by Tyler Black
This is part three of my Mexico City series. Check out parts one and two!
My first two days in Mexico City were fascinating! I was able to see and learn so much about this humongous and vivacious city. But now it was time to get out of town and discover something of Mexico’s ancient past at the Teotihuacán pyramids. And what I found was more incredible than I was expecting!
Day 3 – Teotihuacan
I was up at the crack of dawn Monday morning ready for my first excursion of the trip: Teotihuacan. This tour was operated by Amigo Tours, one of the best tour companies in Mexico. I highly recommend them! They picked up a bunch of us outside of Hostal Amigo, which was thankfully only a couple of blocks from my hostel, Casa Pepe. The only downside I noticed about the touring company, though, was how many people they tried to stuff onto the tour bus. Finding a place to sit was almost impossible. Some people had their belongings on open seats and were reluctant to move them. Being able to speak Spanish, I was fortunate enough to convince one guy to move his stuff for me, however, other people weren’t so lucky.
We set off on our hour-and-a-half ride, only stopping once at a gas station along the way for some breakfast and water. Along the way, our guides Leonardo and Tito explained how the tour was going to go and what we should expect. They spoke English really well so it was easy to follow along. As we pulled up to the site, I immediately noticed hot air balloons hovering around. I became really envious of the people who were able to get a view of the pyramids while enjoying the sunrise. If I ever go back, that’s exactly what I’m doing for sure.
Starting the Tour
After we stepped off the bus, they split us into English and Spanish speakers. We shuffled through the entrance to get to the site. Along the way, store owners were trying to get us to buy sombreros from their shops at the main entrance. What’s up with all these hat salesmen in Mexico? Do you think I bought one? No. Should I have? Absolutely. This would be the second day in a row I’d have the sun beating on my face. This was my second chance to save myself from embarrassment and I blew it.
Anyway, we made our way into the absolutely enormous site. We could barely make out the sun and moon pyramids in the distance. I was already dreading the walk there. Before checking out some of the smaller pyramids near the entrance, our guide, Leonardo, took a couple of minutes to explain the region to us. I learned something right out the gate. An unknown Mesoamerican civilization settled these lands; one that predated the Aztecs. I was unaware of that. I always thought that the Aztecs constructed these pyramids. It was an interesting tidbit to start the tour.
Visiting the Teotihuacán Pyramids Site
Leonardo took us to the first pyramid, which was much smaller than the sun and moon pyramids. It was just a warm-up for what was about to come. We all climbed the stairs to the top and enjoyed our first nice view of the morning. And when I say climbed, I literally mean climbed. The stairs were practically vertical and only like four inches deep. My giant men’s-size-13 feet barely fit on each step. I had to scale the pyramid sideways. Luckily, I didn’t take a tumble. After taking some pictures, we descended the other side of the pyramid. Fortunately, there weren’t as many steps because another pyramid was connected to this one. We were all able to sit while Leonardo explained more about the structures and their designs.
This new pyramid, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, was very impressive to look at as it had giant stone jaguar heads and stone serpents scattered about the facade. During its creation, the Mesoamericans decorated the pyramid in reds and blues, possibly symbols of war. Unfortunately, over time, the paint faded due to the elements. Leonardo also explained that there were many smaller temples within this one, kind of like a Russian matryoshka doll. It was crazy to think about how this primitive civilization was able to construct such complex structures. I can’t even build a bookshelf from Ikea.
The Sun Pyramid
We then started the long walk towards the sun and moon pyramids. Along the way, we passed some vendors selling some really cool trinkets like jaguar and eagle whistles. The eagle whistle actually caught my interest because it was so loud and sounded so real. I didn’t buy one in Teotihuacan unfortunately, but I did find one in Mexico City a few days later. As we continued along the dirt path, Leonardo continued to explain more about the region. However, I was too mesmerized by the mountainous landscape surrounding us to really pay any attention to him.
After what seemed like a marathon and a half, we finally reached the largest of the pyramids, the sun pyramid. And boy was it an impressive sight. I felt like a tiny ant standing next to this gigantic structure. Leo gave us about an hour to climb to the top so I hastily made my way up these, once again, steep, narrow stairs. Thankfully, there were stops along the climb to rest because only an Olympic mountain climber could tackle these bad boys in one fell swoop. Eventually, I made it to the top and I met a jaw-dropping view of the entire region. And a dog. How a dog got up there, I’ll never understand. I continue to believe it was a Mesoamerican ghost dog because no normal hound would ever consider taking that vertical journey.
The Moon Pyramid
I sat along the edge of the sun pyramid for a good forty minutes taking in all the sights and imagining what the civilization must have looked like at its peak. The moon pyramid was easily visible in the distance and I was looking forward to checking it out next. After being harassed by that damn ghost dog, I made my way back down the pyramid. This time, it was significantly more difficult than going up since my legs were now Jell-o. Plus I’m tall and clumsy. But alas, I survived again and headed over to the moon pyramid with the group.
Along the way, we passed some structures that had paintings still preserved from the mesoamerican tribe while at the Teotihuacán pyramids. The most prominent piece was that of a jaguar. It made me wonder if jaguars were common in the area and if I should be concerned or not. We finally reached the moon pyramid and marched up the stairs again. Luckily this pyramid was a lot smaller than the sun pyramid so I didn’t struggle too much. At the top, I was met with one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever witnessed. One thing that fascinated me was how the edge of the sun pyramid mirrored the silhouette of the mountains in the distance!
Thank you for reading part three of my trip to Mexico City! Stay tuned for part four where I hike the dormant Iztaccihuatl volcano.
16 thoughts on “My Excursion to the Teotihuacán Pyramids”
The pyramids are fascinating to me. The fact that they were built with so little and look so amazing is crazy. Must be a great workout climbing all those stairs but the payoff of the view form the top seems well worth it. Great pictures.
Definitely got my cardio in for the rest of the week!
I’d love to go to the moon pyramid. I thought all of these sounded very interesting. Exploring these pyramids looks like so much fun. It looks like you had a great time during your visit, and that is always a great thing!
I had an amazing time! The moon pyramid, although smaller, definitely provides the best view of the entire site!
I would love to visit the Teotihuacan Pyramids one day to admire both the skill of their construction as well as the beautiful natural setting that surrounds this large and impressive sight. The only thing I can compared to these are the mighty pyramids at the Giza Plateau in Egypt, that I visited recently, and where people were more interested in going within the tunnels inside, more so than trying to climb to the very top. Although there are obviously major differences, this post has really made me want to see these in Mexico. Your photos here are just wonderful in showing the scale of the complex.
I couldn’t recommend seeing these pyramids enough! Bring your hiking boots haha! Thanks for reading 🙂
Wow – the stone carvings are impressive. It makes me wonder what tools they used and how long it took.
One of the more impressive sites I’ve seen! Thanks for reading!
Nice write-up, we did this site last year and I was the same as you…why do I need a hat? I took the advice of our guide and spent the few bucks and was happy I did. We’ve done many Mayan sites in Mexico but this one was truly unique and amazing. We just got home, having to leave Mexico because of the virus and missed Mexico City. Travel on, Amigo!
Sad to hear you had to leave because of the virus! Hopefully this all ends quickly and you can go back! Glad to hear I’m not that only one who questioned wearing a hat haha I’ll have to take your advice and buy one next time. Thanks for reading!
I was kind of excited when I saw this post because I visited here in 1986! Yes, it was ages ago. Right after the earthquake! So much was gone. However, as I read through your post and looked at the pictures I actually can’t remember much at all. The only thing that sticks out in my head was the friends I made on the bus going there and the starving dogs that I tried to feed hot dogs to. It never occurred to me that they were so hungry that they would almost bite my hand off trying to get to the food. It’s weird, but that is all I remember. Though, when you mentioned the steep climb of the steps I had a slight flash of these very narrow bumpy steps. But that’s it.
This sounds like such an incredible experience and your pictures look amazing! I have such a fascination in all things historical, which is why I can’t get enough of sites like this. Thank you for sharing!
Oh, no! Your part three ended too soon! I was reading with such an interest! I haven’t been to Teotihuacan pyramids; we ended our car trip from Cancun in Mexico City – didn’t have time to explore the surrounding, only the city itself. But, we’ve visited many other pyramids, including Tulum and Chichén-Itzá. Your story brought back such wonderful memories!
Mesoamerica is a geographical region. The Toltec was the culture preceding Aztecs in the modern Mexico City area of Mesoamerica.
Thank you for the wonderful read and fantastic pictures! I look forward to reading your part four.
I love visiting places like this and wondering what life looked like for the people who built these amazing pyramids. They’ve created something that clearly stands the test of time, yet the materials seem so primitive compared to what architects use today. I’m looking forward to reading the next part in the series, as this one seemed to end far too soon.
wow! looks absolutely dreamy! So beautiful! I dream to visit it one day and I know I will
Pyramids have always fascinated me for not only their looks but also the know how of the days when they were built. The visit to Sun and Moon pyramids would both be a great experience in addition to the thrills of climbing and the views.Look forward to more in this series.