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Teotihuacan and the Pyramids of Mexico City

Teotihuacan and the Pyramids of Mexico City are one of the most visited Mesoamerican sites in the world. Despite being home to what are arguably the most impressive pyramids in country, Teotihuacan is lesser-known in the international community than Chichén Itzá, a Mayan site near Cancun that is famous for a much smaller pyramid.

If you’re planning to visit Mexico City, seeing these gigantic ancient Aztec monuments should definitely be at the top of your to-do list. Constructed from 1 AD to approximately 250 AD, the Pre-Colombian city of Teotihuacan was once the most dominating city in the region and housed as many as 200,000 residents year-round.

This guide to Teotihuacan and the Pyramids of Mexico City will better prepare you for your upcoming visit and help you get the most from your trip. We’ve also included some tips for traveling to the ruins from the hotels or downtown area, a brief background of the site, and a list of items you’ll want to bring with you.

Quick Article Guide

1. Getting to the Pyramids from Mexico City
2. Why Visit the Pyramids at Teotihuacan?
3. The Aztec Pyramids of the Sun and Moon
4. Getting to The Temple of Quetzalcoatl
5. Can You Climb the Pyramids at Teotihuacan?
6. When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Teotihuacan?
7. What Should I Wear to the Pyramids at Teotihuacan?
8. A Packing List for Teotihuacan and the Pyramids

Getting to the Pyramids from Mexico City

The Pyramids of Teotihuacan are about 30 miles from downtown Mexico City. To get there from your hotel you can hire a taxi, use Uber, take the Autobus, or drive if you have a rental car. If you hire a taxi, expect to pay $60 to $80 round-trip, and always negotiate the rate in advance with your driver.

The Autobus is the least expensive option to get to the pyramids from the city. The cost is 50 pesos (about $3 USD) each way. Catching a bus outside the del Norte Metro station is the probably the easiest route. Just take Line 5 from 1 Terminal del Norte and it will drop you off at the pyramids. You can also take Line 3 from terminal 2 at the Potrero Metro station.

Teotihuacan opens at 7:00 am, but the best time to leave your hotel is after 9:00 am when the traffic is minimal and most people in the city are working. We hired a tour guide to take us to Teotihuacan and the Pyramids of Mexico City because our schedule was too full for the bus, and we also wanted someone to teach us more about the site.

Why Visit the Pyramids at Teotihuacan?

The Aztec Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan is the 6th largest ancient pyramid in the world. It’s also about the same size as the Hotel Luxor’s Pyramid in Las Vegas. Standing close to 250 feet tall, with a base that’s more than 730 feet across, this 1,800 year-old stone marvel is truly a spectacular site to see.

If one gigantic pyramid isn’t enough to spark your interest, you’ll also want to consider the Pyramid of the Moon which stands about 2000 feet away. In addition to these two pyramids, Teotihuacan is also home to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, a pyramid-shaped structure that has been the subject of hundreds of entertaining theories about the Ancient Aztecs.

In addition to the massive structures, this UNESCO site also contains the restored Courtyard of the Palacio de Quetzalpapálotl and some well-preserved murals at the palace of Atetelco. We also really enjoyed the peacefulness of the site and the fact it wasn’t overcrowded with vendors and other tourists.

The Aztec Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

The two structures that get the most attention at Teotihuacan are the great Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. Both structures are roughly 2,000 years old, and it’s estimated that they took about two and a half centuries to build. Every year more than 4,000,000 people visit this site to get a first-hand view of these giant stone relics.

While the pyramid of the Moon appears to be shorter in height, the top of both pyramids are actually at the same elevation above see level. The Pyramid of the Moon utilizes the natural grade on the earth so it’s height appears shorter than the Pyramid of the Sun.

The pyramids of the Sun and Moon were built along the ancient city’s main road which is know referred to as the Avenue of the Dead. This avenue and the entire site of Teotihuacan align directly with the Cerro Gordo, and the site’s structures create natural lighting and shadow effects during the Summer Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

An effect that is created by the shadows of the pyramids and the orientation of the sun relative to Earth’s orbit. This is a common trait among almost every Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican culture. Some scholars have also pointed out that the aerial view of this ancient city resembles the design of a modern circuit board.

Whether this fact is intentional or coincidental, it only adds to the enigma the surrounds these ancient stone ruins. What’s even more interesting is presence of mercury-filled tunnels that run underneath the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Many theories have come forward about the purpose of these tunnels, but most scholars believe they were created to represent the afterlife.

Getting to The Temple of Quetzalcoatl

The most mysterious structure at Teotihuacan is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. This temple is still being excavated and studied by archaeologists today. While we were visiting, a large white tent was covering the entrance to an underground cave that leads below the ancient stone temple.

The two larger structures at the site, the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon, are impossible to miss because of their sheer size. However, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl is smaller and its a bit off the beaten path so it’s harder to find. The view of Quetzalcoatl’s temple is also obstructed by another structure.

The best way to get to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl park by the main entrance. You’ll need to walk about 500 feet west, and cross the Avenue of the Dead. In front of temple you’ll see a small platform and temple that you’ll want to climb to get a closer view of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl which lies directly behind it.

Here’s picture of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl from the parking lot at the main entrance. This link will to take you to map of the Pyramids and Temples at Teotihuacan. It will also provide you with a closer look at this unique temple dedicate to the Aztec Serpent God.

Can You Climb the Pyramids at Teotihuacan?

You can climb every pyramid and structure at Teotihuacan except for the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. This structure is still being studied and restored today, so unfortunately it’s off limits to tourists. You can climb the structure in front of it to get a closer look though.

Most people park at the lot that is closest to the Pyramid of the Sun and start their expedition there. This is the longer climb of the two large Pyramids. When accounting for photo time, most people spend about an hour climbing up and down this huge Pre-Columbian stone structure.

After climbing the Pyramid of the Sun, you’ll want to walk about 2000 feet down the Avenue of the Dead until you reach the base of the Pyramid of the Moon. This structure appears to be just as tall as the Pyramid of the Sun, but you can only climb about halfway to the top, so it only takes about forty minutes.

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Mexico City?

The weather in Mexico City is warm and moderate year-round. The daytime temperature usually hovers from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of the time of the year. Rain is only common during the wet season which runs from June until October. Even during this during this time of the year, the precipitation is minimal.

The weather in Teotihuacan is almost identical to Mexico City, so anytime is probably safe to visit. Most tourists prefer the cooler and dryer months of March, April, and May, but if you don’d mind a little drizzle, going at a different time of the year will save you money and help you avoid the crowds.

We decided to visit during the second week of May. On a Monday from 10:30 am until about 2:00 pm, the crowds were minimal. It was very easy for us to climb up and down the pyramids without running into people, or having to wait a long time for large tour groups to pass.

What Should I Wear to the Pyramids at Teotihuacan?

The weather at Teotihuacan and the Pyramids of Mexico City is warm and dry year-round. It rarely gets above 80 degrees, or below 70, so we’d recommend wearing light and breathable clothing. The nylon pants that zip off to turn into shorts are ideal for men. I also wore a “dry-fit” shirt. My wife wore Yoga-style pants and a tank-top.

It can be chilly in the morning, so bring a light coat. If you’re going during the months of March through June, we recommend bringing a poncho or rain jacket as well. It’s also very important to wear comfortable shoes, preferably trail shoes or tennis shoes with a good grip. A wide-brimmed hat is also a good idea if you’re sensitive to the sun.

A Packing List for Teotihuacan and the Pyramids

Mexico City only receives about twelve inches of rain per year, so expect it to be dry during your trip. Regardless of the time of year you visit, you should bring a small backpack with the supplies you’ll need. We prefer backpacks that can hold all of your supplies and some water like a Camelbak.

Here are the items we recommend for your trip to Teotihuacan and the Pyramids of Mexico City:
Sunscreen (The sun is always out and Mexico city has has an elevation of 7000 feet)
Mosquito Repellent (We didn’t see too many mosquitoes during our trip in May, but they’re always here)
A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (The sun is extremely bright and unforgiving)
Comfortable trail shoes or hiking shoes (You should expect to walk about two miles at these ruins)
Lots of Water (Bring at least 64oz of water per person)
Electrolyte Packets (It didn’t get to hot during our trip, but better safe than sorry)
Pesos (You’ll have to purchase your admission to Teotihuacan with Pesos)
Camera (A cell phone camera works great for us)

Items to Leave at Home or at Your Hotel:
Pets (There are usually a few stray – but harmless – dogs at most of the ruins in Mexico including Teotihuacan )
Loud Music (No stereos, loud music, or cell phone speaker allowed)
Drones (Drones are not allowed at most of the parks including the Pyramids of Mexico City)
Selfie-Sticks (Selfie-sticks are prohibited from most of the ancient sites in Mexico)

Do you have questions about your upcoming trip to Mexico City or the Pyramids? Leave a comment below, and we can’t answer your question, we’ll try to point you to someone who can.


1 Comment

  1. Chris Huntley

    Hey Cliff – I’d love to visit these pyramids. I went to the Copan Ruins in Guatemala when I lived in Honduras, and they were amazing. That’s crazy they let you climb all over them. Thanks for sharing.

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