Ancient Pyramids | Pyramids of the World

Most people thinking of ancient pyramids jump straight to ancient Egypt. While that’s not wrong, it’s not necessarily right either. In fact, there are ancient pyramids all around the world, from a number of different cultures and civilisations and representing many different architectural styles and approaches.

It’s not surprising to learn therefore that the list of world pyramids really does span the globe. From the famous pyramids of Egypt to Mesoamerican pyramids, Chinese tomb pyramids, South American step pyramids, Mesopotamian ziggurats, North American mound pyramids and even Roman ceremonial pyramids, these ancient structures pop up across the globe right through the centuries in cultures who often have no connection to one-another.

While some examples of the pyramids of the world are accepted by all to be pyramids in the classic sense, others are the subject of debate. It has even been claimed that the biggest pyramids of all are found in Bosnia, though much discussion still rages about that particular issue

So while those looking to visit pyramids may want to start with Egypt’s famous ancient pyramids, there’s also a wealth of other countries to consider. Check out our ancient pyramids map above and the list of pyramids of the world below and click on each entry for more information on each pyramid.

Ancient Pyramids | Pyramids of the World: Site Index

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Abusir Pyramids

Admittedly less impressive than the nearby ancient pyramids of Giza, the Abusir Pyramids belonged to the Fifth Dynasty pharaohs and, to their advantage, are far quieter to visit.

The Abusir Pyramids, near Cairo in Egypt are fourteen Ancient Egyptian pyramids. These were built by the pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty, including those of Sahure, Neferirkare and Nyuserre Ini and, like Saqqara’s pyramids, formed part of the ancient city of Memphis. One or two of the Abusir Pyramids are relatively... Read More

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Angkor Wat

The ancient Khmer empire built some astounding structures and nestled among the wider Angkor site are a number of step pyramids - notably the late 9th / early 10th century Phnom Bakheng temple and the Baksei Chamkrong temple.

Angkor Wat is an enormous 12th century temple complex in Cambodia and the best preserved of its kind. Incredibly grand and ornately decorated, Angkor Wat’s sand-coloured buildings rise up to form five towers, representing the home of the Hindu deities. Friezes and sculptures are found throughout, depicting both day-to-day life from... Read More

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Brihadisvara Temple

One of several remarkable Hindu temples built by the leaders of the Chola Empire, the Brihadisvara temple has a quite spectacular central pyramid structure.

The Brihadisvara Temple of Tanjore (also spelt Thanjavur) in India is one of several spectacular Hindu temples built by the leaders of the Chola Empire and inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Built from 1003 to 1010 during the reign of Rajaraja I, the Brihadisvara Temple was constructed in honour of... Read More

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Cahuachi

Dominated by several adobe pyramids made of sand and clay, Cahuachi is an ancient site of the Nazca civilization in Peru and perhaps mark some of the lesser-known pyramids of the world.

Cahuachi is believed to have been a pilgrimage site of the Nazca people. Still an active archeological site, Cahuachi is dominated by several adobe pyramids made of sand and clay as well as having a graveyard. Little is known about Cahuachi, but as it overlooked the Nazca Lines, it is thought... Read More

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Calixtlahuaca

An Aztec archaeological site near Toluca in Mexico, Calixtlahuaca is known for its vast pyramid-like temples.

Calixtlahuaca near Toluca in Mexico is a well-preserved Aztec archaeological site which was once a thriving city originally home to the Matlatzinca people – the people of the Toluca Valley. The Calixtlahuaca site has a series of fascinating and impressive structures, not least of which are its vast pyramid-like temples.... Read More

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Chacchoben

Chacchoben in Mexico is a Maya archaeological and includes some impressive ancient pyramid temples.

Chacchoben is a Maya site in Mexico housing some impressive pyramid temples. The exact history of Chacchoben is unclear. Most sources date its pyramids to around 700AD (some say 300AD), although the Mayas are said to have been present at Chacchoben long before this, perhaps as early as 200BC. ... Read More

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Cobá

Boasting some of the best ancient pyramids from the Maya period and a fascinating entry on any list of world pyramids, Cobá is an important and vast Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region.

Cobá in Quintana Roo in Mexico houses the remains of a once vast city that developed in around 632 AD and peaked between 800 and 1100 AD. Whilst it is thought that Cobá originally spanned a massive 60 square kilometres, the current archaeological site has yet to uncover all its... Read More

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Copan

The UNESCO-listed site of Copan in Honduras was an important Maya city, and contains a number of truly impressive step pyramids.

Copan (spelt Copán), near the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras is an archaeological site housing the ruins of a major Maya settlement which was probably the most influential city in the south eastern area occupied by this civilisation. Copan is thought to have been inhabited as early as 2000 BC,... Read More

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Dahshur

Among the most famous ancient pyramids of the world are those at Dahshur in Egypt, home to the famous ‘Bent Pyramid’ and the Red Pyramid of Sneferu.

Dahshur was once home to eleven Ancient Egyptian pyramids, of which few have survived. However, for those wishing to view the Egypt’s pyramids in peace and quiet, Dahshur is the place to go. Unlike the more popular Giza and Saqqara, Dahshur has not become a tourist hotspot, despite its ancient attractions,... Read More

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Dos Pilas

A lesser known entry on the list of world pyramids, Dos Pilas was a major Maya city. The largest surviving structure is an impressive pyramid which rises 20m, while a number of other ancient pyramids survive at the site.

Dos Pilas in northern Guatemala was an ancient capital city of the Maya civilisation. Twinned with nearby Aguateca, its powerful dynasty is thought to have derived from that of Tikal and to have thrived in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. However, it was famously abandoned in the late eighth... Read More

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Ek Balam

The vast main pyramid at Ek Balam is over 30m high, making it a remarkable example of Maya engineering and one of the most impressive pyramids in the world.

Ek Balam or Ek’ Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins. Translated either as Black Jaguar or Star Jaguar, Ek Balam is surrounded by a low, stone wall, an unusual feature in Mayan cities. Within this area are several restored pyramids and large temples... Read More

Photo by Veronique Debord (cc)

El Brujo

El Brujo is an early Chimu archaeological site in Peru. The most fascinating remains at the site are its three “huacas” or sacred pyramid temples.

El Brujo in Peru was a Moche (early Chimu) settlement inhabited between 100 and 700 AD. Now an archaeological site, the main features of El Brjuo are its three “huacas” or sacred pyramid temples. The best preserved of El Brujo’s trio of temples, thought to have been sites of ceremonial significance,... Read More

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El Tajin

An awe inspiring collection of ancient pyramids can be seen at El Tajin in Mexico, particularly the Pyramid of the Niches, an incredibly impressive six-stepped pyramid which would once have been crowned with a temple.

El Tajin in the state of Veracruz in Mexico is an impressive archaeological site which originally formed the capital city of the Totonac state. In fact, the name “Tajin” refers to the Totonac deity of thunder, lighting and rain. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open... Read More

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Emerald Mound

Though not an ancient pyramid in the classic sense, some argue that American pre-colonial burial mounds such as the Emerald Mound and Monks Mound should be classified as step pyramids and included in lists of pyramids of the world.

The Emerald Mound is one of a number of ancient mound sites built by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Several similar sites have been found within Mississippi and in other areas of the United States. One of the largest mounds in the US, the Emerald Mound site was likely constructed... Read More

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Giza

Probably the most famous ancient pyramids in the world, Giza is home to Ancient Egypt’s Great Pyramid, the famous Sphinx and two other amazing pyramids.

Giza or ‘Al Giza’ is a tourist hotspot and the site of some of Ancient Egypt’s most famous landmarks, including the largest pyramid on Earth. Giza is home to the pyramids of kings Khufu, Khafra and Menkaure. The largest pyramid in Giza, and in the world, belongs to the second king... Read More

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Hawara Pyramid

Built by Amenemhat III around 1840BC, the Hawara Pyramid in Egypt has largely been eroded by time and is but a shadow of its former glory.

The Hawara Pyramid was erected by the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh, Amenemhat III, ruler of Ancient Egypt from around 1860 BC to 1814 BC and who also built the Black Pyramid at Dahshur. Once a formidable structure which was known as the “Labyrinth” for its elaborate security measures, the Hawara Pyramid was... Read More

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Monte Alban

A remarkable UNESCO listed pre-Columbian site in Mexico, Monte Alban contains a number of large and impressive pyramids, probably built by the Zapotecs.

Monte Alban in Oaxaca in Mexico is an impressive ancient site created by an incredible feat which involved carving a flat space out of a mountain rising to an elevation of over 1,600 feet above the valley below it. Monte Alban was inhabited for approximately 1,500 years by a succession... Read More

Piramide de Cuicuilco

Thought to have been of religious and cosmic significance, the 23m, five-level Piramide de Cuicuilco is believed to be one of Mexico’s oldest surviving archaeological sites.

Cuicuilco is an ancient archeological site and museum next to Mexico City’s Lake Texcoco which includes the striking Piramide de Cuicuilco. Dating back to the Mesoamerican era perhaps as far as 800 BC, Cuicuilco is thought to be one of Mexico’s oldest sites. At its peak, Cuicuilco is believed to... Read More

Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa was once the capital of Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and contains the impressive - if slightly hidden away - ancient step pyramid Sathmahal Prasada.

Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka was initially a temporary royal residence in the eighth century AD. However in the late tenth century, it became a capital city of Ceylon (the former name of Sri Lanka) after the ancient capital of Anuradhapura was conquered and destroyed by King Chola Rajaraja I. The... Read More

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Pyramid of Cestius

A rare entry in the list of world pyramids is the Pyramid of Cestius, a burial tomb and probably the only true surviving Roman pyramid and located in Rome itself.

The Pyramid of Cestius is the tomb of affluent magistrate, Caius Cestius which was built between 18 and 12 BC. Constructed of white marble and brick, this ostentatious 35-metre high tomb was likely built in this style due to the popularity of all things Egyptian which swept Rome after Egypt was... Read More

Quirigua Archaeological Park

A former Maya settlement and now a small, yet important UNESCO listed site in Guatemala, Quirigua contains some smaller step pyramids.

Quirigua Archaeological Park in Izabel, Guatemala is an historic site housing the remains of a Maya settlement. Whilst thought to have been inhabited from 200 AD, most of the structures at Quirigua date back to the mid-sixth century AD and include numerous carved stone objects and structures, such as an... Read More

Roman Pyramid of Vienne

Really more of an obelisk than a pyramid, the Roman Pyramid of Vienne makes it into the list of pyramids of the world due to its name, which seems to have stuck through the ages.

The Roman Pyramid of Vienne (La Pyramide de Vienne) is a monument which would once have formed the centrepiece of Vienne’s Roman Circus. While described as a pyramid, this is infact more of a triumphal monument made up of an arched base topped with a steep-sided square-based pyramid tower. Modelled after... Read More

Saqqara

Among the most famous pyramids in the world, Saqqara was the burial ground of the Egyptian city of Memphis and home to numerous pyramids and tombs.

Saqqara was the burial place of the city of Memphis, the capital of Ancient Egypt founded in 3000 BC by Menes. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Saqqara is home to eleven major pyramids sprawled over six miles, including the first ever pyramid, known as the Step Pyramid and funerary complex... Read More

Sun Temple of Konark

A truly stunning and intricate ancient pyramid, the Sun Temple of Konark is an iconic 13th century Hindu Temple listed as a UNESCO site.

The Sun Temple of Konark, spelt by some as Konarak and sometimes called the “Black Pagoda”, in India was built in approximately 1250 AD by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. Constructed in honour of Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun, the Sun Temple of Konark is designed... Read More

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Tchogha Zanbil

One of a handful of surviving Mesopotamian ziggurats and a crucial entry on any list of pyramids of the world, Tchogha Zanbil forms part of the remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.

Tchogha Zanbil is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom. Located between Anshan and Suse, the city of Tchogha Zanbil would have been founded in 1250BC by King Untash-Napirisha. It would finally be abandoned in 640BC, following a devastating... Read More

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor was a holy temple built in the step-pyramid style in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, whose ruins can now be seen in modern day Mexico City.

Templo Mayor was a temple in the capital city of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, in what is now Mexico City. In fact, much of Mexico City was built over Tenochtitlan, but some original sites remain, including the Great Temple, known as Templo Mayor, which was the most important building in the... Read More

Tenochtitlan

Tenochtitlan was the Aztec capital and was famed for its enormous pyramids. Sadly, it was mostly destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century and little evidence remains.

Tenochtitlan in Mexico was established on an island in Lake Texcoco in 1325 AD as the capital city of the Aztecs and, in its final and most prosperous days, was ruled by Motecuhzoma II, also known as Montezuma. At its peak, Tenochtitlan was a thriving and imposing city with around 200,000... Read More

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Teotihuacan

The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan measures 225m by 222m at its base and 75m high is one of the largest and most impressive ancient pyramids in the world. A leading entry on any world pyramid list.

Teotihuacan was a holy Mesoamerican city built in around 400 BC in what is now Mexico and forms one of the country’s oldest archeological sites. Whilst the founders of Teotihuacan have never been definitively identified, it is thought that the city was inhabited by the Toltecs and was also an... Read More

Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army forms part of the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. At the heart of the mausoleum stands a 51m high burial mound pyramid believed to contain the emperor’s tomb itself.

The Terracotta Army, part of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, is one of the world’s most famous, intriguing and visually arresting ancient sites, dating back to the third century BC. A chance find by a group of peasants in Xian in 1974, the Terracotta Army is a collection of... Read More

The Moche Temples

The Moche Temples are two ancient adobe pyramid temples in Peru, known as the temples of the Sun and the Moon. One of many religious structures to feature on the list of world pyramids.

The Moche Temples in Peru are made up of Huaca del Sol y la Luna, translated as the Temples of the Sun and the Moon. Moche was a pre-Inca civilisation which preceded that of the Chimu and is sometimes thought of as early Chimu. It dates from around 100 to... Read More

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Tikal

Tikal in Guatemala was a major Maya site and contains five magnificent pyramids, the largest being an amazing 213ft tall.

Tikal National Park near Flores in Guatemala houses one of the world’s most famous and impressive Maya sites, known as Tikal. In fact, Tikal was a major ceremonial site in the Maya culture, with many temples and pyramids built there between 300 BC and 100BC and then further expansion taking... Read More

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Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku, Bolivia, was the capital of a pre-Inca civilisation. One of its most famous structures is the Akapana, which would once have been a pyramid, but has since been significantly eroded.

Tiwanaku in Bolivia is an impressive archaeological site housing the capital of pre-Inca empire. Much about Tiwanaku remains a mystery and the subject of ongoing academic debate. Tiwanaku started out as a small farming village in approximately 1200 BC, possibly the first to ever cultivate potatoes. Over the course of the... Read More

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Uxmal

Uxmal was a Maya city in Mexico which contains a series of stunning ceremonial pyramids - the most celebrated of which is the Pyramid of the Soothsayer. This ancient pyramid is considered unique among pyramids of the world because of its unusual elliptical base.

Uxmal is an archaeological site in Mexico which houses the ruins of a Maya town thought to have been inhabited as early as 800BC. Having said this, most of the buildings and structures seen at Uxmal today were constructed in between around 700AD to 1000AD. A thriving city and a religious... Read More

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Yaxha

A lesser-known entry on the list of world pyramids, Yaxha is an impressive ancient Maya site in Guatemala’s Peten region which contains several incredible step pyramids.

Yaxha in Guatemala’s Peten region is an ancient Maya site containing several incredible pyramids as well as other structures such as ball courts and also carved stelae. From its vast size – it’s not much smaller than Tikal – and its many monuments, it appears that Yaxha was an important settlement... Read More