How To Plan a Day Trip To The Pyramids
Every visitor to Mexico City should take a day trip to the famous Pyramids of Teotihuacán, and in this post I’ll share how you can do it affordably without any confusion or stress! I just visited the pyramids for the third time, and the process hasn’t changed since my first journey there in January of 2018, so I’m hoping that this guide will remain accurate and relevant throughout 2019 and beyond!
What are the pyramids, and why should you visit them?
The pyramids are a large archaeological site located on the northeastern outskirts of Mexico City. Surprisingly, archeologists aren’t sure who built these incredible structures, but some think they were built by the Toltecs. They were built somewhere between 100 and 500 CE, although they were discovered by the Aztecs some hundreds of years later. Read more about their history here.
The most prominent structures are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, both of which can be climbed by visitors in the current day. There are also a bunch of other smaller pyramids which line a huge central road running north to south, and the site is also home to a museum.
Since it only requires a day trip, every visitor to Mexico City should go check out this incredible ancient wonder. Regrettably, I missed the pyramids on my first trip to Mexico in the fall of 2017, so I came back in January of 2018 to see them before moving here in July of the same year. The sheer size of these pyramids will leave you in awe, and the view from the top is pretty incredible!
Getting to the pyramids by bus
The easiest and most affordable way to visit the pyramids is by coach bus. The bus station you’ll be departing from and returning to is called Autobuses del Norte and is located on the northern side of Mexico City, here. Take an Uber to the bus station, and once you enter the terminal, walk all the way down the main hall to the left, where you’ll see Sala (Gate) No. 8. The booth you’re looking for looks like this:
As of January 2019, round trip tickets cost 104 pesos (about 5 USD). Be sure to specify “ida y vuelta” (round trip) and bring cash. Once you pay, hold on to each ticket stub you get until they are collected by an employee, because you’ll need them to board.
Pass the security checkpoint and confirm with an employee which bus you’ll be taking. The return tickets are considered open, which means you can take any bus back that’s run by this company after you’re done seeing the pyramids. However, the departure is scheduled for a specific time (the next scheduled bus), so be sure not to dilly-dally after purchasing the tickets!
Buses leave both the station and the pyramids about once every fifteen minutes, and the ride can be anywhere between one and two hours depending on traffic. The coaches don’t have bathrooms on board, so go before getting on the bus!
On the day you want to go…
Be sure to get up early! The pyramids are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day, and if you sleep in, you may not have the time to explore as much as you want. Plan to be out and about for about seven hours, depending on how quickly you want to explore and how long of a lunch break you want.
What to Bring
In addition to the standard phone, wallet, and camera, at least one person in your party may want to bring a backpack. I would recommend bringing water, sunscreen, cash (about 1000 pesos per person would be more than enough), and snacks if you want. Tickets to enter the park itself cost 75 pesos per person, and I don’t think they take card. Once you enter, you can leave and come back (e.g., for lunch), just be sure to hold on to your punched ticket. You will also want to wear comfortable shoes; the steps of the pyramids are pretty steep, so climbing them in sandals wouldn’t be fun, and climbing them in heels would probably be dangerous.
You may not feel like you’re getting burned while walking around the site, but the sun is really strong here and we’ve come back with bad sunburns! As you can see from the pictures in this post, there’s almost no shade, and it’s rarely overcast here.
Water is also very important! You’re going to be walking around and climbing two pyramids, so hydration is important and water isn’t really sold inside the gates. On my second visit, I forgot to bring some and ended up feeling pretty light-headed after climbing the huge Pyramid of the Sun. Don’t make this mistake!
When is the best time to go?
I’ve been to the pyramids twice in winter and once in early fall, and I’ve had good weather for each visit. With that said, I think you could visit any time of year and still enjoy the experience, although it will be hot in the summer. Since you don’t need to book anything in advance, you can always reschedule if you wake up to rain on the day you intended to go (although rain in the Mexico City area is pretty rare).
If you can, try to plan your day trip on a weekday. The pyramids are packed on weekends, and they’re harder to enjoy and appreciate with such dense crowds. However, they are open seven days per week, so if the weekend is the only time you can go, you’re not out of luck.
An Adventurous Lunch Idea
Food near the pyramids tends to be a bit overpriced, and that’s especially true at La Gruta. However, it’s really not outrageous by American standards (maybe 15 to 20 USD per entrée).
Although the cave atmosphere is reason enough to check this place out, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also order some of their speciality insects on the menu! They’re served as appetizers and are also pretty expensive (about 20 USD per option), but it’s quite an experience, and plus you’ll be able to tell a fun story if you do it!
We ordered one of the caterpillar dishes, which came out in a bowl and appeared to be fried. They also brought tortillas so you could make some caterpillar tacos if you wanted to! There wasn’t actually much flavor, but the texture was definitely unusual to say the least.
Be warned: the wait for this place can get really crazy on the weekends, so this is a good option if you visit the pyramids on a weekday. I originally tried to go with Ismael on a Saturday, and the wait was 2.5 hours, so we ended up not doing it. They open at 11:00 a.m. seven days a week and I don’t think they take reservations, so if you want to give it a try on a Saturday or Sunday, I would try to arrive right at opening.
Once you enter the gates, employees will offer guided tours. I’ve never done one, because I think it’s better to be able to explore the grounds freely. However, I’m sure that the tour guides would be able to provide a lot more information and answer any questions you may have.
2. Getting Picked Up
Once you disembark the bus, you may want to mark that location on your phone; you’ll want to return to that exact spot to get picked up. There are tons of different entrances, and as you’ll find out upon arrival, the pyramid grounds are huge.
3. The View from the Bus
On the bus to the pyramids, sit on the left-hand side and get a window seat if you can! The view looking left features some mountains that are packed with colorful homes, and it’s a great way to see just how dense and extensive the Mexico City metropolitan area really is.
As always, exercise caution while visiting the pyramids. Since it’s a tourist site, there will always be other people around as well as security personnel, which make it a pretty safe place to visit. However, you don’t want to invite pickpockets or other trouble by being careless or unaware.
Have you ever been to the pyramids before? What about some of the other archeological sites throughout Mexico? If you have, did you have an incident-free journey? Let me know by leaving a comment below! I’m hoping this post will help future travelers have a fun, memorable time while visiting the pyramids! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post featuring Oaxaca!