The Best Guide To Visiting Teotihuacan From Mexico City

Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City is really easy, and if you know how to do it this can be the highlight of your time in the Distrito Federal.

At about 50 km (around 31 miles) and one hour drive from Mexico City, Teotihuacan used to be the largest city in Mesoamerica. Although research has yet to establish with certainty who lived there and why it was abandoned, with its two massive pyramids and the fantastic setting this remains an incredible site to explore and a popular day trip from Mexico City.

If you are looking for information on visiting Teotihuacan, I got you covered! I have been to Teotihuacan twice: I once visited Teotihuacan from Mexico City independently using public transport; whereas for my second visit I opted for a Teotihuacan tour as I wanted a more in depth experience.

In this post, I will share everything you need to know about Teotihuacan, with information on how to get from Mexico City to Teotihuacan, and the best Teotihuacan tour. Ready to find out more? Let’s go!

visiting Teotihuacan

How To Visit Teotihuacan From Mexico City

A Brief History of Teotihuacan

A UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city that contains many pyramids built in the pre-Columbian period. Experts have estimated that the construction of Teotihuacan started around 400 BC and the largest structures were completed at around 300 AD.

During the peak of the city’s reign, it was considered a prosperous place to live. The main commercial activity centered around the exportation of fine obsidian tools like spears and dart heads, and many luxury goods such as pottery and ceramics adorned with decorations were also exported.

When the Aztecs discovered the city in the 1400s, it had already been abandoned for centuries. They gave it the name ‘Teotihuacan’ which means ‘the place where the gods were created’.

Teotihuacan is still being continuously studied by experts in the archeology field and new discoveries are being made on a regular basis. In 2003, a sinkhole was discovered at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and researchers began excavating the site. Many years later, in 2015, archeologists collected nearly 75,000 artifacts from the temple including jewelry, seashells, pottery, statues and other relics used for rituals.

In 2018, over 4 million people visited this ancient archeological site. To date, Teotihuacan still remains a mystery to the archeologists that study it.

Why Visit Teotihuacan

Anyone interested in ancient history, religion, peoples and art and artifacts will be engrossed by all there is to see at these ruins that have been capturing the attention of archeologists for a long time now. The ancient city of Teotihuacan is – in fact – unique in many ways and has influenced much of the Mesoamerican civilization. Unlike other archeological sites in Mexico, there isn’t a royal palace or ball court there. Furthermore, the city’s housing planning was much better than previous sites – you’ll even spot the first instance of the apartment complex.

Teotihuacan
Photo by Chepe Nicoli of Pixabay

The Best Sights in Teotihuacan

Avenue of the Dead

This is the road that runs directly through Teotihuacan with all the ancient structures along it. The southern end of the avenue has a massive plaza called La Ciudadela (the Citadel), which is where the rulers of the time most likely lived. At the northern end, you will see ancient housing and temples with the Pyramid of the Moon. The massive Pyramid of the Sun, the largest structure at the site faces west.

Palace of Tepantitla

This palace was a residence for priests. Inside is the most famous mural at the site, Paradise of Tlaloc, which depicts the daily life of residents. The mural also has people of different colors, which could symbolize the class and caste system of the time.

Palaces of Tetitla and Atetelco

These palaces contain the best-preserved murals in the Teotihuacan ruins. One of the most famous murals in Tetitla is the Spider Woman, donning a headdress with an owl and a snake.

In the adjacent Palace of Atetelco, there are murals of coyotes and jaguars in processional order and some painted red depicting war orders.

Palace of the Jaguars

This palace is considered the most sacred in all of Teotihuacan. Since it is very close to the Temple of the Moon, archeologists theorize that this space was used as a planning area for temple events. Inside are red faded murals that depict jaguars and various sea creatures.

visiting Teotihuacan

Palace of Quetzalpapalotl

Located on the edge of the Temple of the Moon, this is the grandest palace in all of Teotihuacan. Archeologists theorize that priests and possibly some rulers lived here. The courtyard is decorated with birds and butterflies, which is how it received its name – the quetzal is a colorful bird.

Ciudadela and Temple of Quetzalcoatl

Located at the southern end of the Avenue of the Dead, the Ciudadela (citadel) has large walls and a large sunken plaza. It was in this enormous plaza where the majority of Teotihuacan’s residents lived. Complexes of apartments flanked two sides of the pyramid, which is where the city’s rulers most likely lived.

The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, or Feathered Serpent, was built on six separate levels. Each level depicts feathered serpent heads and other snakeheads. The feathered serpent heads are believed to represent life and peace. It is theorized by archeologists that the other snakeheads symbolize war.

Pyramid of the Sun

This massive pyramid is the third largest in the entire world. The structure has a height of over 200 feet (around 61 meters) and a width at the base of 730 feet (222.5 meters) on each side. Archeologists have hypothesized that it took approximately 14 thousand people to build this structure. While there is some debate on the pyramid’s function in this society, it is widely believed that it could have been a water source for the city, a monument to the sun, a tomb or a ceremonial center.

Pyramid of the Moon

One of the highlights of visiting Teotihuacan is climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon. This requires a bit of an effort, but if you do, you will be rewarded with a ,wonderful view of the entire Teotihuacan site

On the northern end of the Avenue of the Dead is the Pyramid of the Moon. This pyramid was built over a tomb that contained a male skeleton with his treasures. Along with this man, inside the tomb were skeletons of animals and 400 artifacts.

The pyramid was created on behalf of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan. She was known by the people as the goddess of creation, earth and water. A tomb built for her around 100 AD contained jewelry, artifacts, and a number of human and animal skeletons.

Teotihuacan tour

How to Get to Teotihuacan from Mexico City

Getting the Bus to Teotihuacan from Mexico City

Traveling to Teotihuacan from Mexico City by bus is actually super easy, comfortable and very budget friendly. The journey lasts about one hour – longer on the way back as you may get stuck in rush-hour traffic.

Buses depart from the North Central Bus Terminal, located across the street from Mexico City Autobuses del Norte metro station – also known as the Terminal Central del Norte.

Once inside the terminal, head to the end of the hallway and look for Sala 8 / Gate 8 for a company called Autobuses Teotihuacán. This has departures every 15 to 20 minutes. You can buy tickets at the desk – the staff speaks English. Tickets cost 50 pesos ($3 USD) for a one-way ticket. Round-trip tickets cost 100 pesos ($5 USD) per person. Tickets are timed and seats are assigned. The bus is clean and comfortable.

The bus to Teotihuacan from Mexico City takes about one hour. You’ll have to get off at “Piramides” – where the Puerta 1 of the site is located, and the main entrance and ticket office. Don’t worry, the driver will shout “piramides” once you are there.

To get back to Mexico City, exit the site from Puerta 2. The bus stop is across the road. The last bus departs at 6:00 pm.

visiting Teotihuacan
Photo by edaintg0 on Pixabay

Getting from Mexico City to Teotihuacan by Car, Taxi or Uber

If you want to go from Mexico City to Teotihuacan by taxi, expect to pay around 300 pesos ($15 USD) each way.

Uber can be a bit of a hit and miss because you may end up paying surcharges because of traffic and toll roads – which you’ll need change for. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no WiFi at Teotihuacan, so unless you have a local SIM card or an international data plan, you won’t have a way to call an Uber.

I have driven plenty of times in Mexico, but to be honest I don’t think you should consider driving from Mexico City to Teotihuacan yourself. Traffic, especially on the way back, is simply crazy because of rush hour. An easier – but also significantly more expensive – option would be hiring a driver for the day (or half day) to take you there and back. Just ask your hotel if they can organize this for you.

On a Teotihuacan Tour

This is by far the easiest option for visiting Teotihuacan. I have opted for this way of visiting the second time I went and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tours of Teotihuacan from Mexico City usually include round-trip transportation – sometimes with hotel pick up and drop off; admission fees to the site; a guide to take you around and explain you the history, architecture and other interesting facts. Depending on the time of day you are visiting, tours will also include lunch.

Below are some of the best options for a Teotihuacan tour:

Teotihuacan

So, Which Is The Best Way to Experience Teotihuacan?

Visiting Teotihuacan Independently

There are definitely advantages to exploring the site on your own, including arriving and leaving as you wish. You will also not have to wait for others in your tour group to catch up to you on the site or get to the tour bus. If you decide to visit Teotihuacan independently, make sure to do some research before your trip to learn some of the history of the site, and to make a plan for the day of walking and exploring the ruins.

Going on a Teotihuacan Tour

After having experienced Teotihuacan both ways, I can wholeheartedly recommend going on a guided tour.

Visiting Teotihuacan on a guided tour is a great, easy way of experiencing the site. Tours sold online come complete with reviews so you can have an idea of what you are signing up for before you go. Tour guides have extensive knowledge of the history and interesting facts about the site that they will tell you about as you go from structure to structure. Futhermore, you won’t have to worry about anything as most tours include hotel pick up and drop off.

The costs for these tours vary depending on the tour company, and what is included in the tour such as admission fees, meals and/or beverages.

You can book your guided tour of Teotihuacan here or here.

Non-traditional Ways of Visiting Teotihuacan

Imagine the view of the Pyramid of the Sun and other structures of Teotihuacan from a hot air balloon flight over the site. Yep, that is incredible! You will be seeing Teotihuacan from above, and as the sun rises above it.

For more information about hot air balloon flights over Teotihuacan, click here.

Finally, you can visit Teotihuacan at night! The Experiencia Nocturna includes a nighttime entry and guided tour to see the pyramids when they are beautifully lit up, and a light and sound show which is projected on the Pyramid of the Sun. Tickets for the night visit must be booked in advance, and you will explore the site with a guide.

You can book your night tour of Teotihuacan here.

Useful Information for Visiting Teotihuacan

Finally, here are a few more useful information that will help you plan your day.

TEOTIHUACAN OPENING HOURS – Daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

ADMISSION FEE – 80 pesos per person ($4 USD). This includes admission into the actual site and the museums. There is an additional charge of 45 pesos (around $2 USD) for filming on the site (tripods are not allowed).

TICKETS – You can get tickets in advance here. You can leave and re-enter the site as often as want throughout the day.

ENTRANCES – There are 5 entrances/exits. The bus will drop you off at Puerta 1, by the main entrance.

EATING AT TEOTIHUACAN – Small restaurants and food vendors are located outside Puerta 2 of the site. La Gruta, outside of Puerta 5, is a popular option: it’s a very touristy spot located in a volcanic cave; the food is actually quite good (though pricey) and the atmosphere incredible. You will also find food vendors inside the site.

BEST TIME TO VISIT – It is better to go on weekdays and the earlier the better. The tour buses generally come in the early afternoon. Definitely do not go on a Sunday, as the site is free to Mexican citizens and residents and is guaranteed to be mobbed.

WHAT TO WEAR AND PACK – Wear comfortable clothes and shoes as there is a lot of walking and climbing pyramids to do. For protection from the sun, you should wear a hat, and use sunscreen. Also, bring plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated in the heat and some snacks.

TOILETS – The public restrooms are located just inside the entrance points. There are also restrooms in the museum. Have a few coins on you in case there is a charge to use the facilities. You may want to bring your own toilet tissue in your bag in the unfortunate event the stalls are empty.

Have you visited Teotihuacan from Mexico City? Do you have any additional tips?

Further Readings

Make sure to read my other posts about Mexico:

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Discover how to visit Teotihuacan from Mexico City - via @clautavani

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