Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the ancient world and today it is best known for its pyramids. A trip to Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without seeing Teotihuacan. Located just ~30 miles northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is easily accessible by public transportation or Uber and is doable in less than a day. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re ever in Mexico City.
Although it’s unclear who founded Teotihuacan, the city was believed to be founded around 100 BC. At its peak around 450 CE, Teotihuacan became the most populated city and most powerful cultural center whose influence spread across the Mesoamerican regions.
It wasn’t until around 550 AD that Teotihuacan began to decline. The exact reason is still unknown but there is evidence to suggest invasion, burning of the city, drought and famine. After the city had collapsed, the Aztec discovered it and named it Teotihuacan which means “birthplace of the gods.” Visitors today can still see the pyramids build thousands of years ago and experience a piece of history by walking down the Avenue of the Dead.
Religious or political rituals took place at the pyramids as well as animal and human sacrifices. There is a designated platform in front of the Pyramid of the Sun for these sacrifices.
There are several methods of getting to Teotihuacan, all of which are easy and inexpensive.
By public transportation
You’ll first want to get to the Terminal Central del Norte, which is also called the Autobuses del Norte. Once you’re inside the bus station, walk left to Gate 8 and look for buses to “Pyramides” or “Zona Arqueologico.” Roundtrip tickets cost about 100 pesos (or $5 USD) and the ride takes about one hour each way.
By tour bus
This may be easiest if you have a large group and are willing to pay for the convenience, which is what I did with a group of 16. There was also a guide who accompanied us – only for the ride itself to explain the history, but he didn’t walk with us in the pyramids. The van picked us up from our hotels, took us to Teotihuacan, made a pit stop for souvenirs and another for lunch, and brought us back to the hotels. It cost $60 USD per person.
I know friends who took an Uber to Teotihuacan and found it extremely convenient and affordable. Ubers in Mexico City are very safe and there are plenty of them. The ride only cost about $25, so depending on how many people are in your group this option may cost the same as public transportation.
Once you’re at the pyramids, admission is roughly 70 pesos ($3.50 USD).
What to Wear
Once you’re at the pyramids, there is almost no shade, so don’t forget to bring sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. The area is also pretty big and requires a fair amount of walking, including climbing stairs up the pyramids. Wear something comfortable for walking and safe for climbing steep and uneven steps. Also bring some water since there weren't many food vendors on site.
What to See
Pyramid of the Sun
This is the fourth largest pyramid in the world, after the Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Cholula (also in Mexico), and the Chichen Itza Pyramid (also in Mexico). The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest in Teotihuacan and worships the sun and rain god because the sun is important in ancient culture and people heavily relied on rain for agriculture. Over time, the pyramid was built 9 times over itself due to the pyramids sinking into the ground and to maintain the structure.
Once at the pyramid, you can actually climb 248 steps to the top. The steps are steep and uneven but there are handrails to help guide you up to steps. From the platforms, you could get a pretty awesome view of the Avenue of the Dead, the Pyramid of the Moon and the mountains in the distance.
Pyramid of the Moon
Connected by the Avenue of the Dead, the Pyramid of the Moon is just a short 20-minute walk north from the Pyramid of the Sun. Although it’s not as tall as the Pyramid of the Sun, you can still climb halfway up the pyramid. It offers an unobstructed view down the center of the Avenue of the Dead and of the Pyramid of the Sun. Be careful though as the steps here were much steeper, so it felt like doing single-leg leg presses but still worth the climb.
Avenue of the Dead
The avenue is very wide and over two miles long and used to be the main street running through Teotihuacan. It connects the three main pyramids and is lined with smaller pyramids, so there are many photo ops along the way.
Temple of the Feathered Serpent
This is the third largest pyramid at Teotihucan located south of the Pyramid of the Sun. There are serpents carved into the structure to worship Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god, and Tlaloc, the ancient storm god. Near the temple were about 200 burials of young men and women who were believed to have been warriors and have been sacrificed.
I’m glad I was able to make a day trip to Teotihuacan to see the pyramids and learn about the history behind it. I spent only a few hours at Teotihuacan and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring other parts of Mexico City!