Teotihuacan, also known as the City of the Gods, is an archeological site 40 km northeast of Mexico City. Náhuatl for "the place where men became gods", Teotihuacan is home to some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. According to legend, it was here where the gods gathered to plan the creation of man. The site is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Teotihuacan was the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas, reaching a total population of 150,000 at its height. The name is also used to refer to the civilization this city dominated, which at its greatest extent included most of Mesoamerica.
Construction of Teotihuacán commenced around 300 BC, with the Pyramid of the Sun built by 150 BC. Construction continued from 150 to 450 AD.
By the time the Spaniards arrived, this place was not used as a settlement anymore, but served as a spiritual and religious destination for the people of Tenochtitlan.
A lot of artifacts have wisely been moved to National Anthropological Museum, in Mexico City. Elevation: 2,300m/7482f
By car (or taxi)
It takes about 45 minutes from the Mexico City, city center if you use the toll highway. It takes much longer, but more interesting, if you use the old free road. There is a small fee for parking at the site. A taxi may be prohibitively expensive, though sometimes tours with a car and driver/guide can be arranged for a reasonable fee if you want the convenience.
Buses to Teotihuacán leave from Mexico City about every half hour from two locations: 1 Terminal del Norte (outside Autobuses del Norte Metro station, Line 5) or from outside the 2 Potrero Metro station (Line 3). A one-way ticket will cost 50 pesos (July 2017). From Terminal Autobuses del Norte, walk towards Gate 8. There is a ticket booth almost at the end of the concourse. Check that your bus goes to the site entrance of Teotihuacán ruinas and not just to the town of San Juan Teotihuacán nearby. From Potrero, exit the station and look for white buses that go to Piramides – they mean the pyramids of Teotihuacán. The trip will take around an hour, and the buses run until about 18:00. When alighting the bus, check the last departure with the driver. You will be dropped off and picked up at 3 Puerta 1 (closest to the Temple of Quetzalcóatl).
By tour bus
Most travel agencies offer half or full day tours to the site, often combined with the Plaza de las Tres Culturas and the Basilica of Guadalupe, both of which are outside the city center. It’s a convenient way to combine the three, but note our comments above about getting to the site early. The price is around 200 pesos. As with guided tours everywhere in the world, these tours will waste much of your time by promoting gift shops, but they are still a convenient way to get here for Mexico City-based tourists.
There is an entrance fee of M$75 (July 2017) to enter the park for non-Mexican visitors. This is a large site, a lot of walking is required as there are few other ways to navigate the complex, unless you have a car, then you can freely drive around the perimeter (if you are staying at the hotel in the park or heading to one of the many restaurants). There are tractor-drawn wagons with seats and shelter that run on a schedule known only to them. If you go by bus, they will deliver you to one spot, from which you will be required to walk to and from. If you tire easily, pack light for this excursion (i.e., no backpacks, heavy purses, etc.)
There are plenty of friendly park police there, they may limit your driving around the site unless you are staying at the hotel. Taxi drivers are not allowed to drive you around the site, you must have a destination, like a restaurant, inside of the park. If you are adventurous and lucky, you may be able to rent a bicycle to ride around the perimeter on the cobble stone road (a bit bouncy). If you are visiting the site and do not have an opportunity to explore the perimeter where the shops, restaurants and old buildings are, you are missing out. Just a little creativity should help you find some transportation inside of the complex. The locals are very friendly and a few pesos will go a long way. Try to at least find a ride around the perimeter to view the complex. It will be worth the effort.
This site has many small pyramids, but essentially there are only four main attractions.
- 1 Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun). The largest pyramid in the structure with an excellent view of the surrounding mountains. Wear sunscreen, they don't call it the Temple of the Sun for nothing.
- 2 Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon). A medium-sized pyramid off from the center of the complex.
- 3 Templo de Quetzalcoatl (Temple of Quetzalcoatl). One of the most sacred temples in the complex, this structure is decorated with many stone serpent heads.
- 4 Museo Teotihuacán. The museum at the park with outstanding displays and a miniature recreation of the entire site. Well worth the visit.
There are also many interesting constructions along the Avenue of the Dead which runs along the middle of the site, so don't just walk from one temple to the other. On the left side of the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon are several areas including the 5 Palacio de Quetzalpalotl, which includes the Palacio de los Jaguares (Palace of the Jaguars) and the Templo de los Caracoles Emplumados, with many wall paintings, sculptures, and underground rooms.
There are also some smaller structures surrounding the complex, no more than four or five meters in height. A drive around the perimeter, on the road along the park will provide many surprises and is worth the trip. Hitching a ride or even paying a few pesos for a ride will be worth the effort.
You can exit one of the back gates into the adjacent town of San Juan Teotihuacán. There you can shop for consumer items like groceries, water, bakery items, and fresh orange juice. Nice little town. Get a Telemex prepaid calling card for Mexico's pay phones. They are available from several vendors and the savings are substantial.
There are a lot of vendors selling silver products. In México, silver is thought to be cheap and only for tourists. Also, you will find obsidian rocks for sale. Some of these objects may just be a round or shaped stone, or something more elaborate like a statue. Also, there will be salesmen everywhere with Aztec flutes.
Around the inside perimeter of the site you will find several shops that not only sell, but also manufacture obsidian art and other stone objects for sale. Shop and compare quality and prices before buying.
There are a plenty of restaurants near the exits of the complex, inside and outside of the park and in the hotels in San Juan Teotihuacán as well as grocery stores and bakeries. Consider having one prepare a picnic for you and enjoy it at the park.
- 1 Restaurante La Gruta, Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacán (on the eastern perimeter, 500m down the road across from the Puerta 5), ☎ . Daily 11:00-19:00. The restaurant is located deep inside a subterranean cave and illuminated by two large holes on the side along with other ambient lighting. There is a bar with a vast selection of beers, wines, and liquors. Prepare for the possibility of a serenade by a small Mariachi band or weekend shows featuring live Aztec dancers.
- 2 Hotel Villas Arqueologicas Teotihuacán, Periférico Sur s/n, Zona Arqueológica (inside of the park close to the entrance), ☎ . Daily 07:30-22:00. Has a very pleasant dining room serving 3 meals a day. It is reasonably priced, food is excellent and the staff very helpful.
- 3 Museo Teotihuacán. The museum at the park has a restaurant.
There are a lot of small vendors in and outside the complex that sell water, juices, and sodas. Alcohol is available at the hotel and several vendors around the perimeter (on the road) sell cold beer.
- 1 Hotel Villas Arqueologicas Teotihuacán, Periférico Sur s/n, Zona Arqueológica (inside of the park close to the entrance), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The only hotel located in the archaeological zone at only 5 minutes walking distance from the main entrance of the site. The hotel is open all year round, and is accessible to the public. There is a small swimming pool, dining room and patio. The rooms are a bit small, but very clean. There is secure parking, having a car at the site is a real plus! You will be allowed to drive around the entire site without much restriction. M$1,120 and up.
- Hotel Quinta Sol, 26 Av Hidalgo, Teotihuacan SJ (From toll road take last exit to Teotihuacan SJ (not Piramides), it's just off that exit), ☎ . Comfy hotel 2 km from Archaeological Park. Spacious rooms, pool, restaurant. Free parking. Walking to the site from here isn't recommended as it's a hot, busy ratty highway with no side-walk, then there's lots of walking to see the site, then you have to get back.
The main thing you will notice inside and around the complex are people constantly approaching you trying to sell you trinkets. Be prepared, as this will be unusual if you have never been to Mexico before. Sometimes they can be very aggressive and persistent. If you are not interested, don't make eye contact or they will continue to harass you.
The climb to the top of the pyramids is a long one. You may want to take several breaks on the way up, unless you are exceptionally fit or young.
There are numerous stray dogs around the park, they do not seem to be dangerous, but touching them, feeding them or paying any attention to them is not in your best interest, especially at the restaurants.
Be aware of the weather. Sunny days can suddenly turn rainy. Use sunscreen. Especially at this altitude you can get a sunburn quickly without noticing it.
The only way to get out of the area is by bus back to México City. They come by the entrance every 30 minutes or so outside of the parking lot for entrance #2 ("Puerta 2").