It’s always been a dream of mine to visit a historic, archeological site such as the pyramids of Egypt or Chichen Itza. Before my crazy last minute travel planning to Mexico City, I hadn’t even realized that dream would be closer than I thought. Only an hour away from the city are the pyramids of Teotihuacán. These are the tallest pyramids of Mesoamerica and the Pyramid of the Sun is half the size of the Great Pyramid. The best part – there were close to no tourists around!
Traveling to Mexico City for a few days? I highly recommend putting aside a couple hours to explore this amazing site and climb the pyramids (at least one). Read my 3-day itinerary on We Are Travel Girls for more tips on your future trip.
I spent a little over 2 hours exploring the grounds with hardly a soul in sight except for merchants and maybe 4/5 other tourists. We arrived on an early Thursday morning. Aside from being told the attraction wouldn’t open till 9:00 AM, we left early nonetheless. At 8:00 AM we tried our luck at the front gate and were allowed in, my excitement already building up since the moment I saw the Pyramid of the Sun in the distance while driving. Read on for my personal journey and tips for your trip to this Ancient city.
Getting There: By Bus or by Car?
I planned a couple ways I would get to the site but ended up calling an Uber and tagging along with my dad and his coworker. The cost? $800 pesos. It was convenient, quick and comfortable. But there are other ways. More affordable ways especially. Depending on traffic it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.
The Sunday before I arrived my dad visited the site and took a taxi for $700 pesos. This taxi waited around for him as well and he was able to find his way back to D.F. (Mexico City) after exploring.
There are also buses that leave frequently from Terminal Autobuses del Norte or Portero Metro station for about $88 pesos. More info on these other options found here.
Of course you can also sign up for a guided tour. One I recommend is the Turibus which leaves from the Zocalo. But keep in mind this would be an all day tour whereas taking a bus or car would leave your day free for other adventures.
When to Go: Weather, Time and Day
In terms of weather, avoid summer as that is also Mexico’s rainy season. But weather generally is unpredictable – comparable to the weather patterns here in the Bay Area (foggy morning, sunny, torrential rains the next minute, hot again, wtf, “earthquake weather”). At least that is what my Uber driver explained to me. I got lucky with a sunny, yet not scorching hot day despite the previous day being so gloomy, rainy and freezing.
As with all tourist landmarks, the best time to go is early in the morning to beat the crowds. A lot of the guides and blogs I came across stated the hours of operation were 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. We got there early anyways and took a chance. Luckily the site opens at 8:00 AM and we were one of the first people there. Around 10:00 AM the area quickly started filling up with more tourists.
Although Teotihuacán is open all week, it’s best to avoid Sundays if possible as the site is free to both residents and tourists. My dad went on a Sunday and couldn’t enjoy the pyramids as much since the line went around the base just to climb atop both Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. I know, it’s free, but going when the crowds are low = priceless.
Teotihuacán: What to See
The whole site is huge! Just walking from one end to the other, up and down so many steps. It’s was a good workout and tested my fear of heights. I remember touching the stone structure as I first climbed the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (pictured below) and thinking how I am touching the same ancient stone built around 300 B.C. The feeling was incredible. I have an overactive imagination and walked around imagining what it was like in the ancient world.
Temple of Quetzalcoatl
As soon as we got past the gate, we walked right to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. If, like me, you are going tour guide-less, this is the temple that’s decorated with serpent heads protruding beside the steep ass steps. Climbing to the top of this temple isn’t so bad. Nowhere near the height of the Pyramid of the Sun, and not as steep as the Pyramid of the Moon. But the descent, oh my goodness. As a person terrified of heights, this was the hardest because there was no rail to help me down. I was on the verge of going down backwards on my knees the way I used to tell my kids to do when they were toddlers.
Once down we began the seemingly not too far walk to the Pyramid of the Sun. The distance was (unsurprisingly) deceiving to the eye. Climbing up and down sets of multiple sets of stairs we made it to the base of the largest pyramid.
Pyramid of the Sun
There are plenty of vendors selling gifts at their favorite price of “Almost free!” or “Only $1.” They are beautiful souvenirs but I chose to pass on them. You’ll come across them many times so hold off from purchasing till the end unless you don’t mind carrying them up the pyramids while holding onto the rail.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the tallest of the three. You can climb this all the way up to the tip top and be rewarded with an incredible view. As for me, I was clenching to the side as my vertigo really kicked in. This was the hardest of the climbs. It reminded me how back in the day when in P.E. class and I refused to run anymore because I was tired (plus asthma). This will be a breeze for those who are fit or exercise regularly. It was super windy at the top! It truly felt like I had the pyramid to myself for a while – that is until a family from Scotland arrived. The climb down was easier, especially with the hand rails. By now the site was already filling up with plenty visitors.
On an admission-free Sunday there are lines surrounding the base of the pyramid wrapping its way to the top. Families would casually bring their kids and a picnic to enjoy with the view. I don’t know how they did it with their young kids. The mother in me would freak out – I already get jumpy when my daughter goes to the glass edge on the second floor of the local mall.
Below is artwork depicting a jaguar on the walk towards the Pyramid of the Moon.
Pyramid of the Moon
They closed off the top off of this pyramid deeming it unsafe to climb so we were only allowed to get to the first platform. These steps were way steeper, and risers even taller than Pyramid of the Sun. I sat down promptly as I reached the top and scrambled away from the edge as fast as I could. Super steep! But from here you had a great view of the smaller pyramids, Pyramid of the Sun, and Calzada de Los Muertos – Avenue of the Dead. We were here quiet some time till two other’s got to the top and we started our way down. Back on the ground I looked up and saw the couple doing some extreme workouts. The man, doing his sit ups with his torso hanging in midair and his girlfriend/wife holding his feet. Just seeing that makes my insides clench. But the important thing is, I faced my fears for the day. I couldn’t imagine, despite my fear, passing up on climbing these monumental pyramids.
I passed on visiting the Museo Teotihuacán but it has a miniature recreation of what it would have looked like in it’s earlier days.
I just love ancient civilizations and the history here at Teotihuacán is particularly amazing. For one, the Aztecs weren’t even the first inhabitants of Teotihuacán. They didn’t build it. Whoever did is still a mystery. And archeologists are continuously discovering more about the ancient city. Like the fact it’s even bigger than they thought and new technology shows underground beneath the surrounding houses and buildings are more avenue’s and temples belonging to Teotihuacán. Only 5% has been explored! We left around 11:00 AM and took a bus (one stops every 30 minutes) back to the city in time for lunch.
Tips When Visiting
Wear comfortable clothing and comfortable close toed shoes.
Wear a hat to protect from the sun (just hold on to it if you’re climbing up on a windy day).
Don’t forget bottled water! Depending on the amount of exercise you normally do, climbing is no easy task.
Don’t look down – only applies to those with vertigo.
Aim to avoid the crowds (early morning and on a weekday).
Take pictures, take videos, revel in the ancient city!
Entrance fee $65 pesos and they accept all major credit cards.
Have lunch at La Gruta – a restaurant located inside a cave near the Pyramid of the Sun.
If you can indulge, book a hot air balloon ride that goes over the ancient piramidas.
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What kind of fears do you have? Has traveling helped you conquer them? I would love to hear what you think in the comments below! Or simply “Like” the post .