As a tribute to the heavens and gods for safe passage into the afterlife, the Giza pyramids were built by Egypt’s pharaohs to stand until the end of the time. They are among one of the last remaining wonders of the ancient world. Erected over 4000 years ago, these pyramids are as impressive now as they were then, and continue to draw mere mortals into their fold. Today, many people all over have dreamt of standing at the foot of these magnificent structures, longing to be in the presence of ancient Egypt’s might and power. If you’re planning on visiting the Pyramids of Giza, you needed this guide yesterday.
Travel to: Egypt
A quick overview of Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza
The pyramids are located in Giza, on the west bank of the River Nile, about 40 minutes or so away from Cairo. Pharaoh Khufu established the first Giza pyramid round 2550 B.C. The largest, Khufu’s pyramid stands at about 481ft high. Around 2520 B.C., Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre, began work on the second pyramid of Giza. He is also responsible for Egypt’s iconic Sphinx. The third pyramid, although much smaller than the first two features a more complex inner tomb and was built by Pharaoh Menkaure around 2490 B.C.
Even today, Egypt’s pyramids baffle scientists, who aren’t entirely satisfied as to how they were constructed. Some conspiracy tales claim that the pyramids are too perfect for humans to have built, that they are the product of an extraterrestrial activity, that angels or aliens are responsible for them.
The Great Pyramid is made of millions of stones that weigh at least two tons each. Even with the machinery available to us in modern times, this would be a remarkable feat! Alien theorists also say that the three pyramids are in better shape than others built centuries later. While scientists haven’t been able to fathom just how the pyramids were built, there’s plenty of evidence that shows they are the work of highly skilled, well-fed Egyptian workers from days gone by.
When to visit
The best time of day to visit the pyramids is usually in the late afternoon because by this time large groups of tourists have usually dissipated. You could also try early morning, but it’s quite hazy so these may not be the best conditions for photography!
Weather-wise the best time to visit Egypt is probably from October to April, as these months have pleasant temperatures. December and January are peak tourist season, so sights like the Pyramids of Giza along with the Temples of Luxor and Abu Simbel are notoriously crowded. If you plan on seeing these attractions during your visit to Egypt, it’s best to visit at a time when you can enjoy them with ease. Bear in mind that the quieter months from June to September are sweltering, so being outside can get quite uncomfortable.
How to get there
If you decide to visit this ancient phenomenon as part of a multi-day group tour, you have the advantage of being taken straight up to the pyramids in an air-conditioned coach. You skip the queues for tickets to the pyramids, and you get an experienced guide who can help you avoid any tourist traps! Otherwise, it’s just a short eight-minute walk through the sand from where the buses or taxis will drop you off, or you can hire a camel or a horse. If you do opt for a camel or horse (walking through the sand isn’t always ideal) then negotiate the fee (USD 7-8) before you hop on and pay once you reach your destination.
You can also grab a bus from Midan Tahrir, the large public square in the centre of Cairo. From here large buses numbered 800 and 900 will take you the pyramids, there’s also the number 82 which is a smaller bus (be sure to check if there have been any route changes or updates). You can also purchase a tour ticket from your hotel, this way you’ll be picked up from the hotel. Or you could take a taxi.
Cabs in Egypt are black and white, and it’s best to agree on a price before you drive off. Frommers does mention that sometimes cab drivers try to take charge tourists a little more, it’s best to ask a local what the typical amount is and make sure you have small bills, or close to the exact amount as a lot of taxi drivers don’t carry much change. It’s not customary for women to sit in the front of a taxi in Egypt as socially it’s not considered appropriate. If you don’t want to haggle with taxi drivers, another great option is Uber.
Exploring the Pyramids of Giza
While it’s possible to reach the pyramids from Cairo, you could also spend the night at one of the hotels in front of the pyramids. There’s something to be said for waking up to a view of one of the world’s most ancient treasures. Sometimes the guards will let you walk over to the dunes (depending on their mood), and that’s one of the best spots for a view of the pyramids. To see the Sphinx from the front, you may have to pay a little bit extra for the privilege. Otherwise, you can observe it from the side for free with everyone else.
Once you enter the site, you can explore on foot or hire a horse or camel to experience these structures and the breathtaking vastness of the nearby desert. While it’s possible to go inside the pyramids, it’s worth bearing in mind that the mummies have been moved to the nearby Egyptian Museum, which is also worth a visit! Usually, there’s one pyramid included with the cost of your ticket (depending on what kind you have), but you may have to pay a little more to enter Khufu’s Pyramid and Khafree’s Pyramid. While fascinating from the inside, they mostly all look the same, so it might not be worth spending money on all of them! Within the walls of these structures, you’ll find ancient inscriptions and art.
During the evenings, there’s a Sound and Light Show that’s been going strong for over two decades. A chic way to see it is to grab a spot on one of the many nearby hotel rooftops while sipping a drink.
Top Tip: Most visitors will head straight to the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Sphinx, but the surrounding desert is also filled with exciting things to see. If you want to dig a little deeper, the warm sands have plenty of other ruins, tombs, remnants of temples and smaller pyramids well worth exploring as well.
What to wear?
Wear something you’ll feel comfortable in, especially your shoes if you have a full day of walking around! If it’s hot, don’t forget your hat and while it’s important to cover up for mosques and rural areas, you don’t need to dress as strictly when visiting Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza!
October to March:
Monday – Sunday, 8 am to 5 pm
April to September:
Monday – Sunday, 7 am to 7 pm
Do you have any tips for visiting Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza? Share them with us in the comments!