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Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Teotihuacan

The ancient city of Teotihuacan is a captivating archaeological site located just outside Mexico City. Steeped in history and mystery, Teotihuacan offers visitors a journey back in time to one of Mesoamerica's most impressive pre-Columbian civilizations. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Teotihuacan.

From its towering pyramids to sacred temples, and its intricate and vibrant murals, Teotihuacan holds a wealth of cultural and historical significance. Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply looking to immerse yourself in the wonders of ancient civilizations, Teotihuacan promises an unforgettable experience.

Join us as we explore the best ways to get to Teotihuacan from Mexico City, learn more about its monumental structures, and uncover some of the beliefs and customs of Teotihuacan's inhabitants at this UNESCO World Heritage site. Whether you're planning your first trip or a return visit, this guide will equip you with all the information you need to have a memorable and enriching adventure at Teotihuacan. So pack your curiosity and let's embark on a journey to this awe-inspiring archaeological wonder.


Teotihuacan: Background Information

Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Basin of Mexico, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of present-day Mexico City. It is one of the most significant and well-preserved archaeological sites in Mexico, renowned for its monumental pyramids, temples, and urban layout.

The city of Teotihuacan dates back to around 400 BC. It reached its peak between 100 AD and 500 AD, becoming one of the largest cities in the world during that time period, with an estimated population over 100,000 inhabitants. At its peak, the city of Teotihuacan encompassed somewhere between eight and 14 square miles (21 to 36 square kilometers).

The layout of Teotihuacan is characterized by its carefully planned urban design, including residential compounds, markets, workshops, and public plazas. The city's infrastructure, such as its advanced drainage and water supply systems, showcase the engineering prowess of its inhabitants. One of the most iconic features of Teotihuacan is the Avenue of the Dead, a central thoroughfare lined with impressive structures such as the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (also known as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl). These two pyramids and temple served as the religious and ceremonial centers of Teotihuacan.

Teotihuacan was also a thriving hub of trade, art, and craftsmanship. Artifacts found at the site indicate a sophisticated economy based on agriculture, trade networks, and specialized production of pottery, obsidian tools, textiles, and other goods. Obsidian, in particular, played a significant role in the civilization of Teotihuacan. 

The region surrounding Teotihuacan is known for its volcanic activity, and obsidian is a natural byproduct of volcanic eruptions. Obsidian is a type of volcanic glass that forms when lava cools rapidly, and it can be found in areas with past or present volcanic activity. Teotihuacan's proximity to sources of obsidian made it a significant center for the production and trade of this valuable material. The inhabitants of Teotihuacan utilized locally sourced obsidian for crafting tools, weapons, ornaments, and religious artifacts. Teotihuacan was a major center for obsidian production and trade, with workshops dedicated to shaping and sculpting this prized material. The presence of obsidian artifacts found at Teotihuacan indicates its importance in the daily life, economy, and religious practices of its ancient inhabitants.

Despite its peak of prosperity and influence, Teotihuacan eventually experienced a decline and was abandoned sometime around the 7th century AD. The exact reasons for this decline are not fully understood and remain subject to scholarly debate. The people of Teotihuacan did not leave behind written records (at least none that survived to the modern era) and the hieroglyphs that have been found at Teotihuacan have yet to be decoded. Proposed theories for the decline and abandonment of Teotihuacan include environmental factors such as drought, internal social and political unrest, external invasions, or a combination of these and other factors. The abandonment of Teotihuacan marked the end of an era, leaving behind a legacy of architectural marvels and cultural significance that continues to fascinate archaeologists, historians, and visitors to this day.

Cross-Cultural Influence of Teotihuacan

The people of Teotihuacan remain somewhat a mystery, as much of their history, social structure, and specific cultural practices are still not fully understood. The name Teotihuacan itself is of Aztec origin. The Aztecs revered Teotihuacan as a sacred place, referring to it as Teotihuacan, which translates to "the birthplace of the gods" in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. This reverence highlights the spiritual importance of the site and its enduring impact on subsequent cultures.

The influence of Teotihuacan extended far beyond its own time and territory, leaving a lasting legacy that resonated in later civilizations such as the Aztecs and Mayans. For example, archaeologists believe that the Aztecs incorporated Teotihuacan's religious symbolism and cosmological beliefs into their own mythology and worldview. The Feathered Serpent deity, associated with the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (also known as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl) at Teotihuacan, was adopted by the Aztecs as Quetzalcoatl, one of their major gods representing wisdom and creation.

Similarly, the Mayans, although geographically distant from Teotihuacan, show signs of cultural exchange and influence with Teotihuacan. The Mayan city of Tikal in present-day Guatemala displays architectural and artistic elements reminiscent of Teotihuacan's style, suggesting trade or cultural connections between these civilizations. There are even theories that suggest Tikal may have been conquered by the Teotihuacan people at one point in its history.

These cross-cultural influences demonstrate the interconnectedness of Mesoamerican societies and the enduring impact of Teotihuacan's legacy. While many aspects of the people who built and inhabited Teotihuacan remain shrouded in mystery, their cultural and religious contributions continue to shape our understanding of ancient Mesoamerica and inspire fascination with this civilization.

Avenue of the Dead_Teotihuacan

Recent Discoveries at Teotihuacan 

Discoveries continue to be made at Teotihuacan that provide greater insight into the architectural and urban aspects of this Mesoamerican civilization, while aspects of its governance, social structure, and eventual decline remain topics of scholarly debate and ongoing research.

One significant and relatively recent discovery at Teotihuacan, first announced in 2017, with subsequent discoveries since, is the system of caves and tunnels found under the Pyramid of the Moon, believed to be similar to the tunnels found underneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (Temple of Quetzalcoatl). These tunnels were detected using advanced imaging technology, such as ground-penetrating radar. The underground network of passages extends beneath the Pyramid of the Moon and is believed to have served various purposes, including religious rituals, ceremonial activities, and possibly even a representation of the underworld as part of the beliefs of the people of Teotihuacan.

While excavations have yet to be conducted, the discovery of these underground spaces has sparked new research initiatives and archaeological investigations to further explore and understand their significance within the context of Teotihuacan's ancient civilization. Overall, Teotihuacan stands as a testament to the ingenuity and cultural achievements of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, offering valuable insights into their history, beliefs, and way of life.

Teotihuacan: Location & Getting There

Teotihuacan is situated northeast of Mexico City, approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the city center. Its close proximity to the capital makes it a popular day trip destination for tourists and locals alike. The archaeological site is easily accessible from Mexico City, with several transportation options available for visitors to reach this ancient city. Depending on traffic, the drive to Teotihuacan from Mexico City may take anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are the most popular choice for visitors looking to see the incredible pyramids of Teotihuacan, particularly those who want a structured and informative experience. Many tour operators in Mexico City offer day trips to Teotihuacan, providing transportation, guided tours of the site, and sometimes additional stops at nearby attractions or artisan markets.

We visited Teotihuacan with a guided tour that provided transportation to and from our hotel in Mexico City. The transportation was comfortable and since we got an early start (pick-up from our hotel was at 6:50am), we were able to beat the morning rush hour traffic and get to Teotihuacan in just under an hour. Our group consisted of 12 individuals, and the tour was conducted in English. Our guide, Jesús, provided us with a wealth of knowledge and expertise on this fascinating Mesoamerican civilization.

We booked our tour via GetYourGuide and could not recommend it enough! We felt that the length of the tour was great as an introduction to Teotihuacan and since we got an early start, we were able to not only beat traffic, but also the afternoon heat. Our tour included transportation to/from Mexico City, admission to Teotihuacan, a guided tour of the archeological site, bottled water, and snacks. Other guided tours of Teotihuacan are available through GetYourGuide, including tours that offer hot air balloon flights over the pyramids of Teotihuacan and tours that couple a visit to Teotihuacan with other popular tourist sites within Mexico City. If you book an experience or tour through our GetYourGuide affiliate links, we may earn a small commission.

Public Buses 

Another common way to get to Teotihuacan from Mexico City is by bus. There are regular buses departing from the Terminal de Autobuses del Norte (North Bus Terminal), which offer convenient and affordable transportation to the archaeological site. The journey typically takes between one to two hours, depending on traffic.

The North Bus Terminal is one of the Mexico City's largest bus terminals. Located near the Metro station of the same name, buses departing for Teotihuacan can be found at "Puerta 8" in the terminal's northern end. You should look for signage labeled "Piramides" (or pyramids in Spanish). Bus tickets typically cost around $52 (MX) each way, and many buses allow you to pay for your return journey at the archaeological site.

After passing through the town of San Juan Teotihuacán, buses will reach the parking and entrance area for the Teotihuacan archeology site. Most buses arrive at "Puerta 2" within the archaeological zone, where return buses also stop. This is where you will want to get off for your visit of Teotihuacan's famous pyramids. Departures are frequent, occurring approximately every 10 to 20 minutes from 6:00am until 6:00pm. Just remember that bus tickets are cash only. 


TuriBus also offers two different bus tours that stop at Teotihuacan - a full-day tour and an express tour. More information, including departure times and dates, as well as prices, can be found on the TuriBus website.


For those who prefer to drive, Teotihuacan can also be reached by car via the Mexico City-Pachuca Highway (also known as Highway 85D). The drive takes between 60 to 90 minutes, making it a feasible option for travelers with their own vehicles or rental cars.


When to Visit Teotihuacan 

Most tours depart from Mexico City to Teotihuacan seven days a week; however, the ideal time to visit Teotihuacan is during weekdays. We visited on a Thursday morning and despite a few groups of school children on field trips, the archeological site was pretty quiet. It is also best to get an early start, not only to beat the traffic in Mexico City, but also to beat the heat.

Teotihuacan is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm, daily (including holidays). 

What to Expect

Teotihuacan was an advanced society with lasting influence across Mesoamerica. Your visit to Teotihuacan will unveil monumental structures, beautiful and vibrant murals, and even advanced drainage systems. While a lot is still unknown about Teotihuacan's inhabitants, Teotihuacan leaves much to be explored.

Must-See Sites

The Teotihuacan archaeological site boasts several must-see attractions for tourists. Below, we've outlined some of the captivating highlights you can expect to see, along with additional details. Please be aware that visitors can no longer climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun or the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan.  

Pyramid of the Sun

The third largest pyramid in the world, the Pyramid of the Sun, is the gem of Teotihuacan. Rising majestically to a height of about 216 feet (66 meters), it practically blends in with the mountain range behind it. Its sheer size and impressive construction reflect the advanced engineering skills of the people of Teotihuacan. In contrast to the pyramids in Egypt, the structures at Teotihuacan are considered temples, believed to have had altars at their summits in ancient times. The pyramids at also Teotihuacan lack tombs and interior rooms. The Pyramid of the Sun's core is made of tightly compacted earth and rubble, covered with layers of adobe bricks and finished with a plaster coating which would have been painted a bright red during its heyday.

Additionally, the precise alignment of the pyramid's sides with cardinal directions and its orientation towards celestial events further demonstrate the people of Teotihuacan's knowledge of astronomy and cosmology. In fact, the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan are in alignment with the Orion's Belt constellation. The Aztecs named the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan due to its connection with solar symbolism and religious beliefs, much like they named the entire site of Teotihuacan. The Pyramid of the Sun's impressive size and strategic placement within the city's layout suggest its importance as a ceremonial center, possibly dedicated to solar deities or cosmic forces related to the sun.

Excavations and studies around the Pyramid of the Sun have revealed various artifacts and offerings that shed light on the rituals and practices of the people of Teotihuacan. Archaeologists have unearthed pottery, sculptures, figurines, obsidian tools, animal bones, and other ceremonial objects near the pyramid, indicating its use for religious ceremonies, possibly including human sacrifices.

Overall, the Pyramid of the Sun stands as a monumental symbol of Teotihuacan's spiritual beliefs, architectural achievements, and cultural richness, offering valuable clues to understanding the civilization that thrived in this ancient city.

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Moon

The second largest structure at Teotihuacan is the Pyramid of the Moon and is located at the northern end of the Avenue of the Dead. It stands at approximately 141 feet (43 meters) tall. 

Similar to the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon played a significant role in ceremonial activities and may have been used for rituals, ceremonies, and offerings. Archaeological excavations around the pyramid have uncovered various artifacts and evidence of ancient rituals, providing valuable insights into the religious practices of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan.

Quetzalpapálotl (Palacio de Quetzalpapálotl)

Quetzalpapálotl, or the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl, is a significant architectural complex located within the Teotihuacan archaeological site. It is named after the Quetzal bird, a symbolic representation of the Feathered Serpent deity, Quetzalcoatl, and a symbol of freedom, goodness, and light in Mesoamerican mythology. 

This palace is characterized by its intricate stone carvings, especially those depicting feathered serpents, which are prominent motifs in Teotihuacan art. Quetzalpapálotl is believed to have been a residential and administrative complex, possibly housing high-ranking officials or priests due to its elaborate decorations and central location within the city.

The architectural style of the palace reflects the Teotihuacan's mastery of stone carving and architectural design, with finely crafted reliefs and sculptures adorning its walls and columns. The presence of Quetzalpapálotl imagery suggests a connection to ritualistic and religious practices, emphasizing themes of transformation, fertility, and spiritual renewal.

The larger Quetzalpapálotl complex, also includes the Jaguar Palace and the Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells (Templo de los Caracoles Emplumados).

Palace of Quetzalpapalotl

Jaguar Palace (Palacio de los Jaguares)

The Jaguar Palace (Palacio de los Jaguares) is a term used to refer to a complex of buildings located near the Pyramid of the Moon at the Teotihuacan. It is also known as the "Jaguar Temple" or "Palace of the Jaguars." This area contains several structures with intricate carvings and murals depicting jaguars, a symbol of power and divinity in Mesoamerican cultures. (Similar to how Europeans used the lion as a symbol of power, strength, and nobility, Mesoamerican societies used jaguars - a species native to Central America). 

The main structure within the Jaguar Palace complex is the Jaguar Temple, which features a courtyard surrounded by columns and platforms adorned with sculptures and reliefs of jaguars. The temple is believed to have been a ceremonial and administrative center, possibly associated with elite or religious activities.

The Jaguar Palace area is notable for its well-preserved architectural elements and artistic decorations, providing valuable insights into the religious beliefs, social structure, and artistic expressions of the ancient Teotihuacanos. The intricate murals depicting jaguars reflect the significance of these powerful creatures in Mesoamerican cosmology and mythology.

Visitors to Teotihuacan can explore the Jaguar Palace complex as part of their journey through the ancient city, gaining a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage and artistic achievements of this remarkable civilization.

Teotihuacan Mural_Jaguar

Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells (Templo de los Caracoles Emplumados) 

The Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells (also known as the Temple of the Feathered Conch Shells or Templo de los Caracoles Emplumados) at Teotihuacan is a subterranean palace or temple located underneath Quetzalpapálotl. Accessed through the Jaguar Palace, the Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells was sealed off from the outside world for hundreds of years before its discovery, leaving beautifully painted and vibrant murals intact. The presence of feathered conch shell motifs suggests a connection to themes of renewal, abundance, and natural elements within Mesoamerican cosmology.

While the Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells is not as widely studied or recognized as some other structures at Teotihuacan, it nevertheless represents an intriguing aspect of the ancient city's religious and artistic expression.

Quetzalpapálotl Palace Mural_Teotihuacan-1

Additional Sites at Teotihuacan 

Avenue of the Dead 

The main thoroughfare in Teotihuacan, the Avenue of the Dead derives its name from the inferences made by archeologists that victims of human sacrifice would have made their way down this road on the way to their death. While the main sites in Teotihuacan are all located off of the Avenue of the Dead, there is another site worth stopping to see along the Avenue of the Dead that may not otherwise be on your must-see list: a vibrant mural of a puma, near the Pyramid of the Sun (shown below). 

Puma Mural_Teotihuacan


The Museum of Teotihuacan, located near the archaeological site, houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that offer insights into the ancient city's history, culture, and archaeological discoveries. Visitors can explore a diverse range of items, including pottery, sculptures, tools, jewelry, murals, and architectural fragments, providing a deeper understanding of Teotihuacan's inhabitants and their way of life. The museum serves as an educational hub that complements the experience of exploring the outdoor ruins, allowing visitors to delve into the fascinating world of this ancient Mesoamerican civilization.

If you are pressed for time at Teotihuacan, we recommend instead visiting the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. They have an extensive collection of artifacts and information on Teotihuacan, including a replica of the exterior of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. 

The Citadel & Temple of the Feathered Serpent

The Citadel (La Ciudadela), is a large enclosed area located at the southern end of the Avenue of the Dead, with the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (Temple of Quetzalcoatl) to its east. A large number of human remains have been unearthed beneath and in the vicinity of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, indicating a grim history of human sacrifices at this site.

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is characterized by its intricate stone carvings and sculptures depicting feathered serpents, skulls, and other symbolic motifs. This temple is one of the most elaborately decorated buildings at Teotihuacan, showcasing the artistic and architectural achievements of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan. (Replicas of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, on display at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, are shown below.)

Temple of the Feathered Serpent_Reconstruction_CDMXTemple of the Feathered Serpent_Reconstruction_Close-Up_CDMX

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is believed to have had profound religious and ceremonial significance, possibly serving as a focal point for rituals, offerings, and worship related to the feathered serpent deity, known as Quetzalcóatl in Aztec mythology.

In 2003, heavy rains caused a sinkhole to form in this area, leading archeologists to discover an extensive tunnel system beneath the Citadel and Temple of the Feathered Serpent. The discovery, along with an extensive collection of artifacts, has lead researchers to believe that the tunnel lead to the underworld in Mesoamerican mythology. 

Note, not all guided tours - including the one we took of Teotihuacan - include the area of the Citadel and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent as they are quite a far walk (approximately 1.8 miles or 2.9 km) from the Pyramid of the Moon. 

Other Things to Consider Before Visiting Teotihuacan 

While you now have some background information on Teotihuacan, here are some additional things to know before visiting this Mesoamerican site. 


Public restrooms are available at Teotihuacan; however, it is important to note that toilet paper may not be provided. During our visit, our tour guide was thoughtful enough to have a roll of toilet paper on hand for our use, but it's best to come prepared with your own supplies just in case.

Sunscreen & Heat

It goes without saying that the sun in Mexico can be scorching. With limited shade and protection from the sun at Teotihuacan, it's essential to pack sunscreen for your visit. We also recommend wearing a hat and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Getting an early start to your visit to Teotihuacan is also hugely beneficial to keep you out of the afternoon heat.


There are lots of vendors selling everything from obsidian pieces to silver jewelry, blankets, and other knick-knacks at Teotihuacan. If you want to purchase something from a vendor at Teotihuacan, do not be afraid to bargain for a better price. If you are on a guided tour, you can ask your tour guide for assistance too. Bargaining is a part of the culture, just remember to remain respectful and be prepared to walk away if you deem the vendor's final price to still be too high. Most of the vendors at Teotihuacan were cash-only, but a few did take credit card.

Obsidian Vendor_Teotihuacan


Teotihuacan is a large archeological site with dusty, dirt footpaths, so we recommend wearing comfortable, closed-toe shoes for your visit. 

Length of Visit

If you are looking to visit Teotihuacan and just see the highlights, plan for 90 minutes to two hours for your visit. This should be a sufficient amount of time to see Quetzalpapálotl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun. The average duration of most guided tours typically falls within this timeframe.

If you want to see more of the archeological site, including the museum and Temple of the Feathered Serpent, you will want to plan to spend at least a half-day at Teotihuacan. 

Our Thoughts on Teotihuacan

Our visit to Teotihuacan was undeniably the highlight of our trip to Mexico City. The archaeological site's sheer scale and historical significance were incredibly captivating, with the majestic Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of the Sun leaving us in awe. The grandeur of these structures is simply breathtaking, far surpassing what any photograph can convey. The detailed and vibrant murals were also an incredible surprise, adding an extra layer of beauty to our exploration of the site. Our experience was further enhanced by our fantastic tour guide, Jesús, who was not only well-informed but also passionate about sharing the rich history and mysteries of Teotihuacan. His insights brought the ancient city to life, making our visit truly unforgettable and leaving us with a deep appreciation for this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site.

Lauren_Brian_Pyramid of the Moon


Visiting Teotihuacan is a captivating journey through time and culture, offering a glimpse into the rich history and mysteries of an ancient Mesoamerican civilization. From the towering pyramids and intricate murals to the fascinating archaeological discoveries and recent findings, Teotihuacan continues to intrigue and inspire visitors from around the world.

Are you visiting Mexico City? Check out our Mexico City Travel Guide for additional information, including top sites, restaurant recommendations, and more. Looking for additional information on Mexico? Check out our Mexico Travel Guide.

Looking to learn more about Teotihuacan? Check out the links below for additional information into this Mesoamerican city. 

Have you visited Teotihuacan? We would love to hear from you!