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Teotihuacan

January 6, 2012

We’ve always been planning to come to Teotihuacan. It’s the site of the third biggest pyramid in the world and also has a good campground where you can leave your vehicle while you travel to Mexico City. However we’ve had problems telling people where we’re going as the name is a bit of a mouthful. We finally learnt to say it properly just before we got here – Teo-ti-wacan.

On the way to Teotihuacan we stopped off at an ancient city called Tula. This was the city that took control of this central Mexican region after the fall of Teotihuacan. There’s not that much of the city excavated. However there is a central pyramid which is topped by a number of carved columns called Stelae.

We seemed to arrive at Tula at a very busy time which meant that the central platform had a lot of people on it. We’ve noticed that Mexicans love having their pictures taken and at any place where they are visiting they will stand on top, in front of or next to – in groups or alone – anything vaguely photogenic to have their pictures taken.

As Tula was so crowded we didn’t hang around long and carried on round the Arco Norte (Mexico City ring road) until we got to San Juan Teotihuacan, the town nearest the ruins. As was usual we were the only people in the campground here but Mina, the owner was very friendly and helpful.

First thing in the morning we got up and walked into town to catch a taxi to the Pyramids. This was only a five minute ride (20 pesos) and as we drove we noticed that the sky was full of hot air balloons. You can take an early morning ride over the Pyramids.

Teotihuacan is one of the most impressive ancient sites in the world. There are three main pyramids – The Sun, The Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

At its height the city had a population of 150,000 and covered over 23 km squared. The pyramids were built between about 200 BC and 1 AD and the peak of the city’s power came between 450 to 650 AD. After this though it is believed that the city self-destructed as a combination of ecological crisis and civil war – perhaps with some help from the Toltecs dwelling to the North.

We arrived at the site at around 8am and it was deserted at this time. We climbed the Pyramid of the Sun (the third biggest pyramid in the world and 70m high) and there were only two others at the top. The view over the site from here is great as you can see right  along the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Moon.

After this we walked up the Avenue of the Dead and climbed the Pyramid of the Moon. The stairs here were steep and each step was pretty high.

We were alone at this end of the site. However we could see that things were beginning to fill up and looking across to the Pyramid of the Sun there were starting to be a lot of people on the top.

There’s a lot of walking to be done at this Ancient site. When we descended the Pyramid of the Moon we then walked the length of the Avenue of the Dead which is a couple of Km long. There are a whole load of things to check out on the way down the Avenue – to the left and right are a number of ruined apartment complexes – where the priests and rulers of the city would have lived. At the far end of the Avenue is another Pyramid which is in a walled complex called the Citadel. Inside the Citadel is another large pyramid which was built later than the other two and is smaller. However the Pyramid of Quetzacoatl is much more ornately decorated.

The main features are heads of Quetzacoatl, the plumed serpent, and Tlaloc, the rain god. These carvings were originally hidden by a bigger pyramid built over the top but have now been excavated.

After walking the majority of the site we made our final stop the museum. The two most impressive things here are the scale model of the city as it used to be with a large window looking out to the Pyramid of the Sun and some recreations of buried skeletons found under the Temple of Quetzacoatl.

When we finished with the museum we decided we’d had enough and walked back along the road to San Juan Teotihuacan which only took us about 20 minutes – its not that far.

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