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.
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.
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.
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!
You can walk right around the lower terrace although most people just head straight for the top.
And its surprisingly windy – gonna be a bad hair day!!!
There’s plenty of space up top …
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…
To the right, at the end of the Avenue of the Dead, is the Pyramid of the Moon.
What goes up, must come down!
On the way back down, we can see the traders setting up for the day.
Back below, we head off along the Avenue towards the Pyramid of the Moon.
There aren’t many murals in situ so the Puma attracts a lot of interest.
There are information boards at significant locations throughout the site. They haven’t been well maintained but most are legible.
As we approach Moon Square, Cerro Gordo (Gordo Hill) provides a backdrop for the Pyramid….
The mountain gradually disappears…
…. and the pyramid takes its place, dominating the horizon.
There is only access to the lower terrace on this pyramid.
People celebrate in different ways ….
….we settle for a non selfie!!
Fabulous views of Moon Square and the Avenue of the Dead looking back towards the Pyramid of the Sun.
Moon square is bordered with lesser pyramids..
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.
Traders line the Avenue….
….some of them work on their own crafts.
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!!!
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.
Looking back towards the Pyramid of the Sun
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.
Heading towards the on-site Museum, we’ve a good view of the side of the Pyramid of the Sun
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!
As we were heading off about 2.00 pm, it was hard not to spot the queue for the pyramid!!!
….getting crowded up there!!
Numbers being controlled and access restricted….
…queues for parking.
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)
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.
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!!!!
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.
As well as the traders inside, there are shopping options at the gates in case you forgot your hat!
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
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).
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.
Don’t bother with appetizers – you’ll get a generous basket of tortilla chips and dips to your table.
This Mexican Platter costs about €15.
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!