Which are the Best Pyramids in Mexico?

Nov, 26, 2021

Mexico is a country that is very rich in history, and there are so many landmarks still standing to tell the tale. The indigenous people of Mexico, between the Mayans, Olmecs, Aztecs and more, left behind some incredible architectural wonders. Many people don’t realize that the indigenous people in Mexico were some of the best pyramid builders in the world!

Can anyone guess where the biggest pyramid in the world is? Hint: It’s not in Egypt.

After visiting all of the best pyramids in Mexico, I can safely say that there are two that easily top the list. While places like Uxmal and Palenque are spectacular to visit, it really is hard to beat Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan. These two locations are much more than just pyramids; they are entire complexes of ancient worship.

This post will dive into a couple of the key differences between Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza and leave you with my recommendations about which one to visit and my tips for both.

What Is Teotihuacan?

Teotihuacan is the home of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, and it is one of the most famous tourist sites for those who want to learn about indigenous history. This complex is made up of two major pyramids as well as several other smaller structures all around them.

Drone shot of the pyramid of Teotihuacan in Mexico City

Teotihuacan is a beautiful place to visit, and the sheer size of the pyramids is so overwhelming. One thing that Teotihuacan offers that Chichen Itza does not is the ability to climb to the top of the Pyramids! While this was suspended during Covid, I know the intention is to reopen the paths to the top of the pyramids soon.

Teotihuacan is located about 45 minutes to an hour outside of Mexico City, which makes it extremely accessible. In fact, I ranked it as one of the top 5 day trips from Mexico City. Entrance is very cheap, and you have free reign around the park once you are inside.

The key advantages of Teotihuacan over Chichen Itza are convenience, price, and the ability to climb the pyramids. There are a few lunch spots right outside of the park, too, that offer a decent bite to eat before you head back to the city.

What Is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is the other of the two biggest pyramid sites that I would highly recommend. Like Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza is much more than just a pyramid – it is an entire ancient city. Hundreds of years ago, Chichen Itza was a famous place of worship where people would make pilgrimages to do homage to their gods.

Chichenitza Mexican pyramid on cloudy day

While you can’t climb to the top of any pyramids in Chichen Itza, you have the ability to explore a huge portion of the ancient city which is very well preserved and restored.

Chichen Itza is located in the state of Yucatan, which is on the northern-central part of the Yucatan Peninsula. While it is not directly outside of a particular city, it can be reached within just a couple hours from Merida, Cancun, and Tulum. Chichen Itza is much bigger than Teotihuacan, much busier than Teotihuacan, and much more expensive than Teotihuacan, but you get access to a lot more to see and do.

couple in blue jeans and white shirts celebrating at chichenitza pyramid in mexico
couple in blue jeans and white shirts kissing at chichenitza pyramid in mexico

Which Is Better: Teotihuacan or Chichen Itza?

This one all depends on what you are looking for and what experience you want to have. Firstly, I will say that the overall experience is very comparable, and if you are already in a place that is closer to one, go to that one.

If you are planning a trip to Mexico City, do Teotihuacan. If you are going on a beach trip to Cancun, go to Chichen Itza.

I don’t think it is worth flying to the other place unless you also want to see the city or area nearby it.

Now, when it comes to which one is actually better, there are a couple of things to consider. Teotihuacan is cheaper, allows you to climb the pyramids, and is very accessible to Mexico City, but is a much smaller park than Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is bigger, very expensive by Mexican standards, does not allow you to climb anything, and is a couple of hours away from the nearest major cities.

If you were to ask me, Chichen Itza is better. While Teotihuacan offers some great advantages, the size of Chichen Itza and the diverse buildings that are there make for a much more educational trip. Teotihuacan is strictly an ancient place of worship while Chichen Itza has a full city built around the places of ancient worship. If you want to learn more about their culture, Chichen Itza is the way to go. Still, you can’t go wrong with either place.

How Much Do Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan Cost?

I mentioned earlier that Teotihuacan is very cheap and Chichen Itza is very expensive. Now, just how wide is that price gap? As an American or European visitor, the price is still very affordable, but the price difference shows you just how popular Chichen Itza is, as they know they can make the price exorbitantly high by local standards.

The Price to Enter Chichenitza

The price of entrance without a guide at Chichen Itza is about $27 USD per person. By Mexican standards, that is absurd. That is a full day’s pay for some people! The local government knows they can charge that, though, as the city is at full capacity every day.

The price has continued to rise, too. When I first visited a couple of years ago it cost about $20, and on my second visit this past summer it was $26. Now it is $27! To add an official guide costs about $60, and I highly recommend getting a guide. It makes the experience exponentially better.

The Price to Enter Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan, on the other hand, costs about $4 per person. That is almost 7 times less than Chichen Itza! And I will guarantee you, it is not 7 times worse than Chichen Itza, either. While I do prefer Chichen Itza over Teotihuacan, I would pay the same price to visit them both if it were necessary.

A guide at Teotihuacan can cost anywhere from $10 to $60, and I highly recommend finding a good guide in advance online and going with them. Without a guide, the pyramids are just tall rock buildings that are cool to look at. With a guide, you’ll learn about the history of the pyramids, a jaguar god that turned into a man to save the world, the truth behind human sacrifices, and more.

Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan

While these two locations are hundreds of miles apart, there is some common advice that will help you to have a better experience in both places.

Go Early

Firstly, go early. Both of these places have a tendency to fill up, and if you want to get good pictures or not have to wait in long lines to climb at Teotihuacan, try to beat the crowds. See the pictures of Angel and I at Chichenitza with no crowds of tourists photo bombing? That’s because we went early. Weekends are especially busy, so I would try to go on an early morning in the middle of the week.

Hire a Guide

Secondly, I HIGHLY recommend a guide. I have been to both of these locations twice – the first time at each without a guide, and the second time with one. Let me tell you, even if it costs $100 it is worth every penny. Both places are very beautiful and can be admired without a guide, but having a guide truly brings them to life.

There is so much to learn, and without a guide, you are really only getting 1% of what you could be getting with one. I tend to be cheap and avoid guides at almost all costs, but this is a place where I recommend 1,000 times over to get a guide. They are available in many languages at both places, and at Chichen Itza, I think they offer around 10 languages. English is offered at both.

If you’re visiting Chichen Itza, stay the night in Valladolid

Thirdly, if you are visiting Chichen Itza, I highly recommend spending a full day or two in Valladolid. Valladolid is the town closest to Chichen Itza, and it is in some ways the base camp for those who want to make the trip out to Chichen Itza.

While most people go to Chichen Itza for a day from their resort in Cancun, I highly recommend detouring and staying in Valladolid for at least one night. It is one of my favorite Mexican towns, and there is so much to do and see there. It is also very close to some of the best cenotes in Mexico!

If you decide to visit Valladolid, be sure to check out my Valladolid travel guide which is filled with everything you need to know before you go.

Ride a Hot Air Ballon at Teotihuacan

Finally, if you are visiting Teotihuacan there is one activity that is very popular: hot air balloon rides. I personally have not done one, but I have seen countless balloons up in the sky and it looks like a ton of fun. If this is your kind of thing, Teotihuacan is one of the best places in Mexico to do it. I recommend booking a tour online at TripAdvisor or Viator ahead of time that way it is all setup and coordinated before you arrive.

Hopefully this post gave you a little bit of clarity when it comes to visiting the best pyramids in Mexico. As I said, I have been to both places twice and have had an awesome experience each time. If there is anything else you want to know, please send a comment!


Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

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Meet The Author - Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.