What is a Step Pyramid? It is actually a temple tower that is made of several layers (or steps) of stone is known as a step pyramid. In ancient civilizations step, pyramids were built all over the world. Step pyramids were the first pyramids built in ancient Egypt. During the 3rd millennium BC, tower temples called ziggurats were built in Mesopotamia and Persia.
But on our list of top ten magnificent step pyramids, most of them come from Mesoamerica. They were some of the largest and most beautiful pyramids in the world.
Magnificent Step Pyramids in the World
Caracol, the largest Maya site in Belize is sitting high on the Vaca Plateau which is 500 meters (1650 ft) above sea level. Once known as one of the largest ancient Maya cities, Caracol covers some 168 square kilometers (65 mi²). Around 650 AD, it had an estimated population of about 150,000 at its peak, which is more than twice as many people as Belize City has today. Canaa (Sky Place) is the largest pyramid in Caracol, located at 43 meters (143 ft) it is still the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize.
- main temple (136ft), which is the tallest man-made structure in the country
- explore the Mayan archaeological site
- the jungle is full of graceful Ceiba trees
9. Great Ziggurat of Ur
The Ziggurat of Ur, located at modern-day Iraq is a massive step pyramid about 64 by 46 meters (210×150 ft) in size. It is the most well-preserved monument from the remote age of the Sumerians. The ziggurat was part of a temple complex which served as an administrative center for the ancient city of Ur. In the 21st century BC, King Shulgi completed the construction of the ziggurat.
King Shulgi proclaimed himself as a god to win the allegiance of the many independent cities. In the 6th BC, The step pyramid was reconstructed by King Nabonidus and later once again in the 20th century by Saddam Hussein with bricks stamped with his name.
- You can climb to the top of the ziggurat
- Explore the pre-historic nearby places
Calakmul is hidden inside the jungles of the Mexican state of Campeche. Calakmul is a Mayan site. Among the uncovered cities, it is one of the largest Mayan cities with over 6,500 ancient structures identified. The 55-meter high pyramid of Calakmul is by far the largest structure at the site.
Like many other temples in Mesoamerica, the size of the pyramid at Calakmul had been increased by the Mayans by building upon an older existing temple to reach its current size.
Major attractions in Calakmul:
- visit ‘Reserva de la Biosfera de Calakmul’
- Explore the Becan Ruins
- take a day trip to Ka’an Expeditions
7. Chogha Zanbil
Around 1250 BC, the Chogha Zanbil in Iran was built by the Elamites. It was built by the king Untash-Napirisha to honor the god Inshushinak. The temple is composed of five towers of different heights, but the ziggurat may appear as a series of platforms built on top of each other. The Chogha Zanbil ziggurat is relatively well preserved while most of the ziggurats were destroyed by natural calamities and war.
Palenque is an archaeological site that has been discovered in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. It was located on the western edge of the Maya empire. Most of the structures in Palenque date from about 600 AD to 800 AD including the Temple of Inscriptions which was the only Mesoamerican pyramid built as a funerary monument.
Major attractions in Palenque:
- explore the Palenque archaeological site
- Visit The Sitio Museum
- The Misol-Ha Waterfall
- The Agua Azul Waterfalls
- Agua Clara Ecotourism Center
Uxmal, in the Mayan language it means “built three times”. It is one of the best preserved Pre-Columbian sites in Mexico. The ‘Pyramid of the Magician’ is the most recognizable and tallest structure located at the height of 115 feet. Unlike the rectangular or square layers of other Mayan pyramids, the layers of this step pyramid are oval. It appears that the pyramid have been built in five phases, starting from the sixth century continuing periodically through the 10th century.
Major attractions in Uxmal:
- visit the Pyramid of the Magician
- Zona Arqueologica
- Ruta Puuc
- take a Uxmal and Kabah day tour
4. Step Pyramid of Djoser
The very first pyramid built by the ancient Egyptians was ‘The Step Pyramid of Djoser’, which is located at the Saqqara necropolis. This pyramid was constructed during the 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by his Vizier Imhotep. It was supposed to be a traditional, flat-roofed mastaba but by the end of Djoser’s reign it had risen to a six-stepped layer Pyramid and stood 204 feet (62 meters) high. But the burial chambers of the Step Pyramid are underground, hidden in a maze of tunnels, as it is in earlier mastaba tombs.
Perhaps the most breathtaking of all the Mayan sites is Tikal. It is situated in the lowland rainforest of northern Guatemala. Buildings that have been restored are scattered around the area while many more ruined buildings are still hidden by the jungle. Between ca. 200 to 900 AD, Tikal was the largest Mayan city with an estimated population between 100,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. There are six very large step pyramids in Tikal.
Temple-pyramid IV is the largest with the height of some 72 meters (230 feet) and was finished around 720 AD. If anyone climbs to the top of one of these pyramids, that person will have a great experience with beautiful panoramic views from above the treetops.
Major attractions in Tikal:
- Explore the Tikal National Park
- visit the Great Plaza
- Don’t miss the museums and temples (1 to 4)
2. Chichen Itza
El Castillo is the nickname of one of the most spectacular Mayan temples that dominate the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. It is situated in the Yucatán state of present-day Mexico. The design of El Castillo has special astronomical significance. Each face of the pyramid has a stairway with exactly 91 steps. All the four faces share one step at the top. Thus the total numbers of steps add up to 365, which is the number of days in a year. Climbing El Castillo has been banned after a woman fell to her death in 2006.
During the 2nd century BC, a new civilization arose in the valley of Mexico. This civilization built Teotihuacán, a flourishing metropolis along with its huge step pyramids. Around 100 AD, the Pyramid of the Sun was built. It is 246 feet (75 meters) high and it is the largest building in Teotihuacán and one of the largest in Mesoamerica.
After a hundred years the construction of the smaller Pyramid of the Moon was started and was finished in 450 A.D. Seven centuries after the demise of the Teotihuacán Empire, the Aztecs honored and utilized the pyramids. The pyramids became a place of pilgrimage.
- Zona Arqueologica Teotihuacan
- Piramide de la Serpiente Emplumada
- Take a hot air ballon trip