Travel

Teotihuacan Pyramids: Race to the Sun and the Moon

Travel Date: July 2012

Traveling solo in Mexico, I found it convenient for me that the hostel I stayed in had a tour agency that offers daytrips from Mexico City. One famous daytrip from Mexico City is a visit to Teotihuacan Pyramids, along with a few other places in the day’s itinerary.

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The Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan

It is said that the city has been established around 100 BC. It was the largest city in pre-Columbian Americas with a population of 125,000 or more. The site covers a total surface area of 83 square kilometers and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The name Teotihuacan, meaning “birthplace of the gods” was given by the Aztecs, based on their belief that the gods created the universe at that site.

The City

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The main street called Avenue of the Dead originating from the Aztecs’ belief that the platforms along it were tombs.

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The Pyramid of the Moon is located in the far north end of the Avenue of the Dead and has the same characteristics as the Pyramid of the Sun.

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The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the world after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and Great Pyramid of Giza. It is said that the pyramid was constructed in two phases. The first stage brought the pyramid nearly to its size today. The second involved the construction of an altar on top of the pyramid, which is now missing.

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World Heritage Site

According to UNESCO’s website, the following criterion played key role in the Teotihuacan Pyramids being inscribed as a Word Heritage Site:

  1. The ceremonial ensemble of Teotihuacan represents a unique artistic achievement as much by the enormous size of the monuments as by the strictness of a layout based on cosmic harmony.

  2. The influence of the first of the great civilizations of Mesoamerican classic civilizations was exerted over the whole of the central region of Mexico, in Yucatan, and as far away as Guatemala during the period of Teotihuacan III.

  3. Much larger than the narrow zone of the ceremonial center, the archaeological site of Teotihuacan corresponds to a city of at least 25,000 inhabitants.

  4. Lining the immense  Avenue of the Dead, the unique group of sacred monuments and places of worship in Teotihuacan constitutes an outstanding example of pre-Columbian ceremonial center.

  5. Following the destruction and abandonment of the city towards 650 AD, the ruins were imbued with legend.

The Visit

The tour guide gave us a brief background of the site. Afterwards, he gave us 75 minutes to go around the place before we bid the site goodbye. I thought it was plenty of time until I started to explore.

And the timer starts now…

The complex is huge!

I decided to climb the Pyramid of the Moon first as we were within that area. Oh my god. I struggled to reach the top. But being the go-getter that I was, I was bent on getting there.

Just being on top was a reward in itself. I was rewarded good views of the complex surroundings. Now, I thought climbing was difficult. Descending was harder and took me more time. The steps were narrow and steep. I was afraid I’d fall, knock other people off as I fall and bump my camera to its death. When I was at the foot of the pyramid, I had already lost significant time in my 75 minutes.

I started to venture the Avenue of the Dead to explore the Pyramid of the Sun. But there were other sites along the Avenue that took some of my time. There was an area with excavations and these souvenir shops. I didn’t spend time on these as I know I have the big pyramid to conquer.

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I was hoping there would be an Aztec celebration /festival when I visit. Luckily, there was something going on.  It would have been nice to hang around a bit and find out what was going on, but we didn’t have much time. We were bent on getting to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun.

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As expected, the climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun is more challenging. I had to stop quite a few times to catch my breath while appreciating what my eyes can reach. It was not possible to rest while climbing as some other people were behind you.

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The skies were turning gray, and rain was threatening to pour (it was rainy season in Mexico) and that was why I was torn between reaching the top faster and stopping to rest for a bit. There was no shade in the pyramid and if the rains fell, me and my camera are taking the shower.

Dragging my weight and forcing my feet to get to the top. I did it, but not without beads of sweat and feet that were almost numb.

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This is my photo on top of the Pyramid of the Sun. The rewards? Personal satisfaction and pride of getting to the top, especially for non-athletic ones like me. I couldn’t help but feel grateful to have done this then. I couldn’t imagine doing this 5 years hence.

The sweeping view of Teotihuacan, of the Pyramid of the Moon that I just climbed, the greens and the fresh air. Aahhh… That felt so close to heaven.

The bonus? After I descended and made my way to the meeting point, I had 15 minutes left from the 75 minutes we were given 🙂 I wasn’t so much a couch potato and a lazy bum I thought I am.

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