a dark, empty room. If you want to see more impressive tombs, go to the Saqqara pyramids about 20 minutes away or the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
But There is More Than One Pyramid Here
The Giza Pyramid complex includes five additional pyramids and the Sphinx. (Fun fact: there are 118 discovered pyramids in Egypt.)
Khufu’s son Khafre built the second pyramid and the Great Sphinx of Giza. His is the only pyramid with the facade still existing at the top. While his pyramid is shorter than his father’s pyramid, at certain viewpoints, the optical illusion makes it look taller. Sneaky son! (It’s the middle pyramid in all of these photos.)
The third and smallest pyramid was built 30 years after the second by Pharaoh Menkaure. Nearby, there are also three small pyramids built for Khufu’s wives.
The Great Sphinx of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a giant statue with a human head and a lion’s body. This one is thought to be guarding the pyramid.
At the Sphinx, you’ll get a sense of how close the city of Giza has built up around the complex. A short walk and across the street from the Sphinx is the neighborhood and the Pizza Hut with the most epic view.
How Do I Get to the Pyramids?
The pyramids are located in Giza, a city about 15 minutes (without traffic) and 10 miles outside of Cairo. We arrived around 8 a.m. and it was already getting busy, though most of the tours arrive by 9 or 10 a.m.
There are many tour buses and private tours that will take you here. We did a 5-6 hour private tour to Giza and Saqqara with Love Egypt Holidays and our guide Shereif was FULL of information. I also browsed through Viator when searching for a tour. We chose to do a tour because it made transportation easy and guides can enhance the experience, especially in Egypt where history runs deep. They also show you the best poses, such as the below photo.
Our tour stopped at three different spots around the complex for different views. If you’re not a part of a tour, you’ll need to walk from the entrance or find a camel!
There are many hotels in Giza, including the luxurious and award-winning Mena House, but we elected to stay in Cairo since there is more to do there. If you don’t mind hotel-hopping, you could easily get a hotel in walking distance from the Giza Pyramid Complex for one-night and head back to Cairo for the rest of your trip. I estimate a rideshare from downtown Cairo to the pyramids is no more than $5 USD.
Quick Tips for Giza Pyramid Complex
- Be sure to wear sunscreen and bring water. There is little shade at this site. A hand or battery-powered fan might be handy too.
- I recommend wearing closed toe shoes, especially if you’re going inside the pyramid.
- Costs: 50 LE (about $2.79 USD) to get into the complex; additional 100 LE (about $5.58 USD) to go inside the Great Pyramid; additional 20 LE (about $1.12 USD) to go inside Khafre’s pyramid
- Solar Boat Museum: Behind the Great Pyramid is this museum that houses the huge boat found near the pyramid. It was to be used by the pharaoh to get to the afterlife. Admission is 50 LE (about $2.79 USD).
- Camel rides: if you want to ride a camel in Egypt, this is probably the most scenic location. If you do a camel ride, choose a camel that looks healthy and well cared for. The cost will be around 50 LE (about $2.79 USD).
- Hassles and Scams: Know what you’re getting into. If you take a photo of a camel, if someone offers to take a photo for you, or if someone offers to guide you, it is likely not for free. Give a small tip for photos, and for a guide or camel ride, agree on a price and be clear on the terms before you start.
Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara
If you want to see the first pyramid, go to Saqqara, which is about 20 minutes away. The Pyramid of Djoser, also known as the Step Pyramid is here along with many other ruins. Since most people only go to the Giza Pyramid Complex, this archeological site is pretty quiet. The admission fee is 60 LE (about $3.35 USD).
Don’t forget a selfie with a camel!
The Great Pyramid and Egyptian pyramids, in general, were on my life list but not high on my priority list. It was incredible to experience!
It only gets better from here. While the pyramids were high on my list of memories from this trip, can you believe this was my least favorite?! I’m hustling to share everything in the next two months, so more posts on Egypt coming soon!
What sight or landmark is number one on your life list?