If you have time during your visit to Distrito Federal, you have to stop by Teotihuacán. It’s about an hour’s drive away from the Historic Center of Mexico City, and is absolutely worth the half a day or so that you will need to see its full glory.
Teotihuacán was one of the most important and largest cities in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population of 125,000+ people and the sixth largest city in the world at the time. The ruins are estimated to have been built in 100 AD and used until 800 AD.
Although the Aztecs claimed heritage from the Teotihuacános, the original architects were of an unknown ethnicity (or perhaps multiple ethnicities).
The ruins are about 40km (or 25 miles) northeast of Mexico City in the Estado de Mexico (state of Mexico). The architectural site, including the pyramids and the Avenue of the Dead, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
The ancient city is about an hour’s drive away from the center of CDMX, so plan accordingly. You can reasonably get there and back and see most of the sites in about 4–5 hours.
There are multiple public buses running every 20 minutes from the Autobuses de Norte Metro station, Line 5. Round trips cost 100 pesos. The zone stop’s formal name is Zona Arquelogico, which you will be able to find on your ticket.
There are also tour buses that offer half or full day tours, sometimes combined with the Basilica of Guadalupe outside the city center. The prices are usually around 40-50 USD.
If you want a more private experience, you can take an Uber for about $20 USD each way from Centro Historico. This is by far the most expensive option, but still pretty reasonably priced for US travelers. Make sure to tip them well, as our driver was a little irritated by the old cobblestone streets he had to drive through. There is a small toll road as well, so make sure you have change (about 20 pesos or so).
Tickets to enter cost 70 pesos, with included admission to the museum. The site is free for residents of Mexico to visit on Sundays.
The two main architectural sites are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. If you are fit enough, you should definitely climb both. We opted for just the Sun Pyramid, which was strenuous for two somewhat fit people on a winter day.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the third tallest pyramid in the world after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the tallest pyramid that you can climb.
The Sun Pyramid is the taller of the two main pyramids, and will give you views of the whole ancient city, while the Moon Pyramid is a good place to get a great view of the Sun Pyramid. Either one is spectacular.
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl (or Temple of the Feathered Serpent) is the third largest pyramid. In the 1980s hundreds of sacrifice victims were found buried beneath the structure. On the side of the pyramid are multiple representations of the feathered serpent god, known as Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs.
Museo Teotihuacán is a small historical museum filled with artifacts from the Mayan, Aztec, Toltec, and other pre-Columbian civilizations. There is also a complete diorama of the entire site with a beautiful glass window showing your first glimpse of the Sun Pyramid.
What to wear
We visited on January 2nd, and it was still quite hot in the afternoon, with direct sunlight beating down upon us with little shade. I can’t imagine how excruciating it must be during high summer.
Make sure to bring a head covering, sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks. It can get quite windy, so bring a light scarf if visiting during a colder month.
Make sure to bring comfortable, grippy shoes as well. I didn’t really pack sneakers, and my New York default of black short boots was a terrible, terrible idea on the ancient and narrow stairways.
Good to know
There are many spots around the sites to grab a quick bite to eat, but they are a bit of a trek. Bring your own food and water if you want to save money.
The flavored ices are a nice treat if you need something to cool off with after the sun beats down on you. I had an amazing cherry lime pop, and there are plenty of other flavors.
The bathrooms cost about 5 pesos, so make sure to bring some pocket change.
A nice souvenir from Teotihuacán would be the local obsidian, or volcanic rock, that is native to the area. There are also vendors who play eerie jaguar and eagle flutes which are great gifts for children.
Every Spring Equinox the Pyramids have a ritual to celebrate the astronomical significance of the site. Thousands of people visit the pyramids for the site, and there is dancing, chanting, incense burning from 6am to 5pm.
Hopefully this guide helps you out when planning your trip to the ancient city!. Let me know in the comments if you have been or plan to go and I would be happy to answer any questions!
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