Post Updated January 2019
Of all the ancient cities out there, Teotihuacan might just be my favorite. Taking a Teotihuacan tour is one of the most popular things to do on a trip to Mexico City.
If you are trying to decide whether to go to Teotihuacan with a tour or to go it alone, I hope this post will help you decide.
I know a lot of people prefer to skip the tours and go it alone, but when it comes to historical sites, in my opinion, it’s always nice to get information and guidance. I really do recommend touring Teotihuacan with a guide (ask for Jose).
You learn so much more about it, you hear anecdotes and stories that locals have heard all their lives. You get a better peek into Mexican culture and you also get to drink tequila at 10am.
Most tours of Teotihuacan also included a trip to the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Tres Culturas Plaza. Let’s talk about the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
The History of Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is home to the third largest pyramid in the world (the largest is in Egypt, and the second is also in Mexico). It’s thought to have begun being built in 100 BC and remained a thriving Mesoamerican city until around 550AD.
I had originally thought that it was a Mayan or Aztec city, but it’s actually WAY older than that. It’s believed that the Aztecs probably lived in the area later after the city had “burned” and used the resources that the Mesoamericans left behind.
At its peek, the city was over 11 square miles and probably had about 150,000 inhabitants. Most of those buildings are lost now, but what remains is worth several hours of your time.
What You Can See Now on a Teotihuacan Tour
The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest one there at 64m (210ft), but the Pyramid of the Moon is pretty enormous too (43m/140ft). According to Lonely Planet Mexico, the two are actually the same height due to the fact that the Pyramid of the Moon is on a hill.
When we arrived, we walked into the entrance near the Pyramid of the Moon and climbed halfway to the top. You used to be able to walk all the way to the top, but they’re currently doing some renovations after discovering the pyramid housed several tombs. Halfway is enough though, because the steps are SO steep and SO big. I was literally using my hands to pull myself up the steps.
From the top of the Pyramid of the Moon you have the most incredible view down the “Avenue of the Dead” as you can see in the above picture. Smaller pyramids line the road on both sides and at the end on the left is the enormous Pyramid of the Sun.
We took our time climbing up a few of the smaller pyramids and walking along little side paths until we got to the base of the third largest pyramid in the world. There’s something quite magical about standing next to something so old, something so mysterious, and something that makes you feel so small.
Then it was time to climb the steps. They weren’t as steep as the other pyramid, but there were way more to climb (248 to be exact). When we got to the top the view back over was insane. The whole region is surrounded by mountains and we were lucky enough to avoid the rain and have nice clear views across the valley.
Best Teotihuacan Tour Companies
There are some great tour companies that I highly recommend if you are going to visit Teotihuacan. One of my favorite tour companies is Journey Beyond the Surface. The owner is very hands-on with the business and she only hires local Mexican guides. It is a private tour company, but if you are going with three or more people, it works out to be about the same price as if you were to pay for three people on a group tour.
Tours with Journey Beyond the Surface won’t stop at random restaurants or souvenir shops unless you specifically ask them to. The guides are incredibly knowledgable and in addition to visiting Teotihuacan, you can also stop at other places of interest throughout the day. It’s completely up to you.
How to Get to Teotihuacan on Your Own
If you want to go to Teotihuacan on your own, you can take a bus to the park from Mexico City’s Northern bus terminal. They leave every 30 minutes and take a bit over an hour each way. The bus driver will shout “Pyramids” when it’s time to get off.
The roundtrip ticket costs just over 100 Pesos. The bus will drop you off near one of the entrances and there you’ll buy your tickets to enter the park for 70 pesos (about $3.50).
What to Wear to Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is slightly cooler than Mexico City, so be sure to pack an extra layer. It was a windy November day when we went, about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15C) and it drizzled intermittently. We were told that the weather at Teotihuacan is either incredibly hot or quite rainy. Make sure you check the weather in the morning before you head out and don’t forget your sunscreen.
The park isn’t overly large, but you’ll be doing tons of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and layers that you can easily take on and off. After climbing up to the top I was sweating so much, but a few minutes up there with the wind and I was kind of chilly.
Other Things to Know
There are tons of hawkers trying to sell souvenirs all over the park. Everything from blankets and rugs to whistles and jewelry. They are quite persistent, but if you smile and politely decline (no, gracias), they will move onto the next person. Our guide told us that the souvenirs are actually quite authentic, but be sure to barter for a better price.
If you have only been in Mexico City for a few days, be aware that Teotihuacan is even higher up than the city and climbing those steps at such a high altitude will feel really difficult if you’re not used to it. Take your time and bring water.