I’ve always been fascinated by ancient civilisations and the monuments they’ve constructed over the millenia and centuries. Our visit to Mexico City presented an opportunity too good to miss to spend a day exploring Teotihuacan. This is the site of the Mesoamerican pyramids that are a one hour bus ride (and approx. 50 kilometres) north east of Mexico City.
Following our house sit in Patzcuaro we planned to spend about 10 days exploring Mexico City. Mexico City has 4 major bus terminals aligned with the cardinal points of the compass and we were arriving at the cities North bus station. It made more sense for us to continue our journey from there to Teotihuacan rather than go to our Airbnb near the city centre and then re-trace our footsteps on another day back to the North bus station.
The journey cost $54 pesos (AUD$3.80) each and after some confusion with the ticket seller we purchased our tickets (ticket office number 8). The next step was to find which of the multiple stands our bus was departing from. This was somewhat difficult as there was literally no signage so we joined a queue and hoped it was the correct one. Fortunately, it was and we were off.
Our house sitting friends, Rob and Sandy (Leaving The Islands), had visited a few weeks earlier and provided some useful info about where we should and shouldn’t disembark the bus which proved very useful. The site is extremely large and there are 5 gates providing access around the perimeter. Our local posada (hotel) was walking distance from gate 1 however the bus went an alternate route and we were dropped at gate 2!!! Fortunately, a kind local vendor waved down a taxi and a few kilometres later we were at our hotel – Posada Jatziri, a small, family run hotel very close to the Teotihuacan site.
A pleasant surprise
We rose early for our day exploring Teotihuacan to ensure we were at the site for the 8am opening. Making our way back to our room after breakfast we were pleasantly surprised to see many hot air balloons wafting across the sky above the pyramids – a wonderful start to our day.
Video tour of our day
I also put together a video of our day climbing the pyramids so if you prefer video go to the end of this post to take a look.
Pyramid of the Sun
We made the twenty minute walk to gate number 5 on the East side of the site and arrived just after opening. This gate is the closest to the Pyramid of the Sun (The 3rd largest pyramid in the world) and we wanted to climb this particular pyramid before the hordes of tourists arrived on the day tours from Mexico City. There were only a handful of other early risers climbing with us so we enjoyed a wonderful and peaceful experience taking in the amazing view and pondering this remarkable man-made monument. The climb up the 248 steps is broken up into 4 levels with each succeeding level having fewer steps than the previous one. I certainly puffed and panted up to the first level but then each shorter one after that was easier.
Pyramid of the Moon
Following our descent we walked along the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Moon. The steps here were even steeper than the ones at the Pyramid of the Sun. Thankfully you can only ascend to the first level.
The view from here is spectacular as you gaze down the Avenue of the Dead with the Pyramid of the Sun dominating the vista on the left hand side.
Museo De Los Murales
Having completed all of the major climbing for the day we set about exploring the other areas of the site. Just near gate 3 is the Museo De Los Murales Teotihuacanos (Mural Museum).
Many rescued and excavated murals are available to see at this museum. It is outside the archaeological site however your entrance ticket provides free access to the museum. The signage showing the way there is a little confusing but we persevered and found the museum. When exiting gate 3 you should turn right and follow the footpath for about 5-8 minutes. You’ll come across the museum car park on the right and you can enter via there.
Palace of Quetzalpapálotl
After wandering around the mural museum we returned to the archaeological site and visited the interesting Palace of Quetzalpapálotl. This complex was the abode of the high priests. Parts of the building are in very good condition and some of the original colours are still visible after all this time.
Not far from the Pyramid of the Sun and gate 5 is the archaeological museum of the site. We wandered around the museum reading about the history of the site and were amazed at some of the interesting items that have been excavated there.
You are able to exit and re-enter the site multiple times over the course of the day. This makes it easy to eat at one of the many restaurants outside the site (particularly outside gates 2 and 5). We had read about one particular restaurant located in an underground cave called La Gruta. It is quite unique and has prices to match so after taking a quick look we then ate elsewhere!!
We spent the afternoon walking the complete length of the Avenue of the Dead and checking out the various temple bases and remains of settlements along both sides of the road. We discovered that the Teotihuacan’s had also re-directed a river so that the Avenue could follow its intended route.
Temple of the Feathered Serpent
The final ‘sight’ was the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. This area was the administrative and political centre of the ancient city. From a distance it just looks like a typical temple but upon closer inspection it is anything but. This was the third largest pyramid and comprised 6 levels ‘decorated’ with alternating carved heads of feathered serpent and another snake-like creature. Nowadays these can only be seen on one side of the pyramid but originally they covered all four sides.
We’d spent 7 hours wandering the huge site and decided that our day exploring Teotihuacan should come to an end. As we left (via gate 1) we had a chuckle at a sign just near the entrance showing that the pyramids hadn’t been built by aliens!! It was a nice way to end an epic day.
We definitely recommend making the effort to visit here.
Visiting Teotihuacan is not an expensive exercise – the entrance fee is only $70 pesos (AUD$5).
Two nights accommodation at the Posada Jatziri cost $1,164 pesos (AUD$83).