15 Pyramids That Rival Egypt’s Magnificence

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The pyramids of Giza are undoubtedly iconic, awe-inspiring testaments to human ingenuity and ambition. But did you know these majestic Egyptian giants aren’t the only pyramids on the block? Get ready to broaden your pyramid horizons as we explore 15 incredible pyramids scattered across the globe, each with its fascinating story.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula, Mexico

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This whopper in Cholula, Mexico, is the world’s largest pyramid by volume, exceeding the Great Pyramid of Giza! Archaeological evidence suggests construction began around the 2nd century BC and continued for centuries. Built by the Toltecs, it was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, a deity in Aztec culture. Unlike the smooth-sided pyramids of Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Cholula has a layered appearance due to continuous construction and remodeling over centuries.

The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico

Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)/Wikipedia

Standing tall in the Teotihuacan archaeological complex near Mexico City, the Pyramid of the Sun is a marvel of pre-Columbian architecture. Constructed around 200 AD, it is believed to have been a shrine dedicated to the sun god. Climbing the 215-foot height rewards visitors with breathtaking views of the ancient city and a deeper appreciation for the Teotihuacan people’s astronomical knowledge.

Nubian Pyramids, Sudan

Photographer: B N Chagny/Wikipedia

The Nubian pyramids, scattered across the desert sands of Sudan, are a collection of often-overlooked yet impressive ancient structures. They were constructed by the Kushite kings and queens who ruled the powerful Kushite Kingdom. Nubian pyramids are generally much smaller than their Egyptian counterparts. They range in height from about 6 meters (20 feet) to around 30 meters (100 feet), with most falling on the lower end of that spectrum. Over 200 Nubian pyramids are spread across several sites in northern Sudan, with the most significant concentrations being Meroë, El-Kurru, and Nuri. Twenty-one kings and fifty-two queens are buried in the pyramids in Nuri.

The Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China 

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This pyramid-shaped mausoleum in China isn’t your typical pyramid. Created between 246 and 208 BC, it houses the famous Terracotta Army – a vast army of life-sized terracotta warriors guarding the resting place of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. This incredible discovery offers a glimpse into the power and ambition of the Qin Dynasty. While the exact shape of the mausoleum itself remains largely unexcavated, its historical significance is undeniable.

Ziggurat, Ur, Iraq


The Ziggurat of Ur, located in modern-day Dhi Qar Province, Iraq, is a majestic remnant of the Mesopotamian city of Ur. Construction of the Ziggurat of Ur began during the Early Bronze Age, making it one of the oldest standing structures in the world. It was built by King Ur-Nammu of the Third Dynasty of Ur and was devoted to the moon god Nanna, the city’s patron deity. While partially crumbled by the 6th century BCE, King Nabonidus restored it during the Neo-Babylonian period. Unlike the smooth-sided pyramids of Egypt, ziggurats are tiered pyramid temples with a rectangular or square foundation.

Pyramid of Akapana,Tiwanaku, Bolivia 


Located near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, the pyramid-like formation famous as the Akapana or “Gateway of the Sun” at Tiwanaku is a marvel of pre-Columbian engineering. We are unsure when it was built, and its purpose remains a mystery. Some theories suggest it served as a shrine. The intricate stonework and precise astronomical alignments found at Tiwanaku hint at the advanced knowledge possessed by this prehistoric civilization.

Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, Mexico


The Temple of the Inscriptions is Palenque’s largest Mesoamerican stepped pyramid structure. It was dedicated to King Pakal, one of the most powerful rulers of Palenque, who reigned for nearly 70 years in the 7th century AD. Its most fascinating aspect is its hidden burial chamber. Unlike other pyramids where the tomb might be at the top, the Temple of the Inscriptions’ chamber lies beneath it. Archaeologists only discovered the entrance to the tomb in 1952 after noticing movable floor slabs. Archaeologists found a richly decorated sarcophagus inside the tomb containing King Pakal’s remains. The sarcophagus lid depicts the king adorned with royal garb and emerging from the jaws of a monster, possibly symbolizing rebirth or transformation.

Prasat Prang, Koh Ker, Cambodia

(WT-en) Peaceofangkor/Wikipedia

Prasat Prang is a captivating pyramid shrine within the Koh Ker archaeological site in Cambodia. Unlike the concentric layout of most Khmer temples, Prasat Prang stands out with its linear plan, resembling a stepped pyramid more akin to Mesoamerican architecture. This seven-tiered pyramid rises 35 meters above the ground, showcasing the impressive engineering skills of the Khmer people. Its foundation is massive, measuring 60 meters (197 feet) on each side. Grand staircases, no longer accessible to visitors for preservation reasons, would have once led to the topmost level, where a giant linga (a symbol representing the god Shiva) was likely housed. However, a modern staircase has been added for visitors.

The Pyramids of Tikal, Guatemala

Raymond Ostertag/Wikipedia

Tikal pyramids stand as silent sentinels to a once-mighty Mayan civilization. These architectural marvels were erected during the Classic Period (200-900 AD). Of the three temples, the undisputed height champion is Temple IV, also known as the Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent. This behemoth measures a jaw-dropping 70 meters (230 feet) from base to roof comb, making it the tallest temple pyramid at Tikal. These pyramids served multiple purposes – tombs for Mayan royalty, temples for religious ceremonies, and even astronomical observatories.

El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Mexico

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Kukulkan’s Temple, also known as El Castillo, is a captivating pyramid that reigns supreme over Chichen Itza in Mexico. Its construction is estimated to have occurred during the height of the Mayan civilization’s Postclassic Period. The Maya people devoted it to Kukulkan, the feathered serpent deity who played a pivotal role in their mythology. Its height measures 30 meters (98 feet), boasting a square base with four steep sides that rise in nine terraces. A grand staircase climbs each side, with 91 steps per staircase (including the platform at the summit) – a total of 365 steps, potentially reflecting the days in a solar year according to the Mayan calendar. The top of the pyramid is adorned with a shrine structure, where religious ceremonies likely occurred.

Borobudur, Java, Indonesia

Heri nugroho/Wikipedia

Borobudur resembles a stepped pyramid with nine levels – six square base levels, three circular platforms, and a central dome at the summit. It symbolizes the Buddhist concept of achieving enlightenment. The lower levels represent the earthly realm, while the higher levels ascend towards the heavenly spheres. Over 2,672 relief panels adorn the walls of the monument, depicting scenes from the life of Buddha, Jataka tales (stories of Buddha’s past lives), and Buddhist teachings. Once topped with a large stupa (a hemispherical formation containing relics), the central dome served as the ultimate destination for pilgrims, symbolizing the state of Nirvana or complete enlightenment.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali, Indonesia


The pyramid-shaped structure, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, is a majestic temple complex perched on the shores of Lake Bratan. While not a true pyramid in the strictest sense, its tiered structure and layered rooftops create a distinct pyramidal silhouette. Made around the 17th century, it is dedicated to Dewi Danu and is a revered pilgrimage site for Hindus. The breathtaking views and serene atmosphere make Pura Ulun Danu Bratan a popular tourist destination and a unique example of pyramid-inspired architecture in Southeast Asia.

The Pyramid of Rome, Rome, Italy 


Even the Romans got in on the pyramid craze! The Pyramid of Caius Cestius Gallus, or the Pyramid of Rome. Built around 18-12 BC, the Pyramid of Cestius is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient Egyptian-style architecture in Rome. The pyramid was commissioned as a tomb for Gaius Cestius Epulone, a wealthy Roman magistrate and member of a prestigious religious society. While the pyramid’s form evokes Egypt, its construction materials are distinctly Roman. The core is built of concrete faced with bricks, and the exterior is clad in slabs of white marble. 

Tomb of the General – Ji’an, China


The Tomb of the General is an old Korean pyramid in Ji’an, Jilin Province, China. It’s considered one of the largest and best-preserved Korean pyramids outside the Korean peninsula. The pyramid style was typical of Goguryeo culture and influenced the burial practices of the Baekje kingdom. Constructed with over 1,100 massive stone blocks, the base stretches 75 meters across and reaches a height of 11 meters. This impressive engineering feat showcased the Goguryeo elite’s power, and its pyramid style influenced neighboring kingdoms like Baekje. Unfortunately, the tomb’s interior has not been excavated, so the occupant’s identity remains unconfirmed.

Brihadisvara Temple – India

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Built around 1000 AD by King Rajaraja Chola I, the Brihadisvara Temple in India is a marvel of Dravidian architecture. The most striking feature is the towering vimana (shrine) made of granite. It’s estimated to weigh over 80,000 tons and ranks among the largest monoliths in the world. The temple walls are adorned with exquisite sculptures and intricate reliefs depicting deities, mythical creatures, and scenes from Hindu mythology. A tall, intricately carved gopuram gateway leads to the complex. The temple complex comprises several halls, including a spacious mandapa (hall) with massive pillars and a nandi mandapa (hall) housing a large Nandi bull sculpture, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this structure is a testament to the Chola dynasty’s power, artistic brilliance, and enduring Hindu devotion.


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