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Teotihuacan Mexico: Magical Town and Pyramids

  • Joel CZ 
  • 8 min read
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Teotihuacan is part of the Mexican legend and history because of its impressive pyramids and archaeological city, but it also has other exciting attractions.

The first buildings date from the beginning of our era, and its intense urban development reached levels comparable to those of Tenochtitlan.

During the viceregal era, the town received the name San Juan Teotihuacan. Amid the War of Independence, it was a vital food supply center for Mexico City.

Subsequent armed conflicts ruined the region, and during the first decade of the 20th century, the first archaeological reconstructions were carried out.

In 2015, San Juan Teotihuacan and its fraternal San Martín de las Pirámides were declared a Magical Town.

Where is Teotihuacan Mexico?

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Source: Kartinkin77 / Shutterstock.com

Teotihuacan is a Mexican municipality whose capital is the small city of Teotihuacan de Arista, absorbed by the Metropolitan Zone of Mexico City.

It is adjacent to the towns of San Martín de las Pirámides, Santa María Coatlan, San Francisco Mazapa, San Sebastián Xolalpa, Purificación, Puxtla and San Juan Evangelista.

The distance between downtown Mexico City and Teotihuacan is about 50 Km, traveling northeast on highway 132D, while the state capital, Toluca, is 112 Km away.

What is the climate like?

San Juan Teotihuacan, or simply Teotihuacan, enjoys a pleasantly temperate and dry climate, with an average annual temperature of 15 °C, which is very stable throughout the seasons.

The coolest month is May, when the thermometer reads 18 °C, while the coldest season is December and January, around 10 °C.

Rainfall is moderate, reaching 585 mm per year, with heavy precipitation mainly between May and October.

What are the best attractions of Teotihuacan Mexico?

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You can ride hot air balloons in Teotihuacan Mexico – Source: heikoneumannphotography / shutterstock.com

Again, Teotihuacan was designated as a “Magical Town” along with the neighboring town of San Martín de las Pirámides mainly because of the Pre-Hispanic City, which contains pyramids, rooms, and sculptural and pictorial manifestations of great historical and artistic importance to Mexico.

Apart from the majestic pre-Columbian city, in the municipal capital of Teotihuacan de Arista there are notable examples of colonial architecture, such as the Ex-Convent of San Juan Bautista and the Temple of Nuestra Señora de la Purificación.

To vary a little the archaeological and architectural visits, I recommend visiting the Cactus Garden and the Animal Kingdom Park.

When were the Pre-Hispanic City and Pyramids of Teotihuacan built?

The main attraction of the municipality of Teotihuacan is the pre-Columbian city of the same name, one of the most important in Mesoamerica.

It was built by an advanced civilization before the Mexica, of which little is known. The first constructions are already two thousand years old, and their ruins so impressed the Mexica that they gave it the Nahua name of “Teotihuacan,” which means “place where men become gods.”

Teotihuacan was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

The main components of the splendid complex are the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the Citadel and the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, and the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl.

What is the importance of the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon?

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Pyramid of the Sun – Source: Barna Tanko / shutterstock.com

With a height of 65 meters, the Pyramid of the Sun is the second tallest in Mesoamerica, only surpassed by the Great Pyramid of Cholula. It has five bodies, and its approximate shape is that of a square of 225 meters on each side.

It is located on the east side of the Calzada de Los Muertos and was reconstructed in the 1900s by the pioneer of modern archaeology in Mexico, Leopoldo Batres.

The use that the builders gave to this work is unknown, although it was supposed to have a supreme ceremonial purpose.

The Moon Pyramid is the older of the two pyramids, with a height of 45 meters, although its summit is more or less at the same level as the Sun Pyramid because it was built on higher ground.

What is in the Citadel and the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent?

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Source: Daniela Constantinescu / shutterstock.com

The Citadel is a 400-meter quadrangle built between the second and third centuries. It is located on the west side of the Causeway of the Dead; it contains the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent and several secondary temples and chambers.

Because of its monumental size, it is believed that it replaced the area of the Pyramid of the Sun as the nerve center of a city that is estimated to have had between 100 and 200 thousand inhabitants.

The Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent stands out for the beauty of the sculptural representations of the Feathered Serpent deity.

It was an essential center of human sacrifices, having been found the remains of more than 200 sacrificed people.

Why is the Teotihuacan Palace of Quetzalpapalotl distinguished?

Quetzalpapálotl means “butterfly-quetzal” in Nahua. It is believed that this palace was the residence of the highest authorities of Teotihuacan, probably the priests.

It stands out for its carved decoration of butterflies, tufts of quetzal feathers, and jaguars, superb examples of the oldest Mexican pre-Hispanic art.

To access the palace located in the southwest corner of the esplanade where the Pyramid of the Moon is located, you must climb a staircase guarded by images of jaguars.

Visit the Ex Convent of San Juan Bautista

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Source: Marek Poplawski / shutterstock.com

This mid-16th century building has an atrial doorway with decorated arches and a niche with the image of the Baptist at the top. The temple is distinguished by its ornamented stone façade and its striking tower decorated with triglyphs and floral motifs, with Solomonic columns and two bell towers.

The open chapel has segmental arches supported by Doric columns. In the complex’s interior, the pulpit carved in noble wood and the old baptismal font stand out.

Where are the Cactus Garden and the Animal Kingdom Park?

The garden near the archaeological city gathers on a surface of 4 hectares a magnificent sample of the xerophilous flora of the arid Mexica areas, such as different magueys, palms, cat’s claws, biznagas, and many other species.

The zoo is located on the road to the town of Tulancingo in Hidalgo, and the animals live in total freedom.

Besides admiring the fauna, in Animal Kingdom Park, you can live the experience of milking a goat, witnessing the breaking in of horses, and riding on ponies.

Teotihuacan Mexico handicrafts and food

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Source: Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

There is a millenary tradition of carving obsidian or volcanic glass in the area since the ancient pre-Hispanic peoples manufactured their tools and stone utensils.

They also work quartz, onyx, and other semi-precious materials, as well as wood carving, which is renowned throughout the country.

The regional emblematic vegetable product is the nopal cactus, and with its fleshy leaves and fruits, they prepare a great variety of foods, sweets, and drinks. Teotihuacan stews with nopal go with all meats, including beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, lamb, goat, and quail.

When are the traditional festivities?

The festivity in honor of San Juan Bautista has its peak day on June 24, as in the entire western Christian world.

Another venerated image of the city is Christ the Redeemer, celebrated with a party of up to 8 days. The typical dances stand out, such as those of the “Santiagueros and the Sembradores.”

The Regional Obsidian Fair is held in March, with a vast display of utensils and handicrafts made with this volcanic stone. On Mondays, the tianguis is held, with traditional products and folkloric shows.

Teotihuacan Hotels and restaurants

The proximity of Mexico City means that the main flow of visitors to Teotihuacan comes from the country’s capital.

However, there are good hotels in San Juan de Teotihuacan for those who prefer to sleep with the pre-Columbian ghosts hovering nearby. Among these are Villas Arqueológicas Teotihuacan, Posada Colibrí and Hotel Quinto Sol.

For dining, the places most praised by users are La Gruta, Gran Teocalli, and Mayahuel.

Ready to leave for Teotihuacan to meet the pending challenge of climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun? I hope the selfies at the top look awesome. Don’t forget to share your comments below. Vamonos!

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