Totally Tout-less Teotihuacan Tours? (Tangentially, Taxco Too?)
November 22, 2007 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm spending a week in Mexico City next month. There are some great suggestions here, but does anyone have a specific recommendation for a tour company or private guide for Teotihuacan?

I've read a few accounts of Teotihuacan tours that use most of the time visiting hard-sell tourist traps and precious little time at the ruins, a situation I want to avoid. Can anyone recommend a specific company or tour guide, English speaking, that skips the trinkets and margaritas? Is it better to just take the bus to the site and try to hire someone on-site?

Also, I'm planning to spend some time in Taxco. One night or two? What about Cuernavaca? (As a point of reference, my dream vacation was a month I spent in Oaxaca a couple of years ago.) Fun things to do/see/eat in Mexico City not in guidebooks?

Meetup anyone? I'll be there the week before Christmas, staying near the Zocalo.
posted by Wet Spot to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I spent a few week in Cuernavaca and the surrounding area last winter. If you go to Cuernavaca, be sure to check out the zocalo at night. It gets a little touristy, but there's a gorgeous building there that gets lit up when the sun goes down.

Things I especially liked in Mexico City were the Mercado Sabado and the Frida Kahlo house/museum. Also, if you get a chance, go to Xochimilco where you can take a boat and enjoy drinks and stuff while you float down the river.
posted by youcancallmeal at 11:17 AM on November 22, 2007

I used to live in Mexico City. We had a great English speaking tour guide / taxi driver we'd use for all our visitors. I'll try to dig out his number.

Otherwise the tours from big hotels (eg Sheraton, Hyatt, Four Seasons) will have less sell / more ruins. (Of course you'll be paying more...) I wouldn't hire anyone on site.

Taxco's only worth one night. It's kinda cool, but there's not much to see beyond buying lots of silver. Cuernavaca's OK. Not much charm - but great climate so people have vacation homes there. Tepotzotlan is probably more interesting. The mining towns north have more atmosphere.
posted by TrashyRambo at 11:39 AM on November 22, 2007

Do you by any chance know anybody there? We have friends in Mexico City who hooked us up with a wonderful native guide who took us on a private tour through the ruins and helped us steer clear of the...salesmen. I will try to see if I can get her contact info for you but it might take me a couple of days.

Expect to have to summon all your willpower NOT to purchase any souvenirs there, especially the semi-silver or marble trinkets at Teotihuacan. When you come down from the Pyramid of the Sun, you LITERALLY have to walk a gauntlet of vendors. According to our guide, the items for sale there are not of the best quality and in most cases aren't authentic. Well, OK, we did come home with a set of supposedly marble turtles...we cracked, what can I say.
posted by tamitang at 12:21 PM on November 22, 2007

A Mexican friend and I took a taxi from Mexico City to Teotihuacan. I suggest you strongly avoid guided tours as you will spend unnecessary time in gift stores and other stops. You can arrange for the taxi to pick you up from your hotel and then from Teotihuacan. My friend suggested we take the scenic route (rather than the interstate) which was interesting, you see a very different part of Mexico City as well as you realize how big this place is.
posted by carmina at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: Not to snark, but it's actually really easy to do Teotihuacan on your own, and if you're looking for cultural context, I'd suggest a visit to the really great museum on site - it's just the right size to tell you all about what you're seeing without making you think "omg, another ceramic statue!". My mom and I spent Easter Sunday there, when it was uber-jammed, and it was still awesome. Here's how we did it, though we just followed what's in the Lonely Planet Mexico guidebook (relevant pages of which I scanned and put on Flickr here and here.)

From the Zocalo in DF, take the Metro out to Autobuses del Norte on line 5; you'll end up at a bus station. Facing the main entrance to the station and all the ticket counters, walk all the way to the left side, where you'll find buses selling tickets for 25 pesos or so one way - I think we paid 50 or 60 pesos together - to "Piramides". The bus takes the motorway and lasts about an hour or so. It pulls right up to the south/Gate 1 entrance (an adorable traffic circle full of cacti), where you get out and walk right into the site through the south parking area (which isn't, you know, Disneyland size, so it's fine). Up the road a bit and bam, there's the Avenue of the Dead.

We spent a good four hours tooling around the southern end of the site and the museum before leaving the site via the west/Gate 3 entrance for lunch: your ticket allows re-entry on the same day. We walked north along the main road after leaving the west parking lot for ten or twenty minutes keeping the Pyramid of the Moon on our right and came to a chain of hacienda-looking restaurants, which charged normal prices and had tasty-enough Mexican food. There weren't any other foreign tourists in the one we chose completely arbitrarily, and it seemed to be run by some older ladies, which made my mom like it.

We walked back in, climbed the Pyramid of the Moon and a bunch of other climbable pyramids of smaller stature, stayed until the last bus left the site around 5:30 or 6, and didn't once have to say anything more than a polite "no gracias" to vendors. People selling things are all over the place and are essentially unavoidable, but it's not like you're going to ever get a private viewing short of being the Queen of England, right?

All in all, it's definitely worth going to on your own even if you can't arrange a guide or a bus tour, and you absolutely don't need a taxi to get you there, as the buses run every twenty minutes basically all day. You'll be blown away and will want to stay as long as you can anyway, so taking a tour might actually be a disadvantage, as every tour, I imagine, will have some up-sell at the end which will limit your time at the site.

Buen viaje!
posted by mdonley at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

I've found that arriving for sunrise (by taxi) let's you avoid the majority of the crowds. Once, the guards told me the park wasn't open yet, but a couple of bucks in the right hand let me in and I had the whole place basically to myself.
posted by conifer at 2:52 PM on November 22, 2007

If you are there on December 12, you will be there during the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This was happening while we were there two years ago and may affect your ability to use public transportation due to the crowds.
posted by tamitang at 3:53 PM on November 22, 2007

Seconding the sunrise suggestion. We got there super early (took the overnight bus from Guanajuato), and just sorta walked into the park. We were the only humans in sight and for a minute thought we weren't supposed to be there. Then we saw a family arrive and figured we'd be ok wandering around the place all by ourselves. I'll never forget walking down the Road of the Dead all by ourselves with not a sound except for the wind.
posted by afx114 at 2:17 AM on November 23, 2007

Funny things to eat not in guidebooks, huh?. Ok, this is only for the adventurous, but it's something I really recommend: Prehispanic Haute Cuisine.

Also, when you go to Teotihuacan make sure to stop to eat anywhere that looks good to your eye on the actual town of San Juan Teotihuacán (not the archaeological zone, but the town surrounding it.) Try the mixiote (pronounced mee - she - ote).
posted by micayetoca at 4:05 AM on November 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll likely take the bus and wander on my own.
posted by Wet Spot at 5:55 AM on November 24, 2007

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