Mexico City: Day 3 – Day Trip to Teotihuacan

On our family’s third day in Mexico City, we decided to take a day trip to see the Teotihuacan Pyramids. It is amazing to see the ruins from one of the largest cities in ancient Mexico! As we made our way back to the city, we made a stop at the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, where many people believe the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego. If you are traveling to Mexico City for at least three days, try to make time for this delightful day trip!

Teotihuacan

It took us some time to sort through the information for visiting Teotihuacan.

One particular thing that’s changed recently is that, since Covid started (at least as of July 2022 when we visited), it hasn’t been possible to walk up the pyramid steps. This is somewhat of a bummer! We did find this out online in advance, and we do still think it’s worth visiting. But, be aware that the closure can impact your strategy for touring the site – some of the tips in our guidebook (e.g. going to the Pyramid of the Sun first) made a little less sense given that there aren’t crowds climbing it.

To actually get there, there seemed to be a few main ways to visit: Uber, a public bus, or an organized tour. For our family of 4, an Uber worked well; it was about US$40 for our group for the roughly hour-long ride there door-to-door, and the trip back to Mexico City cost closer to US$20. We did wonder how hard it would be to find an Uber home, but we figured we could take the bus if it were a huge problem. The public bus would have been roughly US$6/person round-trip, but seemed to be more time consuming (required a trek to the bus station and waiting). There are pre-packaged tour buses or vans as well, but we got the impression that they were overpriced.

Per (the dated) advice we got, we asked our Uber driver to take us to Entrance 2 to be closer to the Pyramid of the Sun. But, he actually dropped us off at Entrance 1 (later, we understood why – the road between the entrances is quite bumpy). We did then walk past some sites to the Pyramid of the Sun, though if we were to do it again, we would have just done things in the order from the entrance.

We walked a circle around the Pyramid of the Sun, but it really wasn’t all that interesting from up close. The views from afar are much better.

Next up was the Pyramid of the Moon. This one was a lot more interesting from up close and we spent a lot of time wandering around this pyramid and the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl.

From here, we took the Path of the Dead back to the Citadel, which was close to where we started. The boys really enjoyed climbing up and down the stairs, but my hips didn’t appreciate them nearly as much. Still, it was a really pretty walk with lots of ruins.

On the way, we stopped at the Patio of the Four Temples.

Upon arrival to the Citadel, we climbed the stairs to see the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. I found this to be the most impressive of the sites and was a little sad that we didn’t start here before the crowds started descending. Too bad the picture below didn’t turn out.

Knowing that we wanted to exit out of Gate 5 for lunch, we got back on the same path that we originally took to the Pyramid of the Sun, as it avoids all the stairs you will encounter on the Path of the Dead.

The flower/rock gardens near the museum are quite pleasant.

Our last stop was the museum. Our guidebook had said to skip this and come back during the hot part of the day, but the day really wasn’t all that hot, and the museum wasn’t all that big, so I’m not sure the order would have mattered.

We had also thought about hiring a guide upon entrance to Teotihuacan, it is really quite inexpensive if you hire an official guide, rather than someone who drives you in from Mexico City. Given our Entrace 1 vs 2 fiasco, we ended up skipping this since we knew we were going to be doing a lot of backtracking to do things in the order that we wanted. It would have been interesting, but we still had a lot of fun without a guide.

Having felt like we had seen enough, we exited out of Gate 5 and made our way to La Gruta, which is a restaurant built into a cave. The setting is lovely, the food mediocre (not bad, just a bit overpriced), but it was a great experience. We highly recommend adding this restaurant to your Teotihuacan itinerary!

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

One visit that’s often done together with Teotihuacan, since it’s “on the way” back into Mexico City is The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s apparently the second most visited church in the world; only St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is more visited.

The story goes that the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego and told him to tell the local bishop that she wanted a church built in that particular location. Of course, the bishop thought that Juan was not being truthful and did not order a church built. Then Mary appeared to Juan several more times, the last time presenting him with roses in the middle of winter. When the roses were shown to the bishop, an image of them were impressed on his robe. This is the point the bishop was convinced and the original church was built.

Juan was a native Aztec and he told the people that Mary appeared to him as an Aztec and she spoke the Aztec language. Many people who heard this story decided to convert to Christianity and this basilica has been an important location for Catholics ever since.

We visited the New Basilica first, then the old church, but we were feeling tired and didn’t make it up the hill to the baptistry. Probably should have gone, but sometimes you get travel fatigue and don’t try to see everything possible.

Evening in Mexico City

Feeling tired from our day, we took an Uber back to the hotel to rest. After resting a while, we didn’t want to expend a lot of energy on dinner, and went to a Mexican chain restaurant for few blocks from our hotel called Vips. It felt slightly like a Dennys in America, except everyone spoke Spanish. We each ordered a light dinner and a desert. My soup was delicious, as was my cheesecake.

The boys decided to wander a bit while I spent some time on my own at the hotel. Sometimes when exhaustion sets in, that’s best for everyone.

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