Last Updated on February 22, 2023 by Nellie Huang
Did you know there are 2000-year-old pyramids near Mexico City? Here’s a detailed Teotihuacan travel guide, with everything you’d need to know about visiting Teotihuacan.
Just 1 hour outside of Mexico City stands the most impressive archaeological site in Mexico: the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the pre-Hispanic Americas, at one point housing over 150,000 people.
Walking through the Teotihuacan Pyramids is like taking a step back in time – you can almost feel the energy of this ancient city back in its heyday. However, little is known about the city and archaeologists still have not come to any conclusion after years of research. This is what makes Teotihuacan such a fascinating place to visit!
To help you plan your trip to the Teotihuacan ruins, I’ve written this detailed guide to share how to visit Teotihuacan, including the best way to get there, best spots to visit, and best place to eat there.
Table of Contents
- Why Visit the Teotihuacan Ruins?
- Teotihuacan Pyramids Facts
- Best Time to Visit Teotihuacan
- How to Get to the Teotihuacan Ruins
- Cost of Visiting Teotihuacan
- Teotihuacan Hours
- How Much Time to Visit Teotihuacan?
- How to Get around Teotihuacan
- Best Teotihuacan Tours from Mexico City
- Visiting Teotihuacan with Kids
- Things to Do at Teotihuacan
- Where to Eat at Teotihuacan
- Where to Stay near Teotihuacan
- What to Pack for Teotihuacan
- Rules at Teotihuacan
- Final Tips for Visiting Teotihuacan
Why Visit the Teotihuacan Ruins?
The Teotihuacan Pyramids are THE most popular day trip from Mexico City, for good reason. The Teotihuacan pyramids are some of the largest in the world and the entire complex is incredibly well preserved. Because of its historical significance, Teotihuacan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What’s most impressive about Teotihuacan is the sheer size of its monuments – in particular, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. Not only that, these monuments are laid out on geometric and symbolic principles, bearing testimony to the engineering skills and advancement of ancient Mexico.
Teotihuacan Pyramids Facts
Translated to mean ‘the place where the gods were created’, Teotihuacan was once a powerful center in Mesoamerica. The Teotihuacan civilization mysteriously declined around 650 A.D., and the city was eventually abandoned. It’s theorized that a combination of environmental and social issues could have led to the decline, but no one knows for sure.
It’s not fully known who founded Teotihuacan and constructed its immense pyramids and temples. But some archaeologists speculate that it was likely the Toltecs or the Totonacs. Hailing from central Mexico, the Toltecs were well known for their ridiculously huge statues and head carvings. The Totonacs came from the state of Veracruz (next to Chiapas) and the people, who still exist today, believe that their ancestors were the ones who built Teotihuacan.
However, evidence shows that Teotihuacan was home to several civilizations, including the Toltecs, Totonacs, Mayans, Mixtecs, and Zapotecs. To add to the mystery, the people who inhabited Teotihuacan had a written language, but researchers have yet to decode it.
Best Time to Visit Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is one of the most visited sites in Mexico; it can get busy on weekends, particularly on Sunday when it’s free for citizens and residents of Mexico. Try to visit during the lower season months (April-September).
During high season it gets a little overrun with visitors, which somewhat takes the wow factor out of the place. Avoid visiting Teotihuacan during peak travel season – Christmas, New Year, Easter (Holy Week), and other Mexican holidays. Another busy period is during Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) – 26 Oct to 2 Nov – when many flock to Mexico City for the vibrant celebrations.
In general, Teotihuacan is warm and sunny all year round. Its high elevation keeps the temperature pretty mild though the sun does beat down hard. The coolest months are between December and February, although temperatures still average around 72°F (23℃) in the day.
How to Get to the Teotihuacan Ruins
Teotihuacan is located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Mexico City, and it takes just 1 hour to get there. You can easily include it in your Mexico City itinerary even if you only have 4/5 days in the city. The easiest way to get there is by bus, which takes around 60 minutes from Terminal Central del Norte station. The bus costs around $50MXN/$2.40USD each way. The first bus to Teotihuacan departs at 6am with more departures about every 20 minutes thereafter until 2pm.
You could take a taxi or an Uber, but this will inevitably be more expensive. We booked an Uber from our hotel in the Centro Historic, and spent around 500 MXN (US$25) each way. Initially we were worried about not finding an Uber back as we’d read that there’s no cell signal in most of the complex. But we walked to Gate 5 and it just took us 10 minutes to get one.
Another way to get there is to book a day tour from Mexico City that includes transportation, admission, and a guide. It’s a great option if you want to learn more about Teotihuacan and have someone else handle the logistics. Read our guide to the best day tours from Mexico City.
Cost of Visiting Teotihuacan
The cost of visiting Teotihuacan is relatively cheap. Admission to the site is 80 MXN (US$4) for adults and free for children under 13 years old. The entrance fees cover the entrance to the site, Teotihuacan Culture Museum, and the Museum of Teotihuacan Murals.
Tickets can be purchased at any of the entrance gates to the Mexico City Pyramids. Your ticket allows you to leave and re-enter during the same day, so you can go out of the archaeological zone for a break or lunch and then return.
If you’re looking to take a tour here they start from around $650MXN/$33USD per person. Here’s a look at the Teotihuacan tours available. Read more to find out which tours I recommend.
Teotihuacan is open every day from 9AM to 5PM, 365 days a year. Teotihuacan Culture Museum is open 9AM to 4:30PM every day and the Museum of Teotihuacan Murals is open 8AM to 5PM, Tuesday through Sunday.
The best time to visit Teotihuacan is early in the morning, around opening time. This is when the site is the least crowded and you can avoid the heat of midday.
Make sure to arrive before 3PM however as this is the time of last entry. The site staff don’t allow any leeway for this time. Gates close at 3PM sharp.
How Much Time to Visit Teotihuacan?
You could easily spend a whole day at the Teotihuacan Pyramids, but if you’re short on time, I would allocate at least 3 hours. Of course, this all depends on your interests and how much detail you want to go into while exploring the site.
The museums themselves can take up to an hour or so each. If you are planning on visiting them, then make sure to plan this into the trip. Plus, if you’re looking to spend time getting lunch at the site restaurant that will extend the trip too.
How to Get around Teotihuacan
When you reach the site, there are 5 different entrances. If you’re looking to do a full tour of the site then the best entrance for this will be at the south of the site (entrance gate 1).
From here you’ll walk through the site restaurant, then come out onto the Avenue of the Dead which consists of a 2km stretch, passing all of the main monuments of the site. I suggest leaving through gate 5 as that is where you’ll find the best restaurant in Teotihuacan (more on this later).
Best Teotihuacan Tours from Mexico City
I always say the best way to travel is independently as it allows you to go at your own pace and make changes on the fly. That being said, Teotihuacan can be challenging to visit on your own as there’s not a lot of information available in English and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the size of the site.
There are many day tours to the Teotihuacan Pyramids, ranging from early access tours to tours with tequila-tasting. If your budget allows, I highly recommend the Teotihuacan Tour with a Hot Air Balloon Ride. This tour ($137) includes transportation from Mexico City, admission to Teotihuacan, an English-speaking guide, and a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids. It’s an incredible experience and one that I think everyone should do at least once in their life.
Alternatively, this early access tour is great for those who want to enjoy the archaeological site without the crowd. It also includes tequila tasting at a family-run workshop in Tlacaelel. This tour is US$39 and lasts for around 8 hours.
There’s also a night show at Teotihuacan where you can experience the Teotihuacan ruins after dark. It begins with a guided tour of the park and ends with a light and sound show. You’ll need to book tickes in advance online at the Ticketmaster webpage and pick them up at any Ticketmaster outlet.
Visiting Teotihuacan with Kids
Teotihuacan is a huge complex and there’s very little shade, so it can be tricky for families traveling with young kids. That said, it’s absolutely doable if you plan in advance or book a private tour which will give you more flexibility.
Nellie, the founder of this blog, visited Teotihuacan with her daughter when she was 6 years old and had a great time! Kids at that age can walk long distances and can handle the heat, so it’s not a problem.
If you’re traveling with younger kids, I suggest carrying them in a sling or hiking carrier. It would be a pain to transport tiny toddlers in a stroller, with the ground paved in ancient, uneven stones. Pack lots of water, hat, and maybe an umbrella for kids who don’t do well in the sun.
Things to Do at Teotihuacan
Here are some of the highlights that I would make sure to tick off first during your visit:
Climb the Pyramid of the Sun
At 213 feet tall, the Pyramid of the Sun is the largest structure at the Teotihuacan ruins and one of the highest pyramids in the world. Built around 200 A.D., the Pyramid of the Sun is actually made of six pyramids, each one stacked on top the other. And underneath it all is a cave.
Located on the east side of the Avenue of the Dead, it’s set between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela. Just like many of the mysterious Teotihuacan safeguards, it’s still not fully known the original reasons why this structure was erected. It’s been theorized that it was constructed for a deity.
In normal circumstances, you can actually climb the pyramid and feast on the views from above. Sadly, it was closed for climbing during our last visit in November 2021. But rules are constantly changing, so make sure to check before climbing.
Walk Along the Avenue of the Dead
The Avenue of the Dead (Avenida de los Muertos) is the main thoroughfare through Teotihuacan and it’s lined with pyramids on both sides. The long, broad thoroughfare goes from the Pyramid of the Moon on its north end to the Ciudadela complex on the south end, near the main entrance to the park.
On the way, the Avenue of the Dead passes many ceremonial platforms that house intricate murals and carvings. Back in the heydays, the road was 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long.
See the Pyramid of the Moon
The Pyramid of the Moon is the oldest structure in Teotihuacan, and it’s located at the northern end of the Avenue of the Dead. It’s thought to have been built around 150 A.D. At 147 feet, this is the second highest structure in the complex.
Archeologists have found a significant number of sacrificed remains inside this pyramid, including 12 human bodies and a range of animal cadavers. From this, it’s believed to have been a site of religious significance and for public ritual purposes.
Normally, it’s also allowed to climb the Pyramid of the Moon (but was also closed during our last visit). Just be prepared for a bit of a workout as they’re quite steep!
Stroll Through the Palace of the Jaguars
The Palace of the Jaguars is one of the most impressive buildings in Teotihuacan. It’s covered in reliefs of jaguars, eagles, and other sea creatures. Apparently, it’s the most sacred place in the whole of Teotihuacan.
This building has a large courtyard surrounded by small rooms with magnificent remains of mural paintings. It’s presumed to be a planning place for temple events and special occasions.
Across the Pyramid of the Moon stands La Ciudadela (the Citadel), a large ceremonial courtyard that contains the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
The temple is one of my favorite spots at Teotihuacan. Quetzalcoatl was the Feathered Serpent and an important god to most Mesoamerican cultures. His temple is decorated with large carvings of toothy snake heads with slithering bodies, along with images of marine life, such as clams and conch shells.
Mural of the Great Goddess
The Great Goddess, a mysterious deity of the Teotihuacan civilization, can be found depicted in several locations at the Mexico City Pyramids. The most striking mural is at the Tetitla compound.
Often depicted with an elaborate jade nose-bar through her septum, the Goddess has become known as the “Spider Woman of Teotihuacan.” On the mural of Tetitla, the Goddess wears an extravagant headdress reminiscent of those worn by dancers at Brazilian carnival. It is made of long green quetzal feathers, which fan out around her which are believed to represent the rays of the sun.
To the east of the Pyramid of the Moon, the Tepantitla Palace is quite a walk away from the Avenue of the Dead, but it’s definitely worth a visit. From the outside, the building looks like a stable, but upon entering the walls reveal traces of elaborate paintings.
One mural particularly stands out, and is lauded as the most impressive mural of all Teotihuacán: the mural of Tlālōcān. In Aztec mythology, Tlālōcān was the marvelous underworld ruled over by the water deity Tlaloc. Tepantitla is believe to have been a palace, a priest’s house, or the opulent residence of an aristocrat.
Visit the Teotihuacan Museums
I highly recommend making time to visit the museums, which are actually easy to miss as they’re tucked behind the cacti gardens. They have interesting exhibits and informative explanations, along with air conditioning, which can be a godsend on hot days.
There are two museums at the ruins of Teotihuacan; entry is included with your ticket.
- The Teotihuacan Murals Museum (near Gate 3A) houses over fifty millennia-old murals along with several artifacts recovered from on-site temples and palaces.
- The Teotihuacan Cultural Museum (next to Gate 5) displays more than 600 artifacts found in the archaeological site, from over the ten centuries the city lasted. The museum also has a sculpture garden and a botanical garden.
Where to Eat at Teotihuacan
There are a few different options for food at Teotihuacan: If you’re looking for something quick and affordable, there’s a row of food stands near the entrance 4 and 5.
But I strongly suggest heading to La Gruta Cave Restaurant which is just a 10-minute walk away from Gate 5. This was easily the best meal we had in Mexico City! We visited during the Day of the Dead, and were impressed to find an atmospheric ofrenda (altar) set up in their cave. Reservations, especially when visiting on a weekend, are highly recommended.
The underground restaurant serves contemporary Mexican cuisine in at atmospheric volcanic cave illuminated by candles. The menu is made of traditional Mexican dishes with a modern twist. My panceta (pork belly) with mole sauce was out of this world, and Alberto’s barbacoa lamb meat was divine. Their mezcal cocktails also hit the spot.
Where to Stay near Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan isn’t jam-packed with hotels, because most people come for a day trip from Mexico City. Check out our complete guide on where to stay in Mexico City. For those who prefer to stay near the Teotihuacan pyramids, I’ve put together some recommendations and included a mix suitable for all traveler’s budgets.
Luxury: Lujosa Villa
This place is a private villa, suitable for up to 6 people. It’s ideal if you’re traveling with your family or friends as it has a private pool as well as cable TV. Rates start at around 1950 MXN/US$94 per night. Book here.
Luxury: Hotel y Suites Osdan
This is another apartment that can sleep up to 4 people. They have a fitness center within, a fully equipped kitchen, and car parking spaces. It’s situated close to Avenue Tuxpan for easy access to the pyramids. Rates start at around 20,100 MXN/US$102 per night. Book here!
Mid Range: Hotel Boutique Rancho San Juan Teotihuacan
We stayed at this gorgeous ranch/boutique hotel and loved the green space and country style! It’s a bit outside Teotihuacan but they offer a shuttle to the pyramids. The rooms are nice and spacious with a beautiful garden setting. Rates start at around 1250 MXN/US$60 per night. Book here!
Mid Range: Hotel Palmas Teotihuacán
Roughly 3km from the pyramids, this place is a little bit away from the tourist’s murmurs. It’s got a nice garden for you to catch some sun plus an on-site restaurant and bar. Rates start at around 1450 MXN/US$71 per night. Book here.
Budget: Hotel Fer
This is a simple but still comfortable place to stay. They offer free parking and 24-hour reception as well as being located close to Teotihuacan’s main gate for easy access into the complex. Rates start at around 520MXN/US$25 per night. Book here.
*These are daily rates per room, not per person. Most hotels have rooms ranging from single to quadruple rooms.
What to Pack for Teotihuacan
Throughout Teotihuacan, there is very little shade and it can get very hot. Make sure you pack a hat, lots of water, and light, airy clothes. Otherwise, there are several souvenir shops within the archaeological site that sell hats, sunscreen, and water.
The walking isn’t too difficult as it’s mostly flat. You won’t need hiking boots. I wore my Teva sandals for the whole day and they were fine. Here’s the list of what I packed/wore:
- KEEN Sandals
- Hiking t-shirt
- Hiking shorts
- Lightweight daypack
- Power bank
- Sunscreen – SFP50+ if possible
- Wide-rimmed hat
- Water bottle (2 liters)
Rules at Teotihuacan
During our visit (in November 2021), both the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon were closed for climbing and museums were closed too, due to COVID19. The guards explained that they’d been closed since March 2020 and there’s no update on when they’ll reopen.
It is disappointing not to be able to climb the Mexico City pyramids, but there are still elevated spots from which you can get great views of the site. The lookout point next to the Pyramid of the Moon for instance is an excellent spot.
It goes without saying that you need to be respectful of the site. This is an ancient archaeological site and it’s important to remember that. Make sure you stay within the boundaries and not wander into forbidden areas. Drones are not allowed in the area.
Final Tips for Visiting Teotihuacan
I hope you found this Teotihuacan travel guide helpful and that it has inspired you to visit the Mexico City pyramids.
Here are a few final tips for your trip:
- Arrive just as gates open at 9am to avoid the crowds. Book an early access tour if you want to be the first through its gates!
- Take plenty of water and snacks with you. There are many vendors selling cold drinks in the archaeological site, just make sure the bottled drinks are sealed before opening them.
- Wear sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable shoes – it gets hot!
- You will need cash for the entrance fees, so make sure to bring some Mexican Pesos with you.
- Teotihuacan is full of street vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs. They’re obviously more expensive here than elsewhere, so avoid buying souvenirs here. The vendors are usually not too pushy, just smile and say “no gracias” and walk away.
Thank you for reading this far. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below and I will be happy to reply to any questions you have.
Read my articles on Mexico City below:
- 5-Day Mexico City Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Mexico City
- 22 Best Day Trips from Mexico City
- 30 Best Museums in Mexico City
- Day of the Dead in Mexico City: My 2022 Guide
- Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs
- 30 Mexico Fun Facts
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!
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