Much like our Europe leg (aka Leg 1), we decided to take a scenic route to reach our Mexican home of Puerto Escondido. So we decided to rent a car for our first week and begin with a couple of days near the archeological site of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan was at one time the largest city in Mesoamerica, around the 1st century AD. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it was once the 6th largest city in the world (which I think is about where Mexico City ranks today). It boasts several pyramids and was a center of trade, religion and culture. It is also remarkably well-preserved and has a great on-site museum displaying preserved murals and artifacts.
Chad and I arrived in Mexico City in the early afternoon and after a not-so-quick ATM stop (we later realized I’d only activated my international ATM card, not Chad’s, so that caught us up), we picked up our rental car from Alamo at the airport. It is always a process with lots of paperwork but by 2:30 p.m. or so we were on our way, and Chad ably navigated the challenging Mexico City traffic.
It was less than two hours to the twin towns of San Juan de Teotihuacan and San Martin de la Piramides, which is where our hotel was (in San Juan but closer to the San Martin center, review below). These are very small and seem pretty reliant on the tourist trade of visits to the zona arqueologica (as it is called in Spanish). We checked in, rested a bit, then explored San Martin, ending up at a great little restaurant called Hacienda El Ritual for drinks and dinner. We agreed we already felt like we were on vacation.
The next morning, we got up early and had coffee and a light breakfast in our room before walking over to the site to try to arrive right at opening (9 a.m.). We were among the first there and headed straight for the Pyramid of the Sun. It is really helpful to get there early in the morning -although the high temperature didn’t quite hit 80-degrees Fahrenheit that day, it feels much hotter in the blazing sun. In the morning the temperature is lower and you can climb the pyramid in the shade.
After lots of pyramid pictures, we walked over to the museum for more context into Teotihuacan and the people who lived there over the years. It is pre-Aztec, so the teotihuacanos are not quite as well-recorded, but they had quite a bit of archeological material to work with. After the museum, we walked through a garden area to the far end of the site where the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. By this time the busses were starting to arrive, but all we left was a backtrack to the Pyramid of the Moon.
We left tired and hungry to try to find an affordable lunch. The restaurants closest to the attraction definitely charge tourists prices – we checked one menu based on good reviews of affordability and ditched out to walk toward town. We decided to try a little hole-in-the-wall place right by our hotel and unknowingly had our first fonda experience. A fonda is a mom-and-pop restaurant serving primarily a single “comida corrida” or meal of the day – three courses but no choices. We had a great meal there (though declined dessert) for only $60 pesos or $3 USD. For both of us! The language barrier was a challenge and made us more determined to use this trip to learn Spanish, but it was a great experience. We found another fonda for dinner which gave a choice of chicken or beef and so we got one of each. Not quite as affordable, but when you compare it to a traditional restaurant in Mexico or especially US prices, it is a great deal.
We really enjoyed our time near Teotihuacan, but the next morning we hopped back in the car and headed to Puebla. More on that in the next post.
Hotel Fer – Great choice for a visit to see the ruins – Hotel Fer is clean and comfortable with a very friendly staff. The location is an easy 15-minute walk to the 5th gate to the Teotihuacan ruins and not far from the center of San Martin. There’s a great little fonda down the street (Teos) for an affordable lunch and it is an easy walk to good restaurants. We loved the courtyard area, secure parking, good hot shower and how accommodating everyone there was to us.