Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Teotihuacan in Mexico
One of the best one-day trips from Mexico City and one of the most famous ruins in Mexico is Teotihuacan. Read our guide on how to visit Teotihuacan archeological site independently without a tour or guide, tips on how to get there, where to stay, which pyramids you can climb, and how much things cost.
Mexico has so many outstanding ancient ruins which have become top tourist attractions, and Teotihuacan, a site so close to the capital city of Mexico is one of them. It is not a Mayan Ruin as the most of Mexican archeological sites, but its history and origin of its founders are still shrouded in mystery, and we can only guess why one of the largest settlements in Mesoamerica was built here and what was its purpose.
What we know and what we can see is, that people living in Teotihuacan between 300 BC and 800 AD were exceptional builders able to create amazing massive pyramids to worship their gods and rulers. We still don't know who built Teotihuacan, we also do not know why the city lost its powers, but we know it was partially burnt at the end of its era.
Aztecs, who arrived in the area centuries later gave the place name we use until today 'birthplace of the gods' alias Teotihuacan.
One-day trip to Teotihuacan is one of the most classic things to do when traveling to Mexico City, so we could not miss it by no means, no matter how many ruins we'd seen in Mexico before.
What if Teotihuacan was even better, right?
We decided to visit the Teotihuacan independently, and here is our detailed guide on how to do it.
Teotihuacan is a pretty large ancient city, so plan your time accordingly - you will need around two to three hours to explore the site thoroughly, plus add another hour in case you decide to see a museum outside the grounds.
We did not have any map or any special plan for how to visit Teotihuacan, but first, we headed to two of the most notable structures, Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon, before they got too crowded.
Later, we leisurely strolled around the site, and explored temples and structures on the side of the complex.
You can hire a guide at the entrance, but we found information boards next to the structures informational enough.
In contrast with other ruins, we were quite often approached by vendors selling souvenirs, so be prepared to say 'no gracias' many times unless you want to buy something.
Here are some of the best structures we saw in Teotihuacan.
Pyramid of the Sun | The largest structure in Teotihuacan is the Pyramid of the Sun, which, back in times, was one of the highest buildings created in the pre-Columbian New World. The climb to the top platform of the pyramid is on a bucket list of almost every traveler visiting Teotihuacan, so you can imagine how the steps leading to the top can be crowded at times. It is not hard to get to the upper platform, but the steps are steep and rickety, so walk slowly.
Pyramid of the Moon | This pyramid is the second largest in Teotihuacan, is 43 meters high with a large platform on the top where rulers and religious leaders performed rituals and where both human and animals were sacrificed, and people living in the city could watch this happening from the ground. Nowadays the Pyramid of the Moon encloses the Avenue of the Death, and it is one of the most photogenic structures in Teotihuacan. It is possible to climb the stairs to the top of the pyramid to get awesome views of the whole complex.
Avenue of the Dead | The avenue with a very moody name runs through the city from south to north and is lined with pyramids and other beautiful structures. It was the main street connecting entrances to the pyramids in Teotihuacan, but the name got the avenue later by Aztecs, who mistakenly thought that pyramids along the street were tombs (although they were not).
Temple of the Feathered Serpent | Temple of the Feathered Serpent alias Palace of Quetzalpapalotl is the smallest pyramid in Teotihuacan, but still, it was one of the most important structures where archeologists found human sacrifices, bodies with their hands tied behind their back. The temple got its name because of heads of the feathered serpent (one of the gods) on the sides of the pyramid.
Teotihuacan Archaeological Museum | A short walk outside the complex is a museum - the entrance fee is included in Teotihuacan admission, so if you have time it is worth to stop by and learn more about the culture and see some interesting artifacts.
Palacio de Los Jaguares | The Jaguar Palace is close to the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, and the main features here are red-painted murals of jaguars and other sacred mythical creatures.
Templo de Los Caracoles Emplumados | Inside the Palace of Quetzapapalotl is this well-preserved temple with a large beautifully decorated mural.
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HOW TO GET FROM MEXICO CITY TO TEOTIHUACAN INDEPENDENTLY
Traveling from Mexico City to Teotihuacan independently by bus was easy, the most challenging part was to get to the metro in the morning, because around five million people use the metro daily, and stations do not have a capacity for so many commuters.
When in the metro, we had to wait almost fifteen minutes before we finally squeezed in one wagon.
When traveling from the city center, you will have to change lines in the metro, but the system was quite easy, and we did not have any problem with orientation there.
Your main goal is to get to Autobuses del Norte station.
One ride in the metro costs Mx 5. Get off at North Bus Terminal and follow signs which will lead you inside the bus terminal, which is only a short walk from the metro station. Once inside the terminal, turn left, and walk to the counter number 8, where you will buy a ticket to Teotihuacan.
Buses leave frequently, approximately every thirty minutes, so do not panic when you are coming late. Buy a return open ticket for Mx 108 and go to the platform (you need to walk through security).
Show your ticket to a staff member who will tell you the line number where you need to wait for the bus.
The bus is mostly for tourists, but some locals got on the bus as well. Teotihuacan lies 50 kilometers from Mexico City, so the ride took us less than an hour.
There are several entrance gates, but we got off the bus at the first gate on the way, where we also bought admissions.
To get back, you need to walk out the site and wait on the road for passing by bus back to Mexico City (we again waited at the first gate).
Again, we didn't have to wait long, only twenty minutes or so before the bus arrived, and less than an hour later we got off at Terminal Norte, and we had to jump on the metro again to get to the city center.
See how easy visiting Teotihuacan on own is?
However, we understand that some of you can find traveling from Mexico City to Teotihuacan independently daunting, especially if you've never visited this part of the world before. You can join one of the guided tours, so you won't have to worry about transport and changing lines.
Our Tip: If Mexico City is your first destination on your Mexico itinerary, and if you plan on traveling by car, you can rent a car first thing in Mexico City, and get to Teotihuacan already with own transport.
ENTRANCE FEE & WHEN TO VISIT TEOTIHUACAN
When traveling in Mexico, we sometimes did not understand why entrance fee to Chichen Itza or Uxmal was much more expensive than for example to Teotihuacan when all ruins were equally famous, and equally visited.
Anyway, the admission for Teotihuacan cost Mx 75 per person, which is absolutely acceptable price even for budget travelers.
Teotihuacan archeological site is open every day in a year, even on Mondays (we are sure about it as we visited the place on Monday ourselves) from 9 AM to 5 PM.
Being so close to Mexico City, you can be sure Teotihuacan is a heavily-visited tourist attraction and you can never expect to be here alone, but if you can, try to avoid Sundays, because Mexican citizens have free entry that day, and Teotihuacan is a popular way how to spend a day off for people from Ciudad de Mexico.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING TEOTIHUACAN
The area around Mexico City has similar weather all year round temperature-wise.
It is hot during the day while it is a bit cooler in the mornings and evenings. It rarely rains during the dry season, but expect showers between May and October.
Here are five essentials you should pack with you when visiting Teotihuacan.
Camera | Teotihuacan and overall all Mayan ruins are incredibly photogenic, so do not forget to pack your camera.
WHERE TO STAY IN MEXICO CITY
Mexico City is huge, to say the least.
It is crowded and intense, but when it comes to accommodation, you have a large number of options on where to stay here. It is always better to stay near the city center with easy access to the metro in case you plan on visiting sights outside the center or outside the city itself, such as Teotihuacan.
We've handpicked three best hotels for every budget.
Budget | Hotel Panuco - Perfectly located cheap hotel offers everything you might possibly need for your stay in Mexico City.
Mid-range | Hotel Marlowe - The centrally located hotel is the best value for money in Mexico City. Clean and tidy rooms, friendly staff, tasty breakfast, and fast wifi are the main features.
Luxury | Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico - Beautiful hotel with splendid lobby hall, situated right on the main square, offers top service you would have expected in a five-star hotel.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
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