While Pyramids can be found throughout the world, like in Mexico or Sudan, these immense structures are more often associated with Egypt. And luckily for visitors to the country, many of the mortuary monuments that are the Egyptian pyramids can be admired both from the outside and the inside. But with over 100 pyramids in Egypt, deciding which ones to visit and enter can be a bit overwhelming. To get the inside scoop on what pyramid visitors should prioritize, we spoke with Nick Brown, an Egyptologist and PhD candidate in the Near Eastern Languages and Culture department at UCLA. Brown is an expert in the field – he studied Egyptology in Cairo and has worked on archaeological sites throughout Egypt.
Note from the writer: Pyramids and tombs are often reopened or closed to visitors, so be sure to check on the Ministry of Antiquities’ Facebook page for any announcements regarding visiting the sites.
Inside the pyramids of the Giza Plateau
The Giza Plateau is home to numerous funeral monuments, including the three most iconic (and tallest) pyramids of Egypt, built by three succeeding generations of pharaohs.
How to visit: The Giza Plateau is nine miles from Cairo and can be reached using the Cairo Transport Authority bus, lines 355 or 357, or by booking a guided tour.
Admission fee: 100 Egyptian pounds ($10)
The Great Pyramid of Khufu
- Construction date: 2570 BCE
- Admission fee: Visitors pay an additional 200 Egyptian pounds ($20) to enter the pyramid.
The Great Pyramid, built by Khufu, is the oldest of the three main pyramids of Giza and the largest in Egypt. The only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to remain largely intact, the Pyramid of Khufu, at 455 feet, was the tallest building in the world until the Lincoln Cathedral was built in England in 1311.
What’s inside this pyramid: Visitors can walk the Great Gallery to the King’s Chamber, which holds the empty granite sarcophagus of Khufu. The mummified remains of the pharaoh have never been found and are thought to have been stolen, along with all of the pharaoh’s grave goods, over a thousand years ago.
The Pyramid of Khafre
- Construction date: 2540 BCE
- Admission fee: Visitors pay an additional 100 Egyptian pounds ($10) to enter the pyramid.
The Pyramid of Khafre is the second-largest pyramid in Egypt, standing at 450 feet tall. Built by Khufu’s son, Khafre, it is one of the few pyramids to retain some of its outer limestone casing.
What’s inside this pyramid: Inside is a burial chamber carved out of the bedrock with gabled roofs and a sarcophagus made from granite. The sarcophagus has long been empty (the pyramid may have been broken into as early as 2100 BCE), and archaeologists are unsure if Khafre was ever buried here, as there are no burial inscriptions on the walls.
The Pyramid of Menkaure
- Construction date: 2510 BCE
- Admission fee: Visitors pay an additional 100 Egyptian pounds ($10) to enter the pyramid. According to Brown, the Ministry of Antiquities often closes either Khafre or Menkaure’s pyramids, so be sure to check if the pyramid of your choice is open.
The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the main pyramids of Giza, standing at 215 feet tall. Built for Menkaure, the son of Khafre and grandson of Khufu, the pyramid features unfinished granite blocks, leading archaeologists to believe that Menkaure died before the pyramid itself was finished.
What’s inside this pyramid: A corridor clad in pink granite leads to a chamber with decorative panels, a “cellar” room with six niches, and a burial chamber. In 1837, Egyptologist Howard Vyse found two sarcophagi inside the burial chamber: a black stone sarcophagus and a wooden one bearing the name of Menkaure but containing a young woman’s bones. Unfortunately, the stone sarcophagus was lost at sea on its way to England in 1838. The wooden sarcophagus can be seen in the British Museum.
Inside the pyramids of the Saqqara Necropolis
The Saqqara Necropolis was a royal burial place for over 3,000 years, covers over square miles, and is home to both pyramids and massive funerary complexes.
How to visit: Saqqara is 18 miles south of Cairo. Public transport is limited, so it is best to book a tour, hire a private guide, or book a round-trip Uber from Cairo. Be sure to visit the Imhotep Museum on site, and brown also recommends booking a horseback ride to visit nearby Abusir, a nearby complex of 14 small pyramids!
Admission fee: Entrance to the Saqqara Necropolis is 80 Egyptian pounds ($4).
The Step Pyramid of Djoser
- Construction date: 2670 BCE
- Admission fee: There is an additional fee to enter the Stepped Pyramid.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser, rising in steps rather than smooth-sided, is believed to be the earliest stone-cut monument in the world and the first pyramidal tomb in Egypt. The Step Pyramid was a huge departure from previous burial architecture, which largely consisted of small, single-layer tombs known as mastabas, also seen at Saqqara.
What’s inside this pyramid: The pyramid was opened in 2020 following a restoration project that took 14 years, cost $6.6 million, and included the building of accessible entrances for wheelchair users. Visitors can step inside the burial chamber and see Djoser’s massive granite sarcophagus, as well as chambers decorated in blue tiles and carved reliefs of the pharaoh. Artifacts found in the pyramid are in the Imhotep Museum and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The Pyramid of Unas
- Construction date: 2360 BCE
- Admission fee: There is an additional fee to enter the pyramid.
The Pyramid of Unas is a small, largely ruined pyramid. Though unassuming from the outside, the pyramid is famous for having the oldest known Egyptian religious texts inscribed on the walls of its subterranean chambers.
What’s inside this pyramid: The inside features three rooms and an empty sarcophagus. A mummified arm, possibly belonging to Unas, was found nearby and is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. More impressively, the pyramid is home to the “Pyramid Texts”, a series of incised hieroglyphs filled with blue pigments that represent the oldest known Egyptian religious texts. These texts were believed to have magical properties and include 200 spells that protected Unas in the afterlife. These texts became a trend amongst Egyptian pharaohs, and Egyptologists believe they were the inspiration for the later coffin texts and the Book of the Dead.
- Construction date: 2345 BCE
- Admission fee: There is no additional fee to enter Teti’s Pyramid.
Teti was Unas’ successor, believed to have been murdered by his own bodyguards. His pyramid is largely ruined and resembles a natural hill. Like the Pyramid of Unas, Teti’s Pyramid is best known for containing pyramid texts carved into the inner rooms.
What’s inside this pyramid: Teti’s Pyramid contains pyramid texts in the inner chambers, though they are not as preserved as those in the Pyramid of Unas. A starry night is carved into the ceiling of one chamber, and a basalt sarcophagus is found in the burial chamber.
The Tomb of Mereruka
- Construction date: 2310 BCE
- Admission fee: There is an additional entrance fee of 80 Egyptian pounds ($4).
While not a pyramid, the Tomb of Mereruka, the vizier to Teti, is worth a visit. Built during a time when high officials were building funerary monuments that rivaled their pharaohs’, the tomb is a spectacular, physical example of the changes in Egyptian politics at the time, as local noblemen increasingly took on wealth and power.
What’s inside this tomb: With 33 carved rooms, the mastaba is the richest nobleman’s tomb and the most elaborate non-royal tomb in Saqqara. The rooms are painted with scenes of Mereruka painting and playing board games, hunting and fishing scenes, and furniture and jewelry-making scenes. The central chamber has painted columns and a life-size statue of Mereruka.
The Dahshur Necropolis
The remains of seven pyramids have been found at the Dahshur Necropolis, though two have been completely destroyed and others are badly damaged. However, Dahshur, is home to two of the best-preserved early pyramids of Egypt, and visitors are allowed inside both of them.
How to visit: The Dahshur Necropolis is 20 miles south of Cairo. Public transport is limited, so it is best to book a tour, hire a private guide, or book a round-trip Uber from Cairo.
Admission fee: The entrance fee to the Dahshur Necropolis is 60 Egyptian pounds ($3).
The Bent Pyramid
- Construction date: 2600 BCE
- Admission fee: There is no additional entrance fee.
The Bent Pyramid, built by Khufu’s father, Sneferu, gets its name for its crooked shape. Originally, the pyramid was built at 54-degree angles, but the steepness made the pyramid unstable, and the angle was reduced to 43 degrees, giving the pyramid its unique shape. It’s thought to be one of the earliest examples of a smooth-sided pyramid, rather than the stepped pyramids previously built.
What’s inside this pyramid: The Bent Pyramid was recently opened to visitors for the first time in five decades. Visitors enter through a narrow 230-foot tunnel and can visit the burial chamber. Inside are corbelled ceilings and portcullis blocking systems to seal the main chamber after Sneferu’s burial. The pyramid is also home to hundreds of bats! The nearby Queen’s Pyramid, possibly built for Sneferu’s wife, Hetepheres, is also open to visitors.
The Red Pyramid
- Construction date: 2590 BCE
- Admission fee: There is no additional entrance fee.
The Red Pyramid, also built by Sneferu, was originally white. Like most pyramids, the white limestone casing that covered it is no more; much of it was stripped to build parts of Cairo during the medieval period. Now, only the red limestone blocks remain. It’s thought to be the first straight-sided pyramid and the inspiration for the Pyramids of Giza.
What’s inside this pyramid: The Red Pyramid was reopened to visitors in 2019. The entrance is part way up the side of the pyramid, and once inside, visitors descend a 200-foot-long tunnel to two well-preserved chambers featuring beautiful corbel-vaulted roofs and smooth floors, as well as a third, smaller chamber (perhaps the intended burial chamber) whose floor has been removed and destroyed by grave robbers over the centuries.
Others Egyptian pyramids you can enter
The Pyramid of Lahun
- Construction date: 1180 BCE
- Admission fee: 60 Egyptian pounds ($3).
The Pyramid of Lahun, built by Senwosret II, is now a ruin, though the unassuming lump of mud bricks hides some beautiful inner rooms. In the 1840s, when British archaeologist Sir Flinders Petri, first documented the pyramid, it took him months to find the entrance inside, hidden in the southern courtyard of the structure. Nearly every other pyramid in Egypt has its entrance on the north side, following the religious belief that pharaohs needed to leave his tomb to the north in order to become a deity. The Pyramid of Lahun is a relatively young pyramid, however, and at the time of its construction religious beliefs had changed to follow a cult of Osiris, in which the celestial orientation of tombs was less important.
What’s inside this pyramid: A vaulted corridor leads to a hall with a ritual well and into the granite burial chamber, featuring a spectacular arched roof and a red sarcophagus. An alabaster table, possibly used for offerings, stands before the sarcophagus.. A small side chamber of the burial chamber once contained leg bones, possibly Senwosret II’s.
The tomb of Senwoseret’s daughter, Sat Hathor, was found near the pyramid, and her jewelry and toiletries can be seen in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. One of the largest collections of papyri, many discussing medical and medieval topics, was found near the pyramid and is now housed at the University College London.
How to visit: The Pyramid of Lahun is in Fayoum, 60 miles south of Cairo. There is no public transport, so hire a private driver or book a private tour. There has also been historically a heavy military and police presence in the Fayoum area, and there could be numerous checkpoints and requirements of police escorts to get to the pyramid.
- Construction date: 2600 BCE
- Admission fee: The admission fee to the Meidum Pyramid is 100 Egyptian pounds ($10).
The Meidum Pyramid stands almost as high as the Pyramid of Menkaure in Giza and was likely Sneferu’s first attempt at pyramid-building, though it’s possible his predecessor Huni started it and Sneferu simply finished it. It was first built as a series of steps, like the Step Pyramid, and then later modifications added a limestone facing to give the pyramid a smooth-sided appearance. The outer cladding collapsed in ancient times, possibly during construction, as many components of the burial chamber and mortuary complex were never finished.
What’s inside this pyramid: The entrance to the pyramid is high above the ground, and leads to a descending corridor. A small ladder at the end leads up into the burial chamber. The burial chamber itself is uncompleted, with raw walls and wooden supports still in place.
How to visit: The Meidum Pyramid is 60 miles south of Cairo. The site is a bit off the beaten path, so it’s best to book a tour in Cairo, hire a driver, or book a round trip Uber.