Teotihuacán has been captivating people for many years. The vast settlement with its stepped pyramids, temples and platforms lining a central ‘avenue of the dead’ so impressed the Aztecs they named it the place where gods were created. We are still intrigued, and archaeologists continue to debate who built this ancient city. Not surprisingly then, at only 50km northeast of Mexico City Teotihuacán is the most visited site in Mexico. The journey out to the archaeological site only takes about an hour, and can be done using public or private transport, but many opt for a day-trip. Whatever your preference, we provide all the necessary information you need to visit Teotihuacán.
The information on this page was last checked and/or updated on 17 November 2020.
Temple of the Moon, the second largest pyramid at Teotihuacán. The profile of the pyramid copies the profile of Cerro Gordo Mountain north of the site.
Teotihuacan is one of the finest archaeological sites of pre-Columbian Mexico. Built between the 1st and 7th centuries AD, in its time it was one of the largest cities in the Americas, home to at least 25,000 people. At the heart of the city arose a complex ceremonial and civic centre replete with ornate stone palaces and dramatic pyramids. Today, the square mile around this centre is preserved as the Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacan – the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone.
There is still much that remains a mystery about the people who built and lived at Teotihuacan. They were clearly a powerful society that exerted an influence across a wide area of Mesoamerica. Many archaeologists believe that as a major urban centre, the city would have been home to a range of ethnic and linguistic groups. After a serious fire in the 7th century, the city centre was largely abandoned. As it began to fall into the realms of legend, it was the later Aztec people who gave the ruined city the name of “Teotihuacan,” which in their Nahuatl language meant “the place where the gods were created.”
Antiquarians and then archaeologists began exploring the ancient city from the 19th century onward, revealing more about its fascinating history. Reflecting its importance not just for Mexico but internationally, Teotihuacan is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Teotihuacán closed for several months in 2020 but is now open to visitors once again, with only limited restrictions introduced that help keep visitors safe.
Temple of the Moon with the ceremonial plaza in front of it, taken from the top of the Temple of the Sun.
Where is Teotihuacán?
Teotihuacán is only 40 kilometres, or 25 miles, northeast of Mexico City. The Teotihuacán Archaeological Zone is in the town of San Juan Teotihuacán, which is in the federal state of Mexico State (Central Mexico). There are a number of highly rated hotels (for a list and to book, see Booking.com) in the town, to suit all budgets. Some of these are within walking distance of the archaeological site, perfect if you want to get to get an early start at the ruins to beat the crowds and the heat.
How to Get to Teotihuacán?
One option is to hire a car in the city and drive there, taking Highway 85D and following the signs to San Juan Teotihuacán. Traffic permitting, this journey takes about an hour, passing through impressive scenery. Part of the journey is a toll road, so have your change ready. There are several parking areas around the Zone itself, the use of which costs a small fee.
Buses to San Juan Teotihuacán are also available from Mexico City’s north bus terminal (terminal del norte). Tickets are cheap, making this a good option for travellers on a tight budget. However, be aware that return bus journeys to Mexico City stop in the early evening. Taxi services from the city to the site, including Uber, are also an option.
There are a number of small group tours that start in Mexico City and travel to Teotihuacán and back. One that stands out from the rest is a small group tour that starts at 14h00 in Mexico City and is time to see sunset at the site. More details and book online here >>
There are also many tours that combine a trip to Teotihuacán with another popular attractions, including a scheduled stop for lunch. These are ideal for those who want to minimise fuss but not for those who want to explore Teotihuacán independently. A popular choice is to combine Teotihuacán with the Toltec capital of Tula.
Buying Tickets for Teotihuacán
Entry is free for certain groups of Mexican citizens, including children under the age of 13, individuals over the age of 60, students and teachers.
Tickets can be purchased at the multiple entrance gates to the Zone. Your ticket allows you to leave and re-enter during the same day, so you can go out of the archaeological zone for a break or lunch and then return.
Skip-the-line tickets for Teotihuacán are available, and can be purchased online in advance via the Tiqets website. This ticket includes free parking, which is ideal if you are making your own way by car to Teotihuacán.
Please Note: to be able to cancel your ticket and get a refund, you are required to pay a further 12% up front.
The view from the top of the Temple of the Moon over the ceremonial plaza and down the Avenue of the Dead with the Temple of the Sun on the left. When Teotihuacán was inhabited, the Avenue of the Dead ran for about 2.5kms, and is about 40 metres wide.
When is the Best Time to Visit Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacan is best visited at opening time, around 9am, before crowds begin to build up in the late morning and afternoon. Visiting at this time also allows you to take advantage of the cooler weather.
Visitors from abroad should also avoid Sundays, the day on which the archaeological zone is often more crowded than normal because entry is then free for locals. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are generally the least busy days.
A visit to Teotihuacan usually takes between two and three hours, although keen archaeological explorers could spend longer, particularly if they stop for lunch.
Tunnels into the pyramid revealed that the pyramid we climb today is the last of six pyramids, each one built over its predecessor.
What Should I Expect?
At present, there are specific routes around Teotihuacan which visitors are asked to follow. Signage is in both Spanish and English. There is a small, air-conditioned museum at the site which showcases artefacts recovered during excavations. Entry to the museum is included in the general fee.
As with other major heritage sites in Mexico, Teotihuacan sees large numbers of vendors trying to sell souvenir memorabilia. They can be pushy and cause much noise with their jaguar whistles, so be prepared for this potential annoyance.
Toilets are available near the entrance points around the Zone. Some visitors have found an absence of toilet paper, so packing tissues is a good idea. There are also various restaurants and food stalls around the exterior of the archaeological site. One of the most popular local eateries is La Gruta, noted for being located inside a cave.
Lined with temple platforms, the Avenue of the Dead is so named because it is thought to have been paved with tombs.
What Should I Take?
As Teotihuacan is largely outdoors and exposed to the elements, you need to prepare for a day under the Mexican sun. Be aware that temperatures at the site are usually higher than in nearby Mexico City. A sun hat, sun lotion, and sunglasses are advisable, with plenty of water being a must. It is also a good idea to take some food, although eateries are available outside the archaeological site. Check the forecast beforehand as the area does experience rainy and windy days – in which case a poncho and umbrella are recommended.
Although some visitors choose to wear flip-flops due to the heat, sturdy shoes that you can walk around in all day are better. In past year, visitors have been able to climb several of the main pyramids, although this is not possible at present. It is unclear when it will be reinstated. Other pyramid sites in Mexico have permanently banned visitors from climbing their stone structures.
The dramatic structures at Teotihuacan are great for photographers, so do not forget your camera! Photography is also permitted in the on-site museum, although flash is prohibited in certain areas to protect the artworks on display. Those wanting to use electronic video recording equipment in the Zone must purchase a permit. As of 2019 this cost 45 pesos (approximately US$2.11, €1.80, or £1.63) although this cost is prone to rise. There are additional restrictions on the use of tripods and some professional-level photographic equipment.
Visitors can learn more about the site in the museum, although keen archaeological explorers may want to obtain a book about the site prior to their arrival. Private tour guides can also be booked in advance or hired at one of the entrances to the Zone.
What Not to Miss
Running through the site is the Avenue of the Dead, a long straight pathway that reflects the carefully planned nature of this ancient city. Perhaps the most famous part of Teotihuacan is the Pyramid of the Sun. Located in front of gate two, this is the largest structure in the Zone and is a dominant feature of the local landscape. Also a must-see is the nearby Pyramid of the Moon and the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl with its intricate carvings inside the inner courtyard.
Crowds climbing to the top of the Temple of the Sun, the largest structure at Teotihuacán and one of the largest in the Mesoamerica cultural region. It is the third largest pyramid in the world, a little over half the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt.
Temple of the Feathered Serpent, showing the alternating Tlaloc and feathered serpent heads.
A close up of the head of the feathered serpent.
What Else is There to See Near Teotihuacán?
Some visitors like to combine their trip to Teotihuacan with a visit to historic sites in Mexico City itself. One popular attraction for archaeological explorers is Tlatelolco, the remains of another pre-Columbian city-state that is partially excavated. Another important pre-Columbian site in Mexico City is the Templo Mayor, a major religious structure during the Postclassical period.
For those with an interest in more recent history, the Guadalupe Shrine is part of a Roman Catholic church dating from the 18th century. It houses a famous relic associated with the Virgin of Guadalupe that continues to attract many pilgrims in this deeply religious country.
Teotihuacan Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Tours
The best way to experience the ancient city of Teotihuacan – from above. Floating above the pyramids and the avenue of the dead in a hot air balloon will give you a view of the ruined city few others have.
Walking about the extraordinary site of Teotihuacán is one thing. To float above the pyramids and the Avenue of the Dead during a hot air balloon ride is something else altogether.
There are a number of different options to choose from, and the price varies quite considerably. So when choosing a company check and compare what is included and what is not. For example, if you are staying in Mexico City and want to be picked up at your hotel, you need to ensure that hotel pickups are included in the service and price. If you are staying in San Juan Teotihuacán and do not need a pick up service, and do not want to go into the archaeological site after your balloon ride, a balloon ride without pickup and entry tickets is what you need.
These are some of the options:
Visiting the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone
The site is open everyday throughout the year, from 09h00 to 17h00. Last entry is at 15h00.
Standard Entry Fee: 80 Mexican Pesos
Individuals who prove residence in Mexico are exempt from these payments on Sundays.
There are five gates, each with a ticket office to pay for entry. Each gate has parking facilities (for which there is an extra charge), and all but Gate 4 has toilet facilities. There is a bookshop at Gate 5, where you can purchase books about the site as well as tourist guides.
Accessibility at Teotihuacán
Provisions is made for wheelchair users throughout the site, where possible. There is reserved parking at Gates 2, 3 and 5 for visitors with disabilities. Specifically, at Gate 3 there are ramps and walkways for visitors with mobility difficulties or who use wheelchairs.