The Pyramids of Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán is an ancient Mesoamerican city and an archaeological site about 40 km northeast from Mexico City. It is home to some of the most significant pre-Colombian pyramids in the Americas. Its two largest structures, the Pyramid of the Sun and that of the Moon are no less impressive than the Kukulkan Pyramid of Chichén Itzá. In addition to the pyramids it has a number of temples, ritual platforms, walls and residential buildings.

Teotihuacán’s golden age was in the first half of the 1st millennium CE. It was abandoned somewhere between the 6th and the 8th century CE, and the causes of its fall are still disputed by the historians. The name Teotihuacán was given to this place by Aztecs later on.

Our experience in Teotihuacán was unforgettable mostly due to our excellent tour guide Lynda. Both the content and logistics of the tour were perfect. I highly recommend Lynda and her tour company:

Understand Mexico Customized Tours of Mexico

I am not in any way affiliated or involved with Lynda’s business, and this recommendation is just an honest reference from a happy customer.

We start the tour by entering the site from the southwestern corner, crossing the market plaza and entering so called La Ciudadela, or the Citadel – the area enclosed by what remains of its original walls and temples. It used to be the “downtown” – the political and religious center of the City. The most prominent structure in the La Ciudadela is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, or the Feathered Serpent – a god related to Kukulkan of the Maya. The Temple of Quetzalcoatl is the 3rd largest pyramid in Teotihuacán (and it’s way smaller then the 2nd largest one).

From La Ciudadela we have a view of the two large pyramids far on our left: Pyramid of the Sun (right) and Pyramid of the Moon:


The Temple of Quetzalcoatl in La Ciudadela is partially destroyed but still retains its pyramidal shape and features a few serpent heads alongs the main staircase:


Now we return back to the Avenue of the Dead – a long and wide walkway stretching in the north-south direction, and turn right (north). In a few minutes we are in the front of the Pyramid of the Sun – the highlight of the tour.

Pyramid of the Sun – a view from the Avenue of the Dead:


The stairs lead all the way to the top of the Pyramid. It is more than 60m or 215 ft tall, about the height of a 25 story building. The pyramid consists of 4 pyramidal slices one on the top of another, and there is a flat terrace at the top of each of them. Keep in mind that one has to climb these stairs at the elevation about 2200m or 7400 ft above the sea level (way higher than Lake Tahoe), so those not used to hiking at higher altitude  might need to catch their breath at those terraces. The stairs are steep and tall.

After a few minutes of climbing we find ourselves on a rough but walkable top of the structure with spectacular 360 degree views. It can be pretty crowded up there, so taking a picture unobstructed by other visitors can be tricky.

View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Moon from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun:


We make our way to the edge of the roof and here’s the same view to the north, without the tourists:


And one more Pyramid of the Moon from the same view point, this time with all 105 mm of the zoom.


Enough of the Pyramid of the Moon for now, this is the view from the Pyramid of the Sun to the west, overlooking the Avenue of the Dead:


Now we take the stairs down to the base of the Pyramid. This is a good moment to look at the texture of its walls:


Then we turn south and walk around the Pyramid in a counterclockwise way. Our destination is the Teotihuacán Museum that has lots of archaeological artifacts from the surrounding areas. The museum also features the Teotihuacán Diorama – a model of the whole city about 10 x 10 meters (30 x 30 ft) large, located in a huge hall with a glass wall providing yet another view of the Pyramid of the Sun:


Now let’s head north on the Avenue of the Dead toward the Pyramid of the Moon – it’s less than a 10 minute walk:


As we get closer to it we see that the Pyramid of the Moon is quite an  imposing structure. Unfortunately its main staircase does not go all the way up to the top:


We are not going to climb this one but will rather check out the residential neighborhood next to the Pyramid. There are several well restored buildings, with frescoes on the walls and spacious courtyards, like that of the Palacio de Quetzalpapalotl:


We now get onto the top of a stone platform to get the final views of both pyramids before we head out.

This is the Alley of the Dead and Pyramid of the Sun as seen from that platform. Look at the silhouette of the righthand slope of the Pyramid, and then note the silhouette of the mountain slope in the center of the picture. It looks like the mountain served as the model for the Pyramid:


Now, the last look at the Pyramid of the Moon. The square in front of it is so huge it looks almost deserted, even on a Sunday afternoon:


After all that climbing and walking we got hungry and thirsty and it’s time to have lunch. Luckily there are plenty of restaurants around, and we’re heading to La Gruta, or  The Cave – an underground (in the literal sense) restaurant inside a large cave. The food and the beer was very much to our liking, but the main highlight was the folk dance performance by groups of  dancers from various provinces of the country. Below, the dancers from the state or Veracruz performing in La Gruta in their traditional white clothes:


Related posts: Mexico City in Pictures
Related galleries: Teotihuacán, Mexico City

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