Exploring the ancient city of Teotihuacan
As I told you on Instagram, we didn’t plan to do a lot of touristic activities in Mexico city. We wanted to live it as a city with it’s urban lifestyle. We made an exception for the Frida Kahlo museum and Teoticahuan pyramids. You can’t have an over 2000 years ancient city few km nearby and not check it out.
For me the best thing to do for these kind of activities is to book a tour. First, because if you don’t go with a guide you’ll end up just staring at stones and taking meaningless pictures. Second, because even for a seasoned traveler like me, it’s sometimes good to sit back, relax and let somebody take care of the logistics. Especially in a city with a crazy traffic like Mexico.
We chose Urban adventures for this tour, I’ve known them in other cities and they have an amazing feedback all over internet. The tour included a dinner with a family in a nearby small town, which was perfect! Here is the tour if you are interested: here.
– Wear comfortable shoes, preferably sneakers. There is a lot stair climbing and walking involved, and the stairs are millenary old. You’ve been warned!
– Bring a hat, if you forgot you can always buy one at Teoticahuan pyramids before you enter. Ranging from 30 to 300 Mexican pesos. I took mine from our B&B: Chaya, they have hats available for their guests all over the property. The site is overly exposed to the sun, you will thank me for that.
– Talking about sun exposure, don’t forget your sunscreen!
– Bring a snack or a light lunch and water as those are not included. The meeting point is in the heart of the historic center, you can always go a little earlier and have/buy your lunch there.
– Take note! There is so much information shared throughout the tour and it’s impossible to remember or make sense of it all in the moment. Think about your travel journal…
– If like us you’ve spent some time in the city/country and have some questions to ask about the customs, the contemporary culture, the do’s and don’ts, this is the perfect occasion to do so. Tour guides are used to deal with tourists and won’t get offended, in the contrary they will put you on the right path and are usually flattered that you are interested in something other than taking souvenir pictures in the landmarks.
Adriana, our tour guide for the day was the best! She is young, full of energy and very passionate about her work and the History of Mexico. She was very patient and answered all of our questions. And we did have a LOT: economy, safety, culture, relations with the USA, food, dress code…
Mexico city suburbs
On the road to Teotihuacan, we had a glimpse of how Mexico city is a huge metropole. Mexico, the country is divided in states and Mexico city state alone counts over 34 Million people. 10 Million live in the city itself, all the rest live in the outside areas. It’s still considered Mexico city because most of the people living in the suburbs, do work in Mexico city. The cute colourful houses outside of Mexico city are considered “favelas” though.
Whenever we passed something on our way, Adriana gave us explanations. From architecture to neighbourhoods leading to talks about the social situation of Mexico and class differences.
Teotihuacan is 50 km North of Mexico city. In Aztec it means the city of god. I was surprised to know that while they used Teotihuacan as a city, the Aztecs were not the ones who built it. The civilisation who built is unknown to this day.
It’s unbelievable how elaborate the architecture and the whole functioning of the city are. Centuries ago, they already figured out a clever sewage system, an efficient trading system and a construction expertise that makes those giant pyramids standing till now. But the most surprising fact is that the Teotihuacan pyramids that we know represent only 15% of the site. All the hills surrounding Mexico city, are actually hidden pyramids, and the archeologists are still working on uncovering the rest.
The whole city is built with volcanic rock, I was surprised to discover that Mexico city area counts a lot of dormant volcanos. The biggest pyramids are the pyramid of the sun, and the pyramid of the moon facing each other. The two pyramids were temples and all the rest of the pyramids used to be the houses and the amenities of the city. The avenue separating the two pyramids is called: Calle de los Muertos (Avenue of the dead).
The Aztec religion and gods required a lot of blood sacrifices, so I can’t imagine the amount of horrors that happened in those temples. We also noticed a lot of flower emblems. The flower of Teotihuacan symbolises the center of the world and actually every civilisation in Meso-America considered themselves as the center of the world.
At the exit of the site, you can visit a cactus garden. I was surprised to see a prickly pear cactus, just like in Morocco! The also use and eat the fruit, but it’s more sour than its Moroccan counterpart.
They call the prickly pear Tuna!
Cactus garden, prickly pear cactus on the left
Agave and volcanic rock workshop
We went to a Mexican family’s house in a village called San Fransisco, we met all their family including 5 dogs and 3 cats. In their house they have a volcanic rock and a cactus based alcohol workshop. The goods that you buy in tour guides stops can be a little bit pricier. But I always like to reward the entrepreneurial effort of people regularly opening their houses to strangers and think of ways to make a living for themselves… Instead of complaining about their situation.
We had the pleasure to meet the Agave cactus! Its incredible the amount of uses that you can get from this one plant. That’s why it was considered as holy. With the agave cactus you can make:
– Agave syrup: the renown sugar alternative that you can find in any organic shop all over the world
– Tequila, but it’s made with blue agave another type of cactus
– Pulque, a kind of local cider
– Mezcal, a smoky liquor made of agave hearts, previously cooked in pits
– An eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrapping paper, if you peel the leaves
– The thorns are used as needles or ear pierces
– You can also extract a thread with the needle and start sewing right away
I bought polished volcanic rock pendant. It’s not just a touristic knick-knack… Through the rock, you can directly look at the sun or an eclipse without damaging your eyes. It’s kind of the original sunglasses!
Agave holy plant, the big cactus in the center
The family shop
Volcanic rock crafts
We ended the day with a cozy family dinner. I was so excited for this part, because street food as delicious as it is in Mexico, it will never compete with a home-cooked meal. And it was the opportunity for me to know more about the food, because sometimes I am just ordering things on the street to try without really knowing what they are (bold and guilty!).
We made avocado salsa before the dinner and had more time to get to know each other. It’s an amazing way to end the day. Here is the menu of our cozy dinner:
Apetizers: Sopesitos with black beans paste, accompanied with the salsa that we just made.
Starter: Tortilla soup
Main meal: Safran rice, spicy chicken and tortilla tacos. I was craving rice so much that i skipped the tacos.
Drink: Horchata, a rice milk with agave syrup and cinnamon. So delicious and most welcome when you had a little bit too much jalapeños and spicy salsa.
That’s it for today, I really recommend this tour and if you travel alone it’s a good way to meet people. We had drinks few days later with some of the tour participants. What I mostly liked about this tour is Adriana, I love watching people doing what they love. And above that, we were never pushed to purchase anything, she made sure to remove any guilt to buy during the workshops and I loved that, there is nothing that I hate more than pushy salesmen and hidden costs.
I hope that you enjoyed the adventure with us and thank you for reading.
San Francisco town
The tour was complimentary in exchange of an honest review and few pictures. As always all opinions are my own.
xo xo Dalal
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