These 3 sites south of the pyramids of Giza could arguably be much better than what you’ll experience at Giza. Why? Because they’re less famous, less visited, and tougher to reach. It is amazing to visit these sites and walk around and there’s a good chance you’ll be the only one there. You can also go inside these pyramids at a much cheaper price so I would argue you much more bang for the buck.
I do want to emphasize that these sites are FAR LESS VISITED by tourists. I only saw a handful of tourists at Saqqara (maybe 10 people?) and I was the only one at Dahshur and Memphis. Ultimately, you get A LOT of value for the cost of your ticket and/or tour.
The first stop will more than likely be Saqqara. Here, you’ll see a step pyramid that kind of emerges from the desert sand, almost out of nowhere. The drive is about 30 mins south of the Giza pyramids but is totally worth it.
You really won’t be able to go to these 3 sites by yourself unless you’re going to drive yourself to each site. Yes, it’s possible to take an Uber or a taxi, but you’ll want to be able to hire a driver for the day or at least for 4-6 hours. The reason is these 3 sites are fairly spread out. Not just from each other, but also the different pyramids at each site. Also, these sites aren’t necessarily located off major streets so you won’t really be in a position to just flag a taxi. If you don’t do a tour, I’d really recommend hiring a driver for the day or for a few hours.
At Saqqara, you’ll have the opportunity to walk down into the crypt that is located beneath the pyramid. I didn’t go down into it but you can walk down if you wish. Also there is the tomb of inscriptions which is defninitely worth a look (you’ll have to duck your head as you enter the main chamber but it isn’t bad all all).
With a guide, you’ll understand the history and the importance of the step pyramid and to be honest, this is, by far, the most interesting of the 3 sites. You’ll definitely spend the bulk of your time here mainly because there’s more to see and it’s interesting to learn about. You’ll definitely fun into a couple tour guides offering their services so if you don’t have one already, you can pick one up at the gate if you wish.
Moving on to Dahshur, this is where you’ll see the Red Pyramid, Bent Pyramid, and the Black Pyramid. Of the three, the Red and the Bent are going to be of major points of interest (as a tourist). Now in terms of interest level, Dahshur is the site of 3 different pyramids but there isn’t much to really wrap your head around. They are all very cool to see (you’ll see the Black Pyramid from a distance since it just looks like a pile of rocks).
I guess if there’s a pyramid you might want to enter, it’s the Bent Pyramid. Now I will say this. This is definitely NOT for the timid. If you are claustrophobic, in poor health, or in any way uncomfortable with tight spaces, you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT climb inside. I don’t mean to scare or alarm anyone but it is VERY tight, VERY uncomfortable, and you WILL be crawling on your hands and knees for a fair portion. Also remember, you exit the same way you came in so every uncomfortable thing you do the way in, there’ll be an encore performance on the way out.
Below are some photos of the inside. Unfortunately, since I was the only one in there, the size of the space isn’t relatable. But I was crawling on my hands and knees, scooting on my butt, and bear crawling up the ramp. I’m also going to say this. Anyone who has been inside any pyramid structure will tell you that the inside of any pyramid ISN’T worth the climb to go inside. However, we all do it cuz it’s something to say we did and we figure we’ll ever have another chance to do it again.
The climb inside the Bent Pyramid is exactly the same. The climb is a bit arduous and the payoff is really not there.
Here’s what I’ll say about the entire thing. When I do something, I hope to have a worth payoff to the entire experience. Maybe you see something amazing, or experience something life changing. Instead, all the exciting and amazing stuff inside the pyramids has been found (at least whatever was in that portion of the pyramid). So by the time you get there, there isn’t anything to see. Bottom line, if you don’t do it, don’t feel bad since I you’re no missing anything.
You’ll also have a chance to climb into the Red Pyramid here if you don’t want to go inside the Bent Pyramid or if you feel like you want to do both. I was told the Bent Pyramid is the tougher of the two so if you want an easier time, you might consider doing the Red Pyramid instead.
From Dahshur, it’s a short drive over to Memphis. Now for all intents and purposes, your stop here is mainly going to be to see the huge statue of Ramses II. There is a small open air museum here but in terms of artifacts and things to see, there really isn’t much. Memphis used to be the capital so it has historical importance. But in terms of interesting things to see, don’t expect much. I image more tour operators put Memphis on the list of places to see because it’s in the area and it sounds like you’re getting 3 cool places for 1 price when in reality you’re getting 2 cool places and a your final place to buy crappy souvenirs.
I would completely recommend a tour down to Saqqara, Dahshur, and Memphis. Ok, you can leave Memphis off the list but it comes with price of admission so it’s a nice add on I guess. The real value here is that you won’t feel rushed by anyone since most tourists won’t go to these sites. You’ll experience far fewer tourists and that alone will be worth the price. There aren’t many times you can have a UNESCO World Heritage Site almost completely to yourself because most tours don’t make it down there. Of course, with everything, you mileage may vary. But for me, it was sureal to be able to walk these sites completely unhindered.