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4 Days In Mexico City (Part 3 of 3): Teotihuacan & Polanco

When I was planning this trip, I had a hard time figuring out what to see and do in Mexico City over a long weekend.  I also had to consider what was feasible on this trip given that our baby was coming as well.  My hope is that by sharing what we did each day, others who are looking for a short visit to Mexico City will find the information useful.  Here are the posts:

4 Days in Mexico City (Part 1 of 3): Arrival, Coyoacán/San Angel, & Plaza Garibaldi

4 Days In Mexico City (Part 2 of 3): Bosque De Chapultepec & El Zócalo

4 Days In Mexico City (Part 3 of 3): Teotihuacan & Polanco

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Monday

Monday was our last full day in Mexico City so we hired our private driver from Saturday and had him bring us to Teotihuacan, an ancient city established around 100 BC.  Our driver referred to the Teotihuacans as the grandparents of the Aztecs and their city is often referred to as “the pyramids” in Mexico City.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I hoped it would be visually more impressive than El Templo Mayor.

On the way to the pyramids, we stopped at the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe.  The Basilica is a pilgrimage site for Catholics and is built where the Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego.  Today, there are two churches.  The old basilica was built in the 16th century:

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And the modern basilica was built in the 1970s:

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While the juxtaposition of the old and the new churches are interesting, the most memorable sight was seeing the actual cloak that Juan Diego wore which has an image of the Lady imprinted on it and was used as proof he saw her, ultimately leading to the construction of the old basilica. The cloak was just hanging out in the open in the modern basilica.

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After that short stop, we continued on another 30 minutes to Teotihuacan.

Immediately upon arriving at Teotihuacan, I was pretty stoked.  Not only were the pyramids magnificently preserved, the whole area was huge.  One on end was the Pyramid of the Moon.

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In front of the pyramid the Avenue of the Dead led all the way down to the Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest pyramid in the world.

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Smaller pyramids were to the right and left of the avenue.  Below Mr. T is standing at the top of one of the side pyramids:

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The realization that these pyramids were built at a time when modern machinery was not around left us awestruck in their presence.

We strolled down the Avenue of the Dead while carefully avoiding the hawkers peddling souvenirs made of “obsidian” (our driver had warned us that these souvenirs are fake), cheap sombreros (only 20 pesos!), and colorful Mexican tablecloths to find ourselves in front of the Pyramid of the Sun.

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Then we made our way up the Pyramid of the Sun – all 216 feet of it.

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The width of the steps varied and the climb was steep.  It didn’t help that I carried Traveler #3 during the ascent either.  In fact, when I looked around, it was clear that I was the only person crazy enough to trek up with a baby.  If Traveler #3 is going to be a world explorer, she mind as well start now!

At the top, there were commanding 360-degree views of the plains below.  To the right, we could also see the grand avenue that leads back to the Pyramid of the Moon.

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After this hike, we stopped at a nearby shop to learn about and sample some Mexican drinks. In particular, I had expressed an interest in sampling pulque, a milk colored fermented drink made from cactus; our driver picked this shop because this area is known for its pulque.

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The drink was okay. Mild in flavor and a little sour, one sip was enough for me. Mr. T also sampled mezcal which is made from the maguey plant.  I opted out of that tasting when I saw the mealworm in the bottle which was added for extra flavor.

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After that break, we had one more stop at Teotihuacan.  When the driver pulled up, we saw what looked like a half temple, the Adosada platform, and assumed that was it.  Fatigued from our earlier climb, I asked the driver if there was it was worth trekking up the platform, and he reassured me it was.  When I reached the top of the platform, I understood why.  There was a perfect view of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl below, the only temple with such well-preserved stone heads.  It’s believed that over a hundred sacrificial burials were held at this temple.

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On our way back to Mexico City, we made one more stop to check out the Museo Soumaya, which consists of the art that the second richest man in the world and resident of Mexico City, Carlos Slim,  has amassed.  We didn’t actually make it inside, but I wanted to see the museum in person because of its unique architecture.

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That’s 16,000 honeycomb-esque tiles!

We wrapped up the day driving through the Polanco neighborhood where Museo Soumaya is located. Polanco is like the Beverly Hills or Fifth Avenue of Mexico City and home to ultra high-end stores and chic restaurants.

Since our hotel that night was also in Polanco, we took advantage of our proximity to the chic restaurants and cafes for dinner that night and breakfast the next day.

Aside from the retailers and restaurants, we liked Polanco a lot!  There’s a park with sculptures, lots of food options, and plenty of apartments all wrapped up in a neighborhood that was quiet and safe.  Mr. T and I both thought we could live there. In fact, if we could realize our dream of traveling the world indefinitely, we’d love to base the family out of a place like Polanco for a few months if we could afford it.  Next time we go to Mexico City, we’re definitely looking for a hotel in that neighborhood!

In all, we had a great time on our short getaway. What about all the hype about Mexico City?  It’s legit.  With all there is to do there, you could easily spend a week exploring all the art, history, and culture there, and top it all off with some of the best cuisine you’ll find.  There are also plenty of day trips out of the city as well – like to the monarch butterfly reserves (I need to do that next time!).  Not to mention – you get all that at bargain exchange rates right now since the USD is stronger than it’s been in a long time.  This is one city we definitely recommend others explore before the secret is out!

If you’re planning to go:

  • The pyramids are about an hour outside of Mexico City.  The only way to see it is it rent a car (not advisable in Mexico City), ride the bus, take a tour, or hire a driver.  Hiring a driver is the best option especially if you’re a party of 2 or more so that you can see pyramids at your own pace.  Your hotel can find a driver for you.  Our hotel quoted us 1,700 pesos (approx. $115USD) for the day for a driver to Teotihuacan.
  • Don’t go on Sundays since that’s the day Mexicans and residents enter for free. It is crowded!
  • If you drive from pyramid to pyramid, there’s an entrance fee. Make sure you save your ticket stub to show that you’ve already paid.
  • There’s no shade so bring a hat and put on sunscreen.

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Trishia Jacobs - March 4, 2015 - 9:25 am

I am impressed that you can actually hike up to the top of these pyramids because I understand that you can’t at Chichen Itza — or the pyramids in Egypt. These must be the only ones a person can really climb??
Thanks again for all this info!

JustWanderlust - March 4, 2015 - 12:03 pm

Hi Trishia – I don’t think you can climb the Egypt ones but it’s because they aren’t step pyramids. I climbed Chichen Itza when I went; I had no idea they stopped allowing that! It is probably better that people aren’t allowed to climb the pyramids in the interest of preserving them. 🙂

karim idali - May 27, 2015 - 10:39 am

good

Maria - February 4, 2016 - 8:57 pm

Hello,

Thank you for writing about your trip to Teotihuacan. You mentioned that the hotel you stayed in quoted you 1,700 pesos for a private driver. Would you remember the name of the hotel or the driver that you had? I looked into insolitours and they do a shared tour but I don’t know if others on the tour would want to visit the basilica as well as Museo Soumaya. If you can please help, I would really appreciate it. I leave on Feb. 10th. Thank you!

Maria

JustWanderlust - February 6, 2016 - 8:43 am

Hi Maria – I don’t remember the driver’s name or contact but I got that quote from the Marriott Reforma.

Maria - February 6, 2016 - 11:30 am

Thank you so much for your reply. I will contact them. 🙂

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