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Mexico: Teotihuacan

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Teotihuacan | Mexico | Americas

[Visited: August 1991, June 2013]

It had been a long time since my first visit to Teotihuacan, on a hot summer day more than twenty years ago with my sister. The weather was making me doubt: it was raining in Mexico City, and the forecast did not look good; but I decided to go anyway. A quick subway ride took me to the North bus station, where a bus left within 10 minutes. It was early, so there was not much traffic yet, and I arrived at Teotihuacan in a little over an hour - and stepped out into the rain. The complex is rather big, and I got off at the southern side. I walked north along the Avenue of the Dead, and since the rain was increasing, the Museum of Teotihuacan seemed a good idea to take shelter. It is housed in a small building right next to the Pyramid of the Sun, and after I left my umbrella outside, I went inside. It turned out to be a rich collection of brilliant exhibits from the pre-Colombian culture of Teotihuacan that once flourished here. Sculptures, often with animals like serpents and birds, masks, jewelry are just some of the exhibits on display, until you come to a large model of the entire complex under a glass floor. Beyond, you find human remains, found in tombs around the complex of Teotihuacan.

Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): The Pyramid of the Sun seen from the Pyramid of the Moon

The city flourished between the 1st century BCE and ended in the middle of the 8th century CE. The museum tells the history in clear explanations; at its zenith, Teotihuacan had around 150,000 inhabitants, making it one of the biggest cities of the world at the time. Is it a coincidence that nearby Mexico City is one of the biggest in our own times? The best known buildings of the complex are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon; built along the Avenue of the Dead, with the latter pyramid on the northern side and the Sun pyramid to the east. Interestingly, the names of the Pyramids were given by the Aztecs, who considered Teotihuacan sacred and who visited it centuries after it had been abandoned. We do not know the name the Teotihuacans used themselves. Nowadays, the pyramids look impressive just for their sheer size; back in the Teotihuacan times, they must have looked positively amazing, painted with murals with animals and planets. On top of the pyramids, it is thought temples once stood where deities were worshipped.

Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Mask at the museum of Teotihuacan

Once outside the museum, I found out the rain had not stopped, and I climbed the adjacent Pyramid of the Sun. The views were OK, but not great: clouds were lying low over the landscape and almost touching the ground. I continued north to the Pyramid of the Moon, but with quite a few people around, decided to walk to the nearby Museum of the Murals of Teotihuacan. To my surprise, I was the only one; here, I found many examples of brilliant murals depicting mostly animals, again with clear explanations. I now had a better idea of what the city must have looked like, once upon a time. When I got out, the sun was trying to burn through the clouds, and after walking through the Quetzalpapalotl palace, I climbed the Pyramid of the Moon - or, to the first terrace, as the rest of the pyramid is closed off. The views were much better now; when I turned around, the Avenue of the Dead was lying at my feet, with two rows of platforms on either side, and the Pyramid of the Sun on my left. People were struggling to get on top the steep, stone stairs. I walked back to the Pyramid of the Sun, passed the mural of a jaguar, climbed the pyramid again for better views. Walking back the wide Avenue of the Dead, it started raining again. The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, opposite the great market place, on a large space called the Ciudadela at the southern side of Teotihuacan, has some great sculptures of the Feathered Serpent sticking out of its sides, making it look different from the other two pyramids. When I left the complex after hours of walking around, up and down, I went back to the city, determined to come back again on a clearer day. What a great site and interesting civilization!

Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): The Avenue of the Dead with platforms and the Pyramid of the Moon at the end
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): The Plaza of the Moon, Avenue of the Dead, and the Pyramid of the Sun
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): The Plaza of the Moon: two of the platforms
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): View of the Pyramid of the Moon
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Looking up at the Pyramid of the Moon from the Plaza of the Moon
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Mural of jaguar on the wall of a platform at the Avenue of the Dead
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Looking up the side of the Pyramid of the Sun
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): The Pyramid of the Sun in the middle, the Avenue of the Dead leading towards the Pyramid of the Moon
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Detail of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl with feathered serpent
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Animal painted on a wall on display in the Museum of Teotihuacan Murals
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Teotihuacan Museum has many fine objects on display of Teotihuacan culture
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): Skull with bones in the Museum of Teotihuacan
Picture of Teotihuacan (Mexico): The stone stairs of the Pyramid of the Sun

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