I think Tula is just fine and doable as a day trip from Mexico City. The trip takes an hour and forty minutes on a really comfy Ovnibus departing from the capital’s North Bus Terminal (Autobuses del Norte). Getting there depends on where you are in DF. It took me another 50 minutes on the MRT coming all the way from the south. Once you get to the terminal, head to platform number 7 and look for the Ovnibus counter. Ask for the direct trip to Tula and pay MXN126 (~PHP325) one-way. Enjoy!
When I said “direct to Tula”, I meant direct to downtown Tula, NOT to the ruins. Arriving at the bus terminal, catch a taxi. Or walk, which is what I did. I asked one of the security guards how to get there, and then he said that it’s just around 20 minutes walking distance. He then proceeded to give me the directions which involved crossing a bridge and going left all the way. All in all, the walk took me half an hour on a leisurely pace. There are signs on the highway saying Zona Arqueológica. It was easy to follow.
Tula flourished back in the 1000’s as the next capital after Teotihuacán, moving up north to the modern-day state of Hidalgo. A search of the place on Google images will reveal tall columns in humanoid form, with the head and face of a Toltec chieftain and Nicki Minaj’s ass. The Toltec city used to be called Tollan-Xicocotitlan, and the giant statues on top of the pyramid are said to be portraits of their rulers. Around 4.6 meters in height, the giants of Tula serve as the main attraction of these ancient ruins.
The entrance fee is said to be MXN46 (~PHP120), but there is some confusion here. The guy at the counter was asking for MXN65 (~PHP170), and if you look at the price board on the wall behind him, it says that the MXN46 is the video fee, while the MXN65 is for admission. I didn’t pay either amount because as usual, my UNAM ID ushered me in for free. For those who don’t have credentials, prepare your MXN65. The site also apologizes for the lack of sanitation in their toilets due to lack of funds for more personnel.
The place abounds with flora and fauna, and there is a very specific warning at the entrance asking you to beware of snakes. Luckily, I didn’t see any while I was there. What welcomes you after that is a huge garden full of different kinds of cacti, as well as plants with orange flowers burning brightly as if they were on fire. Since the leaves of those cacti are hard and durable, you will find lots of graffiti carved on them. Hooray for being retarded, Earthlings.
What follows the garden path is the lineup of stalls selling souvenir items. Again, this is one of the sad parts of being a tourist attraction. The locals usually get displaced from their ancestral lands and most of them end up just hawking their artisan crafts, most of the time in very low prices, just to make ends meet. If you have extra cash and would like to help, then by all means, buy some of their stuff. I don’t buy stuff. Period. And so I once again played the foreigner who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish to avoid them.
The ruins are farther inland. Pyramid E immediately stands out from the rest thanks to its high elevation and quartet of giants. Being the most important sacred structure back then, only the high priests and royalty had access to it. But this is 2016. Tell that to the camwhores who come to the place in droves for that much coveted selfie, which is really tricky by the way. It was really cloudy today, but the sun did make an appearance for around 15 minutes or so. That explains the shortage of good photos, y’all.
The giants look more stunning if you catch them all in one frame, but it will most likely include a camwhore or two because they are everywhere. You have a better shot at a single vertical close-up but the quality will depend on the angle, as well as the sun. You can’t go that close to the statues but you can get near enough to appreciate the fine details of the carvings, some depicting ancient deities. Your trip will be more worthwhile if you go armed with background information. Otherwise, they’re just giant rocks.
Once you’re done with the close-ups, head to the other pyramid, or what’s left of it, on the other side facing the mountain and the valley dotted with houses. The place is a good vantage point for a panoramic view of the pyramid behind you. In fact, this area is full of panoramic shots waiting to be taken! The view from Pyramid E itself is quite attention-grabbing, like a desktop wallpaper you can stare at for hours without getting bored. You can explore the rest of Tula before going back to DF. They have a lively town square and an imposing cathedral across the street.
[TULA DE ALLENDE] Toltec 1000's