Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Soumya
Looking for the best Aztec ruins in Mexico City? Wondering where to satisfy your Aztec wanderlust when in Mexico? Look no further because we have just the perfect Aztec ruins guide for you.
Exploring the ancient cities of Aztecs was one of my favorite things to do in Mexico City.
Whether it was planning a memorable day trip to Teotihuacan, discovering the remains of Tenochtitlan in the Historic Center of Mexico City, or digging deep into the mysteries of monolithic structures in Malinalco, the history geek in me was always looking out for quirky Aztec facts and tidbits.
In this Mexico City Aztec ruins guide, I will take you through massive cities of Teotihuacan as well as smaller sites of Tepozteco and Yautepec.
You will discover old Aztec sites with names too hard to pronounce but a charm too hard to miss. The best part? All these historic cities are just a stone’s throw away from Mexico City. Aztec ruins that can be easily done as a day trip from Mexico City – can you believe it??
If you are heritage enthusiast or have a fleeting interest in Mesoamerican history, you cannot miss adding these wonderful Aztec ruins to your Mexico City itinerary.
8 Best Aztec ruins in and around Mexico City
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If you have time for just one Aztec ruin when in Mexico, be sure to check out the mighty and the famous Teotihuacan. Located just an hour away from Mexico City, this ancient city of the Aztecs holds many secrets and mysteries.
Teotihuacan, one of Mexico’s impressive UNESCO heritage sites, is home to 3 massive pyramids in Mexico – Pyramids of the Sun, Moon, and Feathered Serpent. All of them are aligned along a 1.5mile long walkway known as The Avenue of the Dead.
Pyramid of the Sun is huge but is no longer open to climbing. Climbing the Pyramid of the Moon is no longer allowed, either. However, you can climb a smaller adosada platform in front of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
One of the lesser-known facts about Teotihuacan is that this archaeological site is home to some stunning murals at the Palace of Butterflies, Mural Museum, and Tepantitla complex. Find all details in my Mexico City to Teotihuacan day trip guide.
And you won’t believe this but Teotihuacan is not really Aztec! Find out why in my post on 10 Unbelievable facts about Teotihuacan.
Practical information for visiting Teotihuacan Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: 30 miles (48.5kms)
- Time taken to reach there: 1 – 1.5 hours
- Opening hours: 9am – 3pm (Monday through Sunday) [Remember to check for updated opening hours on the official website before visiting.]
- Recommended guided tours: Teotihuacan and Guadalupe Shrine day tour, Teotihuacan early access tour with Tequila tasting, More Teotihuacan tours
- Highlights: A massive Pyramid of the Sun, stunning views from Pyramid of the Moon, offbeat Aztec Mural tour.
Short on time but want to see some Aztec ruins within Mexico City? No worries. We have you covered.
One of Mexico’s most important Aztec ruins lies right at downtown Mexico City, near El Zocalo. Yes, here lie the remains of the ancient Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.
An interesting thing about old Mexico City is that the Aztecs built their sprawling capital city in the 14th century by filling up Lake Texcoco. Connected by canals and bridges, Tenochtitlan became an important trading hub and key to Aztec prosperity.
A few centuries later, Spanish conquistadors came and razed the city to the ground. They built their new capital, Mexico City, on the rubble of ancient Tenochtitlan.
Today, you can see the ruins of Templo Mayor, an important religious center of the Aztecs, which was once home to double pyramid shrines. It is located right by the side of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Also head to the museum where you will find tons about Aztec history, culture, and rituals.
Practical information for visiting Tenochtitlan Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: miles 0 miles (It is located right at the center of Mexico City)
- Time taken to reach there: 0 minutes
- Highlights: Museo del Templo Mayor which is a treasure house of Aztec artefacts
Another Aztec site that lies within the borders of Mexico City is the infamous Tlatelolco. It is located right on the Plaza of Three Cultures in the Cuauhtemoc borough of Mexico City.
This place is called the Square of 3 Cultures because here, you will see 3 stages of Mexican history rolled into one. You will wander the Aztec ruins of Tlatelolco and explore old colonial buildings in the backdrop of modern Mexican architecture.
Tlatelolco came into limelight in 1968 when Mexican Armed Forces fired relentlessly at a crowd demonstrating against the Olympics of 1968 to be held in Mexico City. Nearly 400 people were killed. The event was termed the “Tlatelolco Massacre”.
Practical information for visiting Tlatelolco Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City Center: 2.5 miles (4km)
- Time taken to reach there: 15 minutes
- Recommended guided tours: This highly-recommended guided day trip combines 3 important sites: Tlatelolco, Teotihuacan, and the Shrine of Guadalupe.
- Highlights: Meeting of 3 cultures at Plaza de las Tres Culturas.
The ancient city of Tenayuca is interesting because it has a more complex and layered history than the rest.
It is known that Tenayuca was founded by the Chichimec tribe of Mesoamerica in the 13th century. Aztecs conquered it in the 14th century.
Tenayuca is special because this is where the unique double pyramid structure of Aztecs took birth.
Remember the double pyramid temple at Tenochtitlan that no longer exists. The style originated right here in Tenayuca.
You can see a massive pyramid with twin temples on the top. They are dedicated to Aztec Gods of Rain (Tlaloc) and War (Huitzilopochtli). Double stairways lead to the top.
At the base of the pyramid, you will see a series of stone serpent walls, probably inspired by the Toltecs in Central Mexico. There are so many snake sculptures here that the Spanish gave Tenayuca the name, “City of Serpents”, when they arrived here.
Practical information for visiting Tenayuca Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: 9 miles (14kms)
- Time taken to reach there: 30 – 40 minutes
- Opening hours: 10am – 5pm (Tuesday through Sunday)
- Highlights: Double pyramid similar to the one that once existed in Tenochtitlan and a series of serpent walls at the base of the pyramid.
Located in the state of Morelos within the modern city of Cuernavaca, Teopanzolco is a small Aztec city.
Founded in early 14th century by the Tlahuicas tribe, Teopanzolco was absorbed into the Aztec Empire following the invasion of 1427 AD.
The site is mostly in ruins apart from the center which has been adequately restored. Here, you will see the Great Platform or Building 1 which once housed twin temples dedicated to Aztec Rain and War Gods. There are several other buildings which are mostly ceremonial platforms that face different directions.
The name “Teopanzolco” which means “Place of the Old Temple” comes from the Nauhatl language.
Apparently, Tlahuicas built the first pyramid or the old pyramid here more than 800 years ago. The Aztecs built a new one over it in the 15th century.
Practical information for visiting Teopanzolco Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: 54 miles (87 kms)
- Time taken to reach there: 1hr 45minutes
- Opening hours: 9am – 4pm (Wednesday through Sunday)
- Highlights: Combination of Tlahuicas and Aztec architectural styles of which Aztec is dominant.
El Tepozteco is another interesting Aztec ruin in Mexico dating back more than 600 years ago. It features a small shrine dedicated to Tepoztecatl, God of Fertility and Pulque, a popular alcoholic beverage in the Aztec world.
Tepozteco was once a big piligrimage center for Aztecs all over Mesoamerica. It drew pilgrims from as far as Guatemala who came all the way to hike this ancient Aztec pyramid.
The temple on the top is smallish with two separate rooms, one of which is an inner sanctum. On site, you will also see reliefs with carvings dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The pyramid of Tepozteco overlooks the pretty town of Tepoztlan that is filled with local culture, colors, and smiles. Visiting the local farmers market is an absolute must-do when you are here. Additionally, the monastery in town is one of Mexico’s unique UNESCO world heritage sites.
Practical information for visiting Tepozteco Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: 52 miles (83 kms)
- Time taken to reach there: 2 hours
- Opening hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm (Wednesday through Sunday)
- Recommended guided tours: Combine Tepoztlan and Tepozteco in this full-day tour from Cuernavaca.
- Highlights: The shrine of Tepozteco and the beautiful town of Tepoztlan
Yautepec is yet another Aztec-era ruins located in the Mexican state of Morelos and makes for an easy getaway from Mexico City.
One of Mexico’s smaller Aztec sites, Yautepec sees far fewer visitors than the massive ruins of Teotihuacan.
The name Yautepec literally translates to “on the hill of the Yauhtli, a yellow wild plant”. Tlauhuicas, an ethnic Aztec group that mostly lived in the state of Morelos, inhabited the city.
The archaeological site of Yautepec is a small one complete with a Royal Palace of Yautepec and several excavated houses. It is free to enter. You only need to register in their visitor’s book.
Practical information for visiting Yautepec Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: 62 miles (100 kms)
- Opening hours: 9am – 5pm (Monday through Sunday)
- Time taken to reach there: 2 hours
Malinalco Archaeological Site, also referred to as Cuauhtinchan Archaeological Site, is one of the most unique Aztec ruins near Mexico City.
It is the only Aztec site to feature monolithic structures carved out of the rocky hills of Cerro de los Idolos and makes for a wonderful side trip from Mexico City.
The site is not very old. It was built by the Aztecs in the 15th century but holds great cultural significance. Malinalco was probably built as a ceremonial center for military and religious practices.
There is evidence that suggests that initiation rites of Eagle and Jaguar-Ocelot warriors, the highest ranks in Aztec military order, were held here. Look out for sculptures that represent eagles, jaguars, and war drums.
Practical information for visiting Malinalco Aztec Ruins from Mexico City
- Distance from Mexico City: 69 miles (110 kms)
- Time taken to reach there: 2.5 hours
- Opening hours: 10am – 5pm (Tuesday through Sunday)
- Highlights: Unique monolithic structures that are not found anywhere else in Mexico.
Interactive map for Aztec ruins in Mexico City
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