First-timers travel guide to visiting the Pyramids of Giza
Ancient Egyptian history is surely one of the most charming in the world and the pyramids of Giza, like Abu Simbel Temple, Luxor and Aswan, are at the top of the country’s attractions. The pyramids were built 5000 years ago and served as a burial ground for the Pharaohs. Compared to the less famous Nubian Pyramids, the Egyptian monuments are decidedly different, featuring bigger bases and less steeply sloped sides. They have the mortuary room – “the King Chamber” – right inside them, whereas, in the Nubian pyramids, the actual tomb is dug below the pyramid itself and is connected to the outside through a sloping tunnel.
The Giza plateau, known as the Giza Pyramids complex, includes the Sphinx, 3 main Pyramids (9 in total), the Valley Temple and many other smaller tombs. The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramids of Khufu (Cheops), is the oldest of the 3 and was built around 2570 BC. This pyramid is also the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The other 2 Pyramids are the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure.
How to reach the Pyramids
Unlike what you might imagine, the pyramids of Giza are not located in the middle of the desert, but they stand at the edge of the bustling suburb of Cairo named Giza. The site is about 13 km away from Cairo downtown and 8 km from the west bank of the Nile river.
Generally, if you stay in Cairo downtown, the best way to reach Giza pyramids is by taking a Uber or a taxi. The ride’s cost is about 5 USD and lasts 45 minutes (it depends on the traffic). Alternatively, you can take the metro to Giza station, located some 5 km away from the Pyramids. From there, you can catch a taxi or a minibus that will take you close to the site entrance.
The last option is to join a guided tour with a local operator, usually combined with other interesting attractions. You can have a look on web platforms like Viator.com or GetYourGuide.com, where the operators advertise their tours and activities.
How to visit the Giza Pyramids
The Giza site has 2 entrances. One entrance is in front of the Sphinx, and one is on the hill, next to the Great Pyramid. Usually, all the tourists enter the site from the entrance close to the Great Pyramid and leave it through the Sphinx exit. As you enter the site, you are constantly approached by all sorts of touts who keep offering you their services and saying to show you a secret place, the shortcut or hidden tombs. Be pleasant, but skip them because you don’t need any help to visit the complex as there aren’t secret places.
1. Going inside a pyramid
If you like, with an additional fee, you can enter the 3 pyramids. Usually, as we did, most tourists go inside the Great Pyramid. The corridor to reach the King Chamber is very narrow, and you feel like the walls are closing in, the stairs are slippery, and the air is a bit stifling. The interior is empty, and, to be honest, there is nothing to see. The most exciting thing is that you can tell you entered one of the oldest and most famous monuments in the world. If you are claustrophobic, you should think twice about going inside the pyramids. Next to the pyramids’ entrance, there is a booth where you have to leave your belongings as it’s not allowed to enter with bags, backpacks or any other stuff. Photography is not permitted inside the monuments.
2. Camel ride
You can get around the Giza plateau on foot, but the camel ride is the best way to enjoy the pyramids from different points of view and take amazing pictures, especially from the dunes that are not easy to reach.
3. Visit the Solar Boat Museum (now closed)
Next to the Great Pyramid was a Museum that hosted the Solar Boat, a ship built for the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) around 2500 BC. The purpose of the boat was to carry the resurrected pharaoh to heaven with Ra, the Sun God and one of the most important gods in ancient Egypt. It is worth a visit as it’s one of the oldest and, above all, best-preserved vessels of antiquity. In August 2021, the 4600-year-old ship once owned by the pharaoh Khufu was moved to a “new home” in the Grand Egyptian Museum that will open in late 2022, only 2 km north of Giza Pyramids.
4. Panoramic Viewpoint
On the west side of the complex is a point where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the pyramids. It’s usually a stop during a guided tour, but if you are visiting the site on your own, it’s quite difficult to reach on foot. The best way to have different views of the site is still the camel ride.
5. The Great Sphinx
After visiting the 3 main Pyramids, move to the Sphinx area, where you can enjoy a colossal limestone statue of a recumbent Sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. The statue dates back to the reign of Pharaoh Khafre (about 2500 BC).
6. The Valley Temple of Khafre
Next to the Sphinx is the Valley Temple, a complex used in the mummification process of the Pharaoh Khafre. The temple was built of limestone and faced with polished Aswan granite and is actually the best-preserved structure from the Fourth Dynasty.
Opening time and entrance fee
The site opens every day from 8 am to 4 pm from October to March and from 7 am 7 pm from April to September. The ticket to enter the Giza Plateau is 200 (13 USD). If you want to go inside the Great Pyramid, there is an additional fee of 400 EGP, whereas for the Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure is 100 EGP. The Solar Boat ticket is 100 EGP. There is a Combo ticket including Giza Plateau, the Solar Boat and the Great Pyramid at 600 EGP (40 USD).
Pyramids Sound and Light Show
In the evening you can see the light and sound show at the Pyramids. It usually starts at 7 pm in the wintertime and 7:30 pm in the summertime. There are three shows scheduled, beginning every hour. Check the Sound & Light show Company’s official website to book the ticket and get more info.
Best time to go and how much time you need
The best time of day to visit the Giza Plateau depends on the season. We visited the Pyramids in January, and we can tell at noon was perfect, despite being a bit cloudy. If you visit the pyramids in the morning during the winter months, they could be in a haze. From March to October, especially during summer, the temperatures are very hot. Therefore, the best moment is early in the morning, above all before 10 am, to skip the crowd of tourists.
Where to sleep
Cairo is a huge metropolis and offers a wide range of accommodation, from cheap hostels to high-end hotels. The best place where to sleep is in Cairo downtown, but there are excellent accommodations close to the Giza site if you want. Here, you’ll find the Comfort Pyramids Inn, the Sahara Pyramids Inn (the one where we slept) and the luxury Marriott Mena House.
Click here to see the best accommodations in Cairo.
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Have you visited the Pyramids of Giza? Do you want to share your experience or suggest more tips and information? Leave us a comment below!