The Pyramids at Teotihuacan are ancient, awe-inspiring, and very accessible to tourists. To get there, you don’t have to hire a fancy excursion company and you won’t be out in the middle of nowhere, like you would when visiting some other wonders of the ancient world. You certainly could hire a tour company, or take a taxi or UberMx to the site, but if you want to save cash a little extra effort will reward you with an amazing experience for a low price.
My first and foremost piece of advice is this: Get to the ancient city early. At any time of year, it can get very hot and crowded. By beating the crowds, you will not need to wait in a long line to conquer the Temple of the Sun. Once you’ve done that, you can explore the rest of the Avenue of the Dead at your own leisure.
You’ll start your day around 7-8 a.m. Take the metro to the Autobuses del Norte station. Again, you could take a cab, but why would you when taking the metro is just 5 pesos a ride? You’ll find Autobuses del Norte to be a very busy station. It’s a huge bus terminal full of people coming and going from various cities around the whole country. Head to the far left part of the terminal and look for the Autobuses Teotihuacan stand. I had budgeted a lot of money for this, I mean, they are the third largest pyramids in the world, but the bus ticket was only about 100 pesos ($5 USD). Make sure to note when your bus leaves; they are set departures. The return trip is not as strict; when you’re done at the ancient site just catch any return coach that has room.
When you’re there:
When you arrive, you pay to get into the park, less than 100$MXN. It’s a very flexible location to visit: Depending on how into ancient civilization you are, it would be easy to spend a whole day exploring the multiple temples and preserved living spaces along the Avenue of the Dead. However, this is also a good half-day trip, too.
The main star: The Pyramid of the Sun. You’ll hear it interchangeably referred to as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Temple of the Sun. I mean, it is known as the third largest pyramid in the world, but at the same time, with its staggered construction it is not considered a true pyramid by some: due to its stepped shape. Whatever you want to classify it as– it’s truly ancient and so, so cool.
My group and I passed through the long avenue of souvenirs and hopped in line for the big pyramid first. The line is long but goes quickly. The stairs get narrower as you climb, but there are also handrails to hold onto as you near the top. I found climbing up harder (physically) and climbing down scarier. The top is so cool, though. The view is really nice and I can only imagine how far one would be able to see on a clear day.
On the Temple of the Moon, you can only climb halfway up. You can explore much more of the Avenue of the Dead, but please respect the chains and ropes blocking off many of the ruins. You know, a “look but don’t touch” respect to 2000 year old artifacts.
One thing I wasn’t expecting, but really liked, was an area where they’d salvaged and restored some wall plaster paintings and carvings, and had a walk-through where you could see how each home’s rooms connected to each other and even see how there were carved areas for water runoff—a fairly sophisticated plumbing system.
Learning about the pyramids:
Before you go, make sure to do a little research online because at the pyramids there aren’t really handouts in English or otherwise. You could even download some information to your phone/device for looking at while there. Reading up the night before you go will help set the stage and prep you with contextual knowledge on what you are witnessing when you’re exploring the ancient site. There are a few signs with interesting facts but on some of them the English translation is a little off. You’ll get the picture, but not a robust or in depth explanation.
If you would prefer to spend a little more, you can hire a guide when you arrive. I overheard tours in a few different languages. Make sure to look for a licensed guide with a vest and badge around his (almost always a male) neck. Remember to haggle on the price depending on the size of your group and the length of tour. We did not hire a guide but eavesdropped on one a little bit and I think it would probably have been worth doing.
When you’re done, head back through the shopping area to where you were dropped off. You’ll wait for your return bus on the corner right near the touristy restaurant. Check with other tourists to make sure you board the right coach going back to Autobuses del Norte. While you wait, skip the touristy restaurant and order a tlayuda (kind of like a tostada but better, highly recommended) from a family stand. You could even have a snack of some chapulines if you’re feeling daring!
I know there are people out there who will see a long line to climb to the top of the Temple of the Sun, get discouraged and skip it. It was my experience (again, we did get there early) that the line moves quickly and the view from the top is certainly worth it.
- Price: About $15 USD (plus food and souveneirs)
- Time: Half day to one day trip
- Must-do: Yes
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All photos by Staci Jackson for The Voyageer.