An hour bus ride leads to an epic archeological site. Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city. This ancient city was built in the Valley of Mexico. The earliest structures in Teotihuacan date to 200 BC and the city was abandoned by the 8th century AD. Located on 25 miles from Mexico City, the Teotihuacan Pyramids are a perfect day trip from Mexico City.
To take a tour of Teotihuacan or not?
I am not a guide tour person. On occasion, I will take one for the history or the ease of getting somewhere but I much prefer to explore a site on my own. Given I speak bare bones Spanish, I started looking into Teotihuacan pyramid tours. The tours run from $35.00 to $70.00. Some tours advertise early access and small tour groups. In reality, the tour leaves a little early than the standard tour so they beat the major crowds. None of the sites define the size of a small group. I consider a small group tour to be less than 10 but I have found that this can mean 30 plus people and its still considered a small tour.
On top of that, tour guides get kickbacks from souvenirs and restaurants when you make purchases so you are taken to the places where the guides have prearranged agreements. Some of the tours mention that its more a shopping expedition than a tour of Teotihuacan and you get to spend more time eating and shopping than exploring the pyramids.
That’s, not me, so I figured there had to be a way to get out there on my own.
How to get to Teotihuacan
There are several ways to get to Teotihuacan. You can hire a taxi but this is rather expensive (I didn’t price it out but was told it isn’t cheap). If you are will to rent a car, you can drive yourself out there. But if you aren’t renting a car for a couple of days in Mexico, its a lot of work to get a rental car for just one day.
I went the public transport option. According to the front desk of my hostel, it’s super easy to get out to the Teotihuacan Pyramids by Bus. My hostel is located by the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. I had to walk across the main plaza to the Zócalo metro station. From there, I made my way to Autobuses del Norte station. The Autobuses del Norte Metro station is located on line 5.
Cost: 5 MX pesos ($0.26 USD) *As of October 2017
Follow the signs to the bus station. It is just across the street from the metro station. Once in the bus station, hang a left. You are headed to Puerta 8. If you get lost ask for the Pyramids and everyone can point you in the right direction. You are looking for the ticket window that advertises “Pyramides” or “Zona Arqueologico”. The ticket agent spoke decent English (but truthfully it doesn’t matter. They can spot a tourist and as long as you say pyramids they know where you are going). Buy a round-trip ticket so you don’t have to worry about buying a ticket on the way back. The ticket there is for a specific bus but the return ticket can be used on any bus back.
Cost: 100 MX pesos ($5.23 USD) *As of October 2017
The ticket agent pointed me at the hallway to the left of the counter. This leads to the waiting area. A bathroom is available for 5 MX pesos along with a selection of snacks and water. If you don’t already have water with you, pick up a few bottles here. There isn’t a lot of shade or water available once you are at the pyramids.
There are several porters who will be able to point you to the correct bus. My bus had a place card in the front that said “Zona Arqueologico.” Zona Arqueologico is the name of the bus stop of the pyramids. My bus driver started loading the bus and yelled out all three names: Zona Arqueologico, Pyramides, and Teotihuacan. He took my ticket and I reminded me that I would need to put my return ticket in a safe place (or at least I think thats what he said. My basic Spanish only picked up the part about the return ticket).
The first bus departs at 6:00 am and buses leave every 20 mins after that. I missed the 6:00 am bus due to some issues with the metro (I miss read the map). I made the 6:40 am bus.
It took us just over an hour to get to the site and we arrived at 7:50 am.
There are several entrance gates to Teotihuacan, but the public transport bus drops off at Puerta 1. It is a short walk from the bus stop to the entrance. It takes about 5 minutes but one has to run the first of the souvenir shop and tour guides gauntlets. Hiring a tour guide is optional and you can negotiate a tour price. The guides tend to start at 400 MX pesos per person and seemed to drop in price if you walked away. All the guides are licensed and they show you their license to start off the conversation.
I stopped at the small visitor center and went the restroom (I would bring your own toilet paper). The visitor center isn’t much just some bathrooms and a few pictures.
Cost: 70 MX pesos ($3.66 USD) *As of October 2017
The site officially opens at 8:00 am but plenty of people were already halfway to the summit of the Temple of the Sun so I think it is possible to enter as soon as the 6:00 am bus arrives at the site.
Temple of the Sun
My first stop was the Temple of the Sun. There were several reasons for this. First, it was the first of the large pyramids on the avenue of the Dead. The second is that I wanted to climb it before the hordes of tours arrive. The third and most important reason is there are 720 ft the top of the Temple of the Sun. The 248 steps to the top are really steep. I have mentioned there is no shade.
Temple of the Moon
The second largest pyramid at Teotihuacan. The Temple of the Moon is significantly shorter than the Temple of the Sun. I could only hike half-way up the Temple of the Moon but I like the view from the moon much better. The Temple of the Moon is located at the start/end of the Avenue of the Dead so it provides a great view of the entire complex without having to spin in a circle and risk falling off the pyramid.
Lunch Break – Restaurante La Gruta
Climbing both pyramids is a lot of work and I had reached the summits of both by about 11:00 am. I decided it was time for some lunch. There are plenty of options for lunch in the surrounding area. The entrance fee allows for re-entrance of the archeological site
I was headed to the famed Restaurante La Gruta (aka that cool restaurant in a cave). Getting to La Gruta is easy. I followed the signs Museo Teotihuacán which is behind the Pyramid of the sun. I was looking for Puerta 5. I head out of Puerta 5. Once out the entrance, I was meet by a nice young man who handed me a menu to a random restaurant. He offered to guide me there but I wanted to have lunch in a cave.
Head to the edge of the Puerta 5 parking lot and look for the rock sign that says La Gruta. Walk down that drive and it leads to the entrance to La Gruta. The restaurant is about 100ft inside a cave. It is a nice cool place to take a break after climbing two pyramids. The food is very traditional Mexican but with tourist prices. I had Consome de Carnero which is a local specialty.
Cost: 300 MX pesos ($15.68 US)
Palace of Quetzalpapálotl
When facing the Temple of the Moon, I looked to my left and located the entrance of the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl. The main entrance faces the Avenue of the Dead. The Places is one of the youngest structures in the complex. The palace is highly decorated with some of the original paint and decorations can still be seen. Other parts went thru a rehabilitation in 2009. The craftsmanship of the palace speaks to the importance of the person who lived there. The palace is named after mythological birds that can be seen throughout the palace.
Temple of Quetzalcoatl
This is my favorite temple of the group. Temple of Quetzalcoatl is also known as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. I prefer to call it the Suprise Pyramid. From the ground, this pyramid look like a mini-me of the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. Yet it isn’t.
Climb to the top of this pyramid and one is greeted with an epic surprise. The second part of this temple is intricately carved with mythical creatures.
Getting Back to Mexico City
The complex closes at 5:00 pm. The bus back to Mexico City are suppose to run until 9:00 pm but I wouldn’t count on this. To catch the bus, find Puerta 3 (not the entrance the bus drops off at in the morning). This is the exit closes to the Pyramid of the Moon. There is a kind of guard tent and then a curve in the road. Stand at the curve in the road and flag down the bus. Odds are there will be several other tourists just as confused as you. The bus are still running every 20 mins or so. The bus drops back at Terminal Autobuses del Norte and I then took the metro back to my hostel.
Total Cost: 525 MX pesos ($25.09 USD) *Not including souvenirs
Have you been to the Teotihuacan Pyramids?