You’ll have seen a thousand photos of the Giza pyramids by the time you finally get here, but nothing beats getting up close and personal with these ancient monuments. The most famous and feta structures in Egypt, these ancient tombs of kings guarded by the serene Sphinx have amazed onlookers for centuries. Today, they continue to work their magic on anyone who visits. No trip to Egypt is complete without time spent here at one of the world’s most recognizable tourist attractions. These mighty monuments pay homage to the power and ambition of Egyptian pharaonic rulers.
Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Cheops or Pyramid of Khufu)
Giza’a Great Pyramid (also called the Pyramid of Cheops) is not only the most famous monument of this ancient site, but also one of the most famous monuments in the world. It was built by the pharaoh Khufu (usually called by the Greek transliteration of Cheops) and was known to the ancient Egyptians as Ekhet Khufu (“Horizon of Khufu”). According to Herodotus, 100,000 men worked on its construction for three months each year. The cubic volume of this gargantuan structure is mind-boggling. Excluding the rock foundation and inner chambers, the Great Pyramid is 2.3 million cubic meters. The base measurement is 227.5 meters and the vertical height is 137.2 meters.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Giza Pyramids
The non-claustrophobic can venture into the bowels of the pyramid, though there’s not much to see in the damp, narrow corridors. The entrance is through a passage on the north side of the pyramid, which was cut off by tomb robbers about 15 meters below the original entrance. This narrow tunnel leads to the Grand Gallery , a long passage which is a marvel of skillful masonry. Beyond this is the Tomb Chamber with the open, empty granite sarcophagus, which once held Khufu’s mummy.
Solar Boat Museum
Excavations on the south and east sides of the Pyramid of Cheops in 1954 revealed five long hollows for boats, with a Solar Barque broken into more than a thousand pieces like a votive offering. Meticulous restoration work has reassembled the barque, and the 4,500-year-old cedar boat is now on display in this small, one-room museum, just next to the Great Pyramid.
On the eastern side of the Pyramid of Cheops, three smaller pyramids were created as tombs for queens and a daughter of the pharaoh and a large burial ground for other relatives. On the south side is a row of large mastabas belonging to high dignitaries.
West of the Pyramid of Cheops is the vast royal burial ground for members of the Royal Household and senior officials of state, established during the Fourth Dynasty and used until the Sixth. Here you will find the small column entry of the Tomb of Senegemib-Inti , which contains some interesting wall carvings.
Pyramid of Chephren (Pyramid of Khafre)
The Pyramid of Chephren (Pyramid of Khafre) is located 160 meters southwest of the Great Pyramid . Built by Khufu’s son Khafre, it initially appears to be taller than his father’s earlier pyramid, as it stands on a higher piece of land. A significant portion of the original limestone enclosure survives at the top of the pyramid and the layout of the mortuary temple on the eastern side is clearly discernible. The pyramid has a height of 135.5 meters and a base of 210.5 meters.
Pyramid of Mycerinus (Pyramid of Menkaure)
The smallest of the three main pyramids of Giza is the Pyramid of Mycerinus (Pyramid of Menkaure), made of unusually large limestone blocks. It has a vertical height of 62 meters and a base measurement of 108 meters. On the south side of the pyramid are three smaller pyramids, left unfinished, for relatives of the pharaoh.
Perhaps the most celebrated monument in Egypt after the Great Pyramid itself, the enigmatic Sphinx is a simple yet finely constructed granite structure in the shape of a recumbent lion located immediately northwest of the river Pyramid of Cheops . Carved out of the natural rock, it has the head of a pharaoh (usually thought to be Chephren) and wears the royal kerchief and cobra. Weathering and deliberate mutilation have caused much damage over the centuries, but despite this, the Sphinx still gives a powerful impression of majesty and artistic achievement. The total length of the figure is 73.5 meters and the height is 20 meters.
History of the Pyramids of Giza: The Sole Survival Wonder of the Ancient World
Built by the rulers of Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty (circa 2600-2500), the Giza Pyramids are among the oldest man-made structures in the world to date. Marveled during the Greek and Roman eras as the first of the Seven Wonders of the World , they still exert a powerful fascination, both as an extraordinary feat of engineering and as a demonstration of the power of the pharaohs, who could subjugate tens of thousands. marshal to build these colossal monuments.
The question of the relationship between the size of a pyramid and the ruler for whom it was built is still unsettled. However, it seems likely that size depended on the pharaoh’s personal inclination, power, and economic resources. It has not been possible to prove an alternative theory that the size of a pyramid can be increased in stages over the course of a long reign.
Characteristics common to all the pyramids are their location on the edge of the desert west of the Nile and their structure, built from huge blocks of the local limestone and enclosed in an originally polished casing of fine-grained white limestone or granite. Hidden in the main part of the pyramid (in the later period) or under the base (in the earlier period) were the relatively small burial chamber, a chamber for the late pharaoh’s cult, and other chambers for the burial goods. Also common to all pyramids was the entrance on the north side and the mortuary temple on the east side, with a causeway (originally open, later often covered) leading to it from a valley temple on the edge of the Nile depression.
Where to stay near the pyramids of Giza
We recommend these convenient hotels with great views of the Giza Pyramids and easy access to the site:
- Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence: luxury on the west bank of the Nile, elegant decor, large rooms, expansive outdoor pool, holistic spa, five restaurants and lounges.
- Mena House Hotel: affordable five-star hotel, royalty and celebrity, 40-acre gardens, antique and handcrafted furnishings, heated outdoor pool, top-notch spa.
- Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa: mid-range pricing, less than a mile from the Sphinx, comfortable rooms, sparkling outdoor pools, stylish spa.
- Pyramids View Inn: budget hotel, panoramic rooftop terrace, warm Egyptian hospitality, free breakfast.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Giza Pyramids
- Organized Tours: Many tourists find the easiest way to visit the Giza Pyramids is by taking an organized tour. A good guide can help you understand the mind-bogglingly long history to be seen here and help you deal with the many camel and souvenir items. Taking a tour also eliminates the hassle of getting around the grand site, as you have an air-conditioned vehicle at your disposal, which can make all the difference in enjoying your visit in the desert heat.
- Full Day Tour : History buffs will appreciate the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis and Saqqara Private Tour, which includes a full day of exploring all the ancient sites in Giza, and on to even older Saqqara and Memphis, with an Egyptologist guide. If you want to pack all your pharaonic sightseeing in Cairo into one day, this is an excellent choice, with transport from your hotel doorstep.
- Half-Day Tour: If you want to take your sightseeing at a more leisurely pace, the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx Private Tour is a half-day tour of the attractions of the Giza Plateau with an Egyptologist guide. This includes pickup and drop-off from your hotel.
- Sound and Light Show: For an alternative view of the Giza Pyramids, the Pyramids Sound and Light Show lets you light up these ancient monuments under the night sky, with historical narration through the enigmatic Sphinx. Transportation is included.
- Timing: To escape the crowds and the worst of the desert heat, the sooner you can get here the better. If you wish to enter the interior of the Great Pyramid, please also note that a limited number of entrance tickets to the Great Pyramid are sold on a first come, first served basis twice a day, at 8am and again at 1 pm.
- Tickets: If you’re missing Great Pyramid maps for the interior, don’t worry. Tickets for the interior of the Pyramid of Chephren are sold throughout the day, with no limit on numbers.
- Views: The best panoramic pyramid views are on the rocky escarpment four kilometers south of the Pyramid of Mycerinus.
- Exploring the Site: Anyone with a decent fitness level can easily walk between the Pyramids and the Sphinx (as long as it’s not too hot), but if you want to get to the panoramic viewpoint, you’ll need transportation within the site. The easiest way to do this is to arrange an organized tour of the area. If you hired a taxi to take you to Giza, drivers are allowed to visit the site and take you around. For more adventure, horses and camels can be hired on site.
- Village Stables: If you want to ride horses in the pyramids, it’s worth going to the village stables (by the Sphinx car park) where the guides are recommended and the horses are kept in good conditions. The best time to ride a horse in the pyramid area is sunset, when you can head out into the surrounding desert for views of the monuments as the sun sets.
- Camel Rides: Although it is a cliché, a camel ride in front of the pyramids is one of those must-do Egyptian things. If you go on a camel once during your journey, it has to be here. Prepare to negotiate. There is an “official” price of EGP 35 per hour, but no one adheres to it and if you get to EGP 50 you should be happy.
- Feeling Peckish: If you want to treat yourself, you really can’t beat a meal or drink at the Mena House Hotel, right at the entrance to the Pyramid. For a more local (and budget) meal, there’s a row of cheap and cheerful restaurants just outside the Sphinx entrance.
- By Private Taxi: The easiest and most popular way to get here for independent travelers is to hire a taxi for a half day tour of Cairo. The taxi can then take you around (if desired) and return you to the central city afterwards. If you hire a one-way taxi, you can find a return taxi to take you back to the city at the entrance to the Sphinx.
- By local transport: You can reach the pyramids with a combination of the Cairo Metro and minibus. Take the metro to Giza and then take a minibus (just outside the exit of the Giza metro station) or taxi to the pyramids.