You probably remember these amazing pyramids from your history textbooks or travel magazines, but seeing Teotihuacan (known as piramides de teotihuacan or casually by locals as “the pyramids”) in person is a different story. On our recent trip to Mexico City, I wasn’t sold on taking our daughter there (5-years-old) but am so glad that we did. Our family has been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, but we all agree that this experience is among the best of all time.
What Is Teotihuacan?
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this holy city was built during the 1st and 7th centuries A.D. Main features include the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, and the Avenue of the Dead–all laid out geometrically and with symbolic principles. The Aztecs believe that the gods created the universe at this site, therefore, Teotihuacan translates to “birthplace of the gods.” The most impressive part? The entire city was built by hand. It’s just spectacular.
Tips And How To Get There
We hired a car via the Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F., though public transportation is an option. The hotel has a fleet of 50 cars with extraordinarily knowledgeable drivers who can tailor a trip exactly to your needs. They’ll tour you through the entire complex, let you explore on your own, or do a little of both. We chose the latter. It was nice not having to worry about time constraints, navigation, or where the restaurant we chose was located. It takes about an hour to reach the pyramids from Mexico City. We were advised to leave at 10:00am in order to miss traffic, which was sage advice.
Though it was November with a little bite in the air, Mexico City is 7000 feet above sea level which means the sun is an issue. There is almost no shade at Teotihuacan so do bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Wear walking shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. I was sad for a lady I saw in high heels! The complex is dusty and the climb is steep. Bring snacks and a bottle of water for the kids, as there aren’t vendors inside. For toddlers, I might even suggest a change of clothes.
We spent just over an hour exploring the pyramids (remember, 5-year-old in tow) which was enough. My husband climbed both the pyramids of the sun and moon. Though he is a runner, he was quite sore over the next few days.
Our driver was full of interesting facts. He made a point of having this man show us how the red dye seen on murals around Teotihuacan and elsewhere was made. An insect called cochineal lives and feeds on certain cactus plants. It produces an acid to deter predators. This acid forms a red dye, commonly used by the Aztec and Maya as paint, which can be seen on the centuries-old jaguar mural (on Avenue of the Dead) in the picture above.
What kid doesn’t love to climb? Though the pyramids of the sun and moon were a bit much for her, she loved tackling the smaller versions along Avenue of the Dead. Plus, she can now say that she’s seen pyramids in real life, which she thinks is cool.
And Then We Ate Lunch In A Cave–La Gruta Restaurant
Fact: 5-year-olds get hungry, even if you’re in the middle of nowhere. My husband went online to investigate dining options around the pyramids. He found a restaurant called La Gruta, which translates to “the cave” which is exactly what it is–a restaurant in a cave. Sure, it’s a little touristy and pricey for the area, but what’s your kid going to remember after dragging them to a World Heritage site? Eating lunch in a cave. Well, that’s what we were thinking at the time–we lucked out that she loved the pyramids.
Reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed and our Concierge was a bit nervous about making the reservation, as restaurants in the D.F. are so much better. But, we insisted.
Turns out, we were the only ones in the restaurant on this gorgeous November Monday and it was worth it. I forgot to photograph our food, but I ordered an assorted platter, my daughter ordered chicken fingers which came with fries and noodle soup. My husband went local and ordered rabbit. We enjoyed everything. Based on the reviews, I was expecting much lower quality, but everything on my plate was flavorful, especially the mole. Our bill was about $80 USD all in, but we had a few adult beverages each. Tip: Bring a sweatshirt as it does get cool at the bottom of the cave. They do have patio heaters, however.
At around 2:30pm, we journeyed back to the Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F. (see link for my parents’ insider guide to Mexico City) and relaxed at the hotel. Tequila and room service finished the day.
More about our journey to Mexico City to come!