Headed to Mexico? Whether you're going for a week long visit or are planning a rad vacation in middle of your semester abroad with ILP, you'll have to visit Teotihuacan.
To be honest, we're pretty much smitten with Mexico — this country seems to have it all. Unreal beaches, tacos everywhere (and other amazing food), baby sea turtles you can release into the ocean, a long history, a culture you'll miss when you're back home, plus some jaw-dropping ruins.
Ready to see all this and more?
Our Mexico Destination Guide is here for you.
We know there are dozens of vacation places to choose from in this country, but there's one must see spot in Mexico that ILP volunteers love. Come visit the City of the Gods, AKA the famous ruins of Teotihuacan.
One volunteer even said this — "Originally what I wanted to see the most in Mexico was Chichén Itzá. You know, THE WORLD WONDER. But honestly, Teotihuacan was my favorite of the two. Highly underrated. If you have to pick between the two, I say pick Teotihuacan". We're in!
To help you out, we've put together a little history and top travel tips from alumni to make your trip a success.
- What Are These Ruins?
- Favorite Things About Teotihuacan
- Ticket Prices And Hours
- Getting Here
- Helpful Tips
What Are These Ruins?
They are only the most visited archaeological site in Mexico, but if you want a few more details — Teotihuacan is about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, so a fairly easy day trip if you’re already in the area. Its name means "City of the Gods" or "Birthplace of the Gods" because the Aztecs believed the Gods created the universe in this very spot. The city was thought to be built around 100 BC and continued to be built until 250 AD (wow).
The ancient city was a center for culture and home to potters, jewelers and craftsmen (you can find lots of obsidian sold as souvenirs there today) until the city was burned in the 7th or 8th century. It's still unclear whether the entire city was attacked by outsiders or a possible uprising from those inside the city. Now, the site’s been turned into one of the most impressive ruins in all of Mexico and is still surprising archeologists who are studying the area.
Favorite Things About Teotihuacan
+ The Sun And Moon Pyramids
The most famous things to see in Teotihuacan, and for good reasons. Teotihuacan is unique in a lot of ways, but one is the fact that you can climb the pyramids which isn’t something you can do when visiting other ruins in Mexico. The Sun Pyramid is h-u-g-e: it’s one of the largest pyramids in the entire world, and you can climb to the top. It’s about 250 steps but the views are amazing — from here, you can see the whole ancient complex spilling out below you. It’s pretty wild to think of how this pyramid was built thousands of years ago without the modern tools we have today.
The Pyramid of the Moon is equally impressive. You can also climb to the top if you’re up for more stairs, but doing just that will give you a spectacular view of the Avenue of the Dead.
+ The Avenue Of The Dead
This avenue connects the Citadel to the Moon Pyramid and is over a mile long and is named because the Aztecs supposedly thought the mounds on the sides of the road looked like tombs (don’t’ worry, they aren’t).
+ Temple of Quetzalcoatl
Another impressive pyramid, this structure is covered with detailed carvings of a feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. Under this temple, archaeologists also discovered that there were hundreds of religiously significant burials that may have been sacrificed to the ancient god.
+ The Museum
Your ticket price includes access to the museum, so why not stop by? Get a break from the sunshine and see a whole model of the park so you can get a bird’s eye view, admire some artifacts pulled straight from these pyramids, plus read a little bit about the people who used to live here.
Ticket Prices And Hours
It costs 80 pesos to enter which, like we mentioned before, includes the entrance to the museum.
It’s open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily.
Some visitors have had luck getting there at 8:00 AM or earlier and were able to still get a ticket, but of course that's hard to predict. And just as a head’s up, it’s free to visit on Sundays for Mexican citizens so it tends to be really crowded that day.
From Mexico City
The ruins are just about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, making it a popular day trip for tourists who are coming from the busy capital.
For ILP Volunteers
It really depends on where you're coming from! It works great as a day trip if you're close enough (especially around areas like Pachuca). Some groups have arranged transportation with their Local Coordinator if it's going to be more of an over-nighter or tacked onto another trip just while you're in Mexico City.
When To Visit
This is definitely a day trip thing, and if possible volunteers recommend visiting in the morning. It’s less crowded plus the entire complex is in straight sun, so visiting earlier in the day will mean lower temperatures. If you can swing it, visit early.
Explore The Ruins On Your Own VS Hiring A guide
Like many historical sites, it's possible to hire an English-speaking guide if you'd like to. Expect to pay around 850 pesos for about a 1.5 hour tour (but know that you may be able to haggle down the price as well). A guide can be really helpful to help explain the significance of the ruins you're seeing.
Many ILP volunteers say they opted to not get a guide though and were happy with that. The site is easy to explore on your own, but know that there's also an onsite museum that you can visit first and learn a bit before you head out to see the pyramids in person.
What To Pack
Our volunteers suggest packing up plenty of water plus some snacks. There are a handful of restaurants within walking distance of the pyramids (look up Restaurante Techinanco or Restaurante el Jaguar) if you have time and don’t mind waiting. There are also some food vendors where you buy your tickets, but not so much once you get to the actual ruins.
Also, pack up sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Wear lightweight clothes and comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to be outside all day. You'll be in direct line of the sun without any cover if it's a cloud-free day.
Be Sure To Bargain Down
You'll find lots of popular souvenirs sold here (thanks to all the tourists who visit) but be sure to bargain down the price. Expect to find things like silver jewelry, obsidian shards and jewelry, colorfully woven blankets, bracelets, wallets, headbands, bags, shirts, and more.
Did you get all of that?
Keep an eye out for any Mexico posts on our Instagram @ilpadventure (our volunteers love visiting places like Valladolid and Puerto Escondido along with a a few more favorite spots). Or, get info on what a semester is like here with International Language Programs.