Facts about Top 15 Pyramids and Advice on Visiting Pyramids in Egypt
As some of the last standing wonders of the world, the Pyramids of Giza have always been a must see item on my bucket list. I learned that there are around 118 Pyramids in Egypt and I was also wondering about the other pyramids: Should I visit the other pyramids too? Can I find advice online about what other pyramids are there and how to visit them? Will I enjoy my visit to the Giza Pyramids? What can I do there? Here is what I have learnt.
My Advice on Visiting the Pyramids is: Visiting the Giza Pyramids is definitely worth it and I also enjoyed going to some of the other pyramids. Always Check government advisories before traveling and do your due diligence, but cease the opportunity to visit these magnificent monuments when you can. You can find the oldest pyramids in the world in Egypt. I did not go to all of them in one visit though, but over the years, I have visited quite a few of them. I will point out the significance of each and things to do when visiting. Here is a list of the most important pyramids in Egypt:
- Khufu (Cheops)
- Khafra (Chephren)
- Menkaure (Mycerinus)
- Amenemhat III
- Red Pyramid
Where in Egypt are the Pyramids?
Most popular pyramids are in Giza or close to Giza Plateau. Other pyramids are distributed across Egypt with some as far as Nubia (or Nubah) in the south and other are actually located beyond Egyptian borders in Sudan. Top advice I have for you is: Take the time if you can to visit these structural ancient wonders, check the weather before going, and take water and snacks with you.
Egyptian Pyramids Facts
Pyramids of Giza
These are the three famous pyramids of Giza and they are located in Greater Cairo near a neighborhood called “Al Haram” or “EL Haram” in Egyptian Arabic or the “The Pyramid”. GIZA is actually a governorate where the Giza Pyramids are located, but it is right next to Cairo governorate on the map and when moving between the two governorates it just feels like one huge city.
The Biggest of the three great pyramids is the Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops Pyramid) and it is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The middle one is the Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren Pyramid), and the smallest of the three is the Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus Pyramid) . The Great Sphinx is nearby at the same location.
The Other Pyramids: Which Pyramid is the Oldest Pyramid on Earth?
In fact, there are more than 118 counted Pyramids in Egypt including the well-known three Giza pyramids. In 1842 an archaeologist (Karl Richard) wrote the first Pyramids list and counted 67 pyramids then later on more pyramids were discovered till the count reached 118 pyramids in 2008.
All Egyptian pyramids are located on the west bank of the river Nile except the small dynasty pyramid located in the east side. The earliest pyramids were found at the site of “Saqqara” northwest of “Memphis” and the earliest of them is the Pyramid of Djoser (Step Pyramid of Djoser) during the age of the 3rd dynasty 2610 BC (4600+ years old). An important advice on visiting the pyramids here: Visit Saqqara Pyramids if you are in Egypt.
This group of pyramids (Djoser pyramid and the surrounding ones) were designed by the oldest famous Engineer ever known in history called “Imhotep” which means ‘He Who Come in Peace’. Imhotep was considered a god of god of science, medicine, and architecture by Egyptians. He was the chief architect of the Djoser Pyramids. He decided to try something which had never been attempted by anyone else before him: He decided to build a pyramid using only stones instead of the small tomb pharaohs used use to build of mud-bricks called “Mastaba” or “Mastabah” so, he first started building “Mastaba” tomb with lime stone blocks then he placed another Mastaba over the first one. It is a little smaller than the one at the base and repeated this process until it became the first pyramid in Egypt of 6 steps..
Djoser pyramid is called the “Step Pyramid”. It is 62 meters high and it was built of six levels of stones (six steps). After finishing it, this “Imhotep” pyramid design became the standard method for building pyramids.
Top Egyptian Pyramids to Visit
Here is a list of the most important and oldest Egyptian pyramids:
|Pyramid||Site||Age||Dynasty||Facts and History|
|Khufu (Cheops)||Giza||3800||4th||The largest pyramid and one of the seven wonders still standing|
|Khafra (Chephren)||Giza||3400||4th||The second largest pyramid after Khufu (Cheops)’s|
|Menkaure (Mycerinus)||Giza||unknown||4th||The third largest pyramid after Khafra|
|Djoser||Saqqara||3900||3rd||Also called “step pyramid of Djoser” and the oldest pyramid on earth|
|Sneferu||Dahshur||3760||4th||Also called “Bent Pyramid”|
|Amenemhat III||Dahshur||unknown||12th||Also called “Black Pyramid”|
|Lahun||Al Fayoum||Unknown||12th||This pyramid was made for king Senusret|
|Hawara||Al Fayoum||1850||12th||The pyramid was made for king Amenemhet III|
|Ahmos||Abydos||Unknown||18th||This pyramid was built to honor the king not to be his tomb like other pyramids were built for|
|Red Pyramid||Dahshur||3740||4th||This pyramid was built by king Sneferu|
|Meidum||Maydum||3800||4th||Built by king Djoser and finished during the time of king Sneferu|
|Unas||Saqqara||2400||5th||This was the first pyramid with texts on the inside walls|
Detailed Facts about Egyptian Pyramids
The great pyramid of Khufu is the oldest and largest one of the three pyramids of Giza complex and also it’s the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the last one that is still standing. The ancient name:
Based on the writings on the walls found inside, it is believed that this pyramid was built more than 3800 years ago during the period of the fourth dynasty and it took 20 years’ to finish building it and it was meant to be the tomb of the Pharaoh Khufu. It was built from Limestone and granite at the height of 147 meters on a square base 230 meters’ length (the four sides of the base point to the four compass points). It is estimated to weigh 5.9 million tons.
Originally the Khufu pyramid outer surface was smooth, shiny, and covered with lime stones but, what we see today is the underlying core structure layer and the stones once covered the surface can be seen scattered around the pyramid base. There is a set of buildings related to the great pyramid (two temples in honor of the king, three little pyramids of the king’s wives and a small “Mastaba” tombs for the nobles around the pyramid.
In 2013 papyrus rolls were discovered (Diary of Merer) which were the logbooks recording his daily transportation of stones from Tura ( or Torah) limestone quarry to Giza during the period of the Great Pyramid construction. However until today, no one knows the method and the process of the building this pyramid except some theories written by archaeologists (it’s the mystery of the Pyramids).
King Khufu is supposed to be buried in the great pyramid but his mummified remains were never found and assumed to be stolen by tomb robbers. There is still a theory that it might be hidden inside the mysterious design and many Egyptologists hope that one day the pyramid will reveal the greatest secret of the real resting place of the great Pharaoh.
Khafra (or Khafre (Chephren):
The second largest pyramid in the Giza site and was built 40 years after the great pyramid of Khufu was built (3400 years old). It was built during the period of the 4th dynasty for the third pharaoh Khafre (the son of Khufu and the grandson of Sneferu) who was the same king who ordered to build the great sphinx to serve as a guardian of the ground at Giza. The ancient name is:
Khafre pyramid was build 143 meters high on a base 215 meters’ length, it was built with the same materials of the great pyramid and for the same purpose (to be the tomb of the king). Pyramid of Khafre was robbed during the period of the 19th dynasty. The original entrance of the pyramid was found in 1818 by Italian archaeologist on the north side of the pyramid but, when he went inside hoping to see the king’s mommy he found the sarcophagus open and empty.
Pyramid design was nearly the same as the great pyramid except that the stones of the base are larger than the ones put in higher levels and the bottom stones cover was made of pink granite.
The third and the smallest pyramid in the Giza site, it was built to be the tomb of the 4th dynasty pharaoh Menkaure. Its 65 meters high and the length of the base is 104 meters, built of lime stone, red granite and white limestone as the casing. It’s believed to be an unfinished construction because part of the granite was left rough not smooth like the other two older pyramids.
Menkaure pyramid was built later during the 4th dynasty but date is unknown because the pharaoh Menkaure period was not defined accurately. The ancient name of it is:
In 1837 a British archaeologist discovered human bones in a wooden coffin inside this pyramid which were believed to be the remains of the king Menkaure. This is because the coffin had the name of the pharaoh written on but, after examining the bones with the radiocarbon dating method it was determined to be less than 2000 years’ old. This means it may have been brought from somewhere else to replace the real remains of the king but, anyway these remains are now kept at a museum in England since that time.
Djoser (also Djoser or Zoser)
The earliest stone building in ancient Egypt located at Saqqara site northwest of the city of Memphis, it’s a 6 leveled pyramid designed like steps (this is why it’s called the step pyramid) 62 meters high, base length is 121 meters. It’s believed to be the oldest pyramid ever known and was built during the 3rd dynasty (3900 years old).
This pyramid was built by “Imhotep” who was the king’s highest official (Vizier) to be the tomb of the pharaoh Djoser who was the first king of the 3rd dynasty and ruled the old kingdom for nearly 38 years.
This pyramid became the prototype pyramid which then all later pyramids were built the same way and using nearly the same design even the great pyramid of Khufu. This pyramid also was robbed and king remains were never found.
Built for the pharaoh Userkaf the founder of the 5th dynasty and located in Saqqara site on the north-east of the step pyramid (Djoser Pyramid), 49 meters high, 73 meters’ base length. It was discovered by an Italian Egyptologist in 1831 but no one entered the pyramid till 1927 when archeologists opened the entrance made by pyramids rubbers and found the temple of the king which was proven because they found a red granite head that belongs to the king Userkaf.
The last king “Unas” of the 5th dynasty built this pyramid and wrote on the walls for the first time which later became a tradition till the middle kingdom pharaohs started to write on the coffins.
According to the book of dead (it’s a collection of papyrus with funerary texts) Egyptologists differentiated between the periods of writing on the walls which started by king Unas and later periods when writing became a tradition on coffins.
Unas pyramid is located in Saqqara site and was entered first in 1881 and text was discovered for the first time.
The smooth sided Teti pyramid is located in Saqqara site It is the second pyramid contains texts. It was built 52 meters high, 78 meters’ base length and it was first opened by an Italian Egyptologist in 1882 and discovered the complex of Teti which contained two pyramids of queens and a funerary temple (the temple where pharaohs prepared the mummies for burial in arrangements inherited from the funerary complex of Abusir.
Funerary temples are built to be dedicated to Anubis (Anubis is the ancient name of god of death and afterlife and usually referred to in the old drawings by a picture of a man with canine head). Chambers inside the pyramid were found intact and king’s remains found even including the viscera (the group of tissues and organs inside the body) and were contained in a jar. Death mask (a mask created with the look of the king’s face and put on his face when he was first put to rest) was found inside.
Bent Pyramid of Sneferu
This was the second pyramid build by the pharaoh Sneferu, it was also called “the southern shining pyramid” and located in “Dahshur” 40 kilometers south of Cairo, its 104 meters high, 189 meters’ base length.
The pyramid was built rising from the bottom at 54-degree inclination and 43 degrees at the top section which gave it the “bent” appearance. In 2019 the Egyptian government decided to open the Bent pyramid for tourism for the first time.
One of the largest pyramids in Dahshur (also called North Pyramid) site 105 meters high, 220 meters’ base length which makes it the third largest pyramid in Egypt after the Khufu and Khafre pyramids, it was built during the age of king Sneferu of the 4th dynasty.
It was all covered by a white layer limestone which later was removed partially exposing the red core of the pyramid’s limestone. Red Pyramid was closed to tourists for a long time but, now it’s open for visitors even to go inside and explore the chambers.
Amenemhat III (Black Pyramid)
The Black Pyramid is in Dahshur site. Originally there were 11 pyramids at the Dahshur site and now there are only 5 pyramids remaining and the black pyramid is one of them (Amenemhat Pyramid). It was named Black Pyramid because of its black appearance due to the mud bricks used to build it, it is 75 meters high, 105 meters’ base length and was built during the age of the middle kingdom “12th dynasty”. This pyramid was built with mud bricks instead of limestone and low elevation of the building led to entire pyramid to sink into ground and crack down due to instability caused by the groundwater from the Nile.
The mostly damaged (or unfinished) pyramid of Djedefre who was the son of king Khufu is located in Abu Rawash site. It was 67 meters high, 106 meters’ base length and built during the 4th dynasty. It’s believed that it was about the size of the third smallest pyramid of Giza (Menkaure Pyramid) but it was the most beautiful of all three pyramids due to its exterior imported granite and it was crowned by a large pyramidion (the cap stone of the pyramid).
It is also believed that Djedefre Pyramid was destroyed by the Roman Empire during the occupation of Egypt to build their own pyramid. This pyramid was different in design as the chambers were under the pyramid not inside like other pyramids designs.
Lahun (Kahun) or Pyramid of Senusret II ( Sesostris II )
El Lahun is a village in Al Fayoum governorate and it is the location of the pyramid of pharaoh Senusret and this is why they call the pyramid by the name of the village not the king. It was built during the age of the 12th dynasty and made of mud bricks.
Near this pyramid a village was discovered (800 meters from the pyramid) in 1888 which is believed to be the workers village (the village was known as Kahun) who built the pyramid and then served the funerary procedures of the king.
Hawara (or Amenemhet III) Pyramid
Pyramid of Hawara was made for king Amenemhet of the 12th dynasty, it is located in Al Fayoum site and it was built out of stones and covered by limestone at a height of 58 meters and 100 meters’ base length.
King Amenemhet III was a powerful king and managed to occupy more lands than what his father left him (his father was king Sesostris) and also developed his kingdom economy and increased the kingdom’s planted lands near the Qarun Lake. This great king was known also by his development in the temple of the goddess “Hathour or Hat-hour” in Sinai.
Ahmos (or Ahmose) Pyramid
Pyramid of Ahmos (or Ahmose) was a royal pyramid built at the Abydos site not to be the tomb of the king but only to honor him and a pyramid built for that purpose was called “Cenotaph”. This pyramid was 40 meters high but we can only see 10 meters’ today and 52 meters’ base length. We don’t have much information about this pyramid but Egyptologists found no chambers for burial but only discovered a small pyramid near which was believed to be built to honor the king’s grandmother “Tetisheri”.
Meidum (or Maydum)
The first straight sided pyramid but it partially collapsed, it is not only a pyramid but also few “Mastaba” made of mud bricks around with 65 meters high and 144 meters’ base length.
It is believed to be built during the 4th dynasty by the king Djoser and completed by Sneferu located 100 Km south of Cairo in an Area named “Maydum”.
Visiting the Pyramids
The most famous Pyramids: Pyramids of Giza (at the Giza Necropolis)
Giza Necropolis in Giza is a complex (south-west of Cairo). Giza complex includes the three famous pyramids and the great sphinx of Giza which were all built during the time of the old kingdom of ancient Egypt and also the site includes cemeteries and remains of the old Egyptian worker’s village (thousands of pharaohs workers built each pyramid in different time periods). The three Giza Pyramids are Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), and Menkaure (Mycerinus).
You can also find here the tomb of queen Khentkaus which is located in the center of the complex which includes the queen’s pyramid, boat pit, pyramid town and valley temple.
Are the pyramids in the desert?
The three famous pyramids were royal tombs in Giza plateau at the edge of “Sahara Desert” but, we will talk later about the actual number of the pyramids in Egypt. Pyramids exist down the Nile river valley.
In the time they were built they were centers of temple complex and the same shape was also used later by the Greeks and Romans. Pyramids also are found south of Egypt in the Nubian kingdom of “Meroe”, south America and China.
What to do at the Pyramids of Giza
The first time I visited the Giza location and went through the gates, I felt the strong presence of these great monuments. Take the first look at the pyramids once you reach there let the feeling sink in for a few minutes in silence and enjoy this mysterious feeling and moments.
Being there at the scene is different from watching a video or images of pyramids. This is the message coming from those people who lived here thousands of years ago. Until today, we are still trying to uncover the secrets of these great structures.
Take lots of pictures and videos where allowed, try riding camels or horses, visit the other monuments ate the complex, and maybe go inside the largest pyramid.
Can you go inside a pyramid in Egypt?
The simple answer is: Yes, you can. You can reach to the largest Giza pyramid entrance and walk inside along the narrow tunnel. I wouldn’t recommend for you to go there in the summer unless you can make it there early in the morning, the tunnel is 1 meter high and 1-meter-wide with about 20 people walking inside the same time and some of them were very slow.
It was quite and effort and it became very hot while it was cold outside! Once you get into the grand gallery you finally can stand strait after the 100 meters walk in the tunnel then you get to see the tomb chamber where you can watch the empty granite sarcophagus as it once would have contained Khufu’s mummy.
Can you take pictures inside the pyramids?
Simply, No. It’s forbidden to shoot pictures inside the Pyramid. The great pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops)) is not just a block of stones shaped structure which is the famous look we see in pictures, it’s a huge 140M height building with squared base with length of 230M (this height is equal to 40 floors height building) and weighing nearly 6 million tons, it’s the oldest seven wonders of the ancient world.
What is Inside the Pyramids?
Before I visited the great pyramid I thought there is nothing inside to see, but what is really inside the great pyramid of Giza? The below figure shows a simple drawing for inside design of the great pyramid.
I learned later that the method and the process of how the pharaohs built the pyramids is still a mystery and no one knows for sure how did they do it! They are all made of “Lime Stone and Marble” and it was built in 20 years’ period with 120,000 workers to be a tomb and there are three known chambers inside (king, queen and subterranean chamber).
With four air shafts and narrow entrance, and all these places are connected to each other by very narrow corridors and passageways and part of these places are under the ground of the pyramid.
Take a Tour Around the Giza Complex
The great pyramid is surrounded by several buildings “Pyramids Complex” which you should be aware of when you are taking your tour and moving around privately or with a guide (the below figure shows the most important monuments you should notice).
At the foot of this Pyramid, there are pits that used to host boats of Khufu that were buried with him. Only two of these boats were found. One of them was re-assembled and exhibited is a specially built museum at the location of the pit. Later on it was moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum. Here is a video that explains more about the mysterious boats:
In my hand drawing figure below I tried to cover the important things in my opinion and I counted 14 buildings which I think everyone should see and take time shoot some photos:
- Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) (the great pyramid)
- Western cemetery of workers
- Tomb of Hemon (the prime minister of Khufu (Cheops))
- Queen Hetepheres tombs
- Eastern cemetery of workers
- Pyramid of Khafra (or Khafra (Chephren)) (the middle size pyramid)
- Temple of Khafra
- Great Sphinx (famous statue of lion body and human head)
- Subsidary pyramid of Khafra’s
- Tomb of queen Khentkawes
- Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus) (the 3rd and smaller pyramid of the three famous pyramids)
- Temple of Menkaure (Mycerinus)
- Queen Pyramids (three pyramids aside)
- Valley temple of Menkaure (Mycerinus)
Take a walk (with a guiding map) around the pyramids complex and you can reach the Great Sphinx near the car parking lot. You can ask your guide to pick a horse or camel for you to ride. Enjoy your ride in the pyramids desert. Make it in the early morning or closer to sunset to avoid the hot sun.
I was in a group there and each had his or her own camel with a guide walking in front to lead the camels and we took nice pictures.
You really have to hold on as the camel gets up after you mount and when you get off
¦. Other than that it’s a smooth ride and much easier that riding a horse. After riding around the pyramids we rode back toward the Sphinx, the whole trip was about a 45-minute ride
Evening Sights and Sounds Show at Giza Pyramids Complex
You can have night trip to show at the Pyramids of Giza called “Pyramids Sound and Light show” in the open air at a location of the complex where a light show and sound tracks are played almost every day.
You can enjoy setting by the sphinx and watching the show which is all about history of the pharaohs and ancient Egypt and how history has progressed until modern times.
Can You Climb the Pyramids?
If by climbing you mean to the top, then the answer is: No. Climbing the pyramids is illegal. Climbing may also not be safe and many accidents have happened before for people falling down the great pyramid which can be fatal.
You can still climb up a few blocks to take photos and have fun but don’t go too far. The height of Khufu (Cheops) pyramid is around 140M (this is the height of a nearly 40 floors building). There are some steps close to the entrance and you can get reasonably high enough to snap some great selfies, but you need to be careful as you can easily fall off 20 or 30 meters.
How Much does it Cost to Visit the Pyramids?
You can plan to visit the Pyramids by hiring a private local guide to show you around and give you a historical overview and tour, or you can buy a detailed map for the area and take your own private free tour.
Price lists are hanging everywhere once you enter the pyramids complex area, the following table shows that (Please note that prices may change from time to time):
|Place||Adult Price||Student Price|
|Pyramids Complex Area||EGP 120||EGP 60|
|Inside the Great Pyramid||EGP 300||EGP 150|
|Inside Khafre (Chephren) Pyramid||EGP 60||EGP 30|
|Inside Menkaure (Mycerinus) Pyramid||EGP 50||EGP 25|
|Meres Ankh Tomb||EGP 50||EGP 25|
|Boat Museum of Cheops||EGP 80||EGP 40|
A friend of mine told me that he went there with his wife and they hired a private guide who handled all the entrance fees and did a fantastic historical overview, he took them to 9 pyramids, the whole day including lunch, private driver, guide and tour with entrances for two persons and paid $100. My friend told me that it worth every penny!
Where to stay in Egypt to see pyramids?
Depending on the purpose of the trip and how long it will take you can decide where to stay and places you’d love to be near to, this really defines a big part of your trip. Luckily, Cairo has different types of places to suit all purposes and tastes, when it comes to a touristic trip or a family vacation where you would like to stay close to the pyramids and maybe get a view on the Pyramids, you will need to look for a room in the “Haram” neighborhood which is a translation for the word “Pyramid
The pyramids area is located in Giza – Cairo, where it features both luxurious and budget friendly hotels that can be found everywhere near the Giza plateau. If you managed to reserve a room at that area, many other ancient views will be near like Saqqara, Memphis and Dahshur.
Booking your stay at a hotel before arriving to Cairo will be better than looking after arriving in Cairo which is doable but usually for a higher price. There are many hotels you can select from online like: sphinx golden gate, pyramids guest house, pyramids valley hotel and Marriott Mena House Hotel.
Is visiting the Pyramids Safe? Is it Safe to Travel to Egypt Pyramids?
Yes, it is safe to travel alone or in groups, many people are probably thinking that Egypt is a middle eastern country that’s not safe for tourists. Well, it is not less safe than Europe nowadays in my opinion. I advise you not to listen to media too much, but please check the article about safety in Egypt here
A friend of mine from Germany told me once that she traveled alone to Egypt “solo girl” and had a feeling of safety more than hometown in Germany. I see women travelling solo to Egypt all the time myself.
Many Egyptians have amazing hospitality but, you might face the same issue of catcalls or some harassment as in many countries as a single girl but, you could solve it by a small trick of wearing a marriage ring and ignoring men staring at you but in all cases don’t worry this will not exceed words and you should be okay talking to people. Egypt is one of the most welcoming counties in the world in my opinion.
If you have a dream to see the world one day, your dream will not be fulfilled without including Egypt and the Pyramids in your plan. Always check advisories and the weather before travelling to Egypt, but don’t hold your dreams on fake or exaggerated media. Dig deeper into facts, and look into reliable and authoritative sources to make your decision. The usual case is: It is safe, fun, and worth the money to make the trip to Egypt and the pyramids. Go with the knowledge and background information a=bout the pyramids so you can appreciate the significance of standing in front of these magnificent structured that will take you back to where human civilization began.