Last time I was in Mexico I stayed in and around the Yucatan peninsula before heading south to Central America. This time we were coming from Texas so started in Mexico City, so could visit the surrounding sites, including one that I’d been keen to see for years.
A lot of people ask what my most disappointing tourist moment was, and I stick with the Egyptian Pyramids as they’re so much smaller than I’d imagined as a child. They’re not that small, but I’d always imagined mountain sized constructions. This combined with the close proximity of Cairo in one direction and a Pizza Hut in the other made it just not live up to the decades of expectations.
Teotihuacan is one of those huge sites that ranks alongside natural wonders like Iguassu Falls or the White Desert of Egypt that allows you to stand in any spot, look in any direction and be completely immersed in the spectacle.
There are two main pyramids, linked by a path flanked with yet more small stepped pyramids.
The smaller of the two main ones is the Temple of the Moon. Unlike so many other pyramid complexes throughout the world it’s still possible to climb here. The top of the Temple of the Moon is reach by a short but very steep flight of steps. It’s a brief climb, but enough to get the heart pumping and the legs shaking.
From the top it’s possible to look right down the central avenue towards the largest pyramid, the Temple of the Sun. Just as enjoyable as taking in the view is coolly standing at the top of the steps watching younger, fitter looking people with shorter legs arriving at the top with their tongues lolling out and dripping sweat.
Teotihuacan Visitor Tips
There’s little shade, so take plenty of sun protection.
None of the hawkers there offered food or drink, so bring enough for the day or visit one of the restaurants nearby and be herded through rooms of souvenirs.
The reality of visiting Teotihuacan
There are queues to go up the pyramid steps; there are queues to go down the pyramid steps. On the Pyramid of the Sun there are doubled up queues all the way round every level.
If it were quiet a healthy person could rush round the whole site in half an hour. With the queues we spent nearly three hours there, much to the annoyance of our guide. If he’d got us there earlier it wouldn’t have been a problem, but more on that next time.
Whilst a straight climb up the Pyramid of the Sun would probably only take 15 minutes, including a couple of rest stops, allow at least a couple of hours to negotiate the queues. It might look a tough climb, but the shallower steps and long queues make it quite a laid back ascent. It would be more laid back if the hawkers didn’t sell llama distress signal noise makers – standing in a queue listening to endless llama screams isn’t ideal…
On a positive note, unlike a recent visit to Jiuzhaigou in China, the crowds are entirely orderly and no-one tried to jump the queues. At the same time, there are few restrictions on where people can go – I wonder how much damage all those feet and picnics are doing to the UNESCO protected site.
Despite all this, I’m glad I finally go to see Teotihuacan. Along with the temples of Bagan it’s a real highlight of my recent travels.