A Brief History Of Teotihuacán, Mexico

Northern England Writer

The ruins of Mesoamerican city Teotihuacán are now one of Mexico’s biggest draws, with an estimated two million annual visitors, and a prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The main focal points of the site itself are the two pyramids, as well as the central Avenue of the Dead walkway. Here’s our brief history of one of the city’s most emblematic and culturally impactful archaeological attractions, even though it is actually located in the modern-day State of Mexico.
Supposedly more or less established by 100AD, this pre-Hispanic city was once the largest in the Americas and home to around 125,000 inhabitants at its peak in around 450AD. As well as holding anthropological significance due to the presence of residential zones, it also functioned as a religious centre. This is evident in its very name; Teotihuacán roughly means ‘place where gods were born’, and was also believed to be the location where the universe was created. However, this Nahuatl-language title was only bestowed on the site in the 6th century. Prior to that, evidence suggests it was called ‘place of the reeds’, or Puh.

Pyramid of the Moon

There still exists much debate over who the native people of the site were; suggestions range from Nahuas, Otomis or Totomecs, to the more inclusive proposition that it was simply multi-ethnic. A common misconception though is that Teotihuacán is an Aztec site, despite it already being in ruins before the commencement of the Aztec period. Teotihuacán’s downfall began around the 6th century, as environmental issues spiked a rise in early deaths. These problems came to a head in the 7th century, when many of the buildings associated with the ruling classes were methodically burned and ransacked, perhaps due to internal unrest.

Pyramid of the Sun

An interesting quirk of Teotihuacán is the presence of the talud-tablero architectural style, which interestingly enough finds its origins in the Preclassic period (at sites like Tikal, Guatemala), although is also prominent in Mayan architecture. This historic city also established the Mexican penchant for extraordinary muralism early on, with several well-preserved examples being on display there. As well as muralism, the Mesoamerican city was also a thriving industrial hub – obsidian was a particularly prominent material of choice, but the creation of pottery and jewellery was also notable. Yet crafting wasn’t the only thing concerning the city’s Mesoamerican residents, as plenty of archaeological evidence points towards the fact that human and animal sacrifices were carried out here too.

Despite stories of human sacrifice, it still remains one of the most visually breathtaking archaeological sites in the country; you stroll down the Avenue of the Dead (Miccoatli), which is bordered by the Pyramid of the Sun (whose interior has never been entirely explored), as well as several ceremonial platforms and the Templo de Quetzalcoatl, before reaching the Pyramid of the Moon. Discovery never ends at Teotihuacán though, as the latter pyramid is currently undergoing further excavations due to a 2014 discovery of some huge subterranean tunnels.

View of the Avenue of the Dead from the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacán

Pirámides de Teotihuacán, San Juan Teotihuacán de Arista, Estado de México, México, +52 594 958 2081

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article