Xochicalco has always been on my list of places to visit since I moved here, after doing some research of tourist attractions that can be reached by bus under four hours. But my acute indolence has prohibited me from going anywhere this July. Lo and behold, I woke up early today, found out that I didn’t have any shifts lined up, went to Taxqueña and bought a ticket. The next thing I knew, I was on a direct Pullman de Morelos bus, which only took two hours and a half to reach the place. Pyramids!
Xochicalco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but does not enjoy the same popularity that Teotihuacán does, for foreigners at least. This is a good thing because it means less tourists. Isn’t it fun having several pyramids all to yourself? But first we have to discuss how to get there. The direct buses from Taxqueña are only available on Saturdays, I believe. There are two trips, one at 8:30 AM and the other at 9:30 AM. Any other day, your best bet is to get a direct bus to Cuernavaca Centro, and then transfer from there.
If you are not based in Mexico DF, you can also get a bus at the airport headed directly to Cuernavaca. The trip takes a little over an hour without traffic. Pullman de Morelos is the main bus line and offers really comfy reclinable seats akin to those of an airplane. If you are on a budget, you can hop on a Mibus for half the price, which is not that bad considering the short distance. From Cuernavaca, you can get a local bus going to Xochicalco for a meager MXN15.50 (~PHP40).
Cuernavaca itself is a tourist attraction, and the original plan was to spend the afternoon there. However, I opted to just chillax at the pyramids until around 3 PM, so I ended up a little pressed for time given how I had to be back at the capital by midnight. It was all worth it. Teotihuacán boasts more pyramids, and you can still claim one as your own despite the tourist infestation. On the contrary, Xochicalco is way less crowded even on a weekend, and the layout is hilly a la Macchu Picchu, though not as steep, as opposed to Teotihuacan's predominantly flat terrain.
The admission fee is MXN65 (~PHP170) but I didn’t have to pay anything thanks to my UNAM credential. And there I thought this ID is just for display in my wallet. At least I was able to buy snacks with the what I saved. The ticket booth is inside the museum, far back, which means you will have already seen most of the archaeological display before you pay. The entrance to the ruins is on the other side of the road, which is why I suggest that you see the museum first.
As for food, I only saw two stores hawking the usual Sabritas (Lays) and Ruffles combo, along with drinks that come in various flavors and sizes. It’d be better for you to have lunch somewhere else before you go to the site, unless you’re like me who can survive half a day with just junk food to fuel your system. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until you get back to Cuernavaca to get something to eat. Arriving at 11 AM, I spent most of my time lying on a bench on one of the higher levels, until a tour group came.
Loud music was blaring from my headphones so I had no idea what was happening around me, not to mention I was half asleep. And then someone tugged my arm and I was suddenly surrounded by a dozen or so domestic tourists. You know how it feels like when you become part of the attraction? Okay, guys, this is one of the many pyramids you’ll see here. You see the quality of these stones? Oh look, there’s an Asian guy sleeping on the bench! And then they start throwing Pokéballs at you.
Tourists come and go. Your best bet is to find one of the more secluded benches and continue your hibernation there. I love how the sun was all up here in Morelos today, yet there’s still enough shade for you not to die of skin cancer, and so it’s perfect for a good mix of chillaxing and imbibing the ancient ambiance of the place. I guess this is why Xochicalco ranks high in my Favorite Ruins list, thanks to the good level of tranquility you can get here without trying so hard.
The main attraction should be the Pirámide Grande if only for its huge size, but that distinction actually goes to the Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent. While way smaller in size than the neighboring pyramids, the intricate carvings of Quetzalcoatl and friends make this one the star of the show. Located on one of the higher levels, it also provides you with a good vantage point to see the landscape down below, complete with more pyramids and a lovely lake mirroring the sky visible from afar.
[XOCHICALCO] More UNESCO World Heritage Pyramids