Travelling from Mexico City to Teotihuacan is a must for anyone looking to spend an amazing historical day out. Located only 50km from Mexico City, it only takes about an hour by bus to reach the site and can be done as part of a tour or on your own.
How To Get There
There are a couple of different options – go as part of a tour or go on your own. Personally I would recommend you go on your own but if you’re pressed for time a tour might be the better option.
So, to get there on your own is pretty easy. Head to the Autobuses del Norte bus terminal and look for the bus that goes to “Pyramides” or “Zona Arqueologico” and it takes approx. 1hr each way.
Buses depart from 6am and leave every 20-30mins but the site doesn’t open until 9am so it’s best to wait until at least 7.30am before catching a bus. You’ll need to buy a return ticket – this will be leaving the bus terminal at a specific time but an open return, so you can head back to Mexico City whenever you’re ready.
The bus will stop at Puerto 1 (there are 5 entry gates to Teotihuacan). This is where you can purchase your entry tickets.
- Return Bus Ticket: $104MXN per person
- Entry Fees to Teotihuacan: $80MXN per person (photos are allowed, but to video the site it will cost $45MXN)
Joining a Tour
However, if this doesn’t sound like something you want to attempt you can always go as part of a tour. There are LOADS available! Including adding in a hot air balloon flight first, then heading to Teotihuacan after – this is what we did.
The best option is to check out TripAdvisor to find a tour that suits your needs – full day tours, half day tours, tours that include lunch and/or dinner! So many to choose from!
If you want to do what we did and add in a hot air balloon flight then I would recommend going with Vuelos en Globo MX. We made our own way to the airstrip via a taxi as we didn’t want to be limited to the tour times but we did join the tour for the guided tour of Teotihuacan and lunch before waving them off and exploring the site on our own.
Right, so you’ve finally arrived at Teotihuacan – now what? It’s a huge site running 2.4km (1.5 miles) from the Temple of the Moon at the top of the Avenue to the Dead (Calle de los Muertos) to the end where the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is located.
History of Teotihuacan
Construction began in approx. 400BCE and the city reached it’s peak in 500CE with an estimated population as large as 200,000 people!
Nobody knows who built Teotihuacan, what they called themselves, where they came from or what language they spoke. Archaeological evidence points to it being a multi-ethnic city with connections to the Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya peoples.
Life in Teotihuacan seemed to be relatively settled until approx. 750CE when the city was burned, possibly due to civil war and most of the population left, leaving the city abandoned and to fall into ruin.
Centuries later it was rediscovered by the Aztec people and it was them who gave it the name Teotihuacan, meaning “City of the Gods.” They believed that only gods could have built a site so impressive so they sought to emulate them by modelling their own city of Tenochtitlan on Teotihuacan.
Pyramid of the Moon
Although smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun, it is older. The first phase of construction began around 100CE and like most Meso-American buildings, it went through multiple phases of constructions.
The Pyramid is believed to have been used as a temple to worship the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan who served as a deity of water, fertility, and creation.
In the late 1990’s, two tombs were found within the layers of the pyramid and were thought to be dedicated to The Great Goddess.
One dedicated to the fifth phase of construction (approx. 100 – 200CE) was discovered with four human skeletons, animal bones, jewellery, obsidian blades amongst other items.
The other dates to the fourth phase of construction and was discovered with one skeleton, thought to be of a man who had been bound and sacrificed, surrounded by more than 150 offerings, including obsidian and greenstone figurines, obsidian blades, pyrite mirrors, conch shells, and the remains of several hawks or falcons, a wolf, puma and at least two jaguars, one of which may have been buried alive.
You’re allowed to climb the Pyramid of the Moon and from the top you’ll get an amazing view down the Avenue of the Dead.
Pyramid of the Sun
This is the biggest pyramid at Teotihuacan and easily the most recognisable.
Built in two phases beginning in 200BCE, the first phase is basically what we see today so there are no internal pyramids that have been built over as is common in pre-Hispanic cultures.
The second phase of building took the height to 75m with a temple building on top. It would have been plastered in lime plaster and painted brilliant colours, however none of this has survived today.
Due to the deliberate destruction (some is natural as well) of the temple we can’t tell much about why the pyramid was built or which gods would have been worshipped by the Teotihuacanos.
Archaeologists have discovered a man-made tunnel underneath the pyramid which they thought to be a royal tomb but there is not enough evidence to support this theory due to substantial looting. However, other artefacts including the Teotihuacano Ocelot (now housed at the British Museum) have been found at the base of the pyramid as well a human remains that are believed to be sacrificial offerings.
Temple of Quetzalcoatl & Avenue of the Dead
At the very end of the Avenue of the Dead you’ll find the Temple of Queztalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), it’s a bit of a walk and you’ll pass through the remains of the apartment complexes as you go.
There are some really cool things to check out along the way, including the staircase (photo above) that was unearthed and left in situ fortunately for visitors to see.
As you walk down the Avenue, make sure you head up into the apartment complexes for a nosey – this is how we found the staircase but there was nobody else up there. I think most people just look at them as they walk past.
Eventually though, you’ll find the Temple of the Feathered Serpent! When we were there, there are archaeological work going on at the site. I would imagine this is still going ahead now – archaeology takes years!
Head on up to the temple and walk up the stairs to the platform up the top. From there you can look down onto one of the previous temples which has been excavated.
The carvings on this temple are amazing! In some instances you can even see the colours on them – they would have been incredibly brightly painted when it was originally completed.
In 2003 a tunnel was discovered at the foot of the pyramid when heavy rain caused a sink hole. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that archaeologists were given permission to dig and at the end of the tunnel they found a chamber representing the underworld!
Buried about 17 metres beneath the pyramid’s centre, a miniature mountainous landscape was used to hold objects, including a rubber ball representing the Sun, pools of liquid mercury in some of the tiny valleys represented lakes. Archaeologists also found four greenstone statues, wearing garments and beads; two of which were still in their original positions. The walls and ceiling of the tunnel are covered in a sparkly mineral powder to give the effect of standing under the stars.
Final Step – EXPLORE!!
This site is huge so it will take you sometime to get around but make sure you spend some time exploring the whole site and not just hitting the main attractions (unless you’re short on time!). There is also a museum somewhere on site which is definitely worth checking out and if you can get to it.
There is also a smaller site called “Palacio de Tepantitla” where you can see the remains of a palatial housing complex most likely used by the noble. At the complex you’ll find some of the artwork still on the walls which is incredible to see!
Final tips I have for you:
- Take plenty of water! It gets hot and there is A LOT of walking around!
- Make sure you have cash with you as there are plenty of vendors around looking to sell their wares
- Wear sensible shoes – I was amazed at the amount of people I saw walking around and climbing pyramids in jandals (flip flops to you non-kiwi’s) and high heels!
- Finally, and most importantly – don’t forget your camera!
I hope you have an amazing day at Teotihuacan, it really is an incredible site with so much to see!