Teotihuacan is an ancient city situated in the highlands of Central Mexico. It’s famous for its large pyramids and family compounds. It is still being excavated to this day. It’s such a magnificent complex that it would be worth coming to Mexico City just to do a Teotihuacan day trip.
Most visitors book tours to get to the ruins. But it’s also easy to visit on your own. In this post, I’ll walk you through how to visit Teotihuacan by bus, what to see, and practicalities.
How to get to Teotihuacan by bus
The first step in your Teotihuacan day trip is to get to the Northern Bus Station (Terminal Norte) in Mexico City. The bus station is on Line 5 of the metro. When you get there, walk to the line of ticket counters and take a left. You’ll see a ticket counter with images of pyramids on it — that’s the bus company you want.
Buy your ticket (50 pesos) and ensure that your bus is going to the pyramids — “piramides” in Spanish. You only need a one-way ticket, as you can easily purchase your return trip when you’re ready to leave. Buses run every 20 minutes.
If you’re accustomed to the luxury of first-class Mexican bus travel, prepare to be disappointed — the only buses running to Teotihuacan are beat-up, slow, old, crowded second-class buses. But hey, they get you there.
The bus stops a few times on the way, including one security stop. Policemen get on, look through a few bags, and take photos of everyone. Don’t worry, this route is perfectly safe now (even the State Department approves), but it used to be a common target for bus robberies.
It takes about an hour and a half to reach Teotihuacan by bus. The driver will drop you in the parking lot, but it’ll be obvious where to go to enter the site. Just follow the souvenir stalls.
Top things to see at Teotihuacan
The ruins site itself is massive. For your 70 pesos, you get the main ruins, a few clusters of smaller ruins, and a handful of excellent museums.
Directly in front of you when you walk in the gate is the Ciudadela. This compound houses Quetzalcoatl — perhaps the most architecturally interesting temple. Climb the first staircase to see the pyramid covered in serpent heads and bas reliefs of feathered serpents.
From Quetzalcoatl, you can see the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. The long paved road connecting you to them is known as the Avenue of the Dead. Stroll along and stop in at the different structures along the way — they’re mostly small dwellings.
After about a kilometer, you’ll come to the base of the Pyramid of the Sun. It’s the third-tallest pyramid in the world, and the largest in Teotihuacan. Its meaning has unfortunately been lost over the centuries. You can hike to the top — the staircase gets pretty steep at the end.
Just past the Pyramid of the Sun, at the far end of the Avenue of the Dead, is the Pyramid of the Moon. This (slightly) smaller pyramid was possibly meant to be an altar for the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan. You can’t climb all the way to the top of this one, but you can go most of the way and get great views of the Plaza of the Moon.
When you’ve had enough of the pyramids, head inside to the site museum. It’s fairly small, but houses artifacts found at the site and throughout this corner of the ancient world.
Off the beaten path Teotihuacan
Most visitors to the pyramids stop after covering the sights listed above. But you’ll get much more out of your visit to this ancient city by exploring its quieter corners.
Don’t miss the Palace of the Jaguars and surrounding buildings. They contain fascinating (and fairly well-preserved) murals of a jaguar praying to a rain god.
In a little-visited corner of the park, you’ll find Atetelco Palace — home to some more remarkably well-preserved murals. Check out the coyote!
If you want to know more about the culture and traditions of the people who occupied Teotihuacan, pay a visit to the Mural Museum. These paintings — some restored, some reproduced — provide a window into the spirituality, mythology and daily life of the city. Very few tourists make it here, but it’s a highlight of the complex.
Practicalities of a Teotihuacan day trip
The first thing you need to know about visiting Teotihuacan is that it’s Mexico’s most-visited ruins site. That’s right — it gets more visitors than Wonder-of-the-World Chichen Itza. At peak times, the crowds climbing the largest two pyramids are overwhelming.
The best way to avoid the hordes of tourists? Get there early. Like 9 am early (that means leaving Mexico City by 7:30). Trust me on this.
The second thing you need to know is that a day trip to Teotihuacan involves a lot of walking. Even if you only visit the main ruins along the Avenue of the Dead and the museum, you’ll walk more than 4 kilometers. Add in a couple fairly steep pyramid climbs, and it makes for a long, exhausting day in the sun. Make sure you wear comfy walking shoes like these trusty Teva sandals.
You can buy water and snacks from a couple small shops in the park — there’s one by the museum and another by the Palace of the Jaguars. Hawkers sell water and tacky souvenirs all along the Avenue of the Dead. There is one restaurant in the park, but it looked pretty mediocre and it’s pricey. Better to enjoy a picnic in the grass along the Avenue of the Dead.
When you’re ready for your Teotihuacan day trip to come to an end, head to where the bus dropped you off. Buses run frequently, but they’re crowded. You may have to stand on your way back.
You won’t regret doing a Teotihuacan day trip from Mexico City. It’s easy and it’s one of the most fascinating places to visit in all of Mexico!
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