This complex of awesome pyramids set amid what was once Mesoamerica’s greatest city is just 50km northeast of Mexico City and is the region’s number-one draw. It’s a huge site that compares in significance to the ruins of the Yucatán and Chiapas. Anyone lucky enough to come here will be inspired by the astonishing technological might of the Teotihuaćan (teh-oh-tee-wah-kahn) civilization.
Set in a mountain-ringed offshoot of the Valle de México, Teotihuacán is known for its two vast pyramids, Pirámide del Sol and Pirámide de la Luna, which dominate the remains of the metropolis. Teotihuacán was Mexico’s biggest ancient city and the capital of what was probably Mexico’s largest pre-Hispanic empire. Exploring the site is fascinating, although rebutting the indefatigable hawkers can be exhausting and crowds can be huge, especially in the middle of the day. As usual, going early pays off, especially as the midday sun can be unbearable when trying to cover the huge site.
The city’s grid plan was plotted in the early part of the 1st century AD, and the Pirámide del Sol was completed – over an earlier cave shrine – by AD 150. The rest of the city was developed between about AD 250 and 600. Social, environmental and economic factors hastened its decline and eventual collapse in the 8th century.
The city was divided into quarters by two great avenues that met near La Ciudadela (the Citadel). One, running roughly north–south, is the famous Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) – so called because the later Aztecs believed the great buildings lining it were vast tombs, built by giants for Teotihuacán’s first rulers. The major structures are typified by a talud-tablero style, in which the rising portions of stepped, pyramid-like buildings consist of both sloping (talud) and upright (tablero) sections. They were often covered in lime and colorfully painted. Most of the city was made up of residential compounds, some of which contained elegant frescoes.
Centuries after its fall, Teotihuacán remained a pilgrimage site for Aztec royalty, who believed that all of the gods had sacrificed themselves here to start the sun moving at the beginning of the ‘fifth world, ’ inhabited by the Aztecs. It remains an important pilgrimage site: thousands of New Age devotees flock here each year to celebrate the vernal equinox and soak up the mystical energies believed to converge here.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
Bags feeling light?
Coffee table looking bare?
Get your guidebooks, travel goods, even individual chapters, right here.
(3 star Hotel)
From US$65.16 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$59.15 per night