SOCIAL MEDIA

19.5.17

Travel Diary: The Teotihuacán Pyramids, México







The ancient civilisations of the Americas have long enthralled me. Coloured by the traditions of the Olmecs, Aztecs, Toltec, Mayan and several other groups, Mexico occupies a prominent place in my fascination. One of the most influential of these (and second oldest after the Olmecs)  is the Teotihuacán civilisation. At the height of its existence, the Teotihucán boasted the largest city in the ancient Americas, with a population of estimately, 125,000.  The huge populace also meant that the city of Teotihuacán, established around 100 BC, was probably the world's 5th or 6th largest city in its era. An hour or so outside of Mexico City, the remains of this metropolis stand proudly. 

Archaeological findings combined with records made by the Aztec, who settled the area after its initial demise, have brought to light the city's role in the ancient world.  It was both a spiritual mecca and an urban enclave comprised of magnificent pyramids, surrounding temples, multifamily residences and other complexes. The city was founded as a religious centre and perhaps because of this it blossomed. During its eight to nine hundred  years of existence, people from across the ancient Americas journeyed there in pilgrimage, presenting offerings to the priests and gods. Archaeologists have found turquoise brought from further north (regions that now comprise the  southwestern United States), jade from Guatemala and lapis lazuli from Chile for example. Whether for religious or socioeconomic factors, several ethnic groups settled in Teotihuacán, making it a cosmopolitan city. 

 This significance resonated with the Aztecs who rose to power centuries later. The Aztecs asserted shared ancestral lineage with the original inhabitants of  Teotihuacán and claimed the area  as their base. They embraced, modified and celebrated Teotihuacán customs, helping to preserve its precious history. Today, the city has UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site. 

It's my suggestion that if you visit Mexico City, you devote some time to Teotihuacán Pyramids and Site. It's worth the travel time and possible scores of tourists. Here are some  tips for visiting. 


Transportation
The journey to Teotihuacán from Mexico City via the toll highway is about an hour long but it could take longer if there is heavy traffic. There are a few options for reaching the pyramids: 

*Metro/public transportation- at a price of $5.35 US per round trip ticket ($2.67 US for one way) this is the least expensive option but it is also the most arduous.  The buses to Teotihuacán leave every 20 minutes from Terminal Autobuses del Norte. Usually, I don't mind exploring a city by public transportation. This time though, I was just not up to it. Also, my friend was visiting Mexico for the first time so I figured immersing her into the intensity of Mexican Metro travel would not have been the most gentle introduction.


*Tour Bus- Hotels and even hostels tend to offer transportation to the pyramids as a part of guided tour packages. The cost may range between $30 & $40 US. The tour buses are convenient because they plan the itenenary for you but herein lies a tradeoff. Going with a tour group means that you will be confined by a schedule as opposed to taking in the site at your pace. 



*Uber - Generally, Uber in Mexico is quite cheap. My friend and I shared an Uber, which cost $25.75. Of course the cost will vary depending on the distance, whether you're travelling with someone else and the availability of  drivers/cars that day but Uber is a great option.  We also had a super sweet driver named Michel who stayed with us, served as our escort and drove us back to the city. We were tremendously grateful. I'm certain that if we had actually hired a private driver it would have cost us much more.



*Taxi - I can't remember how much the estimate for a taxi was. However, I do remember being told that it would cost significantly more than an Uber. The travel sites/blogs that I've visited confirmed this. I'll update this information when I have an approximate amount.

 Making Your Way In and Around
The entrance cost is  $5US per person. Admission is free for Mexican residents on Sundays so keep this in mind since it would result in more traffic on those days (and holidays). I don't know if there is a lower charge for children and senior citizens. There is a small charge for parking cars on the premises. This would be worth it if you have a driver with you  especially since the park is pretty big. 

As soon as you enter, you will probably be greeted by tour guides trying to persuade you to hire them. I do believe that they are quite knowledgeable and their services are available in English so it would be useful to accompanied by one of them during your visit but if you choose not to, you will probably still enjoy the experience. In fact, you will have the benefit of a guide's knowledge without the constraints of an organised tour.


Take some water and snacks  with you because as I mentioned before the archaeological zone is extensive and you will quite likely spend at least two hours taking it all in. In addition to the water and sandwich I took with me, I also bought some mango right outside the premises. I didn't see any food for sale in the area of the pyramids but I have been told that there is are a few restaurants located near to the park. 

The trek up the pyramids is slightly challenging but anyone in at least decent shape should be able to make it. I managed the hike in sandals (and a dress!) but sneakers or shoes with some grip would be ideal.


Shopping
There will be people around the pyramids selling blankets and knick knacks such as flutes resembling indigenous artifacts. These weren't quite to my taste  though.  They seemed a bit tacky. I wanted  special, handmade goods. Also, be aware that the vendors in this area can be very persistent. Don't make eye contact and politely say "No gracias!" if you're not interested in purchasing. Fortunately, there are two more spots for shopping in the archaeological zone  apart from immediately at the pyramids. 

The first of these is a museum shop. The shop primarily carries jewellery, replicas of  artifacts made from jade, turquoise, obsidian and other semi precious stones. Additionally, they sell tequila, woven textiles and tshirts.  Even though I didn't purchase any thing there, I considered buying some tequila for my father but 30 USD per bottle seemed a bit steep. Perhaps on another trip. Then I may acquire some of the sculpted jade pieces too.


The third spot for finding some souvenirs is at the designated vending stalls area at the exit. There is a wider assortment of goods: Otomi pillow cases, ponchos, ceramic skulls and leather huaraches for example. I most liked the selection here as well as being able to haggle prices with the vendors. 



N.B. The currency conversion rate is  now Mexican 18.71 pesos to 1 US dollar.



Hopefully, this post is helpful to you if you're considering a trip to Mexico  City. Let me know if you have any questions about visiting Teotihuacán?




2 comments :

  1. I travelled to Teotihuacan as a teenager back in 2008 and I still hold those memories very dearly. I love the pictures in this post.

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  2. Oh! Thank you!It was such an impactful experience. What was your impression?

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