Gazing below at the Avenue of the Dead, once the cultural center of the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan established over 2 millennia ago, you could only imagine how the 125,000 inhabitants of the city went about their daily lives. We had reached the summit of the Pyramid of the Sun, built over the tombs of early Teotihuacan rulers. We were standing at the center of the once, vibrant Aztec civilization.
In just over 72 hours, I had embarked on one of my most impulsive trips yet, a weekend trip to Teotihuacan and Mexico City. It was the Thursday morning before the trip, I was planning to head back to San Francisco and I felt a sudden urge to explore Central America. It would be a great experience to add to my Experience Bank and I’d never been to Mexico. The only other time I’d been to Central or Latin America was my winter trip to Quito, Ecuador. 5 hours later, I had canceled my tickets to San Francisco, booked a round trip flight, and had landed in Mexico City.
I’d arrived at the hostel without knowing anyone in the city and with no plan. This was my first, truly solo, world trip. The following morning I’d met a Canadian traveler, Taylor, who had just arrived after a 2-week trek through Cuba. We left the hostel with the intention of exploring Chapultepec, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. It’s home to the Castillo de Chapultepec, built during the colonial period and has housed Mexican heads of state until 1940.
Over the course of the weekend, we had visited the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, among much more. The Museo Nacional de Antropología is the largest museum in Mexico and contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from the Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage, such as the Stone of the Sun and the Aztec Xochipilli statue. The Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of the most prominent cultural centers in Mexico City, housing murals by Diego Riviera, Siqueiros, among others. On our last day, we visited the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic church and national shrine of Mexico. Thousands of people visit the historic religious site every day. I would highly recommend visiting these sites if you ever take a trip to Mexico City.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about Mexico without mentioning the food. Besides a few bad experiences with a Chinese buffet and an American restaurant, Taylor and I had made a plan to solely eat street food, namely the hundreds of taquerias scattered around the city. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a few exceptions, we had eaten tacos, gorditas, and sopes, but mostly tacos. At about 9 pesos a taco, we had some of the best food in the city. Every taqueria had their own blend of spices and sauces that made their tacos unique. We would often go “taqueria hopping”, stopping by several taquerias trying out different tacos at each one. These street vendors aren’t for the faint of heart, or stomach, but we didn’t have any issues and it was some of the best food we had on the trip. Highly recommended!
On our last day, we booked a tour to check out the pyramids just outside of Mexico City. Within an hour, we were at the site of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, a name I still can’t pronounce. We started at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, the second largest pyramid in the city, and serves as a direct contrast to the Pyramid of the Sun. Once at the top, you can gaze down the Avenue of the Dead. On either side, you can see several complex, multi-family compounds. At the far end of the plaza, you can see the Pyramid of the Sun, towering over the rest of the city. I’d always been a big history fanatic, but it felt unreal being at the site of a once flowering, ancient civilization, and imagining what the avenue may have looked like during one of the city’s many festivals. I would highly recommend checking out Teotihuacan if you’re planning a trip out there.
I was only in Mexico City for about 3 days, and I feel as though I still have not experienced a majority of what the city has to offer, with its numerous museums, parks, and historic sites. It was a very impulsive trip, but one I am glad to have added to my Experience Bank. I’d met many great people, made some new friends, and spoke more Spanish than I ever have in my entire life. Mexico City is definitely an experience I won’t forget.
Check out the short video I made while I was there: