Teotihuacan Pyramids is one of the most incredible archeological sites in all of Mexico. Mexico is home to dozens of ancient pyramids from prehispanic times. But few are as important or massive as the Teotihuacan Pyramids near Mexico City.
I’ve had Teotihuacan pyramids on my bucket list pretty much since we decided we were going to RV Mexico. And it was every bit as amazing as I expected. This travel guide will share the magical history of this place. In addition to helpful tips to make the most of your experience at Teotihuacan pyramids.
History of Teotihuacan Pyramids
The city of Teotihuacan was one of the largest metropolitan areas in Mesoamerica. At its peak, the city housed around 200,000 people until its fall around 750 AD. The name Teotihuacan is a Nahuatl word meaning “the place where the Gods were created”. It was given by the Aztecs who discovered this place 600 years after it was abandoned.
The Aztecs felt this place was extremely important spiritually and named the two largest Pyramids (the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon) to represent an Aztec legend about the creation of life, death, and the balance between.
The city covered over 12 square miles meaning much of this ancient city is buried under the modern-day city of San Juan Teotihuacan. Some experts believe construction of the city began as early as 400 B.C. although the larger pyramids like the Pyramid of the Sun were constructed around 300 A.D.
Very little is known about who constructed and built this incredible city. But there are a number of theories both to the rise and fall of this ancient civilization including civil unrest, drought, or flooding.
How to get to Teotihuacan pyramids
Since we are exploring Mexico in our RV, we had the benefit of staying at Teotihuacan Trailer Park which was about 15 minutes from the entrance to the pyramids. This allowed us to see the pyramids by day, during its normal operating hours of 9 to 5 seven but also by night.
However, most people who will be visiting the Teotihuacan pyramids will do so on a day visit from Mexico City. There are several public buses that can take you to the town of San Juan Teotihuacan for super cheap ($6 to $8 USD) roundtrip. If the bus sounds like the best option for you, head to Autobuses del Norte station and go to Puerta 8. You will want to purchase tickets for pyramides or Zona Arqueologica.
It’s about a 1-hour drive one way with buses leaving as early as 6:00 am. We recommend catching the bus around 8 am or 9 am to beat the heat (and the crowds).
You can also opt for a guided tour which will include transportation to and from the city. Uber and taxis are another popular option, although they will be much more expensive than public transportation.
There are multiple entrances to the pyramids. Specifically, tell your driver where to drop you off. We entered closest to the Pyramid of the Sun which is also next to the Museum.
If you’re arriving late, or if it’s a weekend. It’s a good idea to go to the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon first because of how crowded it can get. We got there right when it opened (9 am) and within the hour there were dozens of people on the top of the pyramid. By noon there were dozens more.
The best way to see the pyramids
Most people choose to walk the archeological zone on their own or with a tour guide. This gives you an up close and personal look at the city and ruins. This is what we did. It was a lot of walking, but well worth it to be so close to the buildings.
However, if you want a different vantage point. We highly recommend taking a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids. The tours leave super early in the morning and there is nothing like watching the sun rise over Teotihuacan. Your hot air balloon guide will also share interesting facts about the city as you are flying.
Prior to the global pandemic. The archeological zone offered a special nighttime experience called “Experiencia Nocturna en Teotihuacán”. The event was stopped during the pandemic and has yet to be resumed. But if you plan a trip here in the future inquire as to whether or not this was happening. It was our favorite way to experience the pyramids. And in our opinion is a must if you are visiting Teotihuacan Pyramid.
The night experience is a two-hour tour accompanied by an audio guide that can speak over a dozen languages. The first hour consisted of walking the Avenue of the Dead to both the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon while listening to the history and cultural importance of each structure.
Then the second hour consists of a light and sound show where they project a movie onto the pyramids. It was incredibly well done and did a fantastic job illustrating the story of the Teotihuacan pyramids, and representing what the pyramids likely looked like at the peak of its inhabitants.
If you are staying overnight here or can squeeze it into your day trip, I highly urge you to purchase tickets for the Night Experience.
What to bring to Teotihuacan Pyramids
The entrance to the park was $70 pesos (2019) and it was cash (or pesos) only. If you arrive early make sure have the exact amount as it was too early for them to have change.
The pyramids are open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. When we visited they reopened in the evenings Thursday – Saturday for the Night Experience. This area of Mexico has a very temperate climate with little fluctuation in temperature throughout the year. The mornings are cooler but it warms up quickly in the day.
My number one tip would be to have some sort of sun protection. Dennis got one of the worst sunburns of his life while we were there. Wearing layers is also a good idea. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so dress practically for sun exposure and miles of walking.
- Sun protection. We are not big fans of sunscreen. Most are actually toxic to your body and known to cause skin cancer. But if you must use sunscreen we recommend this brand, which has no harmful ingredients, uses zinc to block the sun, and is environmentally safe. If you’re okay ditching the sunscreen make sure you have a sun shirt and hat with you. We love Free Fly apparel which uses bamboo and has 30 SPF protection. It’s also a good idea to have a buff to protect your neck and face. A hat would also do wonders in protecting your neck and shoulders here!
- Water and Snacks. Make sure to have fresh water and snacks on hand. We suggest bringing a reusable water bottle like this Camelbak that has a life straw in it to help filter and remove any unwanted chemicals like chlorine, lead, and organic matter.
- Comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking here. Liz loves her Allbirds and Dennis is partial to Earth Runners.
- Camera equipment. However, please note they will not allow you to bring in professional equipment. This would include a microphone, gimbal, tripod, or monopod.
What to expect when visiting the pyramids
This is one of Mexico’s most popular archeological sites, so be ready for a crowd. The earlier you come the better. The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pyramid at the site and is definitely one of the star attractions.
Pyramid of the sun
The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pyramid at Teotihuacan standing at 216 feet or 66 meters tall. Inside this impressive structure is a cave with a hole at its center, which the Aztecs and likely the original inhabitants believed to be the navel of the earth, or the place from where the earth was born.
The Pyramid of the Sun held likely held extreme importance in the culture as it’s positioned so that on a certain day of the year, which is typically an equinox, the sun aligns perfectly with the Pyramid. Walking to the top is no easy feat with over 250 steep steps, it’s a workout. But anyone that is determined, regardless of age or ability can do it if you want to.
Pyramid of the Moon
The Pyramid of the Moon is slightly smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun at around 140 feet or 43 meters. It is believed that this pyramid, although smaller in size held higher importance for religious ceremonies and is the reason the avenue of the dead ends at the Pyramid of the Moon. It is here you can grab incredible shots of the Teotihuacan pyramids.
Avenue of the Dead
The Avenue of the Dead intersects the center of Teotihuacan creating four distinct quadrants or sectors. At the far end, you will find the Pyramid of the Moon. Originally, the pyramids and structures that lined this avenue were believed to be tombs. Hence the name, Avenue of the Dead.
However, it has now been discovered that uses for the structures extended beyond burial tombs. Walking along the Avenue of the Dead should not be skipped.
Along it, you can see several remains of murals, including El Palacio de Los Jaguares. In certain areas, you can walk onto platforms that extend east and west off the avenue into the living quarters of the city, where they have discovered older pyramids that have been well-preserved pyramids because newer civilizations would often build bigger, newer, or more intricate pyramids on top of old ones during new civilization reigns.
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, also known as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is located in the Citadel. It was our favorite pyramid at Teotihuacan. Its believed to be one of the older pyramids and has very unique statues and designs.
Several bodies have been found at the base of the pyramid. Leading archaeologists to believe this temple was used for important ceremonial rituals including sacrifices. It’s a bit of a trek considering it’s at the far end of the Teotihuacan pyramids. But is worth the walk.
Visiting the Teotihuacan pyramids is absolutely a must-do activity when visiting Mexico. We are grateful we were able to visit and experience this beautiful site. And for the continued efforts to preserve and educate visitors on the history of this important ancient city.