Once upon a time, the ancient city of Teotihuacan was the largest, most populated city in the world. Today, however, all that is left is the ancient citys’ ruins and its majestic pyramids.
The air of mystery that surrounds Teotihuacan and the few relics that remain makes exploring the city truly fascinating.
With so much time passed, no one really knows who lived there or what caused its demise.
Today, Teotihuacan is located just an hour outside of Mexico City and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Teotihuacan pyramids can be climbed, offering sweeping views from the summit of these centuries-old pre-Hispanic works of engineering. Visiting Teotihuacan is a must-do on any Mexico City itinerary.
The Best Time to Visit Teotihuacan
They say the early bird catches the worm, and this is true when deciding on the best time to visit Teotihuacan.
It is best to visit early in the morning as soon as the site opens. That way, you will have favorable weather, and it will also be relatively empty.
The tour buses from Mexico City usually start arriving at Teotihuacan after 10 am, with the highest numbers arriving around noon.
Noon is also extremely uncomfortable for climbing the pyramids in Mexico since the sun is directly overhead.
There´s not much shade in the area, and you will be walking around in direct sunlight, so be sure to put on enough sunblock before you come here.
You would ideally want to finish climbing and scouring the Teotihuacan pyramids early in the morning and check out the museums in the afternoon.
How to Get to Teotihuacan From Mexico City
Teotihuacan is located north of Mexico City, nearly 50 kilometers (32 miles) from the city center. Tours to the ancient city depart all day, every day, throughout the year.
Reaching the site from Mexico City should only take about 45min, but the traffic in Mexico city is notorious, so it can take longer if you are unlucky with the traffic this day.
Take A Bus to Teotihuacan
This is the cheapest way to get to the ancient city, and also the best way to visit Teotihuacan. By using this mode of transportation to get there, you can create a Teotihuacan day trip from Mexico City on your terms.
You can decipher how much or how little time you want to spend there without being tied down by tour guides.
Taking the bus to Teotihuacan is fairly straightforward. Those who are traveling solo or for those who aren’t very good with directions can rest assured that they will arrive in Teotihuacan with ease.
If one of your concerns with traveling by bus was comfortability or safety, you need not worry. The Mexico bus stations and busses tick both of those boxes.
The bus to Teotihuacan leaves from Mexico’s Norte Bus Station, where you can either take an Uber or the Metro. Many visitors opt for the Metro as it’s the cheaper alternative, costing only 5 pesos ($0,24).
A round-trip ticket costs about 100 pesos (4 USD). Buses depart for Teotihuacan from Mexico City every 15-20 minutes. The ticket is timed, but you can catch any departing bus for your return journey.
There are food vendors at the terminal if you’re feeling peckish or want something for the journey.
The bus to Teotihuacan from Mexico City takes about an hour, depending on traffic, and makes some stops along the way.
Sometimes, the driver picks up vendors along the way, and if you’re lucky, some drivers pick up a Mariachi band along the way for entertainment.
Take a Guided Tour From Mexico City
If you feel uneasy navigating your own way through to Teotihuacan from Mexico City, there are several guided day and half-day Teotihuacan tours available. Here are some options that may pique your interest when planning your day trip from Mexico City.
Teotihuacán Early Access & Liquor Tasting: With this tour, you can watch the sunrise over the Teotihuacan pyramids. All while learning the stories surrounding the Place of the Gods told to you by a knowledgeable guide.
Teotihuacan, Shrine of Guadalupe & Tlatelolco: On this tour, learn about two famous ancient archaeological sites and one of the world’s top Catholic pilgrimage sites.
Teotihuacan Air Balloon Flight & Breakfast: How would you like to soar above the ancient city of Teotihuacan in a hot air balloon? This 45-minute hot air balloon tour includes breakfast & refreshments at the balloon port.
A truly wonderful, unique, and breathtaking way to see the pyramids.
Take an Uber or a Private Driver From Mexico City
The fare of an Uber is around 200 pesos (9 USD) each way. This fee can be higher depending on the demand for Ubers at the time of the request.
The best and fastest route to Teotihuacan uses toll roads – so you will need to have some cash on hand to pay for the tolls. Take the scenic route if you want to avoid the tolls.
Also note, the ancient city of Teotihuacan does not have Wifi, and sometimes the range for a signal can be spotty when using data.
There are a lot of Ubers that are parked around the main entrance, so if you find a strong enough signal, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a car back to the city.
Hiring a private driver to take you to and from the city can be convenient as the driver can also double up as a tour guide, but it can be costly.
There are private tour packages available from various tour companies. Many hotels in Mexico City also offer this service, so be sure to check with the concierge to see if this applies to where you are staying.
Things to Do in Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan, Mexico, is spread out over several kilometers, so make sure you’ve got on comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking for most of the day. But there is the option to rent a bicycle if you prefer.
Here are some of the things you’ll see and do at the ancient ruins outside Mexico City:
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl (otherwise known as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent) is the third-largest Pyramid at Teotihuacan. It is often the first temple to be seen by day trip visitors.
This Pyramid is full of history, of which some of it is rather dark. Mass graves can be found around the Pyramid, as well as hidden tunnels that lie beneath.
The temple itself lies within what were once the city walls – rather than outside, as the other temples do.
The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl
The Palace Quetzalpapalotl, or the Palace of Butterflies, lies at the foot of one of the Teotihuacán pyramids.
You can walk through the excavated ruins of the palace and find extensive murals that demonstrate the level of artistry and creativity of the pre-Hispanic era.
The exact role of the palace is unclear, but it is presumed to be the home of a high-ranking priest, given its proximity to the temples.
A Mural Tour of Teotihuacan
You can do a mural tour in Teotihuacan. It includes the Museum of Teotihuacan Murals (located a little further away from the main site) and the Palace of Butterflies.
Along the mural tour, you will most likely collide with the Mural of Jaguar. The jaguar is probably the most common animal that makes an appearance in almost every Teotihuacan structure.
Somewhere between the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, you will find this famous jaguar mural while walking on the Avenue of the Dead. The majestic beast sits in a small nook along the wall.
The Tepantitla Architectural Complex
This complex in Tepantitla is where you will find some of the best Teotihuacan murals.
Look out for the image of the infamous Great Goddess with a mythical tree emerging from her head.
The Avenue of the Dead
The Avenue of the Dead is 2.5 kilometers (about 1.5 miles) long and runs from the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in a perfectly straight line towards the Pyramid of the Moon.
It was named the Avenue of the Dead because this would have been the route taken by those destined to die on the pyramids.
This was Teotihuacan’s main thoroughfare. You’ll walk the length of the avenue during your trip, stopping off at the temples and other sights along the way.
The Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun
The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan is found along the Avenue of the Dead, between the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramid of the Moon.
This is the largest Pyramid in the ancient city and the most iconic and easily recognizable.
It’s also the Pyramid that most tourists are eager to climb to the top of, so make sure you’re ready for a long slog up these steep steps. But, all that hard work is worth the panoramic view from the top.
All those fascinated with architecture or engineering will marvel at the magnificence of the Pyramid of the Sun.
It rises to 65 meters (about 213 feet) in height, making it the third-largest stone pyramid ever built anywhere in the world.
The Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Moon
The Pyramid of the Moon is located at the far end of the Avenue of the Dead, where the road terminates.
The Pyramid is 43 meters (about 142 feet) in height and has seven distinct layers that lead to the top.
The Pyramid of the Moon was thought to be the Pyramid where ritual sacrifices and religious ceremonies were done.
This is also the Pyramid where many graves have been found around the base, as well as within the layers of the Pyramid itself.
The Teotihuacan Museum
The Teotihuacan Mural Museum is located a little away from the archaeological site and about 800 meters (0.49 miles) from the Palace of Butterflies.
The Teotihuacan Museum is not a big museum like some other major museums around the world. But it offers an insight into the history and the archaeology surrounding the pyramids and the ancient city.
There are artifacts and brief descriptions, as well as models demonstrating how the city would have looked in centuries past. Very often, visitors don’t even know about the treasure that is hidden behind the unassuming walls of this Museum.
At the Beatriz de la Fuente Mural Museum in Teotihuacan, you will find an amazing collection of over 50 mural pieces that adorned the walls of palaces and other residences 2000 years ago.
Food and Drink at Teotihuacan
After all that walking around throughout Teotihuacan, you might be famished. Fortunately, there are vendors throughout the site selling sandwiches, snacks, and beverages.
There are also more food vendors and small restaurants near the Pyramid of the Sun.
However, if you are looking for a sit-down meal, a popular tourist attraction monikered the “cave restaurant in Mexico” is a must-see.
This restaurant is called La Gruta, is set inside a volcanic cave, and serves classic Mexican favorites and pre-Hispanic food. And although the food is great here, the experience and the atmosphere provided are unforgettable.
A Brief Teotihuacan History
The ancient city of Teotihuacán is said to be built around 100 BC and collapsed a thousand years later in 550 AD due to invasion or famine.
However, this is all speculative, no one knows for sure. Unlike the pyramids in Egypt, the Teotihuacan temple wasn’t just a religious temple. It was a city.
This mysterious metropolis reached a peak population of more than 200,000 people during its peak.
When it comes to knowing who built the famous pyramids of Mexico, it is known that they were either built by the Aztecs or the Mayans.
But no one knows who built Teotihuacán. One thing all historians and archeologists can agree on is that the Aztecs named the city Teotihuacán, meaning ‘place of the Gods’.
Final Thoughts on a Day Visit to Teotihuacan From Mexico City
The ancient city of Teotihuacan is a perfect one-day trip adventure and definitely worth visiting. Teotihuacan is an amazing place to learn about life and culture during one of the most powerful civilizations in Mesoamerica.
And as one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Americas, this sprawling ancient city with a mysterious past makes Teotihuacan one of Mexico’s must-visit places.
Will you be visiting this impressive settlement on your next trip to Mexico City?