Approximately 30 miles northeast of Mexico City are the ancient city ruins of Teotihuacán.
Like many of the archaeological sites in Mexico, Teotihuacán guards secrets we have yet to unravel. The origins of Teotihuacán are uncertain, although it is thought some of the inhabitants arrived from the Valley of Mexico to the south, refugees from an eruption of the Xitle volcano, which caused major devastation and forced the survivors in the region to seek a new place to settle. Construction of the city probably started in the first two centuries BC, and the civilization reached its high point between 350 and 650 AD.
Scholars in archaeology agree that this is Mexico’s—and perhaps the one of the world’s—most important archaeological sites. It was the largest city in the Americas, and during its heyday around 500 AD, its population was greater than that of Rome at the same time.
One of the greatest mysteries of Teotihuacán is that no one knows where the huge population that lived here eventually ended up. It is as if they vanished without a trace.
This was also a place where human sacrifices were made, often in correlation with astronomical events. When the site was excavated, many tombs were found, some with the remains of what were believed to be people sacrificed to the gods.
Many people today believe that Teotihuacán is a place of great energy, and it is quite common to witness people meditating at the top of main pyramids (The Pyramid of the Sun and The Pyramid of the Moon).
A visit to Teotihuacán is compulsory if you plan to visit Mexico on an archaeological tour; from an historical perspective, it is one of the the most important archaeological places in the world. If you’re in Mexico City or somewhere just north of it, then a visit to see this archaeological site will prove a fascinating and worthwhile experience.
The original city was about 10 square miles in size; although the ruins only take up about 1 square mile today.
The main avenue, Calzada de los Muertos, (Avenue of the Dead) connects all of the main attractions of this site.
La Ciudadela (The Citadel) is a large square area at the southern end of the site. Inside are various pyramids and structures, with the main feature being the Templo de Quetzalcoatl. The complex was thought to be the residence of Teotihuacan’s main ruler, and also the city’s administrative center.
Mexico has two of the world’s three largest pyramids: The largest is Cheop’s in Egypt; the second largest is the Pyramid of Cholula (see Pictures of Cholula Pyramid), and the third largest is here in Teotihuacán – Pirámide del Sol – The Pyramid of the Sun. Climb to the top for some great views.
La Pirámide de la Luna (The Pyramid of the Moon) stands on the north end of the site; climbing it will take you nearly to the height of the Pyramid of the Sun, but it’s not the same size—it’s built on higher ground.
There are smaller plazas, courtyards, and other Palaces to experience at this archaeological site. Some of the main features include El Palacio de los Jaguares (Palace of Jaguars), Palacio de Quetzapapalotl (Palace of the Quetza Butterfly) and the Palacio de Tepantitla.
Papantla Flyers – At the entrance to the site on the left hand side, you may see a group of men dressed in traditional Indian costume gathering around a tall pole. These are the Voladores de Papantla (Papantla Flyers). They climb the pole, and while one sits on the top playing a flute, four others “fly” down the pole in an anti-clockwise direction, supported by a rope connected to their ankle. The spectacle is repeated several times daily and the team passes a hat around for tips afterwards.
Hot Air Baloon Tours – It’s possible to experience Teotihuacán by hot-air baloon; tours run daily, weather permitting.
Getting There & Around
By Air – The closest airport to Teotihuacan is Mexico City. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Car – Teotihuacan is located about 30 miles northwest of Mexico City. Take Highway 85D northwest out of the city and follow signs to San Juan Teotihuacan. The journey takes about an hour by road. Also see additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
By Bus – Buses make the trip from Mexico City’s north bus terminal to the Pyramids about every 30-60 minutes. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
Opening Days & Times: Open 365 days a year, 9 am to 5 pm. (Teotihuacan is one of the country’s very popular sites which do not close on Mondays.) Modest admission charges apply and there are concessions for students, children and seniors. On Sundays, admission is free for Mexican citizens and foreign residents (with proof of residency).”
Photography & Video: A permit is required if you want to use a tripod to take photographs at the archaeological site. A small fee is made for the use of hand-held video equipment. Read the section on Mexperience Mexico Essentials about Video & Photography at archaeological sites in Mexico.
Ideal Clothing & Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes with a non-slip sole, strong enough to support your feet and ankles if you plan to climb the pyramids. Dress with light clothes that allow your skin to breathe. Keep yourself hydrated: there are plenty of ambulant vendors selling ice-chilled bottled water in the area. Also see Climate, below.
Get to Teotihuacan Early: This is especially important at weekends as many visitors go to the site then and the single lane road that serves the site gets very full on the way in and then again on the way out at peak times. Try to get to the site by 8 am when the doors open; there is less traffic then and the temperatures are cooler, making an exploration of the site more enjoyable. You will also complete the day’s exploration earlier, and avoid the rush of traffic leaving the site later in the afternoon.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Nearby Places & Attractions
Major Cities: Mexico City
Colonial Cities: Queretaro, Cuernavaca, Puebla, Taxco, Morelia
Nearest Beaches/ Resorts: Acapulco
Other Archaeological Sites: Templo Mayor
Teotihuacán is hotter and the sun is significantly more fierce than it is in Mexico City. Be sure to wear light clothes that allow your skin to breathe; take sun screen—you will need it—a hat and sunglasses would be a good idea too. Mosquitoes are not a big nuisance here. Keep drinking water—there are plenty of local vendors selling ice-chilled, purified bottled water.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico
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