The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
No visit to Egypt is complete without seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza! Built in honour of three of the greatest kings of ancient Egypt, these three gigantic structures have fascinated generations of people around the world. We take you on one of our most memorable experiences to the ancient Wonder of the World.
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Giza, Egypt. We have details on how to reach Giza, where to stay near the Pyramids and a secret tip for free sound and light show! Also lear a little more about the grand history behind each of the three pyramids. Consider this your very own travel guide to Giza.
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History of Giza, Egypt
The Pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt for almost 3,000 years leading up to 30 BC. Over the three millennia, each ruler attempted to create a more exorbitant architectural marvel that his ancestors. After all, ancient Egyptians perceived a very glorious life, even after death. A visit to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor proves exactly this belief. And that in his afterlife, man would need all the luxuries that he had when he was alive, and more! And this was how the greatest of all tombs in the ancient Empire came into being in Giza.
There are three main pyramids in this region, although smaller ones dot the vicinity: the Great Pyramid of Khufu (largest), the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure (smallest). Although it is possible to enter the royal chambers of these structures, most of the valuables that were discovered there were eventually moved into the Museum in Cairo.
Facts about the Pyramids of Giza
Made entirely of limestone from nearby quarries, a lot of mystery still surrounds the idea of how these super-structures were actually built! In fact the interiors were lined with granite, which were transported on the Nile from Aswan, in upper Egypt (over 800 kms away).
The Great Pyramid of Khufu stands as the tallest of the three at a height of over 450 feet – totally marvellous, considering how old it is! The casing (smoothened sides) at the tip of the Pyramid of Khufre show how much of attention went into making these mortuary-temples aesthetically perfect. The Great Pyramid alone is said to have been built with 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each weighing upto 30 tons, but is widely argued that these numbers are incorrect.
The Great Sphinx
The Sphinx at the gateway to these Pyramids was built about the same time as its larger neighbours, in 2500 BC. Bearing a human face and a lion’s body, this mythical guardian creature was claimed to be very fierce and terrifying! Many researchers have argued that the human face that has partially remained, was actually that of the Pharaoh Khufre. But no conclusive evidence has yet been discovered.
The relevance of the Great Sphinx is quite interesting. Although fierce and terrifying in appearance, the Sphinx was actually considered to be very benevolent, yet strong creature. In ancient Egyptian times, these Sphinx monuments were built as guardians to large tombs and similar royal monuments.
Interestingly, everyone has wondered about what is inside the Sphinx for years now! Archaeologists have proved by their work that there are many internal tunnels and pathways. But most of these tunnels seem to lead nowhere. A large cavity inside is believed to have been an anchoring point for crowns placed on the Sphinx’s head. But thats about it. The tunnels seem like they were created by tomb raiders, rather than the Pharaoh’s builders.
The Sphinx is famous today because of how intact it has remained. Despite numerous desert storms, the body of the Sphinx has largely remained intact. The head too has survived, but the face has been disfigured. Yet, it is one of the most stunning remnants of ancient Egypt.
The Three, Great Pyramids of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Pyramid of Cheops) stands as the tallest of the three pyramids of Giza at a height of over 450 feet. It is totally marvellous considering how old it is! The casing or smoothened sides at the tip of the Pyramid of Khufre show how much of attention went into making these mortuary-temples aesthetically perfect.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is known to have three chamers within. An unfinished chamber at the bottom of the Great Pyramid has remained unfinished while two royal chamers (for king and queen) lie higher up in the structure. It is said to have been built with 2,300,000 blocks of stone, some of which weighing upto 80 tons! There have been so many theories around how the Egyptian Pyramids were really built or assembled.
Tip: It is possible to enter into the Pyramid with a separate, expensive ticket. Its not as beautiful or interesting as the Valley of the Kings, since there is nothing to really see inside the shafts of the Pyramid.
Pyramid of Khafre
The next biggest pyramid is the Pyramid of Khafre. It was built by the pharaoh Khafre, a son of King Khufu. The pyramid measures 448 feet in height and its construction dates back to 2570 BC.
There is a large room inside the limestone blocks of the Khafre Pyramid. Khafre’s sarcophagus (burial casket for the mummified) was carved from a single block of black granite. The outer frame in which this sacrophagus was placed was created by sinking large blocks into the floor of the burial chamber. Niches in the floor probably held the chest containing the canopic jars.
There is a shaft that leads from one side of the Pyramid down to the chambers. Visitors are allowed to enter for an additional fee. Not worth it though, as there is nothing inside, really.
Pyramid of Menkaure
The Menkaure Pyramid is the smallest of the three pyramids of Giza! The Pyramid of Menkaure has a height of 213 feet and is believed to be the last of the three Giza pyramids. The pharaoh Menkaure, for whom this was built, emphasised more on the temples and their intricate details. Therefore, it is less grand on the outside.
In fact, this is noticeable from the fact that even though the Menkaure Pyramid is smaller, it is more detailed on the inside than its larger neighbours. There is one chamber with decorative panels and a second chamber with six large niches! These were lined with black granite brought on the Nile from the south.
Tip: The standard ticket allows for an entry into the chambers of the Pyramid of Menkaure. Don’t miss out on exploring the inside!
How to visit the Giza Pyramids
Here, we’ve put together some useful points for making the best out of your visit to the Pyramids of Giza!
Expect to see an ocean of tourists as the day goes – if you want to beat it, get there early! We entered the complex by 8 am in December and it was still pretty empty. The timings are:
- Summer (April to September): 7 am to 7 pm
- Winter (October to March): 8 am to 5 pm
Pyramid visiting route
Start at the Great Pyramid of Khufu, then head to the Pyramid of Khafre and lastly, to the small pyramid of Menkaure.
Best view points
There are two viewpoints to see the three Pyramids of Giza in one frame. The famous Panoramic Viewpoint is a little over a kilometre to the west. Tourist busses generally stop here forcascading views of the Great Pyramids. But you can also walk up there or take a horse ride.
Another view point, is just by the dunes to the south-west. To get here, walk ahead with the Menkaure pyramid behind you. Pass through the small dunes dodging tourists and camels to the highest point you can find. From there, you can see all three pyramids, very clearly, without any cascading effects!
How long to visit pyramids
The entire complex can be easily explored on foot in about half-a-day. Admiring the pyramids from outside can get done with in two hours, but you will need some more time to visit the view points. Explore the dunes on foot or by camel/horse (although, we don’t recommend).
Tickets to the Great Pyramids
Entry to the complex of the Giza Pyramids is permitted by a single ticket. This includes a visit to the Sphinx, the three Pyramids and access to the view points. The standard ticket also includes an entry into the chambers of the Pyramid of Menkaure.
Ticket prices: EGP 200 (with entry into one pyramid)
Buy additional tickets for EGP 500 (not worth it) if you want to enter the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre.
Also, there are no snack counters or toilets further inside the desert complex.
Awareness: Climbing these structures is a strict no-no. In the past, climbers have been arrested and even penalised heavily for violating this rule. Although we are all curious to know what its like to go to the top of the Pyramids, we must keep in mind the sentiments of the locals. If you still want to climb it, ask for permission from the local guards. They generally allow some tourists to go up to the second or third layer of blocks for photos!
Sound and light show at the Pyramids
Every evening, there are two sound and light shows at the Great Pyramids of Giza. Check at the ticket-counter for the language schedule which changes every day. The shows are performed in English, Arabic, Italian, etc. The Sound and Light show is quite fascinating! Although it uses old technology, it was really nice. The sheer size of these monuments can be appreciated in a different perspective with the colorful lighting and background narration!
Tickets to the sound and light show cost EGP 200 (USD 12 or INR 900).
Tip: If you stay at a hotel right outside the complex, you can watch the Sound and Light show for free from the terrace like we did!
How to get to Giza
Giza is very well connected with Cairo and other cities like Aswan and Luxor.
Cairo to Giza / Giza to Cairo: There is a metro line between Giza and Cairo, but the station at El-Giza is 7 kms away from the Pyramids. You can take the local bus to the Pyramids for EGP 5 (INR 20 or USD 0.3) per passenger or take a taxi for EGP 30. Taxi rides between Cairo and Giza cost EGP 200 (INR 930) but you can bargain. The distance is only 27 kms and by locals, the taxi fare is less than EGP 100.
Other cities: Take the train if you’re travelling to Luxor or Aswan. You can book tickets directly here on the official railways website. Tickets cost as little as EGP 50 on the sleeper train to Luxor. On this route, taxis charge upwards of EGP 300.
Useful points to know:
- Giza is about 20 kms from Cairo, and 45 kms from the Cairo International Airport
- Uber, Careem, and local Taxis are available
- Shared minivan taxis also operate on the main streets of Giza
Where to stay in Giza, Egypt
There are many hotels and BnBs to stay at right in front of the Pyramid Complex. We stayed at the Sphinx Guest House. Most of these hotels are fully sold out in the tourist Season (November to March). So booking ahead and reconfirming on the phone or email is a good idea – overbooking rooms is rampant in Giza hotels!
A decent, private room costs about USD 35 (INR 2,500).
Check out all accommodations in Giza here
Where to eat in Giza
Just like any other modern city, Giza is home to many restaurants. Many restaurants are present right outside the entrance to the Pyramids Complex and offer Middle Eastern and Italian cuisines. Pizza Hut and KFC outlets are also present.
Tip: You can enjoy a great view of the Pyramids from the top floor of Pizza Hut! Treat yourself here atleast once when you are in Giza.
Best time to visit the Pyramids in Giza
Egypt experiences very hot summers because of its desert geography. But the cooler months are from late October to March. We visited in December (NYE) and it was cold and dry.
Wear cotton clothing and dress modestly in summer. During the winter months dress in soft layers to adjust to the sunny afternoons and the cold evenings. Wear blues, dark oranges, reds and such contrasting colours against the brown pyramids for good photography!
Tip: The souvenir selling touts can be difficult to deal with at times! Unless you plan to buy, stay clear of the pushy ones.
How many days to spend in Giza
Spend at least one night in Giza. Although seeing the monuments takes less than half a day, we reommend going slow and taking time to explore. Take enough breaks when out in the desert dunes. Preferably start your visit in the early morning (before 9 am) to beat some of the crowds.
Most people visit Cairo and then Giza, before continuing to one of these four destinations: Luxor (south), Alexandria (north), Siwa Oasia (west) and Hurgada (east). You can also visit Giza on your return from Luxor or Aswan as they have direct trains too! From Aswan you should definitely visit Abu Simbel!
Read more about Egypt here
If you have more questions or want to explore Egypt with us, write to us – we’d be very happy to help!
Shishira & Navneeth