World Travel GuidesTeotihuacan, Mexico

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Teotihuacán was the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas, during its peak. The name Teotihuacán refers to the civilization or culture that developed around this city. The civilisation of Teotihuacán occupied much of present-day Mexico. Evidence of Teotihuacano presence can be seen in numerous ancient sites, including Veracruz and the Mayan region.

The ancient city of Teotihuacán is now within the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality of Mexico, approximately 40km northeast of Mexico City. It covers a total area of 83km and is recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 1987.

The name Teotihuacán was given by tha Nahutl-speaking Aztec people centuries after the Teotihuacán civilisation collapsed. Teotihuacan blend in to the Nahua creation myth,and is taken to mean "birthplace of the gods". This is a name given by a latter civilisation, and its original name is unknown.

It is believed that the Teotihuacán civilisation flourished from as early as 200BC, when the earliest building at Teotihuacán is dated, to the 7th or 8th centuries, when the city was thought to have been ransacked and destroyed by invaders, most likely the Toltecs.

Recent evidence showing that the burning was limited only to structures and dwellings of the elite class points to the possibility of an internal uprising.

The city of Teotihuacán is laid out around a broad central avenue, called the "Avenue of the Dead", a name borrowed from the Nahuatl name Miccaotli. The largest pyramid at Teotihuacán is the Pyramid of the Sun. Completed in 100AD, it is the second largest pyramid in the Americas after the Great Pyramid of Cholula. There is a tunnel directly under the Pyramid of the Sun which leads to caves used for religious ceremonies.

You can climb up the Pyramid of the Sun to get a good view of the surrounding region. The pyramid is not as steep as the Pyramid of the Moon closeby. Flanking the Avenue of the Dead are talud-tablero platforms which the Aztecs believed were tombs, and that's why they called the avenue the Avenue of the Dead.

Further road the avenue is the Citadel (a name given by the Spanish, who thought this was a fort) and within it, is the ruined Temple of Quetzalcoatl, or Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the centre of religious and political activities of the city. This temple is a four-tier (originally six-tier) pyramid with protruding sculptures of ferocious serpents.

How to go to Teotihuacan?

Take Highway 85D northwest out of Mexico City. It takes about an hour to reach Teotihuacán. You can also catch the buses from Mexico City's north bus terminal that ply every 30-60 minutes. Make sure your bus goes to the site entrance and not just to the town of San Juan Teotihuacán. Journey takes about an hour, and the last bus is at 6:00pm.

The Teotihuacán Archaeology Park is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9:00am to 5:00pm. There is an admission fee for non Mexico citizens and non Permanent Residents. A permit is required if you wish to use a tripod or a hand-held video equipment. Get to Teotihuacán early as it gets crowded, especially during weekends.

Tour agencies in Mexico City offer half day as well as full day tours of Teotihuacán, often combined with the Plaza de la Tres Culturas and the Basilica of Guadalupe. Price is about 500 pesos.

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