Teotihuacán is an incredible complex of Mesoamerican pyramids that easily made it on to my top list of must-visit places while we were in Mexico City.
What is Teotihuacán?
Located only about 50 km northeast of Mexico’s capital, Teotihuacán was an ancient city established in about 100 BC, with complex residential and religious sites that give visitors a glimpse into pre-Columbian Americas.
Teotihuacán (meaning the “birthplace of the gods”) was thought to be named by Aztecs many years after the fall of the city. While scholars continue to debate about this, the area was thought to be multi-ethnic, possibly made up of Nahua and/or Otomi people.
Through excavated human remains in burial vaults, scholars confirmed Teotihuacán was used as a site for celebrating power through ceremonial sacrifices. Back in the day, the top part of the pyramids were often only accessible by the most significant people in the community.
The Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol) in Teotihuacán is the third largest pyramid in the world, after the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and the Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico.
To me, it is crazy to think about how the vast area of Teotihuacán was somehow a result of 3 million tonnes artfully put together with mere manpower, without the benefit of metal tools, machines or technology!
View from Pyramid of the moon
How did we get there?
While there are all sorts of tours available, there could be time-wasting touristy traps along the way. As getting to Teotihuacán is an easy ride from Mexico City, I opted for taking a bus from Autobuses del Norte station (on metro line 5 and 6), which appears cheap and flexible. It takes about an hour to get to Teotihuacán from the metro station in Mexico City.
Autobuses del Norte station on metro map
Gate 8 at Autobuses Del Norte Terminal
Once got off the metro station, we walked towards the bus terminal and took a left. I then approached the agent at gate (sala) 8 (where there was a sign for “Autobuses Teotihuacan”) and said “piramides para dos” (pyramids for two). A round trip ticket cost 92 pesos (~$5 US dollars) per person. Some staff spoke English so it wasn’t hard to get on the right bus. The bus we were on was air-conditioned and was fairly comfortable.
Along the ride, expect the bus to make a few quick stops. A man or woman would then get on the bus to try to sell snacks, drinks and/or souvenirs. Fortunately, each stop usually lasts for half a minute to a minute, so the solicitation wasn’t too annoying on both legs of the bus ride.
What are the key places to visit?
While Teotihuacán covers a huge area and requires quite a bit of walking, all the sites you see are simply on the Avenue of the Dead. The two most important buildings are Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol) and Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide del Luna).
Pyramid of the Sun
Interesting stone patterns
Hiking up Pyramid of the Moon
It’s okay to take a quick break on the way up
View from Pyramid of the Sun
View of Pyramid of the Moon from Pyramid of the Sun
View when hiking down Pyramid of the Sun
Few other things you should know:
- When packing for this trip, I do recommend bring a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water as there is barely any shade.
- After getting off the bus, it takes about 10 minutes to walk to the entrance of the park, where you pay 57 pesos (~$3 US dollars) for entrance fee.
- The entrance area has a few shops and a small museum. If you didn’t bring sunscreen, consider buying a sombrero like I did at one of thops.
- It is a good idea to use the restroom at this point at the entrance, otherwise you will have find a secret to pee on the pyramid, which doesn’t sound too nice and can lack privacy since you are really going to in the open
- The park overall was quite well-reserved, which means there are no food options or other establishment within the park.
- Some small vendors were selling some small souvenirs in the park, but overall there was not a whole of solicitation inside the park.
- You can hop on the return bus at the same location as where you got off the bus. Alternatively, if you came out of the park from a different exit, walk on the side of the dirt road towards Mexico City and flag down a bus on the way.
- There are a few Mexican restaurants outside of the park. The quality is average but the food is not particularly expensive either. If you are lose, feel free to ask the local people for directions.
It was a sunny day so a sombrero turned out to be an excellent purchase.
Teotihuacán was an excellent excursion not far from Mexico City, offering interesting history and amazing views of the archaeological park. Getting there was easy, and climbing up the pyramids was not overly strenuous. I highly recommend it for a day trip!
Are you interested in visiting Teotihuacan?