How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a Tour

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The ancient city and pyramids of Teotihuacan is the most popular day trip from Mexico City and a can’t miss attraction for most travelers. Walking through this UNESCO World Heritage Site is like traveling back in time. It’s just 30 miles northeast of the capital and is an awesome day trip to combine with the rest of your stay.

While you can definitely take a tour — there are tons of them — visiting on your own is easy, saves you money, allows you to choose your own schedule, and customize it to your interests. By skipping Teotihuacan tours, we also avoided crowds and skipped over souvenir stops.

In this article, I’ll share how to get there and back on your own plus a bit of Teotihuacan’s history, what to see on site (hint: it’s not just the pyramids!), how to schedule your day, what to eat, and how much to budget for your day.

Table Of Contents

How to Get to Teotihuacan by Public Transportation

There are three main ways to get to Teotihuacan: by public bus, Uber, or guided tour. The bus is obviously the cheapest option, costing 106 pesos round-trip per person. It’s also comfortable and easy but takes longer than driving directly.

To take the bus to Teotihuacan, you’ll need to take the Mexico City metro to the Autobuses del Norte station (line 5).  

From the Autobuses del Norte metro stop, follow the signs out of the metro station and across the street to the actual bus station.

how to get from mexico city to teotihuacan by bus
Buses from Mexico City to Teotihuacan depart from Autobuses del Norte station.

Inside the station, head all the way toward the left, to Puerta 8.  

Here, you’ll find a window selling tickets to “Pyramides” (referring to the Mexico City pyramids) or “Zona Arqueologico”.

how to get from mexico city to teotihuacan by bus
Inside the bus station at Mexico City. Look for the big green numbers. Teotihuacan tickets are by #8.
how to get from mexico city to teotihuacan by public transportation (teotihuacan tours)
Buy tickets from Autobuses Teotihuacan and go to the bus bays under the sign “Sala Gate 8”. Look for a sign in the front window of the bus for which bus is yours!

The first bus to Teotihuacan departs at 6am with more departures about every 20 minutes thereafter until 2pm. I recommend catching an 8am bus — you’ll arrive just in time for the site to open and avoid midday crowds.

Depending on traffic, the ride is about 1 hour each way.  Your outbound ticket will be for a specific, timed departure so don’t miss your bus.  Your return ticket is not for a scheduled time, so you can take any bus back to the city when you’re done.

The round-trip ticket costs 106 pesos per person, or about $5.00 as of December 2019.  Bathrooms are available in the station for 6 pesos and there is fast food and luggage storage (30 pesos/bag) also.

Uber is more convenient, but more expensive. It’s hard to provide an exact cost, since it will depend on where you’re staying in the city, whether your car takes the toll road, and how much traffic there is at that exact time (Uber surge pricing is very common in Mexico City). From my Condesa hotel to Gate 2 of Teotihuacan, I was quoted 1175 pesos one-way (absurd!) but only 400 pesos on the way back.

Teotihuacan Hours and Admission

Buses will drop you off at Puerta 1 at Teotihuacan, where you can buy entrance tickets.  As of February 2020, the entrance fee was 80 pesos and includes entry into the museum.  There is an additional charge if you wish to record videos.

If you want to hire a guide (optional), there are several licensed guides near the entrance.  Private guides cost about 850 pesos for a 1.5 hour tour of Sun & Moon Pyramids or 1500 pesos for a 2.5 hour tour that includes more.  Expect to haggle based on length of tour, language, size of group, and the guide’s knowledge.  For a free option, you can read through the Wikipedia guide before you go.

The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm. It is busiest on Sundays (when Mexicans get in free) and Mondays (when many city museums are closed). If you can, go on a Tuesday through Saturday and arrive right at 9am. This is the #1 most visited attraction in all of Mexico, so it gets crowded!

If mornings aren’t your cup of tea, check out my review of visiting Teotihuacan at night. It’s an entirely different experience (and requires separate admission to a daytime visit) but it can be a great supplement or even substitution!

What to See and How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a Guide

To avoid crowds, I recommend arriving before 10am to have some breathing room before hoards of Teotihuacan tours arrive. Most visitors need about four hours to see the highlights; history buffs should plan on staying all day for a more in-depth look. The ancient city was arranged in a grid that still makes navigating today, but it covers about eight square miles so it’ll take you some time to see it all!

You’ll want to sightsee (and climb) the Temple of the Sun first when it’s least busy. Then head down the spookily named Calle de los Muertos, or Avenue of the Dead which routes through the city center. It passes by numerous minor temples and other sites, eventually reaching the Pyramid of the Moon. After climbing your second pyramid, head back to the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl. I recommend saving the museum for last — if you start your visit early in the morning, you’ll hit the indoor museum midday when everything is at it’s hottest.

For the sake of clarity: you should know that Teotihuacan refers to the entire ancient city (and today’s complete archaeological site), although most visitors focus on seeing and climbing the two main Mexico City pyramids.

Teotihuacan’s History in a Nutshell

Although civilization at Teotihuacan traces back to 300 BCE, the city was at its peak between roughly 450-550 CE. At that time, it’s population is estimated to be 125,000 (and perhaps as many as 200,000!), making it the largest city in pre-Columbian America and the sixth-largest city in the world. Its influence in Mesoamerica as a civilization is well-documented through artifacts all over Mexico.

Contrary to popular belief, Teotihuacan is not an Aztec site; evidence supports that it was either Nahua, Otomi or Totonac, or perhaps even multi-ethnic.

The exact reason for the fall of Teotihuacan is unknown, but theories include internal unrest and uprisings, outside raiders, and severe drought. Whether or not this was the cause for its entire fall, there is definite evidence of deliberate fires, smashed artwork, and destructive chaos.

Temple of the Sun

Make your first stop the Temple of the Sun so you can climb all 248 steep steps before it gets too hot out.  I won’t spoil the view from the top, but I will tell you it’s absolutely worth the pain.

At the base of Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan
At the base of Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan

Researchers believe a temple may have once topped the structure, but little is known about its intended purpose. Whatever the case, it was likely used for many rituals, as several masks, bones, figurines, and obsidian artifacts have been found in and around the stones.

This extraordinary monument is not only the largest pyramid in the Americas, but the third largest worldwide.

Pyramid of the Moon

This 150-foot pyramid lies on the northern end of the site and was previously used for both human and animal sacrifices to the gods. There are twelve smaller platforms in front of the pyramid where residents would’ve stood to witness the rituals; standing here gave me a chill.

how to visit teotihuacan mexico city
The main street of Teotihuacan (Avenue of the Dead) is lined with many temples

The Pyramid of the Moon was my favorite part of Teotihuacan.  Although it’s shorter than the Pyramid of the Sun and you can only climb halfway up, you have the added bonus of seeing the entire site.  The steps seemed steeper (or maybe I was just more tired), but it’s worth the climb.

Temple of the Feathered Serpent

At first glance, this looks like just another miniature pyramid, but when you get closer you’ll notice numerous carved serpent heads along the eastern side.

Although you don’t necessarily need to climb another one of Mexico City’s pyramids, this is one is still worth exploring from ground level to see the carvings.

Palace of Quetzalpapalotl

The Palace of Quetzlpapalotl doesn’t look like anywhere else in the city. It has ornately carved pillars, obsidian inlays, beautiful murals, and a gorgeous courtyard.  Many of the colors have been preserved; others re-touched.

Palace of Quetzlpalapotl in Teotihuacan Mexico
Palace of Quetzlpalapotl

The palace is located in La Ciudadela, a seventeen acre courtyard that appeared to have housed the city’s ruling elite.

Teotihuacan Museum

The museum is primarily geared toward Spanish speakers and is skippable if you’re short on time.

The Best Teotihuacan Tours

There’s no doubt a guide and group make things easier and give you more historical context during your visit.

If visiting independently sounds like too much work, the best Teotihuacan tours include this early-morning visit with an archaeologist to beat the crowds.  

If you’re not an early bird, try Hidden Teotihuacan, a small group outing that includes dinner in a local home.

Shopping in Teotihuacan

Tons of vendors sell arts, crafts, trinkets, and other souvenirs both in and out of the official site boundaries. They all have basically the same items, so don’t worry about “missing” something. Since everyone has basically the same products, don’t be afraid to walk away until you get a price you’re happy with.  If you can bargain in Spanish, you’re likely to get a better price.

PRO TIP: Save all your shopping for the end of your visit so you don’t have to carry any new gifts with you as you climb up and down the pyramids.

Where to Eat Lunch Near Teotihuacan

The fact that you can leave the site for lunch and re-enter with your ticket isn’t widely advertised.  There are some street food options outside Gate 2 (across from Pyramid of the Sun) and one really unique restaurant outside Gate 5 (behind Pyramid of the Sun, follow signs to museum).

La Gruta is a restaurant inside a cave, providing an atmosphere different from anywhere I’ve eaten before!  The food is average, but the setting is unbeatable.

If you speak Spanish, you can check out the menu ahead of time.  It’s not cheap — expect entree prices around US$12 — but it’s not outrageously priced either.

Inside La Gruta cave restaurant near teotihuacan
Inside La Gruta

To get there, exit Puerta 5 and take a left.  Shortly thereafter, take a right onto a side street and you’ll see black signs pointing you down the long driveway to the restaurant.

Returning by Bus to Mexico City

When you’re done exploring, exit the ruins at Puerta/Gate 2 and walk through the parking lot to the main road (pickup is also available at Gate 3).  The bus will pick you up at that main intersection, on the far side of the road.  You shouldn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes.  If you didn’t originally buy a round-trip ticket, you can pay when you board.

teotihuacan bus stop

The site closes at 5pm but there are buses until 6pm or later.  The ride back takes slightly longer due to the routing, but it’s still easy.

The final stop is back at the bus station where you started, or you can get off at Indios Verdes and take the metro from there.  Indios Verdes is a busy, overwhelming station so skip it if you’re not used to Latin American travel!

NEW: Visiting Teotihuacan at Night

pyramids lit up at experiencia nocturna en teotihuacan

I re-visited Teotihuacan in 2020 to check out the Teotihuacan Nocturno experience, which includes nighttime entry to see the pyramids lit up. It ends with a light and sound show projected on the Pyramid of the Sun.

If that sounds interesting to you, check out my full review of Teotihuacan at night.

Do you need a hotel in Mexico City?

I don’t recommend staying by Teotihuacan — there’s nothing there, except the site itself.  Instead, check out my Mexico City neighborhood guide and hotel recommendations (opens in a new window).

Have more time?  Check out some of the other activities I liked in Mexico City to plan the rest of your trip.

What to Bring With You to Teotihuacan

Good walking shoes: You’ll cover quite a bit of ground as you walk between the Mexico City pyramids (and up and down the steep stairs!). The Avenue of the Dead is two miles long if you walk it in entirety.

Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat: There’s essentially no shade on-site.

Drinking water: Bottled water is sold outside park gates, but I recommend bringing your own reusable bottle and a water filter because it’s better for the environment.

A small day bag: Choose a backpack so you’re hands-free for easier climbing. This is my favorite lightweight backpack. Please keep a close eye on your bag while you’re on the metro; my sister lost her wallet in Mexico City!

How to Spend One Day at the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone

7am-7:30am Leave Your Hotel: You’ll need time to take the subway or taxi to the bus station. From most hotels, this takes 15-20 minutes.

7:30am-9am: Buy bus tickets when you arrive. Grab a coffee and breakfast to-go at the station, use the restroom if you need to, and board an 8am bus which will take about an hour.

9am-1pm: Visit Teotihuacan, starting with the Pyramid of the Sun before it gets too hot or crowded.

1pm-2:30pm: Have lunch at La Gruta, the cave restaurant.

2:30pm-4pm: Depart on a bus around 2:30pm, which will take about an hour to get back to the station and then another 15-20 minutes back to your hotel.

Teotihuacán is an essential part of ancient Mexico and its heritage and no trip to central Mexico would be complete without seeing this megalithic masterpiece!

More Info to Plan Your Mexico Trip

172 thoughts on “How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a Tour”

  1. This was EXTREMELY helpful, thank you! As of October 2017, entrance fee is $70 pesos per person, and buses from Mexico City to teotihuacan were $100 pesos per person.

    We got a delicious meal (quesadillas) right outside of gate 3, super cheap. There are also awesome paletas (Popsicles) right when you exit the ruins (still within the compound) for $13 pesos.

    Thank you for such a helpful and informative post, it made traveling to Teotihuacan so easy and affordable!

    I would add that seeing the temple of Quetzalcoatl is worth it, an archeology team was working on restoring it, and seeing sculptures of Quetzalcoatl was really special. Also buses back to Mexico City leave from all three entrances, and there are staff that are around the help guide you.

    1. Kirreck Williams

      Just wanted to let you know your directions were SPOT ON! We followed them exactly and had a great experience to and from Teotihuacan.

  2. Heya! I’m soooo glad to have found this! We followed your instructions sand it was perfect 🙂 thank you so much!

    Just to add, bring cash to pay for the bus ticket and entry fee.

    If you wish to do something in addition, we took an Uber to/from Teotihuacan Center and it’s a cool traditional town worth checking out before heading back to Mexico City.

    We ended up leaving teotihuacan around 4pm and got back into Mexico City around 5…traffic was very heavy and it took around an hour to get back to Condesa so keep that in mind

    1. About how long is the trip one-way? Trying to decide if it would be worth it stay in Teotihuacan overnight in a hostel or hotel.

      Thanks!

      1. @Kristen, The bus is just about an hour each way but you’ll need to add in time for metro from your hotel to the bus station. I don’t think Teotihuacan is worth an overnight – not nearly as interesting in Mexico City.

  3. Hi Becky,

    Your travel blog helped me a lot so thanks so much for posting this information!

    Also as an update to your guide: The site is open everyday 9-5pm according to the government website. As a side note, I was able to enter at 8:30am on Feb 12th 2018 though I am not sure if that is the norm. And there is a small increase in the price of the bus as Feb 2018, it is now 104 pesos round trip (52 for a one-way ticket).

    Thanks again,
    Ray

    1. @Ray, Thanks for the update! I can’t go every month, so I rely on people like you to keep me posted on new changes. I’ll be updating the bus price in my guide and see if I can get an official statement on opening times.

  4. A very helpful post! Yes, it cost us 104 pesos for a round trip ticket, and the admission to the site was 70 pesos each. This was on February 8, 2018. We stayed overnight at the Villa Arqueologicas, a lovely hotel at the south end about a kilometre or so from Gate 1 where we got off the bus. We opted to stay overnight because we travelled by bus and metro from Valle De Bravo and so arrived at Teotihuacan mid afternoon. We were able to explore the site before leaving about 5:30 pm. TIP: our site tickets were good for admission to the Museo de Murales and Tetitla Palace (both highly recommended) the next day.

  5. Your blog was very helpful. We had a delicious meal at La Gruta. I would mention if you are taxing back to your hotel, you need to buy your tickets a the booths in the center of the station.

  6. Outstanding write up with pictures. Bus was safe, easy, cheap. The woman at the ticket counter near Sala 8 told us to go to gate 5, but it was actually 6. No biggie – just ask the bus driver if they are going to Los Piramides and they will say si or point you to the right one.

    La Gruta is beautiful but food was not exceptional at all – a classic tourist trap – but we split an appetizer and the Mexican Plate and it was plenty, plus margaritas were good.

  7. Brilliant. Everything worked perfectly even with 3 changes on the metro.
    At the site it says open 7-17.
    The driver assured us we could get the bus back at Puerta 1, 2 or 3 and we certainly had no problems from 1.
    When we tried to get off the bus at Indios Verdes the kind lady next to us advised against it saying it was too dangerous. Instead we got off a few minutes later at Deportivo 18 de Marzo which is the next stop along the same line and from there everything was fine.
    Thanks again.

  8. This was so helpful. Easy to follow and spot on. Fantastic place! La Gruta was easy to find and just as you said. Fabulous experience and not a run of the mill tourist trap. Highly recommend. Thank you.

  9. Thanks so much for the great article! Quick question — do you know if the site is open 7 days a week? (Thinking of going on Sunday and don’t want to get there and see it be closed or something!) Thanks in advance.

  10. Thanks, this is super useful for my trip next week. Random question – are there stray dogs at the site? i’ve heard there were and just want to be emotionally prepared (i’m a wreck when it comes to hungry animals) and may also pack some food to give out.

  11. We visited the ruins today following your instructions. They were spot on. Thanks so much for this blog!

    @Adrienne: Yes, there are lots of stray dogs (confirmed today April 19)

  12. Thank you! As of May 2018, bus is 104mxn roundtrip. Also recommend getting off at 18 de marzo and catching the metro there – fewer changes for those heading to centro historico. Many stray dogs but harmless because they were mostly lazying in the lawns. I guess there aren’t any more Teotihuacan to eat them… On the the way back, bus only picks up at puertas 2 and 3. Lots of local food options at puerta 2 and some between 2and 3.

    1. Forgot to add that you may have militares (police/national security)getting on your bus and recording video/photo of everyone’s face – including yours. Don’t be too nervous (and don’t cover up) this happens when there is hightened security.

  13. Great information, i have a question do you anything about the night show and pricing? also is parkign available if i decide to drive?

  14. Thank you so much for this article. It made my visit to Teotihuacan (in May 2018) so easy. I wouldn’t have had the energy to do all this research myself and with such little time I would have just bitten the bullet and booked in a full day tour, which I didn’t want to do. Seeing all the other tour groups at the pyramids I was so happy I had made my own way there and was free to do what I wanted. Your descriptions of how to find the right bus counter, where to enter and exit etc was spot on and so easy to follow. Thanks again : )

  15. This was so helpful. We went early on a Sunday morning wasn’t so bad. The fee for the round trip bus was 104 pesos per person and the bathroom at the bus terminal is now 6 pesos. Thank you for sharing all this information.

  16. I didn’t get out to Teotihuacan when I visited Mexico City three years ago, so it’s a top priority for my next trip in November. Organized tour groups are definitely not my cup of tea; I’ve always preferred to do my own thing on the cheap, so thanks for the information! I’ve bookmarked this page, and I’ll be checking for updates before I go.

  17. Bus fare is still 104 pesos round trip as of June 2018. Site entrance was also 70 pesos.

    There were several packs of feral dogs, but they were super docile and sunbathing most of the time.

    You can buy straw hats for 30 pesos if you forget one or use an umbrella for shade.

    @Becky, thanks for putting together this little guide. Bus route information was super useful.

  18. Thank you! I just made this trip today following your instructions and they were perfect. I didn’t have the energy to plan this on my own as I was feeling a little sick and I’ve been traveling for 3 months now, so finding your blog was amazing!

    La Gruta was a nice restaurant I never would have discovered on my own. After drink and tip my bill ended up being closer to $20 USD. The fajitas were a little bland, but the guacamole was phenomenal!

  19. Thank you so much!
    I went there on July 18th, 2018 and it was awesome.
    We followed your directions and got st the site early, around 9 am. It was great to walk without a lot of people and before the heat.
    We ended at gate 3 and we took a taxi to gate 1 (50 pesos) because they told is the buses that go directly back to Central del Norte were taken only at gate 1. The other buses that you can take ar gate 2 or 3 make many stops at little towns.
    We were done by 12 and avoid the heat and crowds.
    Thanks again for your help.

    Patricia Ford
    Houston, Texas

  20. Hi,
    Thanks for this info. I am going to Mexico City in October and will use this guide. Just a quick question-

    When leaving Teotihuacan is it quite clear what bus you have to get to get back to Mexico city? Does it say Autobuses del Norte metro or something?

    1. @Jason, Yes it will be obvious and there should either be an electronic display on the top of the bus or a paper in the window stating Autobuses del Norte.

  21. thank you for such clear and comprehensive information.

    is there a way to book a bus ticket in advance? Is there a danger of the buses being completely full at certain times?

  22. Thank you for your very detailed and informative article on Teotihuacan! We visited today! And while we Uber-ed each way from Zocalo (about $27 US each way), Your other tips proved valuable. Also, we had not seen the restaurant La Gruta mentioned in other information about visiting Teotihuacan, but we took your suggestion- and it was the ultimate experience to round out the excursion!

    1. @Johm, It was my pleasure. Thanks for adding in the Uber information — the pricepoint is great for other people to know. Did you Uber back also? Any issues hailing a car?

  23. Thanks so much for writing all of this out in such detail! I really appreciate the pictures of where to buy the tickets and where to turn left etc. So great! Thanks 🙂

  24. Many thanks for writing this! It was enormously helpful when I went to Teotihuacán earlier this month.

    What an amazingly inexpensive day-trip! 10 pesos for the Metro to and from Autobuses del Norte, 104 pesos for the bus to and from Teotihuacán, and 70 pesos for admission to the archaeological site and the two museums. For lunch at Restaurante Campestre near the bus stop at Gate 2, I paid 85 pesos (rounded up to 100 with tip) for a chile relleno, beans, rice, six tortillas, and two bottles of Coke.

  25. Thanks so much for all your tips, super helpful for planning the day trip! I would add bringing an umbrella might help with the sun. Also the entry fee has been increased to 75 pesos instead of 70 pesos.

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