Used as temples or tombs, pyramids are some of the ancient world’s largest structures. Truly, they’re feats of human ingenuity and engineering. For many people, Egypt or the Americas is where they think the largest pyramid in the world can be found. However, other areas of the world are also home to large pyramids. These include Sudan, Nigeria, Greece, China, and Indonesia, among others.
Furthermore, the picture changes if we consider modern-day pyramid-style buildings. And thanks to high-tech tools and equipment, some of today’s pyramids are bigger than those of yesteryear. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the largest pyramids in the world ranked by height.
Pyramid of Djoser, Egypt
Height: 62.5 meters (205 feet)
The Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, Egypt, dates from 2630 BC to 2611 BC. It’s older than the pyramids at Giza. At first, the structure was supposed to be a flat-roofed tomb (mastaba) for the pharaoh Djoser (or Zoser). However, Djoser, the first king of Egypt’s 3rd Dynasty, wanted something more grandiose. To this end, several mastabas were stacked atop one another. The result is the step pyramid we see today. Djoser’s pyramid was the largest in Egypt during his time. It was a major addition to his many accomplishments.
The pyramid’s design is attributed to the sculptor and priest, Imhotep. Among its notable features is the maze of tunnels. According to archaeologists, this was probably done to deter theft. It didn’t work, though, as looters have ransacked the pyramid. Today, visitors aren’t allowed to enter due to conservation efforts. However, you can stand outside to admire what was once thought to be the tallest pyramid in the world.
pyramid of Meidum, Egypt
Height: 65 meters (213 feet)
The Meidum Pyramid was built for, and during, the reign of Sneferu. He was the first king of Egypt’s 4th Dynasty. He was also the father of Khufu, who later built the Great Pyramid of Giza. According to researchers, Meidum might have been the second pyramid completed after Djoser’s. At first, it was a step pyramid of 7 layers. Later, the steps were filled in and capped with limestone.
Time, however, revealed that the additions weren’t structurally sound. The outer layers collapsed, leaving the square core we see today. In any case, the Meidum Pyramid wasn’t Snefru’s final resting place. Although he built it during his reign, he abandoned it for another royal cemetery at Dahshur. Moreover, the pyramid was never fully completed. The walls of the mortuary temple, for instance, weren’t polished. Also, the burial chamber itself had raw walls.
pyramid of the Sun, Mexico
Height: 65.5 meters (216 feet)
The Pyramid of the Sun dominates the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. It’s about 40 km (25 mi) from Mexico City. When the Teotihuacans completed it in the 2nd century, it was the largest pyramid in the world. Or, in the New World, at least. The Aztecs named the pyramid when they came to Teotihuacan, centuries after its abandonment. There’s little known about the pyramid’s original purpose. However, there are several theories: That it was a temple or some sort of ritual calendar are two of them.
Excavations have revealed some artifacts. These include human figurines and obsidian arrowheads, possibly representing human sacrifices. Another discovery was the Teotihuacan Ocelot, an alabaster sculpture that the British Museum acquired in 1926. Would you like to climb to the top of the pyramid? Then book a private tour of Teotihuacan. Besides the Pyramid of the Sun, you’ll also get to see the Pyramid of the Moon and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.
the great pyramid of Cholula, Mexico
Height: 66 meters (217 feet)
If measured by volume, then the Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest pyramid in the world. Its total volume is 3.3 million cubic meters. This dwarfs that of the Great Pyramid of Giza’s. An Aztec temple, the pyramid is also called the Quetzalcóatl Pyramid or the Great Pyramid of Tepanapa. It’s located in Cholula de Rivadavia, 101 km (63 mi) from Mexico City.
The pyramid dates from 300 BC. Sometime in the 7th or 8th centuries, the Aztecs abandoned it. Buried by soil and grass over the centuries, it took on the appearance of a hill. Because of this, it survived destruction by the Spanish conquistadores in the early 16th century. In fact, in the 1570s, the Spanish built their own church on the “hill.” Today, the pyramid and the church are popular tourist attractions. Visitors can explore the tunnels at the pyramid’s base and see ornate altars.
Tikal Temple IV, Guatemala
Height: 70 meters (230 feet)
Temple IV is the highest pyramid in the Mayan site of Tikal. It’s also called the Two-Headed Serpent Temple. It lies roughly 64 km (40 miles) south of El Mirador, another old Mayan settlement in Guatemala. Experts say that Temple IV dates back to 741 AD and honors the Tikal dynasty’s 27th king, Yik’in Chan K’awiil. In fact, some archaeologists believe that his tomb lies hidden under the pyramid.
At the summit is a shrine topped by a roof comb. Among the shrine’s notable features are gigantic stone masks and intricate lintels. Climbing the steep stairs to the top might take quite an effort. However, the sweeping views of the rainforest and the other pyramids are worth it.
la Danta pyramid, Guatemala
Height: 72 meters (236 feet)
Hidden in the dense northern Guatemala jungle is the largest pyramid in the world of the Mayans. Aside from its impressive height, La Danta boasts a volume of almost 3 million cubic meters (99 million cubic feet). Likewise mind-boggling is the thought that it took millions of days of labor to build it.
La Danta lies in the ancient Mayan settlement called El Mirador. It’s located in El Petén. This is about 68 km (42.2 mi) from the Guatemalan city of Flores. El Mirador prospered from 6 BC to 1 AD. However, by the end of the 9th century, it had been abandoned. Two other pyramids are also in El Mirador: El Tigre and Los Monos. If you’re fit and keen for a hike, you might enjoy the Mirador Quest Trek. This expedition will reward you with stunning views from the top of La Danta.
Memphis Pyramid, USA
Height: 98 meters (321 feet)
Graceland might be the most iconic landmark in Memphis, Tennessee. But its resident pyramid is quite the eye-catcher too. The Memphis Pyramid is in the downtown area, beside the Mississippi River. It started out in 1991 as a sports and entertainment venue. Boxing matches, basketball games, and concerts were all held here.
Later, the city government signed a 55-year lease agreement with Bass Pro Shops. As a result, the Memphis Pyramid became a Bass Pro Shops megastore in 2015. Besides the huge retail store, there are other attractions. These include a shooting range, an archery range, and a laser arcade. The building also boasts the country’s tallest freestanding elevator.
Red Pyramid Of Dahshur, Egypt
Height: 104 meters (342 feet)
Pharaoh Sneferu is responsible for at least three of the largest pyramids in the world. The Red Pyramid is one of them. The founder of Egypt’s 4th Dynasty, Sneferu blazed a trail in the design and building of pyramids. His Red Pyramid is in the Dahshur necropolis, about 40 km (25 mi) from Cairo. The rosy limestone used to build most of the pyramid’s core is the source of its name.
Archaeologists say the pyramid took around 17 years to complete. Experts likewise believe that it was the first successful attempt to build a pyramid with smooth sides. Today, tourists are free to enter and explore the pyramid’s wonders. For instance, the corbelled ceilings of the interior chambers are remarkable examples of fine masonry. Despite the weight of the stones above and the passage of millennia, they show no breaks or cracks.
Bent Pyramid, Egypt
Height: 105 meters (344 feet)
The Bent Pyramid was an experiment of sorts for Sneferu, a pharaoh of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. It was his second pyramid after the one in Meidum. The pyramid’s name comes from its top section, which appears bent because of its shallow angle. It’s possible that the original angle was too steep, forcing the builders to compensate to prevent the pyramid from collapsing.
Closed to tourism since 1965, the Bent Pyramid re-opened to visitors in 2019. Tourists can access the side pyramid. It opened to the public for the first time since its 1956 excavation. Some archaeologists believe that this side pyramid was intended for Sneferu’s wife, Hetepheres.
Luxor, Las Vegas, USA
Height: 107 meters (350 feet)
The Las Vegas Strip is one of the top tourist attractions in the USA. Since 1993, it’s also been the home of Luxor Las Vegas, a 30-story hotel and casino. Owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, it was the Strip’s tallest building when it opened. Today, it’s one of the largest pyramids in the modern world.
The Luxor takes its name from the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. It boasts 4,400 guestrooms, a huge casino, eight restaurants, and four outdoor pools. It also has the world’s largest atrium. Moreover, the hotel features the world’s strongest light beam: the Luxor Sky Beam. And when it comes to shows, the Luxor offers plenty. These include concerts and revues headlined by the biggest names in showbiz.
Pyramid Of Khafre, Egypt
Height: 136.4 meters (448 feet)
The Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) dates from 2570 BC. Among all the Giza pyramids, it’s the only one with at least part of the original white limestone casing. It houses the tomb of Khafre, a pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. He was also the son of Khufu (Cheops), whose pyramid is the largest in Giza.
Inside, the interior is simpler compared to that of Khufu’s pyramid. However, the mortuary temple is more complex. It once housed over 52 life-size statues of Khafre. Meanwhile, the pyramid’s valley temple boasts granite-sheathed blocks and polished white calcite floors. Archaeologists also believe that this temple held even more statues of Khafre.
the great pyramid of Giza, Egypt
Height: 138.8 meters (455.4 feet)
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest pyramid in the world in many people’s minds. Indeed, it was the world’s tallest man-made structure for thousands of years. Also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops, its original height was 146.5 meters (480.6 ft). It served as a tomb for Khufu (Cheops), a Fourth Dynasty pharaoh. Some believe that his vizier, Hemiunu or Hemon, was the pyramid’s architect.
The pyramid’s construction took 10–20 years between 2551–2528 BC. It originally had a smooth, white limestone covering that reflected sunlight or moonlight. Inside, the King’s Chamber holds a large granite sarcophagus. The Giza complex also includes mortuary temples, pyramids for Khufu’s wives, and mastaba tombs for the nobility. To further learn about Giza’s wonders, check out this private half-day tour.
Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, USA
Height: 260 meters (853 feet)
Along with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid is a major San Francisco landmark. Designed by architect William Pereira, the building soars above the city’s Financial District. Construction began in 1969. In 1972, the building opened as Transamerica Corp.’s headquarters. Today, its tenants include banks and law firms.
The Transamerica building is among the largest pyramids in the world. Its distinctive shape owes as much to function factors as it does to form. Because of its tapered design, it casts a smaller shadow. This means that the streets below get more natural light. And at its apex, a beacon called the “Crown Jewel” twinkles during special occasions.
The Shard, London, UK
Height: 309.6 meters (1,016 feet)
A creation of Italian architect Renzo Piano, The Shard is a 95-story skyscraper in London. It’s the tallest building in the UK and in the European Union. Rather than the pyramids of old, the railway lines beside the site as well as a ship’s masts inspired the building’s design. Even so, it’s among the world’s largest pyramidal structures.
Thousands of glass panes make up The Shard’s facade. There are 72 habitable floors, 13 of which hold residential apartments. Various tenants take up space in the building. The 5-star Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, for instance, occupies levels 34–52. World-class drinking and dining are on tap at restaurants and bars like Aqua Shard. Meanwhile, London’s highest viewing deck spans 3 floors at the top.
Ryugyong Hotel, North Korea
Height: 330 meters (1,080 feet)
Ryugyong Hotel isn’t just North Korea’s tallest building. It’s also the largest pyramid in the world. Construction started in 1987, with the opening scheduled for 1989. But, because of a host of problems, the deadline kept getting extended. Construction stopped in 1992. For many years, the “Hotel of Doom” lay idle. Work then restarted in 2008. By 2011, the hotel had a glass facade. But despite the planned opening in 2013, Ryugoyong Hotel remains closed as of 2020.
The original plan was for a mixed-use development. This included a huge hotel and revolving restaurants. Another interesting fact: the building’s pyramidal shape isn’t all about aesthetics. Rather than steel, reinforced concrete is the hotel’s main building material. Because the upper levels needed to be lighter, they had to taper to a point. Hence the building’s pyramid-like appearance.