The Giza pyramid complex is one of the most incredible structures on earth today. No other man-made structure stirs the imagination or inspires wanderlust quite like the Egyptian pyramids. Young or old, homebody or wanderer, visiting the pyramids of Giza is on everyone’s travel bucket lists… and for good reason! There’s simply nothing else like it.
Looking for more great Egypt travel tips? Check out our other Egypt posts!
- The Perfect Do-It-Yourself Egypt Itinerary for 5, 7 or 10 Days (it’s massive, and FULL of travel tips!)
- More Great Things To Do In Egypt Beyond The Pyramids
Is It Worth It To Visit The Pyramids?
I’ve heard conflicting views as to whether it’s “worth it” to visit the pyramids. Some people think they’re over-rated, although I’m not sure how something 4500+ years old can be over-rated! Others can’t get passed the trash, of which there IS a lot of, which is pretty depressing actually. And some are upset the pyramids are in the middle of the city, because they didn’t do their research ahead of time and set their expectations appropriately! So just for the record, the pyramids are NOT in the middle of the desert, hidden away from civilization.
In my opinion, the pyramids were 100% worth visiting.
I think I loved the pyramids for two reasons.
First, I set my expectations correctly. I knew the good, the bad and the ugly and wasn’t expecting more than the pyramids were going to deliver. I was ready for the trash, the surrounding city, the touts & hawkers, the heat, and the hordes of tourists. None of this could deter me from my enjoyment because I prepared myself for it!
Second, by the time we reached the pyramids we were 8 months into our Family Gap Year and I was seriously travel tired. I needed to be impressed by the pyramids or I may have given up traveling (not forever….just for a little while)!
Basic Advice On Visiting The Pyramids
- The best time to visit Egypt pyramids is in the winter when the temperature is the coolest. Ideally you’ll want to visit between December and March.
- The best time of day to visit the pyramids is first thing in the morning, again when it’s coolest! The pyramid complex opens at 8am, so try to be there as early as possible.
- If you’re visiting the pyramids on your own, you’ll have to walk from the entrance to the pyramids. It’s only about 10min, but it’s uphill, so prep yourself!
- There’s a metal detector and bag check at the entrance. You’ll have to pass through this after you’ve bought your tickets. I thought this was completely ridiculous as our van drove right in without any surveillance, and we had access to the van on the other side of the check point. I think it’s more for the “appearance” of safety, but I’m not sure it actually does anything!
- You can go inside all three pyramids (if they’re open ), but you’ll have to purchase the tickets at the entrance. You need to decide which ones you want to go inside before you start your visit. The inside of all three pyramids are very similar, and they’re all hot and claustrophobic!
- Carry small bills with you to use as baksheesh (tips). You may not need it much (we actually didn’t at all), or you may feel like someone’s asking you for baksheesh every time you turn around.
- The only toilets are near the entrance, so make sure you take advantage of them when you have the chance!
- kid tip – pack some toilet paper and a small baggie just incase the kids need to stop for an emergency bathroom break in the sand!
- Buy travel insurance from a reputable travel company like World Nomads before you go! You never want to find yourself stuck somewhere without the right insurance in place.
What To Wear At The Pyramids
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit the pyramids, it will be HOT! And if you’re planning to go inside the pyramids it will be exceptionally hot (and humid). There’s also very little shade around the pyramids so there’s little respite from the sun.
Wear comfortable, cool walking sandals like these ones, and a lightweight hat with a wide brim like this one. You’ll also want to layer your clothes and wear something loose-fitting and breathable. I always like to have my shoulders covered, both for modesty and protection from the sun. My pick is the prAna Day Dream dress paired with a cute pair of capri leggings (for climbing around inside the pyramids!).
How To Get To The Pyramids
The pyramids are located in Giza, about 10miles from Cairo. My recommendation is to stay at a hotel near the pyramids, especially if you want to get an early start in the morning! However, if you’re coming from Cairo city centre or the airport, Uber is your best option. It only takes about 10min from downtown, and costs about 100 LE ($7.80 CAD). From the airport it’s anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on traffic, and costs around 200 LE ($15.65 CAD).
Uber is great in Cairo for a few reasons; it’s reasonably priced, you know the price ahead of time and you won’t have to haggle over the price! When you arrive in Cairo, pick up a SIM card from the airport so you’ll be able to call an Uber whenever you need. I also recommend downloading an offline Google map (open up a Cairo map in GoogleMaps on your phone, then type “Ok maps” and enter) so you’ll be able to track your location.
If you’re downtown and feeling adventurous, you can take Bus 355 or 357 from in front of the Egyptian Museum to the entrance to the pyramids. We didn’t do this, but I’m told it’s straight-forward!
Can You Go Inside The Pyramids Of Giza?
If your inner-explorer has you dreaming of venturing inside Egyptian pyramids, you’re in luck!! You can purchase a ticket to go in all three of the pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza. If you’re not claustrophobic, the experience can be pretty cool. There’s not much to see as the mummies and treasure has long been plundered or relocated. It’s fascinating to stand inside the damp room and imagine what it might’ve been like for the early explorers who first discovered these tombs mostly intact.
The pyramid of Cheop’s Queen, Queen Khentkaus, is free to go inside, and is the only free pyramid in the complex. I highly suggest going in as it’s quite different from the three main pyramids. It’s also smaller, and free…so you’ve got nothing to lose!
Can You Climb The Pyramids?
Technically, the answer to this is “no”! At one point it was possible to climb the pyramids, however those days are gone. It may be possible to scale a few steps by paying one of the guards. But, if you don’t have the guard’s permission, you can get in some serious trouble. The only place where you’re able to go up a few steps without asking permission is at the entrance to the Great Pyramid. I’m not sure if this is technically allowed, but everyone was doing it when we visited, so we just joined the crowd! (sometimes it’s good to be a follower!!)
How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Pyramids?
It’s not outrageously expensive to visit the Pyramids, considering they’re the only remaining ancient wonder in the world. Kids and students (under 30 years old, with a valid student ID) are half price, which is pretty consistent throughout Egypt. Prices and operating hours were valid as of May 2019.
The Pyramid Complex
Cost: 120 ($9 CAD) LE adults, 60LE ($4.50CAD) students OR Area & Great Pyramid & Khufu Boat 400LE ($30 CAD) adult/200LE ($15CAD) student
Khufu’s Pyramid – The Great Pyramid of Giza
Hours: 8am-4pm, closed 12-1pm
Cost: 300LE ($23 CAD) adult, 150LE ($11.50CAD) kid OR Area & Great Pyramid & Khufu Boat 400LE ($30 CAD) adult/200LE ($15CAD) student.
Khafre’s Pyramid – The Medium Pyramid
Cost: 60LE ($4.60 CAD) adult, 30LE ($2.30 CAD) kid
Menkaure’s Pyramid – The Small Pyramid
Cost: 60LE ($4.60 CAD) adult, 30LE ($2.30 CAD) kid
*expert tip – I highly recommend having a guide for your day tour of the pyramids. You’ll learn more and get more out of it. I also recommend you have an air-conditioned van for the day rather than relying on the horse and carriages to take you around. It can get hot and it’s nice to have a few moments reprieve from the heat between pyramids. Find a day-tour and guide here.
You can expect to pay around $150US/day for a guide and large van that can easily fit 6-8 people. If you’re traveling alone, try to find some friends to join to bring down the cost! Or join a day tour.
Find The Best Tour For You:
Giza Hotels Near Pyramids
There are a number of hotels near the pyramids, and many of them have a great view.
For around $50CAD/night for two people, with breakfast included, this is a great budget option for visiting the pyramids. The location is fantastic, and the view from the roof-top restaurant is incredible. This hotel is constantly rated exceptionally well, and is a traveler’s favourite in Giza.
For the ultimate in luxury accommodation, try the Marriott Mena House. It has incredible views of the pyramids from the restaurant, pool and gorgeously manicured grounds. You can also splurge on a Pyramid view room and enjoy an incredible view from the comfort of A/C in your room!
We love staying in an apartment when we travel, especially with the kids. It makes things so much easier for everyone to have their own space. I can’t say enough about how incredible our host Walid was at our Giza apartment. The apartment was a bit dated, but spacious and comfortable with an incredible roof-top view.
How To Spend A Day Visiting The Pyramids Of Giza (And What To Expect!)
The Great Pyramid of Giza – Khufu’s Pyramid
The Pyramid of Khufu was built in 2560 BC (although some theorists now suggest it’s significantly older than this) as the burial chamber for, you guessed it, Pharaoh Khufu! It took an estimated 20 years to construct, and is made of approximately 2.3 million blocks. It was the tallest structure on the planet from 2560BD to 1311AD when the central spire of the Lincoln Cathedral surpassed it’s height. That’s a long time as the tallest structure in the world!
Once you’ve bought your ticket and gone through the security check, head straight for the Great Pyramid. Climb up the massive bricks and marvel at the engineering required to move them from quarries hundreds of kilometers up the Nile, so long ago! After a few photo ops (don’t worry, there’s MANY more to come!) make your way inside the pyramid.
The trek up the wooden planked walkway is steep and the heat intensifies as you get further inside the pyramid. When we visited there was a steady stream of people, but it wasn’t overly crowded. There was the opportunity to take short breaks without holding up anyone behind us.
The King’s chamber is a bit underwhelming. There’s a large red-granite tomb that sits empty towards the back of the room. As I stood inside the room, I pictured what it might have been like when the tomb was first “discovered”. There wouldn’t have been wooden walkways to guide the explorers through the Pyramid and they only would have had lanterns to light the way. The chamber would’ve been full of objects for the pharaoh’s journey to the afterlife and the tomb would have contained the impressive sarcophagus of Pharaoh Khufu. I imagine it would’ve been a spectacular sight, however that’s not the case anymore. It’s just a hot room with bare stone walls!
What IS impressive though, is the knowledge that you’re standing INSIDE a building that was erected over 5000 years ago (or more if you believe the conspiracy theorists). That alone made the sweaty, claustrophobic trip worthwhile!
*expert tip – you must purchase passes to enter the three pyramids. They’re all similar but different. I recommend going inside the Great pyramid at the very least. This one goes UP from the entrance to the center of the Pyramid, in contrast to the smallest pyramid in which you go DOWN to the central chamber. Be aware though, it gets VERY hot inside and a bit claustrophobic. If you don’t do well in hot, tight spaces you may want to consider skipping this!
*kid tip – our girls loved going inside the pyramids and considered it one of the highlights of their time in Egypt. This was maybe partly because they didn’t know it was an option ahead of time so it was a pleasant surprise. I think it was mostly because they felt a greater connection to the pyramids being able to climb around inside them.
The Medium Pyramid – Khafre’s Pyramid
The second pyramid was built for Khafre, the son of Khufu. It’s slightly smaller than the Great Pyramid, although it appears taller as the ground it’s built on is higher. The smaller size is thought to be a sign of respect for the father (I’m sure there are other opinions on this!).
It was completed around 2532 BC and is believed to have been opened and robbed multiple times over the millennia, the first time likely being only a few hundred years after completion.
This pyramid draws fewer crowds than the Great Pyramid, so you’ll have a better chance of getting a photo op free of other people in the background! There are usually a few camels hanging around here too if you’re looking for that quintessential camel-in-front-of-the-pyramid picture! If you’re wanting to ride a camel around the pyramids, this is the place to do it. There’s a set price for a camel ride of 50 Egyptian pounds ($4 CAD) for 30min, although you’re not guaranteed to get this without haggling a bit!
After your ride around the pyramids, it’s time to make your way inside if you’ve purchased a ticket. (The internal chambers and passageways were under restoration when we visited, so we weren’t able to go inside.)
The Small Pyramid – Menkaure’s Pyramid
The smallest Pyramid in the Pyramids of Giza complex was built for Menkaure, the Grandson of Khufu. The exact date of completion isn’t known because there aren’t any accurate details about Menkaure’s reign. I found this pyramid to be the most interesting, partially because so little is known about it.
At the end of the twelfth century, an attempt was made to demolish the pyramids. Luckily for us this proved to be an arduous task that was abandoned after eight months of effort. There’s a large vertical hole in the north wall that remains as the sole outcome of this undertaking.
Walking up to the smallest pyramid feels slightly less impressive compared to the other two, but it’s still pretty extraordinary. There’s actually a fair amount to do around the small pyramid, depending on what you’ve purchased for tickets! Before exploring further, grab a much needed cold drink from the nearby beverage stand before deciding what to do next. You can walk around Queen Khentkaus’ pyramid and go inside if you like. You can also head into the solar boat (if you’ve purchased a ticket, which you probably have as it comes paired with the Area & the Great Pyramid). We opted out of the boat as there’s so many other things to do in the complex.
Once you’ve finished your drink and done a bit of exploring around the Queen’s pyramids, head inside Menkaure’s pyramid. I enjoyed the internal chambers of Menkaure’s pyramid a lot more than that of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. In the small pyramid, you walk down into the ground, as opposed to walking up into centre of the pyramid, so it’s quite a bit cooler. It also seemed a bit less claustrophobic, although the initial descent has a low ceiling and is a bit of a tight squeeze. It may have just felt less claustrophobic because I knew what to expect this time!
There are a few low-doorways, so watch your head! Some of the ante-chambers have rudimentary designs on the wall, which was starkly different from the bare walls in the Great Pyramid. Significantly fewer people venture inside this pyramid compared to the Great Pyramid, so there’s less jostling around other people and more time to enjoy and take it all in.
Panoramic Pyramid Picture
By now you should have had your fill of the Pyramids…but you’re not finished yet!! Head back to your vehicle (hopefully the driver’s got the A/C running so you can cool down a bit) and drive up to the pyramid look-out. This is the best place for panoramic pics that include all three pyramids. You should be able to find a spot where you can get a few pictures (or a few dozen) without anyone else in the way.
*expert tip – have some snacks and cold water waiting for you in the vehicle so you can rehydrate and re-energize!
Last, it’s time to check out the Sphinx. There’s a large temple complex in front of the Sphinx that’s fun to explore, before making your way up to the viewing platform. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to get close to the Sphinx, and no matter when you visit there’s likely to be a large crowd of people jostling for the classic Sphinx picture!
To be honest, this was the most underwhelming thing we did in the Pyramid Complex. The Sphinx is quite small (although it always looks big in pictures), and we could only observe it from afar with a few hundred of our closest friends (otherwise known as strangers we’ve never seen before and won’t see again). I think it’s worth stopping, but don’t get your hopes up too high.
Lunch at Koshary Hekaya
By now you’re likely ready for a late lunch, and I’d suggest a big filling bowl of Koshary. This Egyptian staple is an odd mix of rice, pasta, lentils, tomato sauce and spices. Don’t let the description put you off, it’s actually quite good and the perfect meal after a busy day of sight-seeing. We went to Koshary Hekaya, and it was quite good! It felt like a very local place amidst the crazy tourist area of the Pyramids.
The Pyramids Sound and Light Show
After a busy day at the pyramids you’ll want to enjoy a relaxing evening. If you were able to snag accommodation with a roof-top view, order in dinner and watch the light and sound show from the roof. If you don’t have a roof-top view, you can consider going back for the show in the evening. It’s fun to see the pyramids all lit up, but I don’t think it’s worth the hassle or the money to go back for the light show!
Tips for Visiting The Pyramids With Kids
The pyramids can be a bit daunting to visit with kids, but it’s worth the hassle. They’re a recognizable structure that the kids can easily relate to, making it more meaningful and exciting compared to many other things they see traveling. You can take kids to the pyramids at any age, but I’d suggest waiting until they’re at least 6 or 7 years old. By this point they’ll know what they are, be able to appreciate the experience, and can put up with a bit of walking and heat!
- The pyramid complex is spread over a fairly large area that can require a lot of walking in the desert sun. I’d suggest hiring an air-conditioned car and driver for the day. Although you won’t need much driving, it’s nice to have the vehicle to transport you between the various pyramids and viewpoints. You can also leave extra water in the van, as well as some snacks and a change of clothes if needed.
- Make sure the kids wear sturdy hiking sandals, like these Keens, to protect them from the hot sand while keeping their feet cool.
- Bring LOTS of water! It can get very hot and you’ll still do a lot of walking even if you hire a car. You’ll need to stay hydrated to avoid heat stroke. Check out my favourite travel water bottles with a filter (because you can’t drink the tap water in Egypt, so this’ll save you from buying dozens of plastic bottles), or just bring an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold. These ones are my girls’ favourites!
- Make sure everyone wears a hat and sun protection, like this sustainable, healthy, ocean-safe, vegan sunscreen.