Of all the ancient cities around Mexico, Teotihuacan might just be my favorite. Taking a Teotihuacan tour is one of the most popular things to do on a day trip from Mexico City.
I have been to Teotihuacan four different times (I lived in Mexico City for over four years!) and I have gone alone, taken the bus, and taken two different tours as well.
Hopefully, with these experiences, I can help you determine the best options for you and your travel style.
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 10 am.
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 Mexico
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 550 AD.
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 peak, 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.
Now the town of San Juan Teotihuacan is a Mexico Magic Town and you can explore both the pyramids and the beautiful little historical town it sits within.
What You Can See 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 knowledgeable and in addition to visiting Teotihuacan, you can also stop at other places of interest throughout the day. It’s completely up to you.
Because the tours with Journey Beyond the Surface are private, they are slightly more expensive if you are traveling with only one or two people (because you pay for the guide, not per person). So if you are traveling solo or you’re on a budget, you may want to consider a group tour option.
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 called Terminal Autobuses del Norte.
You can get here by taking the yellow metro line or you can take an Uber. With all of the problems that the metro has been having in late 2022 and early 2023, it’s worth paying a little bit more to get an Uber to the bus station.
Once at the bus terminal, head to Sala 8, where you will see a desk that has a picture of a pyramid on it. It also says “piramides.” It’s the last desk all the way to the left.
There is usually a line, but it moves quickly. The people at the desk speak a little bit of English to help you get either a one-way or a return ticket. If you plan to take the bus back, it’s best to get your return ticket now rather than on the bus on your way back.
The buses leave every 15 to 20 minutes and take a bit over an hour each way. The bus doesn’t always take the same route, so you may or may not go through the town of San Juan first.
Either way, the bus driver will shout “Piramides” 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). You can then get the bus from any exit. If you do not see the sign for the bus stop when you exit, simply ask someone nearby, everyone in the area is very helpful.
Recently it’s also become much easier to take an Uber from Mexico City. It costs roughly 500 Pesos each way (about $25 USD) depending on the time of day and if there is any traffic.
You can also pretty easily get an Uber back from Teotihuacan to Mexico City as long as you head back before 3 pm. After 3 pm, you will struggle to get a return journey on an Uber.
If you try to get an Uber, but you can’t you can simply head to one of the bust stops and pay on the bus to get back to the city center.
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 About a Teotihuacan Tour
You are at a pretty high altitude in this area of Mexico in general. Mexico City sits at 2,240 meters (7,350 feet) above sea level and at Teotihuacan you are 2,300 meters (7,545 feet).
If you are not accustomed to being at this high an altitude, hiking up to the top of the pyramids is going to feel really hard. It’s not necessarily because you’re out of shape, there’s just less oxygen!
Note: Since reopening the site after Covid in 2021, climbing the pyramids has not been possible. There is not currently any information about whether this will change and you will once again be able to climb the pyramids, but as of 2023, you still cannot climb to the top of either of the pyramids.
I recommend going to Teotihuacan towards the end of your trip to Mexico City, once you have gotten a little bit more used to the altitude. If you visit at the start of your trip, it will be significantly more difficult to climb.
Bring plenty of water and drink plenty of it throughout your trip to Mexico City to help with any altitude headaches.
While you are there, you will see tons of hawkers trying to sell souvenirs all over the park. Everything from blankets and rugs to whistles and jewelry. You will hear those “Jaguar” whistles for days afterward.
They are quite persistent, but if you smile and politely decline (no, gracias), they will move on to the next person. Our guide told us that the souvenirs are actually quite authentic, but to be sure to barter for a better price.
Many tours include lunch, which is usually a set menu. If you plan to go on your own, there are rows of restaurants outside of every single entrance.