The ancient city and pyramids of Teotihuacan is the most popular day trip from Mexico City. Visiting independently is easy, but it’s not about cost savings. It’s about convenience and customization. By skipping Teotihuacan tours, we avoided crowds, skipped souvenir stops, and passed over attractions we didn’t care about.
How to Get to Teotihuacan by Public Transportation
The bus to Teotihuacan is comfortable, fast, and easy! To start, you’ll need to take the Mexico City metro to the Autobuses del Norte station (line 5). The metro runs frequently and is well-signed, so you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating. Once you’ve arrived at the Autobuses del Norte metro stop, follow the signs out of the metro station and across the street to the actual bus station.
Inside the station, head all the way toward the left, to Puerta 8. Here, you’ll find a window selling tickets to “Pyramides” or “Zona Arqueologico”.
The bus to Teotihuacan departs about every twenty minutes starting at 6am and takes an hour or so depending on traffic. The round-trip ticket costs 100 pesos per person, or about $5.00 as of December 2016. Bathrooms are available in the station for 5 pesos and there are snack/fast food shops if you need to grab something. Your outbound ticket will be for a specific, timed departure so don’t miss your bus!
How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a Guide
Buses will drop you off at Puerta 1 at Teotihuacan, where you’ll need to purchase a ticket into the Aztec city. As of December 2016, the entrance fee was 70 pesos and includes entry into the museum. There is an additional charge if you wish to take videos.
We relied on a Wikipedia article for our background context, but if you prefer someone to provide information and answer questions, you can hire a guide. Several licensed guides wait around the entrance; overviews of the site seemed to start around 800 pesos, but expect to haggle based on length of tour, language, size of group, and the guide’s knowledge.
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In a perfect world, you’d be on the 8am bus (or earlier), but as long as you arrive before 10:30, you should have a little bit of breathing room before hoards of Teotihuacan tours arrive.
Make your first stop The Temple of the Sun so you can climb all 248 steep steps before it gets too hot out.
If you’re short on time, there are two more must-see stops before leaving, though if you’ve allotted all day it’s worth exploring the entire site.
The Pyramid of the Moon was my favorite part of Teotihuacan. Although it’s shorter than the Pyramid of the Sun and you can only climb halfway up, you have the added bonus of seeing the entire site. The steps seemed steeper (or maybe I was just a little more tired), but it’s worth the climb, I promise.
The Palace of Quetzlpapalotl doesn’t look like anywhere else in the city. It has ornately carved pillars, obsidian inlays, and beautiful murals, all centered around a gorgeous courtyard. Many of the colors have been preserved; others re-touched.
Where to Eat Lunch Near Teotihuacan
The fact that you can leave the site for lunch and re-enter with your ticket isn’t widely advertised, but it’s a great option. There are some street food options outside Gate 2 (across from Pyramid of the Sun) and one really unique restaurant outside Gate 5 (behind Pyramid of the Sun, follow signs to museum).
La Gruta is a restaurant inside a cave, providing an atmosphere different from anywhere I’ve eaten before! It’s not cheap — expect “American” entree prices of ~$12 — but it’s not outrageously priced either.
And if eating in a cave isn’t exciting enough on its own, you can always order a side of bugs to go with your meal.
To get there, exit Puerta 5 and take a left. Shortly thereafter, take a right onto a side street and you’ll quickly start seeing the black signs pointing you down the long driveway to the restaurant.
Returning to Mexico City
When you’re done exploring Teotihuacan (we spent about five hours, including lunch), exit the ruins at Puerta/Gate 2 and walk through the parking lot to the main road. The bus will pick you up at that main intersection, on the far side of the road. You shouldn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes and if you didn’t originally buy a round-trip ticket, simply pay your fare upon boarding.
The site closes at 5pm but buses will continue running until 6pm or later. The ride back takes slightly longer due to the routing, but it’s still an easy way to get back to the city. The final stop is back at the bus station where you started, or you can get off at Indios Verdes and take the metro from there. Indios Verdes is a busy bus station and can be overwhelming if you’re not used to Latin American buses and navigating your way around, so skip it if you’re not prepared for an adventure!
It’s Okay to Make it Easy & Join Teotihuacan Tours
I liked the ability to plan my own custom trip, but there’s no shame in buying Teotihuacan tours if you’d rather go with a guide and group.
My pick is Urban Adventures’ “Hidden Teotihuacan”, which is a small group tour that still takes you away from the crowds. I haven’t been on this tour specifically since I went on my own, but I’ve traveled with this company before and they are top-notch. Another trustworthy tour is this early-morning visit with a tour guide.
A Few Last Tips for Visiting (With or Without Teotihuacan Tours)
There’s basically no shade at Teotihuacan, so it can get hot quickly. Pack sunscreen and bottled water; you’ll want it.
There are lots of hawkers selling souvenirs like jewelry and small toys throughout the site. Since everyone has basically the same products, don’t be afraid to walk away until you get a price you’re happy with. If you can bargain in Spanish, you’re likely to get a better price.
Don’t go on Sunday if you can avoid it; it’s free admission for Mexican residents and thus is supposed to be extra crowded.
Teotihuacan is an awesome day trip from Mexico City so if you have time, be sure to visit!
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Then check out some of the other activities I liked in Mexico City to plan the rest of your trip.
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