After an awesome first week in Mexico, I was itching to get out of the city and start making my way South. My first stop were the pyramids of Teotihuacan, about an hour outside of Mexico City, which contains the third largest pyramid in the world.
Teotihuacan was an ancient Mesoamerican city that reached it’s peak around 450 AD with around 125,000-200,000 people living there, making it at least the 6th largest city in the WORLD at that time. The Aztecs, who came after this city was burned, named it Teotihuacan, which means “the birthplace of the gods.” It must have been a hell of an impressive sight for them to believe their gods, which ruled every facet of their lives, were born there!
The site is full of temple ruins, which all run along the “Avenue of the Dead” or the main thoroughfare that connects the major buildings. The biggest and most impressive were the Pyramid of the Moon and the massive Pyramid of the Sun, both of which can be still be climbed by visitors. I love it when archeological sites are so accessible – say hello to my inner Lara Croft!
We started with the Pyramid of the Moon, which can only be climbed to about the mid-point up some very steep stairs. Because it is located at the end of the Avenue of the Dead, it offers great views of the ruins in their entirety.
Then, we girded our loins for the big boy – the Pyramid of the Sun. Only the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt and the man-made mountain in Cholula, Mexico are bigger.
And when you look up from the bottom, it looks pretty effing menacing.
With three other girls from my group, we made it to the top, but only slowly, after a lot of heavy breathing, and maaaaaybe a little swearing on my part.
But man, what a view!
To think that all of these structures was made entirely by man with no machinery and were once covered by lime plaster and massive, colorful murals is pretty epic. It is no wonder that this spot is still considered very sacred to new age mystics – I felt kind of like a god standing on the top.
Once I caught my breath, of course.
Adventure: Exploring the archeology site of Teotihuacan.
Where: The site is located about an hour Northeast of Mexico City, Mexico.
Getting There: We took a tour from Mexico City (see cost below) but you can take a public bus for 44 pesos one way if you’d rather go it alone, which leaves from Mexico City’s main bus terminal.
Cost: Tours from Mexico City run everywhere from $20 to well over $100. Since I was with a tour group, our leader arranged for us to visit the ruins along with the shrine of Our Lady of Guadelupe for 550 pesos, or around $34. It included a charming English-speaking guide with caked-on sunscreen that turned his face white.
If you manage to get there on your own, entrance is 51 pesos, and parking is an additional 45 pesos if you’re driving.
When to Go: GO EARLY! We got to the ruins by 9am and we were some of the first people there. Another guy on our tour had been there the day before around midday and said it was packed, so it’s worth it to show up before the crowds do!
In terms of time of year, Mexico City and the surrounding areas have mild, pleasant weather all year round because of it’s elevation, so there really isn’t a bad time to go.
- This is definitely a situation where having a guide makes a big difference! I think we all appreciated the scale of the site after understanding the history and the importance it held when Teotihuacan was at it’s prime.
- There are different gates to the site which affects which ruins you see first, and how crowded they are. We entered through Gate 4 next to the temple of Quezacotl, which we toured first, then climbed the Pyramid of the Moon followed by the Pyramid of the Sun, and ended it with walking down the Avenue of the Dead towards the main gate (Gate 1). Most people did it in reverse, which seemed more crowded.
- Bring water and wear sunscreen. It was sunny but not scalding, but several of our group still got sunburned.
- If you do the same route we did, stick around at Gate 1 for a bit near the tall pole in the parking lot. There are five men in traditional dress that perform the Danza de los Voladores, an ancient ritual dance. One of them stands on top of the pole, playing a flute while four men release themselves down by rope while spinning. It’s pretty cool to watch.
- Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be, but the next day we all had sore legs! Just a warning 🙂
Have you ever been to Teotihuacan? Would you go? How does this experience compare to visiting the Pyramids in Egypt, if you’ve been?