Pyramids of Giza during sunset.

© Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost / Getty Images

Pyramids of Giza

Top choice in Giza

The last remaining wonder of the ancient world; for nearly 4000 years, the extraordinary shape, impeccable geometry and sheer bulk of the Giza Pyramids have invited the obvious questions: ‘How were we built, and why?’. Centuries of research have given us parts of the answer. Built as massive tombs on the orders of the pharaohs, they were constructed by teams of workers tens-of-thousands strong. Today they stand as an awe-inspiring tribute to the might, organisation and achievements of ancient Egypt.

Ongoing excavations on the Giza Plateau, along with the discovery of a pyramid-builders' settlement, complete with areas for large-scale food production and medical facilities, have provided more evidence that the workers were not the slaves of Hollywood tradition, but an organised workforce of Egyptian farmers. During the flood season, when the Nile covered their fields, the same farmers could have been redeployed by the highly structured bureaucracy to work on the pharaoh’s tomb. In this way, the Pyramids can almost be seen as an ancient job-creation scheme. And the flood waters made it easier to transport building stone to the site.

But despite the evidence, some still won’t accept that the ancient Egyptians were capable of such achievements. So-called pyramidologists point to the carving and placement of the stones, precise to the millimetre, and argue the numerological significance of the structures’ dimensions as evidence that the Pyramids were constructed by angels or aliens. It’s easy to laugh at these out-there ideas, but when you see the monuments up close, especially inside, you’ll better understand why so many people believe such awesome structures must have unearthly origins.

Most visitors will make a beeline straight to the four most famous sights; the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Sphinx. But for those who want to explore further, the desert plateau surrounding the pyramids is littered with tombs, temple ruins and smaller satellite pyramids.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Giza attractions

1. Cheops Boat Museum

0.11 MILES

Immediately south of the Great Pyramid is this fascinating museum with exactly one object on display: one of Cheops' five solar barques (boats), buried…

2. Great Pyramid of Khufu

0.13 MILES

The oldest pyramid in Giza and the largest in Egypt, Khufu’s Great Pyramid stood 146m high when it was completed around 2570 BC. After 46 windy centuries,…

3. Western Cemetery

0.13 MILES

Private cemeteries are tucked into the hill alongside the causeways, as well as arrayed in neat rows around the Pyramids in a grid pattern. Only a few of…

4. Tomb of Senegemib-Inti

0.16 MILES

At the north end of the Western Cemetery, the Tomb of Senegemib-Inti contains interesting inscriptions, including a rather vicious-looking hippopotamus,…

5. Pyramid of Khafre

0.17 MILES

Khafre, the second pyramid, seems larger than that of Khafre's father, Khufu. At just 136m high, it’s not, but it stands on higher ground and its peak is…

6. Tomb of Seshemnufer IV

0.18 MILES

The Tomb of Seshemnufer IV, just southeast of the Great Pyramid, is almost always open. There are carved deer on the entrance room walls and a burial…

7. Solar Barque Pits

0.21 MILES

On the east side of the Great Pyramid of Khufu note the solar barque pits that housed the giant ritual boats buried with the pharaoh.

8. Queens' Pyramids

0.21 MILES

Along the Great Pyramid of Khufu's east face, three small structures some 20m high resemble piles of rubble. These are the Queens’ Pyramids, the tombs of…