Worshiping the Sun on the Avenue of the Dead

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Visiting the pyramids at Teotihuacán

↑ Feathered serpent head at the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

Teotihuacan is an enormous pre-Columbian archeological city just an hour away from Mexico city and has some of the largest and most restored pyramids in the region. It might be wise to check out this biggest historical attraction near Mexico City on a weekday, but it is certainly unwise to leave the water bottle behind on an unforgiving sunny day.

But then, there is a Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol) here – the largest one I have ever seen. It was a sweaty task to climb the gigantic stone pyramid but once I reached the top, nobody could smell it. Being the third largest pyramid in the world, the view of the surrounding region is quite spectacular. I can only imagine how the place would have looked during its golden age. The top of the pyramid was believed to house a temple but now it only has tourists and thirsty cameras (like mine).

↑ Pyramid of the Sun

The diversity of various groups of people visiting here was remarkable and quite different from the crowds I came across in Yucatan. There was a group of Mexican Mormons wearing white shirts and a tie in this sweltering heat (or were they Jehovah’s Witnesses? Pardon me, I always get the two mixed.) Anyway, I didn’t like the way they were behaving. Then there were some mandatory French, Spanish, Germans and US Americans. Where did the East Asian tourists go?

↑ Climbing the pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the moon (Pirámide de la Luna) is the other large pyramid at the site and was probably a temple to the Goddess of Teotihuacan. Climbing to the top of this pyramid is prohibited due to ongoing conservation efforts and that’s unfortunate because the view of the bilaterally symmetric site from here would have been superb.

↑ Avenue of the Dead, flanked by smaller pyramids believed to serve religious purposes. Picture taken from the Pyramid of the Moon

Finally, the third notable thing to see here is the Avenue of the dead (Calle de los Muertos). Numerous smaller and symmetrical pyramids stand on either sides and the Aztecs, who arrived at this site centuries after it was abandoned, thought that the pyramids were tombs. Archeologists now believe that these pyramids were simply platforms for various religious ceremonies and rituals.

↑ Merchants selling trinkets along the avenue of the dead leading to the Pyramid of the Moon

The walk from the beautiful citadel at the entrance to these pyramids is along this avenue and quite enjoyable if you like looking at ruins. Regardless of whether I said “ne nado” in Russian or “nada” in Spanish, or “nako” in Marathi, the numerous merchants selling necklaces, stone sculptures, toys and whistles that made animal sounds, perfectly understood that I wasn’t interested in their merchandise. Prices drop from 10 pesos ($1) to 5 pesos ($0.50) if you decline – and I felt awful for repeatedly declining a tiny amount like that. But that’s life I guess.

↑ The majestic pyramid of the Sun, viewed from the pyramid of the moon. Do you notice the people at the apex?

The religion practiced by the of Teotihuacan culture was similar to those of other Mesoamerican cultures. Principal gods include the Feathered Serpent (the Aztecs called him Quetzalcoatl) and God of Rain (the Aztecs called him Tlaloc.) The practice of human sacrifice was prevalant as discovered from excavations. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and brought to the city for ritual sacrifice to ensure that the city could prosper.

The Teotihuacan empire collapsed around 600AD (alongwith nearby Cholula) and that Epiclassical period saw the rise of other regional powers such as Tula and Xochicalco.

↑ Avenue of the dead

This is a good day trip from Mexico city and if you have an extra day to spend, I’d highly recommend visiting Teotihuacan. Getting here is easy and cheap. Simply go to Terminal Central del Norte (Northern bus terminal) in Mexico City and jump into a direct bus going to Las piramides, and you will be here in an hour or so. From Teotihuacan, I proceeded to the little town of Pachuca from here.

↑ Mural displayed in a museum

What other ancient pyramids have you been to?

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery