I’ve been in a travel slump, lately. While we have been able to see many wonderful destinations in the past year and a half, we haven’t planned any trips in awhile. Okay, we did visit family in the USA, but it isn’t the same as exploring a new place. My husband surprised me by arranging a day trip to Teotihuacan (or correctly, Teotihuacán), where the Pyramid of the Sun near Mexico City, Mexico is located.
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Where is Teotihuacan?
This UNESCO World Heritage site located near Mexico City, Mexico. It’s only 25 miles northeast, in fact.
Visiting Teotihuacan With Kids
While it is pretty easy to take a bus to famous sights like the Teotihuacan pyramids, we opted for a private tour and driver, who picked us up for our day trip at our home. This definitely feels like a luxury option and it was much more expensive than taking a bus or driving ourselves. We chose this option for multiple reasons. First, we could use car seats for our children. Their safety on the road is extremely important and worth an extra cost. Second, Mexico City has strict laws regarding which cars can drive there. You need special license plates or a permit/sticker in order to drive within the city (even on the far outskirts of highway that goes around the city). We do not have the special plates or sticker. Third, traffic is absolutely crazy in and around Mexico City. One really needs ovaries of steel to drive there.
Taking a bus is another great option, if you want to save some money. However, I’m glad we opted for a driver on this particular trip. It was completely stress-free!
We are probably going to take a bus when we go to spend time in Mexico City. That will be a multi-day trip and involve more planning.
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Our day started at 7:30 am when our driver picked us up from our house. From there, he drove us straight to Teotihuacan. He told us that the tour buses drop of people at the first entrance. However, he took us to the second entrance, which is much closer to the Sun Pyramid.
We walked along a nearly deserted road that found us at the back of the Pyramid of the Sun. Even from there, you can tell it is a massive structure.
We continued down the lane. On particularly busy days, the line of people wanting to climb will wrap around the side of the pyramid, down that same lane. We learned a little about the houses, took some pictures, then decided to all head up to the first platform.
My five year old daughter wanted to climb while we were at the bottom, but by the time we got to the first set of stairs, she was done. At that point, we had to continue. We got to the first platform and hopped over the barrier, since we were not climbing up at that point. It’s steep, massive, and totally intimidating.
Our guide took us the back way to the Pyramid of the Moon and we entered at a corner of the plaza. We made our way closer to the Moon Temple for some pictures. My son really wanted to climb it, but I felt that his tendency to climb and descend quickly made the trek too much for my heart to take. However, we asked him to climb a small structure first and if he still wanted to afterwards, he could go. He and my husband set up the structure and made it all the way to the top!
Once they were safely back on the ground, I didn’t hear anything about climbing the larger one. We continued on to less physical structures, but amazing all the same. There are areas where the original painting is preserved. The entire city used to be covered in stucco (4 inches thick) and it was all decorated. Most of the paintings and stucco are completely gone.
Temple of the Feathered Serpent
It is also called Temple of Quetzalcoatl. It is the third largest pyramid at the site. However, since we didn’t enter through the main entrance, we didn’t get to see this temple. Bear in mind, the site is large and there is a lot of walking involved.
Why You Should Visit the Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico
Mexico is famous for the amazing beaches and beach destinations. While here, people might be tempted to skip out cool sites like the Teotihuacan Pyramids, near Mexico City, or Chichen Itza in the Yucatan. These sites are culturally rich and will inspire awe. For children, sites like Teotihuacan are especially exciting because they can interact with structures that are a couple thousand years old. Both of my kids (ages 5 and 6) wanted to climb the pyramids. The four of us climbed to the first platform of the Sun Pyramid, which was enough for me and my 5 year old.
If you have ever dreamed of visiting the Pyramid of Giza, then visiting these Mexico City pyramids will delight you. They are also closer and less expensive to visit from the USA. History is alive right before your eyes and all of those facts that you’ve read in school that blurred your eyesight and broke your brain is suddenly real. The museum also has real skeletons of people who died over a thousand years ago. It makes a bigger impact on the brain. You can feel the vastness of city and see the colors painted on the walls with your own eyes. The wind blows and you can smell the air. You can touch the structures and climb them.
Where to Stay
If you don’t live in central Mexico or want to stay closer to the site, stay in Mexico City!
Room Mate Valentina
Families tend to like the Zona Rosa neighborhood and the hotel called Room Mate Valentina, in particular. This hotel doesn’t have a pool, but it does have good wifi, comfy beds, and great coffee! Breakfast can be included, check when booking. It’s an affordable option for those on a budget. It’s also close to several activities for children.
Four Seasons Mexico City
If you’re looking for luxury in the middle of the city, you can’t go wrong with the Four Seasons. Not only is the hotel stunning, it does have a heated rooftop pool. I have included this because families like staying here and the coffee is fantastic! It is located near the Polanco neighborhood.
The site is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Unlike most sites and museums in Mexico, it is open on Mondays. Mornings and weekdays are usually the least busy times of day. Sundays are typically the busiest days of archeological sites in Mexico because entry is free for Mexico residents.
Teotihuacan entrance fee
It costs 70 pesos (ask about discounts for students, seniors, and Mexican nationals). This includes entry to the on site Museum, which is worth a visit (even with kids!) The information signs are in both Spanish and English and there is a surprise waiting in the middle of the museum that kids will enjoy.
Intrepid Travel offers an incredible tour that includes Teotihuacan, Mexico City, one of the butterfly reserves, and more! Check availability.
What to Wear And Bring
Our tour guide recommended that we all wear long sleeves, in addition bringing hats, sunscreen, water, and durable shoes. Additionally, we brought our toddler sized baby carriers. We wished we had them during our trip to Chichen Itza. We did wear our 5 and 6 year olds on the long walk down the Avenue of the Dead.
If you wish to climb up the pyramids and other structures, opt for non-skid shoes.
- Long sleeve shirts
- Sunglasses (if needed)
- Sturdy shoes, preferably non-skid
As we did on previous ruins visits, we carried in a backpack with snacks, water, and carriers. We did not bring along mosquito repellent and we didn’t need it during this trip. Keep in mind that this site (and Mexico City) is at a high elevation and a fairly dry climate. Drink extra water!
Can You Climb the Sun and Moon Pyramids?
Yes, as of 2018! You can climb both. There are also numerous smaller structures you can climb. Due to uneven steps and the steep nature of the pyramids, none are particularly easy climbs.
Climbing With Kids
I recommend exercising caution if you have kids with you. You know your kids and whether or not they will be able to safely climb up and down the steep pyramids. We went only to the first platform of the Pyramid of the Sun. We opted to not climb the Pyramid of the Moon (the only platform you can climb to looks to be about a 5-6 story climb). My husband and 6 year old son climbed a smaller structure right next to the Moon pyramid, which was enough for his adventurous spirit.
Steps are uneven, steep, and may be slippery.
Do not baby wear and climb. Do not climb if you have an infant who can’t walk. Toddlers and even preschoolers may be way too ambitious and reckless to safely climb the structures. Use your best judgement and opt on the side of safety.
Please Note When Climbing
One additional note: if you choose to wear a skirt and climb a pyramid, the angle of the climb makes it difficult for those below you to avoid looking up under your skirt. If that doesn’t bother you, great! It’s something to be aware of if it does bother you.
Note About The Climbing Dogs
There are stray dogs at the site and I saw two of them climbing the pyramids, too. Stray dogs are a common site all over Mexico, however, these dogs looked pretty healthy overall. I didn’t see any dogs bothering people while at the Teotihuacan ruins.
Though the area has many fantastic looking restaurants, we ate at the famous La Gruta. La Gruta, which means the Grotto, is located inside a cave. It’s a large restaurant, even so, you may wait awhile. The open air waiting area is large and there is some seating. Additionally, there are food vendors around and you can buy elote or eqsuite (corn with mayo, mexican cheese, lime, and spice), and fruit while you wait.
The ambience is cool and there are some exotic things on the menu (grasshoppers and ant eggs are two examples), but you may find better food somewhere else. It is cool to say I’ve eaten grasshoppers at that cave restaurant in Mexico City, though!
When was Teotihuacan built?
Teotihuacan was built between 100 BCE until about 250 CE (source). It is estimated that it had 125,000 inhabitants at its highest (though some estimates are much higher), making it the largest city of the Pre-Columbian Americas.
Pyramid of the Sun Facts
The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the world. The name came from the Aztecs. However, it was NOT built by the Aztecs or the Mayans. It was built by the Teotihuacan people. Its purpose and significance to the Teotihuacanos is unknown, as it has suffered significant looting. A temple at the top was destroyed deliberately and by natural forces, leaves so much unknown about this amazing place.
We absolutely loved our visit! It was my husband’s second visit. He first visited in July, 2017 and climbed the Pyramid of the Sun then. He told me that it was really hot. Our visit was at the end of September, the following year, and the timing was perfect. The weather was windy and just a little chilly when we arrived around 10:30 in the morning. It still got warm, but I didn’t feel overly hot in my long sleeves. The sun is really strong, even when it doesn’t feel like it and the long sleeves will help protect you from sunburn you don’t know you’re getting.
Have you visited archeological sites with kids? Have you visited Teotihuacan? Do you have any tips for those visiting, with or without kids?