Teotihuacan – a fabulous day trip from Mexico City

 

Established around 100BC,  Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the ancient world.   Little is known about its builders and its origins,  history,   language and culture remain largely a mystery.  At its peak it had over 150,000 residents.

The demise of the city is also unknown – around 600AD major buildings were destroyed,  suggesting an uprising from within.  No one knows where the population eventually ended up.

The ruins were never lost – in Aztec times,  the city was a place of pilgrimage.  ‘Teotihuacan’ is actually an Aztec name ‘the place where the gods were created’ – its original name has not been deciphered.

 

Visiting the Site

 

Most people head straight away for the fabulous Pyramid of the Sun.

DSC_1078

 

The photo above was taken later in the day – when we arrived just after 9.00am,  it was still in shadow.  Not yet displaying its full glory but majestic nonetheless.

IMG_20200102_093604 (1)

 

The pyramid,  at 75metres,  is just over half the height of the great pyramid of Giza.  There was an altar on top which did not survive to modern times.  The whole thing would have been covered in plaster and decorated in murals.

DSC_0945

 

DSC_0946

 

As you know,  I hate steps!  There are 248 to the top which isn’t bad.   Some steps are steep enough but there is a rope for support.  I actually prefer it when there is someone ahead of me because it slows the pace which suits me perfectly!

IMG_20200102_094412

 

IMG_20200102_094138

 

You can walk right around the lower terrace although most people just head straight for the top.

DSC_0958

 

And its surprisingly windy – gonna be a bad hair day!!!

IMG_20200102_095044

 

There’s plenty of space up top …

IMG_20200102_095751

 

20200102_100143

 

Now you can see the site which covers over 20 acres!  Below is the 2.4km Calle de los Muertos -Avenue of the Dead.  Away to the left is the Citadel – we’ll be heading there later…

DSC_0977

 

To the right,  at the end of the Avenue of the Dead,  is the Pyramid of the Moon.

DSC_0963

 

What goes up,  must come down!

DSC_0981

 

On the way back down,  we can see the traders setting up for the day.

DSC_0965

 

DSC_0967

 

Back below,  we head off along the Avenue towards the Pyramid of the Moon.

DSC_0988

 

There aren’t many murals in situ so the Puma attracts a lot of interest.

DSC_0999

 

There are information boards at significant locations throughout the site.   They haven’t been well maintained but most are legible.

DSC_1000

 

As we approach Moon SquareCerro Gordo (Gordo Hill) provides a backdrop for the Pyramid….

DSC_0994

 

The mountain gradually disappears…

IMG_20200102_102925

 

…. and the pyramid takes its place,  dominating the horizon.

DSC_1029

 

There is only access to the lower terrace on this pyramid.

IMG_20200102_103351

 

More steps!!

IMG_20200102_105506

 

People celebrate in  different ways ….

DSC_1038

 

….we settle for a non selfie!!

IMG_20200102_105622

 

Fabulous views of Moon Square and the Avenue of the Dead looking back towards the Pyramid of the Sun.

DSC_1060

 

Moon square is bordered with lesser pyramids..

DSC_1062

 

DSC_1048

 

The Quetzalpapalotl Temple is located on the corner of Moon Square.  Its name means ‘beautiful butterfly’ and is so called after the carved columns in the courtyard which are covered in carvings of quetzals and owls.   The upper walls are decorated with geometric designs.

DSC_1015

 

DSC_1019

 

DSC_1023

 

Traders line the Avenue….

DSC_0985

 

….some of them work on their own crafts.

DSC_1032

 

Not sure if its just today but its very windy at times – hats taking off into the air and dust blowing up into one’s eyes – best to leave the white jeans at home just in case!!!

DSC_1071

 

Further along the avenue,   there’s evidence of the some 2000 single storey compounds that have been found on the site.   Its thought that many of them were multi-family residences.

DSC_1098

 

Looking back towards the Pyramid of the Sun

DSC_1101

 

Ciudadela  (Citadel) is a 38 acre courtyard dominated by The Temple of the Feathered Serpent – a modern name for the 3rd largest pyramid on site.   While it doesn’t look anything as impressive as the big pyramids,  its notable for two reasons – its relatively highly decorated and more than 100 (possibly sacrificial) skeletons were found beneath the structure in the 1980’s.

DSC_1105

 

DSC_1119

 

DSC_1124

 

DSC_1112

 

 

DSC_1136

 

Heading towards the on-site Museum,  we’ve a good view of the side of the Pyramid of the Sun

DSC_1143

 

The Museum (included on entrance ticket) is worth a visit for the artifacts and also the site plan which has a great view of the pyramid!

DSC_1152

 

DSC_1160

 

DSC_1156

 

As we were heading off about 2.00 pm,  it was hard not to spot the queue for the pyramid!!!

DSC_1165

 

….getting crowded up there!!

DSC_1172

 

DSC_1173

 

Numbers being controlled and access restricted….

DSC_1170

 

…queues for parking.

20200102_135725

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Small Stuff

Getting There

Teotihuacan is situated about 50 km from Mexico City and there are the usual options:

Guided day tours (make sure to choose a company that allows plenty of time at the site)

Private transport

Public transport

We managed very easily on public transport.  Buses depart frequently from Autobuses Del Norte station and drop visitors at the gate . The journey takes around an hour.  We shared the road mostly with colectivos – mini buses stopping constantly to pick up passengers along the side of the road.   The route takes you through the suburbs and past colourful residential areas dotting the hillsides.   Further out,  industrial zones are interspersed with herds of goats grazing on waste ground.

20200102_152753

How Much?

Tours from Mexico City start at about €40.

By public transport:

Mex$10  –  metro return to bus station

Mex$104 – bus return to Teotihuacan

Mex$75 –   entrance fee

Total Mex$189 – Just over €9 each …. How’s that for a day out!!!!

 

Arrival:

The site is open from 9 am -5 pm on 365 days per year.

GET THERE EARLY!

There are 5 gates.  Bring cash for your ticket.  There are tour guides available at the gate but remember there are information boards inside and you’ll probably spend a lot of time scrambling up and down steps.

Note that the site is free for Mexican residents on Sundays so is extra busy.

 

20200102_092911

 

As well as the traders inside,  there are shopping options at the gates in case you forgot your hat!

20200102_140006

How Much Time?

I’d say allow  at least 3-4 hours if you are going to climb the pyramids.  We spent 5 hours, including lunch.

 

What to Bring:

Cash for buses,  entrance,  stalls,  etc.   Buskers may board the bus on the way back so have a few coins handy!

Hat – there is very little shade.   Sunglasses,  Sunblock

Water

Walking Shoes

Camera!

 

Accessibility:

Of course you don’t have to climb anything.  There were plenty of people happy to sit and wait while others in their group headed up the pyramids.  Besides the climbing,  the site is flat although there are some short flights of steps to be negotiated along the Avenue.   There is a lot of walking involved (remember the Avenue is 2.4 kms long).

 

Lunch:

Well as you’ve spent practically nothing on the trip,  you can splurge a bit on lunch.  Many head for La Gruta,  just outside Gate 5 ( your ticket will allow reentry).   I felt a bit of a mess after hours in the dust and heat but I suppose they’re used to it!  We arrived around noon and although very busy,  we got a table straight away… by the time we were leaving there was quite a queue so plan accordingly.

 

IMG_20200102_123713

 

IMG_20200102_123919

 

Don’t bother with appetizers – you’ll get a generous basket of tortilla chips and dips to your table.

20200102_125245

 

This Mexican Platter costs about €15.

20200102_131128

 

Before you leave,  your waiter will offer you a candle to place in the grotto – if you place a candle in the cave walls,  you will be reborn a new (wo)man.  Worth a try!

IMG_20200102_134535

 

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

 

12 thoughts on “Teotihuacan – a fabulous day trip from Mexico City

  1. Well handle complete post beautiful pictures! me diff as have family there and my first time back in the 80’s I almost fainted climbing it too fast lol!! cheers

  2. Looks like a really interesting place. That lunch spot is cool too! Seems you timed your visit well, those crowds are crazy!

    1. Great place – worth going to Mexico City for this alone. Yes the restaurant certainly added to the occasion. Everyone seemed to know about it. We watched the build up of crowds during the morning because we passed by the big pyramid a few times… but couldn’t believe the queues in the afternoon. We definitely learned our lesson from that and will try to visit major monuments as early as possible ..

Leave a Reply