Mexico City: Visiting Teotihuacan without a Tour


alan

By alan

One of the highlights of our trip to Mexico City was a trip to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. The ruins are located about 40km from Mexico City and were built in pre-Columbian times. Teotihuacan was believed to be the largest city in the world at the time, with an estimated population of around 125,000. It is thought to have been established around 100AD and the people who lived here are yet to be confirmed, with the timescale having pre-dated even the Aztecs. With Teotihuacan being the most visited archaeological site in all of Mexico, any trip to the nations capital is incomplete without a visit here. This guide will inform you how to visit this sacred site using public transportation, rather than taking a tour.

The beginning of the Avenue of the Dead

Getting there

Public buses go to Teotihuacan from Terminal del Norte bus station in the north of Mexico City. This location is convenient as right across the road from the bus terminal is a metro stop Autobuses del Norte, on the yellow line. So all you have to do is board the metro at your nearest station and head towards the yellow line. When you arrive at Autobuses del Norte metro station just cross the road to the bus terminal.

You can buy your bus tickets to Teotihuacan at Gate 8, just swing a left when you enter the terminal and you cant miss the big sign saying ‘Teotihuacan’. Ask at the counter for return tickets to ‘Los Piramides’ and you will be charged $100 (4.50 euro). The bus leaves from gate 8 and you shouldn’t have to wait too long to get one. The total journey takes about 1 hour and when you arrive you will be dropped off at Gate 1 of Teotihuacan where you can buy your entrance ticket for $70 (3 euro).

Aoife on top of a temple!

Teotihuacan

There are 3 main attractions to see at Teotihuacan, the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. Personally, when we entered we went straight to climb the Pyramids as we were afraid of the sun getting too strong later in the day However, as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is right across from Gate 1 where you enter, we recommend you doing this first.

Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Temple of the Feathered Serpent

This temple is located within the Ciudadela area on the southern section of the Avenue of the Dead. It is still being restored and contains some great detail, highlighting feathered serpent heads and a snake-like creature Tlaloc. This temple is also known as having been the site where numerous sacrificial victims were discovered in the 1980s.

The Feathered Serpents

Pyramid of the Sun

The Pyramid of the Sun

After visiting the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, head north along the Avenue of the Dead and you will begin to see the Pyramid of the Sun to your right, with the Pyramid of the Moon straight ahead of you. The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest structure at Teotihuacan and the 3rd largest pyramid in the world. The best part about the Pyramid of the Sun is that you can climb it the whole way up. It is advised to do this early in the morning in order to avoid the intense midday heat and also to avoid big crowds. We managed to climb the pyramid around 10am and it was virtually empty! The climb is tough, there are many steps and the altitude of the area makes it even more difficult to catch your breath. When you finally reach the top however you get some great views of the surrounding area and also of the Pyramid of the Moon. Take plenty of breaks on the way up!

Going down the Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Moon

The Pyramid of the Moon from on top of the Pyramid of the Sun

The Pyramid of the Moon is to the right of the Pyramid of the Sun and is the furthest north along the Avenue of the Dead you can go. You cannot climb all the way up the top of this pyramid, you are only allowed venture up about half of the way. The steps at this pyramid are much steeper then at the Pyramid of the Sun and as such it is nearly a tougher climb! When you get to the top you are greeted with some breathtaking views along the Avenue of the Dead and especially of the Pyramid of the Sun. Be careful on the way down though, the steps are really, really steep!

View from the Pyramid of the Moon

 

Getting back

To get back from Teotihuacan you need to exit at Gate 3 which is, conveniently, located right beside the Pyramid of the Moon. You can flag down the bus as it passes from the other side of the road and just show your ticket You will arrive back at Terminal del Norte after about 1 hour. Note that the bus also drops at Indios Verdes if that is more convenient for a metro home! The bus makes alot of stops in the town beside Teotihuacan, San Juan. Police officers do get on and check the bus (as they do on the way out) and they also video everyone on the bus. This is a standard safety precaution on this route so dont worry! When you arrive at Terminal del Norte just cross the road and get the metro back to where you arrived from.

Aoife wondering what it was like all those years ago…

Our Recommendations

  • Arrive early at the site, you get to avoid the crowds and the intense heat. It opens at 9am so try and get a bus just after 8am!
  • Want to avoid the infamous rush hour of the Mexico City Metro on the way to Terminal del Norte? Get an Uber, it will be much cheaper than a taxi.
  • If you dont have lunch at the site there are numerous places to eat at Terminal del Norte.

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