The Best Way to Visit to the Teotihuacan Pyramids

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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.

Exploring Teotihuacan

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?

43 thoughts on “The Best Way to Visit to the Teotihuacan Pyramids

  1. Pingback: A Guide to Mexico City: attractions and dining options

  2. Mei

    I’ve been wanting to go to Teotihuacan ever since I learned about it at the Univeristy (I’m an archaeologist). Reading this post of yours is making me dream about climbing up to the top of the Quetzalcoatl, the Temple of the Sun and that of the Moon, and reliving everything I studied in my Mesoamerican class years ago! Actually, we hesitated between Central and South America for next year, and finally decided to travel through Peru and Bolivia. So Mexico has to wait a bit longer… By the way, it’s good to know that there’s a restaurant onsite too, and I really like it that it’s located inside a cave! Thanks for this inspiring post!
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  3. Megan Jerrard

    I would love to see the Teotihuacan pyramids – we visited Cancun recently and it was so fascinating visiting the archeological sites – Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba etc. We’re not tour guide people either, so thanks for the tips on visiting on your own. I think I would rent a car, but it’s good to know that public transport is there.

    Getting to Temple of the Sun in the morning before the sun and the tourists kick in sounds like a smart plan. Will remember that. Thanks! Looks like you had a fabulous time, now I can’t wait!

    Reply
  4. Jen Joslin

    I’m totally with you on doing your own tour and using public transportation. It’s amazing how inexpensively you can visit these famous sites if you take the bus! Good to know to get there as early as possible and bring your own water. Definitely wouldn’t want to be hiking up all those steps in the noon-day sun! Even though it looks touristy, I’d also love to experience eating in La Gruta. It looks so cool! Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂
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  5. Danijela

    Great tips!
    Teotihuacan looks fascinating and judging by your post, both The Temple of The Sun and the Moon Temple are well worth a visit. Such a pity to hear that tourists often end up eating and shopping instead of exploring the sight when on the official tour. It makes it even wiser to go on your own. And I have to say, I was surprised how the bus fee and the entrance turned out to be cheap! 🙂
    Love that restaurant, what a great idea to put the restaurant in the cave. And with traditional Mexican dishes? Yummy! 🙂

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  6. Anu

    Teotihuacan Pyramids are on my list to see as I like visiting ancient sites. I knew about pyramids but I did not know they are named sun, moon etc. I am intrigued by the mythical creatures carved on the surprise pyramid. Do you know what they are?

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      There is a lot of debate since almost nothing is known about the culture that built it. They may be similar to the mystical creatures found in Mayan and Aztec cultures.

      Reply
  7. Jolina S.

    Great tips! We just went there a few weeks ago and were so awed by the place. It also helped that we went to the Museum of Anthropology too a day before so that we could have an idea of what Teotihuacan looked like during its zenith. Of course, we kind of got carried away with buying souvenirs from the locals, too — found some amazing handicrafts for affordable prices!
    Jolina S.’s current road . . . Our first TV interviewMy Profile

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  8. Samantha Sparrow

    I’ve wanted to see Teotihuacan for a while now. It is so interesting what you say about the tours as it is in my nature to book as I like to know the history of things from a guide but it’s sad that it seems from your research this are more commercial and shopping orientated. One to watch out for!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      To be fair to most the tours, most people get bored of the history after a hour or two. I think of nothing of spending 8 plus hours in a museum.

      Reply
  9. nathalie salcedo

    haven’t been here, but seems like one on the list to consider! Amazing that pyramids such as this is available in Mexico. What I love the most is the Restaurante La Gruta, seems like a nice exeperience to dine and eat :))

    Reply
  10. Megan Jerrard

    The Teotihuacan Pyramids sound like an awesome day trip from Mexico City. Though I’m like you and don’t really enjoy the guided tours, especially as you said when they get kickbacks for taking you to resturants along the way, and I feel like half the day is spent at souvenier stores and eating as opposed to the pyramids themselves. So good to know you can catch a bus or rent a care if you’re there for a couple of days.

    Quite incredible to look down from each of the summits and see an overview of the layout of a centuries old civilization. I love imagining how life would have been at the height of the empire!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      I totally agree. Tours seem to spend to much time on shopping and I have had guides get annoyed when I make it clear I am not there to go shopping. I am there to see the pyramids.

      Reply
  11. Christopher

    200 BC, 8th century AD…that is absolutely crazy how old that is. Wow! Those pyramids look incredible for being so old. I’m not a huge fan of tour guides either. I’m such a curious person than if I see something that is interesting, I want to go explore but you “not allowed” when your with a group. This is a great break done of the pricing and what the tours offer.

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  12. Nisha

    I love the detailed description of your guide to Teotihuacan, especially touching upon schedules and costs. I am also a “self guided tours” person and this really helps. I am perfectly amazed at the costs. Just 25 USD including lunch and lunch is the major expense!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      It was surprisingly cheap. You can do lunch cheaper buy it was work going to the nicer place and as you said $25 for the day was a great deal.

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  13. Marvi

    Well, I’m usually a tour person at times (depending on the location, that is), but I must say you fairly have several good points why doing it yourself is much better – I did several DIY tours myself and I can say I really did enjoy it, too ;). The Teotihuacan Pyramids sounds and looks really amazing. The heat and the sweat from all the climbing is definitely worth it. Love that you opted to have lunch at the Restaurante La Gruta btw. Such a unique place to spend your lunchtime. 🙂

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      My issue with tours is that they always seem to spend more time on shopping then the actual site. I love wandering around places by myself and doing it at my own time.

      Reply
      • Marvi

        I’ve never really considered that, to be honest… (how naive can I be.. LOL). Admittedly, I’ve been on tours where souvenirs shops are always a part of the itinerary and didn’t really minded it at all.. Doing it yourself is far more fun and you are quite right.. You get to go at your own pace…

        Reply
  14. Tamara

    I’m not usually a tour group kind of person either, although when I went to Chichen Itza it might have been helpful to have a guide as there is so much history to learn about!

    Reply

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