Your first time in Mexico City? If you have the opportunity to visit this fantastic city, you have to take a trip to Teotihuacan. Its proximity to Mexico’s capital and other major cities like Puebla and Pachuca makes it a popular destination. But it is its imposing presence and historical importance that gives it its fame. It is a fascinating place to explore, and to help you plan your trip, here is our guide to Teotihuacan. This guide has up-to-date information on how to get there, where to eat, other tips for visiting Teotihuacan, and the essentials you need to know about its history.
Facts and History of Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is inseparable from its history. After all, it is an archaeological site. So before visiting this place, I recommend you to know some historical facts.
The “City of the Gods” was one of the largest cities in Mesoamerica. It is estimated to have had a population of around 100,000 inhabitants. However, it is still a mystery who built and lived in Teotihuacan, we also do not know why the city lost its powers, but we know that the town suffered a partially burnt at the end of its era.
Many archaeologists believe that the city was home to diverse ethnic and linguistic groups. Teotihuacan was the center of the Teotihuacan Valley’s culture, art, history, and civilization. The pyramids seen today were built primarily for religious reasons.
When the Aztecs arrived in the Valley of Mexico in the early 14th century, they discovered the remains of this great city. They found them so enormous that they considered them the work of divine beings. So they gave it the name: Teotihuacan, the “city of gods.”
As a reflection of its importance not only for Mexico but internationally, Teotihuacan is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Teotihuacan was closed for several months in 2020 but is now open again, with limited restrictions to maintain security. So, if you want to recharge your energy, pack your things, grab a pen, and note the information, we will provide you with this guide to visit Teotihuacan. Discover an impressive archaeological site in Mexico and get to know it uniquely with Rutopía.
Pyramids and temples of Teotihuacan to visit
I recommend starting at the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon before they fill up with tourists. Then you can walk around the site and explore the temples and side structures of the complex. Below you will find the temples and places to visit in Teotihuacan.
Avenue of the Dead
Robtowne0 – Pixabay
The Avenue of the Dead is 2.5 km (approx. 1.5 miles) long. It runs from the Temple of Quetzalcoatl to the Pyramid of the Moon and is the main thoroughfare of Teotihuacan. Its name comes from the belief that it was the route for those destined to die in the pyramids. You will see a vast plaza called La Ciudadela during your tour at the southern end. At the north end, you will see ancient dwellings and temples such as the Pyramid of the Moon. Finally, the massive Pyramid of the Sun faces west.
Pyramid of the Sun
As you enter Teotihuacan, look skyward, and you will see the Pyramid of the Sun. At 64 m high, it is the third tallest pyramid in the world, after Cheops and Cholula. The Pyramid of the Sun is six pyramids, each built on top of the other. Underneath it, all is a cave, which in ancient Mexico represented passages to the underworld.
Archaeologists say it took approximately 14,000 people to build this structure and could have served as a water source, a monument to the sun, a tomb, or a ceremonial center.
Climbing the pyramid is on the bucket list of almost every traveler who visits Teotihuacan. However, it is not possible to climb the pyramids due to pandemic issues. In fact, during autumn and spring equinox, people climbed to the top of the pyramid to receive the energy of the place. The climb is steep (238 steps), but there are several platforms where you can take breaks and contemplate the views. Once at the top, you have 360° opinions of the site.
Pyramid of the Moon
Smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun, but almost the same height. Since it locates on higher ground, it appears as though you are at the same level; this pyramid gives you the best panoramic view of the complex. The Pyramid of the Moon locates at the far end of the Avenue of the Dead. The pyramid is 43 meters (approx. 142 ft.) high. Archeologists believed that rituals and human and animal sacrifices happened at the top of the Temple. On top of this pyramid sits a platform in honor of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, the goddess of water, fertility, earth, and creation.
Following the Avenue of the Dead to the southern end, you will see the Citadel, a large quadrangular complex. The Citadel (ceremonial plaza) is a large courtyard containing the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. This part was of great political, cultural, and economic importance and where the elite of Teotihuacan lived.
Temple of the Feathered Serpent
Erika Falco – Pixabay
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, or Temple of the Feathered Serpent, receives its name from the serpent heads carved on the pyramid’s sides. There is also another carved figure, believed to be Tlaloc (god of rain), and snails and shells, both symbols of water. The feathered serpent heads represent life and peace. Archaeologists believe the other snakeheads symbolize war. The history of this pyramid is fascinating since it functioned as a center for human sacrifices in the past. As proof, the remains of more than 200 sacrifices that archeologists found at the site, which you can see a representation in the Museum Teotihuacan Culture.
Temple of Quetzalpapalotl
Eskystudio – Shutterstock
At the foot of the Pyramid of the Moon, you can tour the ruins of the Temple of Quetzalpapalotl. It is small but worth a visit. Most impressive are the paintings and engravings, as several walls and pillars depict butterflies and quetzal feathers. The name of the Temple means “butterfly-quetzal.” Its function is unclear, but it could have been the home of a high-ranking priest, given its location next to the temples.
Temple of the Feathered Snails
Inside the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl is this well-preserved Temple with a large, beautifully decorated mural.
Palace of the Jaguars
Behind the Temple of Quetzalpapalotl is the Palace of the Jaguars, which features murals of feathered felines and the rain god (Tlaloc). Archaeologists theorize that this space was a planning area for temple events.
With your ticket to the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone, you have access to two museums: the Site Museum, inside the complex, and the Museum of the Teotihuacan Murals, across the street from the Pyramid of the Moon.
Archaeological Museum of Teotihuacan
In this Museum, there are virtual reality representations of how the city of Teotihuacan looked in the past. Also, you can find pieces found in the excavations and samples of the beliefs and rites practiced in this place.
Museum of Teotihuacan Murals
In this Museum you will understand more about Teotihuacan. The Museum was created in collaboration with the Autonomous University of Mexico to spread the artistic richness of Teotihuacan. It houses an extensive collection of archaeological pieces such as carved stone, ceramics, and obsidian. You can also find mural fragments, models, and texts that explain the process of elaboration of the mural painting.
Teotihuacan Hot Air Balloon Ride
Cinthia Aguilar – Unsplash
Walking around the great site of Teotihuacan is one thing. Floating over the pyramids and the Avenue of the Dead during a hot air balloon ride is something else entirely. The Air Balloon Ride is the only way to appreciate the immensity of this site is from above. At dawn, at the side of the Archaeological Zone, hot air balloons are inflated and make an exceptional tour over Teotihuacan. We highly recommend this ride if you have a particular date to commemorate, such as a birthday or anniversary. You can book a hot air balloon tour here.
The hot air balloon ride costs 2,500 MXN per person in a group and 4,000 MXN for an individual ride. There are several options to choose from, and the price varies considerably. So when choosing a company, check and compare what the tours included and whatnot.
Authentic experiences in Teotihuacan
Culinary Experience, Pulque Tasting (drink of the gods), and Visit to a Local Produce Cooperative
Touring the archaeological zone whets your appetite. So you should not miss the typical delicious food of Teotihuacan. Among the dishes, you will find escamoles (ant larvae highly appreciated in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times), maguey worms (a type of larva that grows in the maguey), barbacoa (sheep meat cooked in its juice), xoconostle candy (fruit belonging to the cactus family), among a tremendous culinary variety. Don’t forget to taste the exquisite pulque (drink of the gods) at the end of a great feast and visit a workshop of local products made with Tuna, Nopal, and Xoconostle. With Rutopía, you will be able to taste the typical food of Teotihuacan and improve your knowledge of the local culture, learn more here.
Cycling in Teotihuacan
How about a bike tour of Teotihuacan? Pedal Teotihuacan, take a bike to tour the Valley of Teotihuacan that surrounds the archaeological site, passing through the route of the Murals. You will have a first perspective of the place to start your guided tour of Teotihuacan. On this day, you will also taste traditional dishes and experience Teotihuacan uniquely. Let us know if you would like to do this tour, and we will do it for you.
Tips for visiting Teotihuacan
On your visit to Teotihuacan, I have the following tips for you:
Frequently Asked Questions
Where are the ruins of Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacán is only 40 kilometers, or 25 miles, northeast of Mexico City. The Teotihuacán Archaeological Zone is in San Juan Teotihuacán, which is in the federal state of Mexico State (Central Mexico).
How to get to Teotihuacan from Mexico City?
Many excursions combine a trip to Teotihuacán with other popular attractions, including a stop for lunch. It is also easy to take the bus to the ruins. Buses leave every 15 minutes from the Terminal de Autobuses del Norte in Mexico City. The trip can take 45 minutes from the terminal, depending on traffic. There are several entrances and exits, but get off at the first stop next to the pyramids (gate 1). You can take the bus back to one of the other exits on the way back.
You can also rent a car and drive to Teotihuacán, taking highway 85D and following the signs to San Juan Teotihuacán. Traffic permitting, this drive takes about an hour, passing through breathtaking scenery. Part of the drive is toll, so have cash and change. Parking is available in the vicinity of the zone, the use of which costs a small fee.
Taxi services from the city to the site, including Uber, are also an option. More details and online booking here.
You can visit Teotihuacan from Monday to Sunday between 9 am and 3 pm. Therefore, you should arrive early to have enough time to explore all the wonders inside this archaeological zone. Unfortunately, the closing time is at 3 pm due to the pandemic, and the capacity is limited to 30%.
Can I climb the pyramids of Teotihuacan?
In regular times, you can climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Also, climb up to a platform halfway to the Pyramid of the Moon. It is a steep climb up long stairs to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water. And don’t forget your camera: the views are spectacular.
When is the best time to visit?
There is no wrong time to visit Teotihuacán. However, January to April is considered the best time to visit. These are also the months when Teotihuacan receives the highest number of tourists.
As Teotihuacán’s altitude is 2,300 m, winters can be cold. However, winter is an excellent time to avoid the crowds (except at Christmas) and the heat.
In spring, the sun shines, and temperatures begin to rise, but the number of tourists also increases. Summer is humid and rainy (not a good time to be outdoors).
Regardless of when you visit, try to plan a trip to Teotihuacan in the middle of the week. The pyramids of Teotihuacan are very close to Mexico City, and weekends can get very crowded. A Rutopia specialist can guide you if you’re not quite sure which months you should go.
Entrance fee to the ruins of Teotihuacán
The entrance fee is 80 Mexican pesos (about 4 US dollars); this includes entrance to the Museum of Teotihuacan Culture and the Museum of Teotihuacan Murals (Beatriz de la Fuente). Currently, you cannot buy skip-the-line tickets for Teotihuacan online due to restrictions imposed by the Mexican government. However, there is also the option of a guided tour to know more about the city’s history and its constructions while you visit. Admission is free for children under 13, as well as for Mexican citizens and residents on Sundays.
Accessibility for wheelchair users is throughout the site. Tourism can reserve parking at gates 2, 3, and 5 for visitors with disabilities. At Gate 3, there are ramps and walkways for visitors with mobility difficulties or who use wheelchairs.
Gabe Rebra – Unsplash
Visiting Teotihuacan is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Mexico City. It could almost be considered a right of passage for first-time visitors to Mexico. The site has stood the test of time and offers a deep insight into Mexico’s culture and history. It’s the perfect day trip from Mexico City, and with Rutopia, you can experience it! See more details here to plan your trip and adventure in Teotihuacan, and we will design a unique and hassle-free trip for you and your family.