Situated about an hour outside of Mexico City, the ancient historical site of Teotihuacan is a must see. The pyramids there date from almost 2000 years ago. These massive structures were once at the center of life for a thriving city, estimated to have around 125,000 people at its peak. Full scale restoration efforts began about 100 years ago, and today Teotihuacan is the most visited archeological site in Mexico.
The largest is the Pyramid of the Sun and it’s massive. At 246 feet tall (75 meters), it dwarfs everything in the surrounding area. It’s one of the tallest pyramids in the world, and the largest outside of Egypt as far as total area. It’s situated at one end of the road titled The Avenue of the Dead.
While they once allowed climbing the giant stone structures, this is no longer permitted. So that meant that I wasn’t able to get the sweeping views of the area from the top. Overall that’s probably a good thing, not only for preservation, but also for safety. Some of the stairs are ridiculously steep.
At the other end is the Pyramid of the Moon. This doesn’t quite measure up to the Pyramid of the Sun as far as size, but it is known to be an altar of ritual sacrifice, so it was quite important to the builders. It has other smaller pyramids nearby, so there’s more of an attached feel, whereas the Pyramid of the Sun feels like it stands on its own.
The atmosphere throughout the Teotihuacan site is pretty lively. There are vendors pretty much everywhere, attempting to sell carved stones, jewelry, blankets, and whistles that make bird or jaguar calls. Because of this, the air is filled with sounds of eagles screeching or big cats roaring. The sales tactics are very low pressure though, so it’s more entertaining than annoying.
Aside from wandering around staring at the pyramids in awe, the best thing to do is visit the on site museum. They have amazingly well-preserved artifacts on display, and plenty of English descriptions of ancient life (and death) in Teotihuacan. It covers the rise and fall of what was once the most powerful city on the continent. The museum was very well done and absolutely worth the time to visit and effort to find it, as it’s tucked in the back corner behind the Pyramid of the Sun.
Near the museum is also a small botanical garden filled with native plants. As a big fan of succulents, I also enjoyed this section of the park. There are some really nice specimens and it’s worth a quick walk through. Next door is also an area with picnic tables if you happened to bring your lunch with you like we did.
Overall we spent a little over 3 hours at the site. This was enough time to enjoy the museum, cruise through the succulents in the botanical garden, eat a quick packed lunch, walk all the way around the Pyramid of the Sun, stroll the Avenue of the Dead, and marvel at the Pyramid of the Moon. As you can probably tell from the pictures, we happened to visit on a cooler cloudy day. While that’s probably less desirable for pictures, it’s much better for visiting as there is basically zero shade available in the majority of the site.
There are about a thousand tour companies that will pick you up in the city and take you to Teotihuacan and back, but none of them are a good deal. Most even take longer than doing it yourself, as they want to make sure you have time for shopping at their favorite stores that surely offer them a kickback.
It’s easy enough to get there using local public transportation at about a tenth of the price. Take the Metro to the Autobuses Del Norte stop on the #5 Yellow Line. This is the main bus station on the north side of town. As you leave the subway and enter the bus station, turn left and walk to the very end where there’s a sign that says “Pyramides”. Here you can buy your two way tickets for about $2 USD each way. The buses leave every 15 minutes, so there’s always going to be one ready to depart. Obviously confirm that you’re getting on the right bus, double checking for the same “Pyramides” destination posted in the front window. Then get off when everyone else does, right outside of the park entrance closest to the Pyramid of the Sun.
When you’re ready to leave, just walk back the way you came and wait on the other side of the street for the next bus to come. There’s no official bus stop, but it’s fairly obvious where to stand. For the return trip, the bus sign will say “Centro de Autobuses”, omitting the “Norte”. But don’t worry, if they accept your return tickets, you’re on the right bus.
Teotihuacan is a great day trip from Mexico City. Entry to the site is criminally underpriced at less than $5 USD. That ticket includes entrance to the museum. The pyramids do a great job of making you feel insignificant and the museum is great and a must visit while on site. I really enjoyed just about everything about our visit, including the random jaguar calls echoing off the massive stone structures.