Pyramids are some of the largest structures in the ancient world. They were used as temples or tombs. Nowadays, they are a marvelous structure that is left behind to tell a story of our history. When you think about the biggest pyramid in the world, you usually think of Egypt.
And that is true to some degree. Egypt is the home to the most recognizable pyramids in the world. But the country doesn’t have the highest number of pyramids. That title belongs to Sudan, a nation with 220 extant pyramids, the most in the world.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the biggest pyramids in the world.
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The structure is also known as the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops. It is the oldest and largest pyramid in the Giza pyramid complex. The Great Pyramid is also the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.
Nowadays, Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb for the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu.
Initially, it stood at 481 feet, making it the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. But over time, most of the smooth white limestone casing was removed, lowering the height of the pyramid to 454 feet.
There are three chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The funerary complex is the most attractive part for tourists and visitors.
Pyramid of Khafre
Similar to the Great Pyramid, this one is also known by another name, the Pyramid of Chephren. It is the second-tallest and second-largest of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza.
It serves as the tomb of the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khafre (or Chefren). It rises to 448 feet. Made of limestone blocks, the Khafre Pyramid is steeper than its neighbor, the Pyramid of Khufu.
Historians believe that the ancient Pyramid was opened and robbed during the First Intermediate Period. Giovanni Belzoni explored it for the first time in March 1818. He found the original entrance on the north side.
The Red Pyramid
Sometimes called the North Pyramid, this one is the largest pyramid located at the Dahshur necropolis in Cairo, Egypt. It got its name due to the rusty reddish hue of its red limestone stones.
The Red Pyramid is the third largest Egyptian pyramid. Many historians believe it is also the first successful attempt at a true smooth-sided pyramid. Residents refer to it as the Bat Pyramid.
Fun fact: it was not always red. It used to be cased with white Tura limestone, but only a few of them remain at the base nowadays. During the Middle Ages, white Tura limestone was taken for buildings in Cairo, revealing the red limestone beneath.
Nowadays, the famous pyramid is 344 feet high and 720 feet wide.
The Bent Pyramid
This ancient Egyptian pyramid is located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur. Built under the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Sneferu, it is a unique example of early pyramid development in Egypt.
It rises from the desert at a 54-degree inclination. The top section is built at the shallower angle of 43 degrees, giving the pyramid an optical illusion of a bent appearance.
According to archeologists, this one represents a transitional form between step-sided and smooth-sided pyramids.
What makes it unique is the original polished limestone outer casing remains largely intact.
The name translates to The Lookout, The Viewpoint, or The Belvedere. It is a large pre-Columbian Maya settlement located in the north part of modern Guatemala.
Claudio Urrutia in 1885 noted the presence of ruins for the first time. But it was Ian Graham that spent time there in 1962 and made the first map of the area.
To this day, there are more than 168 scientific papers published about the place. Documentaries have appeared on the History Channel, National Geographic, BBC, Good Morning America, and more.
Great Pyramid of Cholula
This is the largest monument ever constructed and the largest pyramid. The original name is Quetzalcóatl Pyramid at Cholula de Rivadavia. Located 63 miles southeast of Mexico City, the base covers an area of 45 acres. The pyramid itself is 177 feet tall.
The local name translates to “made by hand mountain”. The huge complex in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico, is the largest archeological site of a pyramid temple in the New World.
It is also the largest pyramid by volume known to exist in the world today. That doesn’t make it the biggest pyramid in the world, but the largest.
The complex consists of several structures built on top of each other. The construction started in the 3rd century BC and lasted until the 9th century AD.
The Pyramid of the Sun
The largest building in Teotihuacan is one of the largest structures in Mesoamerica. Historians believe it was constructed about 200 AD. It is located along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela.
The name comes from the Aztecs, who visited the city of Teotihuacan centuries after it was abandoned. The pyramid itself was constructed in two phases. During the first stage, they brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. But the second round resulted in its completed size of 737 feet across and 246 feet high. This makes it the third-largest pyramid in the world.
The Pyramid of Menkaure
This is the smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza. Yet, it still is among the biggest pyramids in the world.
Similar to the other Giza pyramids, it was built as a tomb of the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaohs. This one was for Menkaure.
His pyramid had an original height of 215 feet. Today, however, it stands at only 200 feet with a base of 356 feet.
Menkaure Pyramid was constructed of limestone and Aswan granite. Because Menkaure’s reign has not been accurately defined, we cannot define the date of construction.
The other names for this archeological site are Maidum and Maydum. It is an archeological site in Lower Egypt that contains a large pyramid and several mudbrick mastabas.
This one is Egypt’s first straight-sided pyramid. Because of its unusual appearance, many call it the False Pyramid.
The Pyramid of Djoser
The archeological site in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, is the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt. It was built in the 27th century BC during the Third Dynasty for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser.
It represents a central figure of a vast mortuary complex in a big courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decorations. It originally stood at 205 feet, but the steep pyramid was changed during the building.
In March 2020, the Pyramid of Djoser was reopened for visitors following a 14-year restoration.
Bonus: Ryugyong Hotel, North Korea
When we talk about the biggest pyramid in the world, we talk about archeological sites. But North Korea has a hotel that looks just like an Egyptian pyramid. It is the tallest building in the world and the largest pyramid in the world.
The construction of this building started in 1987. The opening was initially scheduled for 1989, but because of problems, construction stopped in 1992. The so-called Hotel of Doom lay idle for many years. Then, work restarted in 2008 and by 2011 the hotel had a glass façade.
It remains closed as of 2020 despite the planned opening in 2013. The original plan of the building included a huge hotel and revolving restaurants.
Fun fact: the shape is not about aesthetics. Constructors used reinforced concrete instead of steel for the main building material. Because the upper levels needed to be lighter, they had to taper to a point. And that is how they ended up with a pyramid-like appearance.