When I began planning my trip to Mexico I knew I wanted to visit Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican city located an hour outside of Mexico City. And what better way to see ancient ruins than by hot air balloon at sunrise?
I chose to go hot air ballooning with Volare although they're a little pricier than some of the other hot air ballooning companies. But if I'm ever willing to shell out a little extra money, it's when I'm in a tiny basket floating hundreds of feet above the ground.
We set off at 6 a.m. to drive an hour to the ruins. When we arrived at the launch site, I realized I was dressed completely wrong – shorts in 30-degree weather? Not fun.
As I attempted to stave off hypothermia while wrapped in two blankets, we watched the other balloons fill up and take off. When my dad and I finally climbed into our basket around 9 a.m., my fingers were icicles and I was so grateful for the balloon's burner.
As our balloon started to rise, the town below us began to look like a candy-colored dollhouse. It was fun seeing village life from above – we could hear roosters crowing, and when we descended briefly, the village dogs barked at us ferociously.
As we drifted towards Teotihuacán, I could see why the Aztecs believed it was the place the gods created the universe – it's otherworldly.
In between firing the (very loud) burner, our guide pointed out the different ruins that comprise Teotihuacán: the Avenue of the Dead, the Moon Temple, the Sun Temple and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.
Quick history lesson – scholars estimate Teotihuacán was established around 100 BC, and most likely collapsed in the 7th or 8th century. Human sacrifices occurred every 20 days at Teotihuacán during the Aztec period, so it's clear they believed it to be a sacred site.
Also, did you know the sun temple is the third largest pyramid in the world?
Towards the end of our ride our guide surprised us with a bottle of bubbly. While lukewarm rosé moscato isn't my favorite sparkling wine, I was still touched by the gesture.
I was a little worried about landing, but it was surprisingly peaceful – we merely floated to the ground in the middle of a field.
After the men packed up the balloon into the truck, we drove back to the launching site for a breakfast of chilaquiles, eggs and beans. Several guests stayed on to climb the pyramids, but we had a food tour scheduled.
As we headed back to Mexico City, I was kicking myself for not scheduling more time to climb the pyramids. But as they say, it only gives me more reason to return.
- Wear layers! Teotihuacán can get cold, and is especially frigid in the morning, so make sure to dress warmly.
- Show up early to the meeting point. If you miss the scheduled meeting time, you'll have to find your own transport to the pyramids – not something you want to deal with at 6 a.m.
- Research your tour company. Volare was overall a pretty good tour company, but for how much we paid for our trip, I was a little disappointed that my “sunrise” tour started at 9 a.m. Also the pickup was very disorganized, and I wish they would've confirmed my reservation that week.
- if you don’t have a few hundred dollars to drop on hot air ballooning, visit the temples anyway. I've heard climbing them is any incredible experience.