Mexico City is an enormous city full of rich history, vibrancy, and culture, but one of the must-see places for any visitor lies just outside the limits of the busy city life. The Teotihuacan Pyramids, located an hour drive away from Mexico City’s downtown, are part of an ancient city established 100 BC that stood strong for centuries as the hot spot for trade, industry, religious activities and daily life. The Teotihuacan city is long gone, but now the pyramids are being recovered and reconstructed which has turned the pyramids and the ancient city into a highly visited attraction by local and international tourists. A trip to Mexico City would not be complete without spending a day exploring the Teotihuacan Pyramids, which boasts wonders like the Pyramid of the Sun, the thirst largest pyramid in the world. Here are some tips and advice on how to make the best of your day trip to this ancient landmark.
HOW TO GET TO THE TEOTIHUACAN PYRAMIDS
The Teotihuacan Pyramids are located on the outskirts of Mexico City, but this also makes the transportation arrangements to and from the pyramids a bit more difficult. Many international tourists sign up for privately run tours to the pyramids, but they often cost a pretty penny and you are bound by their timelines and activities planned. I did not want to go that route because I like to be on my own schedule when it comes to traveling, so on my trip, I opted to take an Uber to the local bus station where I jumped on a greyhound-like bus to the Pyramids and back. You could also take the metro to the bus station, however, some of the metro routes get very full and which can make for a very interesting trip. Check out this video to see what I mean:
And yes, I did get to experience this on the way back from the pyramids, when I felt a bit more… adventurous!
The Teotihuacan Pyramid bus costs around $5 USD round-trip, runs around every 20 minutes and drops you off right outside of the pyramid entrance. The bus is mostly taken by domestic tourists and you do not see many international visitors on it, yet it is very cheap and reliable. The bus leaves from Central De Norte bus station. Directions to the Central De Norte bus station HERE.
When you walk into the bus station from the main entrance, head all the way to the left to a booth called “Autobuses Teotihuacan” where you can purchase the bus boarding tickets. Then head over to Gate 8 where you will need to pass through a security check. Once you go through the security check all the buses will be lined up, so make sure you find the correct one. The bus takes about an hour to reach the pyramids and will make a few stops along the way. On the bus ride locals will hop on trying to sell you candy, which they strategically hand you first then come back around and ask for money, so that is something to look out for.
The bus stop to return back to Mexico City is located on a road outside of the pyramids between gates 2 and 3. It’s not marked with a booth or a sign, but a guide was standing at the bus stop wearing Autobuses Teotihuacan clothing so it’s not difficult to spot. Shortly after boarding, the police jumped on for a second to scan the bus, then we were on our way back to Mexico City in a comfortable and enjoyable ride.
The bus drops you off at the south-western end of the pyramids, which holds a small indoor museum showcasing items from the daily life such as kitchenware and art pieces. Most of the descriptions are in Spanish at this museum, so unless you can read Spanish, it is a pretty quick walk through. The Teotihuacan Pyramids entrance fee is about $3 USD and it takes a full day to explore the whole area, which is around 2 miles in length.
The first temple you will see is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, located in a large courtyard surrounded by walls called the Citadel. Although it’s not one of the biggest temples in the compound, it is highly decorated and earns its name from showcasing serpent-like animal sculptures. This temple was used for human sacrifices and in modern times more than 200 human remains have been discovered at this temple. Human sacrifices were performed in the Teotihuacan times on a regular basis, and even the winners of a soccer-like game would be sacrificed. Although that was deemed an honor in their times, I would personally gladly take a trophy instead.
After viewing the Temple of Quetzalcoatl you can continue along a straight path called the Avenue of the Dead, the main street in this ancient city that extends from one end to the other. Scattered along the Avenue of the Dead are many smaller scale pyramids and ruins that you can walk in between and climb on top of.
Nowadays, the ruins are still sort of being inhabited not by humans but by wild puppies and dogs. As you make your way down the Avenue of the Dead, don’t be surprised to see 10 or more dogs running around the ruins along with you or even disappearing underneath the ruins to seek shelter. The wild dogs have created their own City of Dogs underneath the ruins.
The next stop along the Avenue of the Dead is the Pyramid of the Sun. Tourists can walk up to the top of the pyramid if they wish but it can get very crowded and steep along the climb up. It only takes 20 minutes to climb the stairs to the top, but how many times in your life can you say that you have been on top of the third largest pyramid in the world? It is quite the sight!
The last major pyramid along the Avenue of the Dead is the Pyramid of the Moon. It stands at the center of the street as the main destination for anyone who walks down the avenue. As you walk up to the Pyramid of the Moon you are greeted and surrounded by several smaller pyramids on both sides, leading you to the main one. Although you are not able to walk up all the way to the top of this pyramid, a platform is located half way up offering an amazing panoramic view of the whole ancient city.
- It’s an all-day outdoors trip so bring snacks, water and sunscreen
- Bring cash for the bus ride and entrance fee
- Most people at the bus station or the museum don’t speak English
- Many of the recovered artifacts from the pyramids can be found at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
If you have an extra day in Mexico City, don’t miss a chance to take a trip to the Teotihuacan Pyramids so you can take a step back into history and explore the city that has been nicknamed “The place where Gods were born”. A city that, in its prime, was the largest city in the region and its center of life and commerce, and now stands halfway recovered and halfway buried underneath mountains and grass fields. Whether you are a history buff or on a family vacation to Mexico City, a trip to the Teotihuacan Pyramids is for everyone to enjoy.
Written by Laura Sausina