13 things you need to know about the pyramids in Egypt
A group of Chinese girls is running around on heels, in fancy clothes and make up all over their face. They are rushing, searching for the best spot to take some photos. The boyfriends are following them, not in the greatest mood. But nobody can change my mood right now. I’m walking around in sweatpants, my face is sweaty and my hair is a big mess. Make up is useless, because it’s gonna be gone in a couple of minutes anyway because of the heat. Especially if you’re running around like an enthusiastic manic (aka photographer) like me. I can’t be bothered by it. I’m at one of the most amazing places in Egypt: the pyramids.
I was afraid I would be disappointed by the pyramids. Like my guide said: Egypt is not promoting the pyramids, the pyramids are promoting Egypt. Some people are ONLY coming to Egypt to see this Wonder of the World. Would it be a tourist trap, a disappointment? But luckily that wasn’t the case at all. I’ve seen a lot of places around the world and the pyramids are definitely amazing to see! A visit to the pyramids in Egypt should definitely be on your travel bucket list. But they probably are already, right? Well, let’s see what I can tell you about the pyramids before you see this wonder by yourself. In this blog I share 13 things you need to know about the pyramids in Egypt!
1. A pyramid… what is it exactly?
No worries if you actually have no clue why there are pyramids in Egypt in the first place. Because why were the Egyptians building them? There is no solid proof why they used the pyramids exactly, but it’s most likely been used as a safe place for the deceased pharaohs to keep the body safe while he’s making the journey towards eternal life. Simply said: it’s a grave for the ancient Egyptian kings. Most pyramids were built for the pharaohs in the periods of the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom. Also family members and important/rich people were buried in the pyramids, but every person got his or her own pyramid. It’s impressive how they build such huge things for a single person! For a long time the pyramids in Egypt were the biggest structures in the world.
2. How many pyramids are there in Egypt?
It’s hard to tell exactly how many pyramids there are in Egypt. It will vary between 80 and 140 pyramids. And they are still discovering every now and then some new ones… Most people will tell you that Egypt has about 100 pyramids. Not all of them are open for visitors by the way. Pyramids are ALWAYS build on the West Bank of the Nile. The Egyptians thought the Nile divided the world in 2: the East Bank was for the living, the West Bank for the dead people.
3. You will not only find pyramids in Egypt…
Egypt is the most famous country for having pyamids, but definitely not the only one! You will find them all over the world: China, Mexico and Kazachstan for example have pyramids as well. And Sudan – south of Egypt – even has more pyramids that are discovered than Egypt!
4. Are the pyramids one of the Wonders of the World..?
Yes and no. Not all the pyramids are part of the Wonders of the World. The Pyramid of Cheops, the biggest pyramid of Giza, is the only pyramid that can be considered one of the Wonders of the World. The other ones are impressive for sure as well, but not considered a Wonder of the World.
5. The most impressive pyramids in Egypt to visit
Not too far away from Cairo you will find the Pyramids of Giza. It’s actually only a couple of kilometers away from downtown Cairo. Giza and Cairo are actually two separate cities, but most of the times the two areas are both considered as the city of Cairo. Cairo is at the East Bank of the Nile, Giza at the West Bank. The 3 Pyramids of Giza are the Pyramid of Cheops (also known as the Great Pyramid), the Pyramid of Chefren and the Pyramid of Mykerinos. They are for sure the most famous one, but definitely worth a visit.
Besides the Pyramids of Giza you will find many more south of Cairo. The Pyramid of Djoser near the village of Saqqara is also a nice one. It’s one of the oldest pyramids that they have found so far. They started building that pyramid in 2630 BC!
South of Saqqara you will reach the village of Dahshur. Dahshur is a royal necropolis in the desert, about 40 kilometers south of Cairo. Here you will find two more amazing pyramids. Partly because they look amazing, but partly because of the abandoned location in the middle of the desert. Barely anyone goes here, so you will have the pyramids almost all for yourself! I went to the Red Pyramid – which is by the way not so red as the name suggests – and even went inside. I had the whole place for myself, which was an amazing experience. Entering the pyramid is included in the price for the Dahshur Pyramids – which is only 60 Egyptian pounds. Not too far from the Red Pyramid you will find the Bent Pyramid. This pyramid looks a little odd and different than the ones you have seen.
6. What do you have to pay for the pyramids in Egypt?
I was surprised by the entrance fees for the pyramids in Egypt. I expected it to be much higher. It’s a place where thousands of tourists go to every day. For them it doesn’t really matter if they have to pay 5 or 50 dollars. They wanna see the pyramids anyway.
The entrance fee for the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are 120 Egyptian pounds (about 6 euros, august 2018). Students and children are paying only half the price. If you also wanna enter the Pyramid of Cheops (also known as the Great Pyramid) you have to buy a separate ticket: this one will cost 300 Egyptian pound. Again: students and children pay half the price.
The entrance fee for the Saqqara Pyramids is 120 Egyptian pounds. With this ticket you can visit all of the archeological places of Saqqara like the Pyramid of Djoser, the Titi Pyramid and the Imhotep Museum.
For the Dahshur Pyramids you only pay 60 Egyptian pounds as entrance fee. Included in this price is the entrance to go inside the Red Pyramid. Amazing right?
7. How do I go to the Pyramids of Giza?
A lot of people have the impression that the Pyramids of Giza are in the middle of fucking nowhere. Nope. Sorry to bring you this breaking news. The Pyramids of Giza are not too far away from the city of Giza. If you don’t have any traffic you can be here in 15-20 minutes from downtown Cairo. A taxi ride from downtown Cairo to the Pyramids of Giza should be around 50 Egyptian pounds. If are all taxi drivers are assholes you can take an Uber, you will pay a fair price for sure.
The Pyramids of Giza have two entrances, although they want to change that in the future. But it’s Egypt, so when…. nobody really knows. For now there’s an entrance near the Sphinx and one near the Pyramid of Cheops. I would suggest to go to the entrance near the pyramid. It’s less crowded here, especially early in the morning. I would suggest to go there as soon as possible. I was here at 7 in the morning and had the place for a couple of minutes for myself (and my guide). Amazing!
8. Best time to go to the pyramids
If you wanna avoid the annoying tourists and loud crowds with selfie sticks you have to go as early as possible. You can enter the site at 7 in the morning and I would suggest you to be there even a little bit earlier, so you will be the first person to buy a ticket and see the pyramids. The weather is also better in the morning to walk around. And another nice thing: the vendors are less annoying (or not even there) to bug you to buy something.
9. How much time should I spend at the Pyramids of Giza?
I always thought there were only 3 pyramids to see and that’s that. In 10 minutes you’re done. 15 max. But the Pyramids of Giza are so much more than that. There’s a lot more to see at this archaeological site. For example, every pyramid has a valley temple near the Nile where the pharaoh was mummified. Next to the pyramid there was a pyramid temple, where they did some more rituals. Then there was a long, covered causeway connecting the temples to translocate the mummified body of the pharaoh. Next to the pyramids of the pharaoh there were 3 smaller pyramids: for the wifes of the pharaoh. And then of course there’s the famous Sphinx, next to the valley temple that you can visit.
There’s also a nice viewpoint where you can see all three of the pyramids, with Giza in the background. You can walk to this viewpoint, but it’s more common to either take a car or a camel to this point.
I would suggest to take 2 hours for your visit to visit everything you wanna see and listen to some of the explanations as well. Also, you’re gonna take photos. A LOT OF THEM. So of course you need time for that as well.
10. Camel rides around the pyramids
The pyramids are at the border of the Western Desert, so it’s the ideal place for a camel ride. A lot of people will ask you if you wanna take a camel ride. It’s something that you more or less have to do when you’re in Egypt.
Please pay attention to the way the owners treat their animals. Not all Egyptians are animal lovers, so if you have the feeling they are not treating their camels well please don’t go with them. Do they get enough food? Are they standing the whole day or are they allowed to sit and rest as well? Are they not covered with open wounds or are there any signs of abuse? In Egypt camel owners can even get a quality mark so it’s not weird if you ask more about the way they treat their animals.
Most camel rides will be 100 Egyptian pounds for 30 minutes. It’s nice to give some tip – baksheesh – to the person who will accompany you. If you ask they can take some nice photos of you and the camel as well, so don’t forget to bring your phone or camera!
11. Sleeping near the Pyramids of Giza
It’s not possible to sleep at the archeological site, but near both entrances you will find a bunch of accommodations. Some of these hotels offer amazing views on the pyramids during the sunset. And that’s pretty cool, because the site of the pyramids will close before sunset time. If you’re lucky you can see the Pyramids light and sound show from some of the rooftops as well in the evening. For free! An affordable and nice place to stay and enjoy the view is Pyramids View Inn.
12. Are the vendors at the Pyramids of Giza as annoying and rude as people are telling you?
The Pyramids of Giza are one of the most touristic places in Egypt, so of course there will be annoying vendors who try to sell you everything. And during the day they can be a big aggressive I’ve heard. Some people even try to scam you, so beware of that. It’s best to just ignore these people and don’t pay attention to their actions. If you really wanna buy something here (only if you think you’re not gonna find it anywhere else) be prepared for some haggling – and even then paying more than you should.
My experience is that they are not that annoying in the morning, because they still have to set everything up and are busy with other stuff. Or they are not even there yet (before 8). Besides that I would suggest to bring a guide with you if you can’t handle the annoying vendors. If you have a guide with you and you tell him/her before you’re not interested in buying anything they will make sure people are not bothering you too much. I was surprised how my guide handled the vendors: friendly, but with authoriy. Nobody would even think about harrassing me. I think this definitely made my experience as a solo traveler at the pyramids much easier and nicer!
13. Should you take a guide or not for your visit?
I love exploring places by myself, without the help of others. But for the pyramids I would make an exception. First of all: there are barely any information signs about the pyramids. Seeing the pyramids is amazing, but hearing the history and the stories of Ancient Egypt makes your visit much nicer. And like I said before: with a guide the vendors will not bother you as much as usual. Just make sure you have a nice and experienced guide and you will have an amazing experience.
I visited the pyramids with a guide of Kingfisher Tours, a tour company with amazing local guides who are nice, funny and they know A LOT about the places you visit. Many of them speak different languages. Besides Arabic and English some of them speak Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish or even Chinese. Furthermore most of them know how to handle a camera, so as a solo traveller you can have some nice pics from yourself and the pyramids as well!
I hope you’re enthusiastic to visit the incredible pyramids of Egypt! Or have you already been here before and do you have more tips for a visit? Let me and other travellers know!