A Morning in Teotihuacan, Mexico

As mentioned, my Mexican adventures were really just bookends on a business trip. However, instead of a typical Monday to Friday work week, this time aound I was traveling for a shoot, which meant that I was at the mercy of our crazy-intense production schedule when it came to personal time. We shot in Mexico City over the weekend, continued our production on Monday and Tuesday, and then had a Wednesday off before flying to our next shoot location. A sane person would have spent the down-day exercising or catching up on sleep, but I instead decided to take advantage of my short-lived geographical location and hit up one of Mexico’s coolest archaeological sites – Teotihuacan!Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It’s built as a large grid that covers about 8 square miles, and contains around 2,000 single-story apartment compounds, as well as various pyramids, plazas, temples and palaces.

As I didn’t have a car, and wanted to get a good understanding of the history of Teotihuacan, I decided to book a tour. I found a Teotihuacan experience online that left at 7am for the archaeological site, and included entrance, a three hour walking tour, and lunch! I haven’t explored an ancient archaeological site since Pompei, so I gingerly booked a spot on the tour and woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the pick up point. As I was a solo traveler, I ended up sandwiched in the back of a big van with a young family and a few couples.We arrived at Teotihuacan just before 9am when the archaeological zone opened. The air was still a bit cold, and I was thankful our tour guide had sent a note reminding us to pack layers which included a cozy sweatshirt! I also had lots of water, sun screen, my camera, and a hat – ready for whatever the day threw at us!Because we arrived quite early, we caught the tail-end of some of the sunrise balloon excursions floating above the pyramids. I’m a sucker for a landscape graced by a stunning hot air balloon (although I personally prefer both feet planted on the ground, thank you!) so lots of balloon photos ensued!We spent the rest of the morning touring around the pyramids with our small group.Before the trip, I knew nothing about Teotihuacan. Turns out, the beautiful temples present a lot of mystery for historians as well!They know it was settled around 400 BC, and it was the most powerful and influential city of its time. However, around 600 AD, the city fell, and stood abandoned for centuries. The Aztecs found the site in the 1400’s and gave it the name Teotihuacan (the place where the gods were created), but its origins, history, and culture remain a mystery still today.Don’t you just love a good historic mystery?!The main buildings of Teotihuacan are connected by the Avenue of the Dead, a 130-foot-wide, 1.5-mile road that points directly at the nearby peak of Cerro Gordo, an extinct volcano.The city contains several large structures – the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, the Citadel, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent – the one I showed you in the Anthropology Museum!)
Although little is known about who lived in Teotihuacan, historians do know that the city was a wealthy trade metropolis in its prime. It exported fine tools, ceramics, and other luxury goods. Similar styles were found throughout Mesoamerica, suggesting the city had a far-reaching influence. No one knows why Teotihuacan collapsed. Archeologists do know that around 600 AD, major buildings were deliberately burned and artworks and religious sculptures were destroyed, suggesting an uprising against the elite. Another theory is that it was simply sacked by invaders. However, no one will every truly know what caused this grand city’s demise.As with most tours, ours ended with a stop at a gift shop – which I loved becauseee . . . .Rocks!!!! Why do I always find gorgeous, decently priced rocks when I travel?! They’re literally the one thing that only a fool would pay to carry in checked luggage!
Overall it was a super fun experience, and memorable way to get to know Mexican culture without venturing too far from Mexico City!

If you decide to visit Teotihuacan, I highly recommend getting a guide so you know what you’re looking at. As much as I love rocks, some need a bit more explanation than others to truly appreciate them ;) The archaeological zone is open daily from 9am to 5pm. General admission is 70 pesos per person, and is free for children under 13. 

Can’t wait to share my last Mexico post with you!

xo Ali

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