Pyramids of the Sun and Moon – Teotihuacan, Mexico




Looking towards the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan

Looking towards the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan

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.

Climbing the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan

Climbing the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan

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.

Looking down from the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan

Looking down from the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan

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.

Queues on the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan

Queues on the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan

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 top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan

On top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan

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.

People sitting on Teotihuacan

People sitting on Teotihuacan

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.

Next time I’ll post the much more spectacular panoramic photos from all round the site




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13 Responses to Pyramids of the Sun and Moon – Teotihuacan, Mexico

  1. gabi klaf June 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    steve, you know i totally understand what you went through. we went waaaay out of our way to see tikal in guatamala 15 years ago and had a horrible time. it is a huge, long, painful story but that is why we didn’t run to machu pitchu, not because it’s not amazing, i bet it is. but because just because ‘everyone’ goes to some attraction, does not mean that your experience will be worth all the cost and trouble to see it right then. i thought all those people looked like some cool spiritual pilgrimage but to think that you have to negotiate all those hours in line, ugh. sorta reduces the magic of it, and increases the heat of it all right? you may find this amazing too. oh, i won’t put a link but if you go to the nomadic family, you can search for ‘ankor wat’ it is funny. gabi

  2. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas June 18, 2013 at 5:03 am #

    How annoying!! I felt this way on the Great Wall and finally gave up trying to get shots without anyone in them.

  3. Jennifer Miller June 18, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Grrr… so sorry it didn’t live up to your expectations. Teotihuacan is one of my all time favourite places… been there many times.

  4. Dale June 19, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    Seeing queues like that and knowing just how people treat UNESCO sites (we’ve read and heard some pretty disgusting tales) is exactly the reason we normally skip over the opportunity to see them.

    On the times we do go to these sites we normally go very off-peak, as early as possible – but even then it doesn’t always work does it?

    • steve June 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Strangely here, late morning is considered the best time. All the independent people get there early and leave for lunch, all the tour groups get there after lunch, so there’s a brief quiet period in the middle of the day. The downside is that you’d be climbing at the hottest time of day.

  5. Larissa June 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    The site looks fantastic, but I agree that the crowds can diminish the experience. I agree with Dale above about going off-peak. Although we’re not “early morning people”, so we tend to go in late afternoon. We did this at the various temples at Angkor Wat and found it worked well. But this may not be the case here, who knows?

    • steve June 19, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

      We couldn’t get there very early, so opted for just before closing in the hope that people would be leaving. That didn’t work too well…

  6. Micki June 20, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    Beautiful site! Thanks so much for the practical tips. They’re very useful info for visitors, and so many travel blogs don’t include tips like that.

  7. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family June 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    This is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. I used to be obsessed with ancient cultures as a kid. Good god, though, the hordes.

  8. Marina K. Villatoro June 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    I was here 12 years ago!!! I totally forgot how amazing they are. We did this as a day trip from DF.

  9. Mary @ Green Global Travel June 22, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    I was very impressed by Teotihuacan and agree with your tip about copious amounts of sunscreen. I got the worst sunburn of my life on the pyramid of the sun- figures right?

    • steve June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      Sorry about the sunburn! It’s a stunning place, and worth a little bit of hardship to see from above

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