The Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza are bucket list items for many travellers. But as with many popular tourist attractions, they either meet expectations at least or fall exceedingly short of them. Still, when visiting Cairo, Egypt, they are a must-see and to make the most of your trip, it is important to learn about the best way to see them.
I’ve now visited the Pyramids and Sphinx three times. Once in 2018, on my first visit to Egypt with Mark and twice, on my most recent trip there. The difference between these visits had to do with the timing, weather, and the number of people in the complex.
What's Covered in this Post
Visiting the Pyramids of Giza: Then and Now…
In 2018, Egypt was still recovering from an exodus of tourists and when we arrived at the complex at about 11 am, save for a few camel and horse merchants, it was bare. In 2023, though still not at its peak, tourism-wise, the difference is clear.
When my guide and I arrive shortly before 9 am, the complex is pouring with tour buses and visitors. In contrast to my previous visit, there is a queue at the ticket booth, the camel and horse riders are aplenty, and those who have arrived without a guide feel the full weight of their persistence, or in a more factual term, harassment.
Something else I also noticed was the sheer amount of debris and stray dogs in the complex. Combined with the scorching morning heat, the visit ended up being somewhat uncomfortable, despite my guide’s best efforts. Or perhaps it felt this way because I had visited before and knew what a better experience felt like.
I made up my mind to revisit on my own the next day, just as soon as the complex opened up to visitors and herein lies my top tip to visit the Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza.
The Best Way to See the Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza – Go Early
The saying “The early bird gets the fattest worm” has never been truer when it comes to visiting the Pyramids of Giza. And especially so when you visit in the summer months or peak travel seasons. I can tell you for a fact that the few hours of solitude you get elevate your experience so much more!
It’s not even about the cool photo opportunities – it’s the quietness, the coolness of the day, the chance to just be in the moment, to truly appreciate that you’re there, staring at these magnificent ancient wonders.
It also contributes positively to your experience if you have read a bit about their history, or if you are visiting with a guide. The chances that a vendor will eventually approach you are still high but it will be nothing compared to if you visit later in the day.
My Solo Experience Following an Early Visit…
I got an Uber from my hotel to the complex and as the driver pulled into the street leading up to the entrance gate, some men stopped him to ask where he was taking me and if I needed a horse or camel. I simply said I was going to a lodge nearby and they let us be.
A couple more men approached me at the ticket booth and once I was inside the complex, but a firm “No” and just ignoring them was enough to shake them off. I later enjoyed my time alone around the complex, without too much disturbance.
Afterwards, I walked over to the 9 Pyramids Lounge to get breakfast. This lounge is currently the only restaurant located within the complex (another is being constructed) and it is a good restaurant to grab a meal during your visit.
The Best Way to See the Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza – Dine at the 9 Pyramids Lounge
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal and services as typically, many places close to tourist attractions end up being rather disappointing.
I had breakfast here and it was reasonably priced and delicious. Another benefit of going early was that I was able to get a nice seat outside, even without making a reservation in advance.
Getting here was quite the walk though as I chose not to ride a camel or horse over. If you have a car, then it’s very easy to just drive to the restaurant.
I certainly recommend including this stop in your visit if you have the time to do so.
PS: I also recommend reading the latest reviews about this place before you go. I did so after putting up this post and can see it has a lot of mixed reviews.
The Best Time to Visit the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx and Entrance Fees (2023)
The best time to visit the complex is as soon as it opens at 7 am. At the time of this writing, it costs 240 EGP (~ $8) for a ticket into the complex. There’s an additional fee of 440 EGP and 150 EGP to gain entrance into the Khufu and Khafre Pyramids. Students pay half the price.
There’s also a 20 EGP charge to bring in a tripod but when I mentioned I had one for my phone, the ticket officer didn’t acknowledge it.
Finally, another crucial decision you need to make to enjoy and optimize for a great visit to the Pyramids is whether or not to hire a guide.
Should you visit the Pyramids without a Guide?
It is possible (and cheaper) to visit the Pyramids of Giza without a guide, but should you do so? Here’s my take. If you’re a seasoned traveller who has been exposed to all kinds of places and cultures, and you are not too phased by the disturbance from vendors, then you will be fine without a guide.
Without a guide, you will most likely be harassed by touts and vendors, especially if you arrive at peak visiting hours. If you visit early, then you can minimize this.
My first visit with Mark and my third were excellent and I went without a guide. For my second, I decided to visit with one because I was initially apprehensive about visiting on my own (I had nothing to worry about). I also wanted a convenient way to see many parts of Cairo on the same day and also wanted to learn more about the places I was visiting.
I hired the services of Sam from Egypt Eye Tour and I was very pleased with the entire outing.
Should You Stay in Giza to Optimize for a Good Experience?
You don’t necessarily need to stay in Giza if you plan to see the Pyramids but doing so has a few advantages. For example, it’s pretty cool to wake up to a view of the Pyramids at sunrise and to also enjoy them at sunset. Depending on where you stay, you can also probably catch the light and sound show for free from the comfort of your hotel.
That being said, there’s not much else to do in Giza and the area itself is not particularly charming. If you find a place you love, then you can make it a base for your time in Cairo, otherwise, one night is enough time to spend in the area.
Visiting the Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza – The Sum Up
These days, it is not enough to just show up at your dream destinations and expect that they fit the image you have of them in your mind. If you’re spending your time and resources to visit a place, you owe it to yourself to research a bit about what to expect. So if you’re reading this article, kudos to you!
When visiting the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, you should know that these structures are situated in the middle of an urban, populated part of the city. Getting to the complex early and knowing what to expect while you’re there is the best way to optimize for a wonderful experience.
Have you been to Cairo or visited the Pyramids? What was your experience like? Is Cairo or Egypt in general on your travel wish list? Let’s talk in the comment section below!