Drive 50 kilometres north of Mexico City and you’ll see a towering stone pyramid begin to dominate the skyline ahead of you. This is Teotihuacán’s revered Pyramid of the Sun, standing on a sacred site in a town where Aztec’s believed the gods were born, placing it among the most important ruins in Mexico. Teotihuacán was an epicentre of culture, religion and commerce in ancient Mesoamerica, larger than Rome and one of the first great cities of the Western Hemisphere. However it is enveloped by mystery – its inhabitants suddenly abandoned the city for an unknown reason, leaving it to ruin.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the heart of Teotihuacán. Construction of the massive structure began in 100BC, and completed with the construction of the crowning temples around 300AD. It is one of the largest structures in the pre-Columbian world, rising more than 63 metres into the sky. Some 248 steps have been carved into the front face and are a mission to climb, particularly with the hot Mexican sun beating down on your back. However the view from the top makes all the sweat worth it, offering extraordinary perspectives down the magnificent Avenue of the Dead and across the surrounding mountains.
The purpose of the Pyramid of the Sun is not quite understood, although it’s clear the site was chosen for a specific reason and in relation to the sun, moon and stars – notably, the front wall is exactly perpendicular to the point on the horizon where the sun sets at the equinoxes – however scholars can only ponder the reasons for that. What we do know is that the completion of the Pyramid marked the beginning of the cultures of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Oaxaca, and Puebla regions.
The Pyramid is far from the only thing to see at Teotihuacán – its advisable to spend the better half of a day here at minimum. Buses run frequently from Mexico City, or you can jump on one of the many tours that come to the site each day. Definitely don’t leave home without some heavy-duty sunblock and water – it’s called the Pyramid of the Sun for a reason – and try to get there early to avoid the heat and crowds.