Teotihuacán is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Mexico. The former temple city was the center of Mesoamerica. The name Teotihuacán comes from the Náhuatl of the Aztecs and means "place where one becomes a god". How the city was called by the builders is still unknown. As there are no written records, the knowledge about the history of Teotihuacan is based on excavations. We don't even know the name of the people who built this city.
Ceramic finds prove a settlement on the site from 600 BC. At that time, obsidian had already been mined and processed. The glass-like volcanic material has sharp edges and could be used as a knife. Obsidian was sold to other peoples across Central America and was the basis for the wealth of Teotihuacán.
Around 200 BC the main axis Calzada de los Muertos was created and the two great pyramids were startet. Around 350 AD the city reached its largest extent with an area of 20 km². Around 650 AD, around 200,000 people lived in Teotihuacán. The city was the center of power of a large empire, the influence of which extended to Yucatan. The cultural similarities can also be clearly seen on Monte Albán in Oaxaca.
The decline of Teotihuacán began in 750, for which reason the city was left is still unknown. The population suddenly drops to around 30,000 people. From 850 Teotihuacán was an abandoned city. The Toltec Empire emerged around 900 in Tula about 60 kilometers away. The Aztecs who founded Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) used Teotihuacán as a place of worship. After the conquest of the Spaniards, Teotihuacán became a ruin. The first excavations in Teotihuacán began in 1864 and the city was scientifically examined.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pyramid in Teotihuacán. It is 63 m high and has a floor area of 220 x 225 m. With a volume of around 1 million m³, it is the third largest pyramid in the world. The largest pyramid in the world is the pyramid of Cholula near Puebla. The tallest pyramid in the world is the 146.6 m high Cheops Pyramid in Egypt. It is not known for which deity the Pyramid of the Sun was built. The name Pyramid of the Sun comes from the Atztecs, the sun sets on the day of the summer solstice just opposite of the pyramid.
The construction of the Pyramid of the Sun started around 100 AD, it was completed in one construction phase. The pyramid has four steps, the inner area was built from rammed earth. Stones were plastered on the outside. A wide staircase in the middle leads up to the platform on the top, on which used to be a temple. Under the pyramid is a cave that was used for ceremonial purposes. But no solid evidence of a particular deity was found here either.
La Ciudadela (the Citadel) is a large square at the southern end of the Calzada de los Muertos. The square is surrounded by walls with stairs and platforms. To the east of the square is the Templo de Quetzalcóatl. We still do not know exactly which god the little pyramid was built for, but due to the figures that adorn the temple, one presumes the god Quetzalcóatl. The Quetzalcóatl (feather snake) was considered the creator deity of the Toltecs and the Aztecs. The size of the square also suggests that the planet Venus was worshiped here. Beside the temple are residential areas of the priests or noble inhabitants of Teotihuacán.
The Palacio de Quetzalpapálotl is the most magnificent residential building in Teotihuacán, it is located near the Pyramid of the Moon. The name means Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly and was probably the home of a high priest. The inner courtyard with richly decorated supports, on which butterflies and birds are depicted, is very beautiful. On the red roof beam there are peaks that symbolize years. Murals have also been preserved in the Quetzalpapálotl Palace.
The Pyramid of the Moon (Piramide de la Luna) is with a height of 46 m slightly smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun, but the site is somewhat higher and therefore both pyramids are almost at the same height. The pyramid has a base area of 150 x 120 m. Construction began around 100 AD and the structure was completed around 350. The Pyramid of the Moon is the northern end of the Street of the Dead and lies exactly in the central axis of the city. In front of the Pyramid of the Moon there is a large square surrounded by 11 small step pyramids, on which there used to be temples. There are two other platforms on the Plaza de la Luna, the middle one most likely served as an altar. Which deity the pyramid was dedicated to is still unknown.
How to get from Mexico City to Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacan is the largest archaeological site in Mesoamerica. The pyramid city is located around 40 kilometers north-east of Mexico City and is well suited for a day trip. The journey by bus takes around 1 hour, depending on the traffic. Departure from Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, the bus station is located directly at the Autobuses del Norte subway station. Buses run to Teotihuacan approximately every 15 minutes. In the evening you should go back no later than 6 p.m. As the metro system in Mexico City is constantly being expanded, buses may run from the nearest station to Teotihuacan. It is best to ask at the hotel beforehand from where the public buses departe to Teotihuacan.
If you have a rental car you can park at Teotihuacan, there are several tourist parking spaces.