Visting Teotihuacan is visiting one of the country’s greatest mysteries. Who built it and why? Read on as I search for these answers.
A short one-hour drive outside of Mexico City you’ll find one of the country’s greatest mysteries – Teotihuacan. What is Teotihuacan? Who built it? And why should you visit? Read on as I search for these answers. This is my time visiting Teotihuacan with Urban Adventures.
For details on how to book a day trip to Teotihuacan with Urban Adventures, see below!
What is Teotihuacan?
Very little is known about the ancient city of Teotihuacan or its people, which only adds to the alure.
It’s estimated to be some 2,000 years old and at its peak, was home to 125,000 to 200,000+ people. This would have made it one of the largest cities in the world at the time. The massive city stretches roughly 8-square miles and includes multi-family dwellings, colourful murals, and two massive pyramids.
It’s said that Teotihuacan started as a religious centre built by the Toltec, however, this is all up for debate. No one actually knows who built Teotihuacan and who lived there because the residents did not write. This has left historians little to go on. No one knows why they left either. It’s believed that the city lay in ruins for 1,000 years before the Aztecs arrived to claim it as their own. It was the Aztecs that named it Teotihuacan – “The Place Where the Gods Were Created.”
Can you imagine the look on their faces when they stumbled on this??
What is Teotihuacan Like Today?
Today, Teotihuacan is a UNESCO heritage site and see some 2-million visitors per year.
Despite its age, excavation of Teotihuacan didn’t fully begin until the early 1900s. As part of the centennial celebrations of the Mexican War of Independence, the government invested in the restoration of the Pyramid of the Sun in 1905. Since then, excavation has continued to unearth tiny clues about Teotihuacan and its people. By 2015, 75,000 artefacts have been discovered and include jewellery, bones, pottery, and statutes. Much of these artefacts can be viewed at the incredible Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. I highly recommended it after visiting Teotihuacan!
What Is There to See at Teotihuacan?
Although the main draw to Teotihuacan is climbing the two massive pyramids, there are several smaller temples and areas of interest worth checking out. Here are the highlights:
The Palace of Quetzalpapálotl and Temple of The Jaguar
Just left of the ticket booth you will see the unearthed ruins of the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl. This is a great place to start as there are several artefacts and murals on display which you won’t find elsewhere on-site. It’s believed to be built around 500 AD and, because of its location and the artwork found inside, it’s assumed to have belonged to a priest or other high-ranking member of society.
The Plaza of The Moon
From the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl, make your way in front of the Palace of the Moon. There you will find a flat alter where you get a good sense of the surroundings. The Plaza of The Moon and the 12 temples that line it are believed to have been viewing areas for thousands while sacrifices or rituals were performed.
The Pyramid of The Moon
Time to stretch those legs! Second largest of the two pyramids, the Pyramid of the Moon consists of seven layers and tops out at 43 meters or 140 feet. It’s said to have been a place of ritual sacrifice and is backed by dug up remains of humans, birds, and cats. Inside, there are five burial complexes and, as recently as 2018, an underground chamber was discovered.
Visitors to Teotihuacan can still climb both the Pyramid of the Moon and Sun. The Pyramid of the Moon is not only the shorter of the two, but access to the top is blocked off. Still, the steep climb up is well worth the effort. Not only do you get a great view of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun, but also the perfect place to cool off after the climb. Just ask the local dogs…
The Avenue of The Dead
Although morbid sounding, the long stretch of road between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun is misleading. It was named by the Aztec’s who, upon discovering it, thought the many structures lining the road were tombs. They are not.
You can climb some of the pyramids along the Avenue of the Dead for a different view of the area.
The Pyramid of The Sun
Spanning 230 m wide and 65 m high, the Pyramid of the Sun is the third-largest pyramid in the world. Again, mind-blowing isn’t it?? I struggle to see how this could be done today, let alone in 200 BC!
- READ MORE: A Photo Walk Around The Pyramids of Giza
If your legs aren’t’ tired, make your way up to the Pyramid of the Sun’s 248 steps. Unlike the Pyramid of the Moon, this climb goes all the way to the tippy top. There you get an awesome view of the Pyramid of the Moon and the Avenue of the dead.
The climb is the most popular reason to visit Teotihuacan for many so you will be sharing the views with others, including more napping dogs.
How Do you Get To Teotihuacan From Mexico City?
If you are visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City, you have a few options to get there.
Visiting Teotihuacan by Uber or Taxi
Teotihuacan is located roughly 50 kilometers from Mexico City. Despite it being so close, traffic in Mexico City is horrendous and, depending on where you are coming from, travel time can take a couple of hours. Taking Uber to Teotihuacan is a good option however keep the traffic in mind as a return trip can be costly. Average times are around an hour each way and can cost you between $450 – 550 MXN (~$24-$30 USD) each way. Getting an Uber home is not an issue as there will be several waiting near the exit gate.
Visiting Teotihuacan by taxi is slightly more expensive and less convenient to book the return so I do not recommend it.
Visiting Teotihuacan by Bus
For those a little more adventurous or travelling on a budget, visiting Teotihuacan by bus is an option. This costs under $60 MEX (~$3.00 USD!) return, however, you must make your way to Autobuses del Norte station (easily done by Metro) and requires some patience. Travel time from there is about an hour and departs every 10-minutes. Knowing some Spanish helps as well as this is not a route normally taken by tourists. Look for the ticket booth near Puerta 8 for ticket purchase and timetable.
Note: Return buses stop at 18:00 so plan accordingly! Uber home is an option if you miss the last bus or it is full.
Visiting Teotihuacan on a Tour
The best way to visit Teotihuacan is on a guided tour from Mexico City. Not only does it get you to and from the city without any hassle, it includes a knowledgable guide to help you understand the baffling city that was. For my time visiting Teotihuacan I chose Urban Adventures and can highly recommend them. Our guide was super knowledgeable, personable and funny. It was also a small group and not a large tour bus which makes for a much more personable experience.
On top of visiting Teotihuacan with Urban Adventures, a couple of additional stops are included in the tour – a visit to a pulque brewer and dinner at a local’s home. These stops are typically touristy however I enjoyed the presentation on how pulque is made as well as how cactus and agave are used to make various items and treats. Plus they give you some tequila, mescal, and pulque to sample. Free booze is never a bad thing!
- Don’t just take my word for it1 Read what other travellers have to say about Urban Adventures at TripAdvisor!
After that stop, you get a true Mexican homemade meal. So good and a great way to cap off an awesome day!
Tips on Visiting Teotihuacan
With or without a guide, here are some good tips and info on visiting Teotihuacan.
How Much Does Visiting Teotihuacan cost?
Entrance to the world heritage site is $75 MEX (~$4.00 USD). There are official guides available for hire at the gate if interested. I recommend this as many of the placards are faded and hard to read.
When Does Teotihuacan Open and Close?
Teotihuacan is open between 0900 and 1700 daily. There is no mention of holiday closures so I assume the site is open every day of the year but be sure to check ahead if your visit lands on a holiday. Your hotel should be able to assist with this.
When Is the Best Time of Day to Visit Teotihuacan?
Plan to arrive early to Teotihuacan as this will allow you to minimize your time in the sun. There is little to no shade at Teotihuacan and it can get very hot, especially in the summer. I was there on a cloudy day which worked out great as I did not die from the heat while climbing the pyramids. Going early also avoids the crowds as peak times are between noon and 1600.
Avoid Sundays if possible as Mexican residents can visit the site for free. This makes it very busy. Saturday is also a busy day at Teotihuacan.
How Much Time Will I Need to Visit Teotihuacan?
Once on site expect to spend 3-4 hours with lots of walking. This allows for plenty of time to walk the 2.5 km long Avenue of the Dead, climb the two pyramids, and enjoy the views from the top.
Teotihuacan – A Must-Do When Visiting Mexico City
Despite little being known about the city and why it was abandoned, there is no questioning the awe-inspiring sight that is Teotihuacan. Whether you are spending three days in Mexico City or three weeks, visiting this incredible site is a must-do. Again, I highly recommend Urban Adventures’ Teotihuacan day trip for its small-group size, knowledgable and friendly guides, and bonus stops. For details on how to book a tour of your own, click below!
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Although my time visiting Teotihuacan with Urban Adventures was complimentary,
the opinions, thoughts, and blown-mind are my own.