Contributing Editor: Eddie Gamez
A day trip to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan is a little jaunt through time to one of the earliest civilizations in North America, and is right outside of Mexico City. It’s easily accessible, but about four hours of travel round trip, so an early start is recommended.
The easiest and most expensive way to go is on a tour bus or by taxi. The most interesting route to take however, is the metro (subway). As with any major city, you’ll want to keep your bags close and your wallet in your front pocket. The route can be extremely crowded, making it perfect place to pick pocket foreigners – and they will be able to spot you.
A metro ticket is 5 pesos, or about $0.33 dollars. Check out the metro system map near the entrance and locate the green line. Map out your route to get you to the green line and head towards Indios Verdes. It’s important to move forcefully onto the train, and depending on the hour, be prepared for a tight squeeze. If you’re waiting for a car with an open spot to sit or stand, it may take a while, so just go for it.
As you make your way, you’ll notice vendors everywhere, generally with an aggressive marketing strategy consisting of screaming out the name of their products and presenting them to you in a way that violates the concept of personal space. They sell everything from candy and pirated DVD’s to headphones and battery operated foot massage balls. On the train you continue to see the hustle, common to just about anywhere in Mexico City, or Mexico for that matter. Men walk from train car to train car selling CD’s with music blaring from speakers strapped to their backs. A blind woman walked onto my train car and began to sing, in hopes of earning some change. At another stop a man entered and recited an explanation for his debilitating injury and a plea for assistance so that he could get surgery. There’s so much going on, but the locals don’t even look up, it’s a typical ride on the train.
When you exit at Indios Verdes, find your way to the street side market that lines the road, it will lead you all the way down to an unofficial bus station. You’ll likely have to ask a few friendly faces along the way for help to make sure you’re headed the right direction – as with most adventures, it’s a bit of a “figure it out” situation. At this cluster of white busses, head towards the back and find the ones with signs that identify Teotihuacan. Don’t be surprised at the deteriorated condition of the transportation available or the appearance of the drivers (no shirt, no shoes – not super uncommon).
Choose a bus and jump on, it should cost under 50 pesos. Side note: you can bring beer onto the bus, but beware it’s a little over an hour ride and they don’t stop for bathroom breaks. When you enter, make sure to let the bus driver know you’re getting off at the pyramids. This bus ride is a regular commute for the majority of the passengers and you’ll see various little pueblos along the way, as the driver makes rolling stops for pick up’s and drop offs. Finally, you’ll reach the pyramids.
When you exit the bus, it’s a good idea to check with the driver about the last pick up times. The fee to see the pyramids is about 60 pesos. Once you pay, you can either follow the crowd up to one of the five entrances to the pyramids or find a guide. I recommend finding a guide, because there is a ton to learn about this ancient city, and a guide will make your trip more worthwhile. Guia De Turista Federal is a credible service, cost about 400 pesos, and they will be stationed near the entrance and wear credentials. Though the first stop on the guided tour is a bit of a tourist trap at a local shop, they do teach you about native plants and animals, and have free shots of assorted liquors. You can buy some good quality souvenirs there, however if you don’t want to spend a lot, save your money for the pyramids where locals will be selling knik knaks throughout the park.
The ancient city of Teotihuacan certainly makes an impression, the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon on either side of the remaining ruins, anchor the site on the long sides of the center road called Avenue of the Dead. The city was built over itself several times throughout its existence, as each leader attempted to solidify his legacy.
The ancient civilization existed nearly 500 years before the Aztecs discovered its abandoned remains. You’ll go through the half original, half restored walls of the buildings, then underground to even older parts of the city, where you can still see original paint and sculptures. After touring the ruins, learning the significance of the jaguar, and the gods of rain and fertility, you can climb the Pyramid of the Sun, one of the largest in the world. From the highest accessible level of this pyramid, you get a view directly down Avenue of the Dead, with the ruins on either side of the main road, and the Pyramid of the Moon to east. As I looked down, I imagined the nearly 500,000 people that inhabited this city, all crowding around the center for a ceremonial human sacrifices.
The Pyramid of the Moon is a difficult climb, but definitely worth it. You get to climb to the very top, from which you get a 360 view of the city, country side, and nearby pueblos.
At the end of the trip, we lucked out as our guide had to run a few errands in Mexico City, so we caught a ride with him. Before we took off, we stopped for dinner and drinks at a place called Mansion. The food wasn’t what you might hope for in terms of traditional cooking from people native to the town, but it was still delicious, and it’s a comfortable place to relax with a few beers before the ride home.