Best tips to visit the Pyramids in Cairo for the first time

JUAN MARTINEZ

August 4, 2020

Best tips to visit the Pyramids in Cairo for the first time

Either on an independent visit or with a private guide, that first sight of the Pyramids in Cairo will take your breath away. Here are my best tips

No matter if this is one of these places you simply want to cross off your bucket list or a destination you always dreamt about to explore, the Pyramids in Egypt are one of the most incredible places on earth and a destination everyone should see at least once in a lifetime. Its particular structure is recognized all over the world and this is probably one of the most iconic manmade structures – if not the most.

I wanted to visit Cairo and the Pyramids of Egypt since I was a child. Inspired by movies like The Mummy or Indiana Jones, I had always a fascination for the secrets hidden in these ancient temples and their stories behind. There is a reason why they part of the seven world wonders and from the first step outside Cairo’s international airport, I knew it was going a trip of a lifetime.

Camels resting in the southert part of the GIza complex
Camels resting in the southert part of the pyramids in Cairo

Visiting Giza for first time

Located around 18 km southwest from Cairo Downtown, the Giza pyramid complex, is basically right next to the city. This was one of the biggest surprises I had during this visit, as I was used to see these beautiful photos on Instagram, where the pyramids look in the middle of a vast empty desert and far away any civilization.

In fact, the two main entrances of the pyramids are located in one of the busiest junctions of the city. Here, you can barely recognize when the city ends and pyramid complex starts.

Taxi, Uber, metro, buses or a private guided tour. There are so many different options to get there, that you might feel a little overwhelmed while choosing the right one. Each one is completely different and full of pros and cons for you to consider.

My opinion here is very clear. Hiring a private vehicle and having a private guide was by far the best option for any visitor exploring the Pyramids of Egypt for first time. They will not only pick you up straight from your hotel, but they will prepare for you a tailor made itinerary that suits exactly what you want.

Even if you are a budget traveler, this is still and by far the best choice. Prices start at 25 EUR for a full day tour and you will definitely see its advantages if you compare it to travel independently.

Limit of the city in Cairo
The city limits with the Giza pyramid complex

NOTE: Cairo is a city that can be quite overwhelming with street vendors and people trying to offer you tour packages. Something I valued a lot during my visit to Giza is how my guide dealt with each one of these vendors pointing out right away that I was not interested in their offers or services.

About Giza

The Giza plateau and the pyramids are open from 8 am until 4 pm daily (5 pm in summer). This is one of the seven wonders in the world, so expect massive masses of tourists arriving very early in the morning.

Most tour guides will encourage you to wake up early and be one of the first in line. Furthermore, take into consideration that the traffic in Cairo is one of the worst in the world and getting from Downtown Cairo to the Giza Pyramids during rush hour can take up to two hours easily. Even though our guide told us to depart at 6 in the morning, I would suggest to leave even earlier. We arrived a little bit after half past eight and dozens of buses were already in line filled with tourists from all over the world.

Once inside the complex, time flies. The Giza pyramid complex is so labyrinthic,  that if you have a tight itinerary planned for the days, your guide might hurry you once or twice.

With that said, don’t rush your time inside the complex. Visiting the pyramids is a lifetime opportunity and each one of the locations offer something new and different.

Camel rides in Giza

NOTE: Tickets to the Pyramids and Sphinx area costs 120 LE (60LE for students). To go inside the Great Pyramid, it’s an additional 300 LE (150 LE for students).

Inside the Giza pyramid complex

Map of the Giza Pyramids Complex
Map of the Giza Pyramids Complex

Once inside, you will see right away the three main pyramids of the complex: The massive Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. These are the three largest attractions of the complex and usually the first three places travelers tend to visit.

Inside the pyramids, you can get a little glimpse of how the magnificent of these structures. Not only because each section of this area has a story to tell but simply due to the architectonic magnificence of the structure itself.

While you wander around, taste a cup of the local overly sweet coffee sold by vendors at the entrance and ask your guide about the stories in each location.

There are thousands of anecdotes and historical facts about the Pyramids of Giza and you won’t be able to hear them all.

Crowds at the pyramids of Egypt
Crowds at the pyramids of Egypt

Exploring the Giza complex independently

Having a guide is extremely useful. However, as a traveler who always dreamt about visiting this place, I wanted to have a more personal moment to enjoy the pyramids. Even though the area is extremely busy, there are thousands of people walking next to you and another hundreds vendors trying to sell you a miniature of the pyramids.

If you go to the southern side of the complex, you can explore a more isolated and private time side of the pyramids in Cairo. Before visiting the complex, my guide told me about the timing of his prayers and the importance of it. I though this would be a perfect time to explore alone, find a quiet spot and maybe for a moment simply marvel the structures I had in front of my eyes.

NOTE:  Camel and horse rides are very popular among visitors in the pyramids. However, the camels and horses here are treated very bad. I would encourage you to avoid booking one of these tours during your visit and simply explore the complex by foot and with lots of water in the bag.

Inside giza complex-Pyramids-Egypt
Elements remaining inside the Giza complex

Best viewpoints inside the pyramid complex.

Once he left for his lunch break and prayers, I decided to wander around and search for some spots to photograph. Although the complex is extremely photogenic,  once you get a little bit off the beaten path, you will find way more locations, where it seems the pyramids don’t get any visitors at all.

In the first hours after opening is by far the best time to explore. Most people will be still busy exploring the three main pyramids and the peak of tourists would not be there yet.

Sphinx Viewpoint

It is one of the most iconic spots to photograph in the Pyramids of Giza, but also one of the most crowded. The Sphinx is probably also the first spot you want to photograph after entering the complex. It looks beautiful when its alone, but can be extremely overwhelming and annoying when it gets crowded.

sphinx in Cairo- Pyramids-in-Egypt
View of the Sphinx in Cairo

9 Pyramids Viewpoint

This is one of the few places inside the complex where you can get a view of all the pyramids together. Although most locals inside the complex will tell you that you can only get there with a camel tour, this popular photo spot is only 15 minutes away from the Pyramid of Khafre and it’s a nice off the beaten path walk as well an opportunity to escape from tourist masses.

9 pyramids viewpoint in Egypt
9 Pyramids viewpoint in Cairoo

Main Panoramic Viewpoint

Further southeast from Khafre, the main panoramic viewpoint is the most popular spot to take a photo of the Pyramids of Giza. Most tour buses will take you there and if you are traveling with a private guide, they will probably drive you there. However, due to its close location (20 minutes from the center of the complex), walking to the viewpoint is not a bad idea.

While I was exploring the Giza pyramid complex, I told my guide to give me an extra 2 hours to explore by myself. We end up meeting at the main panoramic viewpoint.

Read more: How to meet people while traveling alone

View of the Great Pyramid
View of the Great Pyramid of Egypt

These are some of the most popular tours Cairo at Viator

If you are looking for Cairo accommodation, Booking usually has the lowest fees worldwide. You can use the search engine here and book your accommodation in Cairo using Booking.com and support the blog and the creation of more amazing content!



Booking.com

More time to explore?

Saqqara Necropolis

30 km south of Cairo you will find the Saqqara Necropolis. This is the home of the oldest pyramid in Egypt and the beautiful funerary complex of Djoser. Here, the Djoser’s step pyramid is also one of the key places to explore a less touristic side of the Pyramids in Cairo.

Some tours offer visiting Giza and Saqqara on the same day. However, I find this itinerary a little bit too stressful and if I have an extra day in the city, I would prefer to spend a full day only in this area.

Other pyramids in this part of the city are the Pyramid of Unas and the Pyramid of Userkaf.

Read more: How to pack your bag for a longer journey

Ruins of Saqqara Cairo-pyramids
More pyramids in Cairo – Ruins of Saqqara

White Desert National Park

Although the most popular day trip from Cairo is a visit to the city of Alexandria, I decided to go into a different direction and explore on a 2-day-1-night tour the White Desert National Park. This was by far my favorite experience in whole Egypt and one of the most bizarre places I’ve seen in my life.

Here, travelers will sleep under the stars in a desert that was shaped by the forces of nature. Expect to find weird limestone structures in shapes of camels, mushrooms and chickens.

Read more: How to visit the White Desert in Egypt

Wanna visit the White Desert during your visit to Egypt?

I arranged my trip asking around while in Cairo. However, if you want to plan everything with tour operators beforehand from the comfort of your home. Viator is the best platform for it.

They have the largest database of local tour operators worldwide, and you can simply send a request and negotiate a tour and a price directly with the operator. You don’t have to pay any additional fees.

These are some of the most popular tours in the White Desert at Viator

Mushroom Sunset White Desert Egypt
Mushroom Sunset White Desert Egypt

Insider Tip:
Bookaway is the right platform to get your tickets online and fast if you want to travel around the country using public transportation. No waiting lines at bus stations or asking around which bus goes where.

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