The best-preserved of the Aztec ruins are those located in Teotihuacan, a large ceremonial site about 30 miles north of Mexico City. This was one of the most important ceremonial and commercial centers for the pre-Aztec natives, later adopted by the Aztecs. There are pyramids dedicated to the sun and moon here, as well as an important observatory, priests' living quarters and murals honoring Tlaloc (god of rain). The reason it is so well-preserved is that it was abandoned and buried in the jungle long before Cortez arrived. Experts believe it was founded around 200 B.C. and, at its peak, was the largest city in the world, with 200,000 inhabitants. The Aztecs named it Teotihuacan, meaning "city of the gods" or "where men become gods."
Several tours for this site leave from Mexico City, such as the one offered by IUBIK for $39 per person as of March 2010. However, these tours usually make one or two stops on the way and leave very little time to explore the archaeological site. If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, Trip Advisor readers recommend taking a bus that leaves from the Central del Norte bus terminal; you can take a cab to the Central del Norte from any point within Mexico City. Once there, just look for the bus line that is marked "Piramides," with the pyramid logo on the sign. Buses are air-conditioned and comfortable, and tickets cost $10. Once at Teotihuacan, you can take a guided tour given by the FONATUR (national department of tourism) interns, who only charge whatever tip you wish to give them. These guides are extremely knowledgeable in the site's history and culture. After visiting the pyramids, head over to the museum, which displays relics and artifacts found in and around the site.
Cholula - Puebla
The Pyramid of Tipanipa is located in the town of Cholula, near the city of Puebla. For years, this was considered the world's largest-based pyramid, but a discovery in Guatemala displaced its ranking. The base covers 437 yards and the entire pyramid sits in a 25-acre area. After the desertion of Teotihuacan, this became the most important religious center for the Aztecs. Its construction began in the pre-classical period and was enlarged over time. The interior of the pyramid has several chambers adorned with beautiful murals. When Cortez arrived, he covered most of the pyramid with soil, intentionally trying to hide it, and built a Spanish Colonial Church on top of it.
You can spend the night in Cholula or nearby Puebla and take a cab from there to the archaeological site. Guided tours in English begin every hour at the entrance to the pyramid for a fee of $10 as of March 2010. City Discovery offers day tours leaving from your hotel in Mexico City to visit the Cholula site and Puebla historic textile area for $68 per person. Transportation is provided in an air-conditioned, comfortable van. Tours depart Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
13 N. Saint Clair St.
Toledo, OH 43604
The name of this great Mayan archaeological site means "at the mouth of the Itza well." Once a great city located on the Yucatan Peninsula, only the impressive pyramids and mural artwork remain. Experts believe it was some type of religious center. The Kukulcan pyramid sits in the center; you can climb to the top and visit the inner chambers. Next to this pyramid sit the Temple of the Warriors and the Temple of the Jaguar, the best preserved of the ruins. The Nunnery is a group of ruins believed to be living quarters of the elite.
Travel Yucatan and Chichen-Itza Tours offer daily expeditions with hotel pick-up in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and anywhere on the Riviera Maya. Pick-up is at 8 a.m. and drop-off is at 7 p.m. Prices range from $40 to $90 per person, as of March 2010, depending on the tour you choose. Transportation is provided in an air-conditioned bus or van, and entrance to the site is included in the tour price. Some tours include a buffet lunch while others stop for lunch, but don't include it in the price of the tour.
Calle Cazon #6 SM 3 MZA 17
C.P. 77500 Cancun, QROO
1627 Dale Douglas Drive
El Paso, TX 79936
Calakmul, declared a national monument in 1989 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an important Mayan city located in the tropical forest of Campeche. This is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan and was of significant historical importance for over 12 centuries. Most of the building structures and the layout of the city are well preserved and demonstrate what life was like in this ancient Maya capital. Painted murals realistically display both the political and spiritual makeup of the city. You can take a day trip to Calakmul from Cancun and the Riviera Maya, but note that it is deep in the tropical forest and there are no restaurants, hotels or campsites in the area.
Reino Maya offers day tours leaving from Cancun and the Riviera Maya $100 per person as of March 2010, with a 2-person minimum and a 7-person maximum. Transportation is in an air-conditioned Honda Pilot SUV and the price includes water and a box lunch.
Reino Maya Tours