How to arrive to Tula, Hidalgo. How to get to the archaeological site. Visiting the Atlantes a majestic jewel in Hidalgo, México.
When I was a little girl, a famous brand of sweet breads distributed a stamp album. The topic of this album was the pre-Hispanic civilizations. So there we were all: eating snacks to win a stamp about the Teotihuacan pyramids (es) or about the Monte Alban (es) site. There were also vessels from the zapotecas civilizations, etc. But there was an image that stayed engraved in my memory. It was the image of some giant stone warriors. These warriors were the Atlantes of Tula.
Our visit to Tula was nothing of chance, I came to make true the image from my childhood stamp album. I came to see these warriors with my own eyes.
How to get to the archaeological site of Tula?
Being in the City of Mexico, we went to the bus station to go to Tula de Allende. We took the subway, everything fine. We arrived at the bus station… but, wait:
Why aren’t there any bus going to Tula? the answer was easy: we were at the SOUTH bus terminal. Routes to Tula left from the NORTH terminal.
Ok, I had majestically mistaken North for South 🙁 grumbling and conscious of the huge waste of time, we took the subway once again to cross (now from South to North) the whole city.
Arriving at the correct terminal – the North one – we go and buy happily our tickets for the next bus going to Tula. Oh no, wait, why are there so many people there? Is it here the sell the tickets for Tula? Yes, there it is 🙁 ok, now we have to wait a while in the queue. I didn’t even want to think in the waste of time we already had, when at last we arrived at the platform.
After a while, we arrived at the city of Tula de Allende. First thing, we looked for a shop to buy food, since as we lost so many time we’d be hungry real soon. In the shop, we asked where to get the small bus to get to the archaeological site, which the lady kindly told us. We walked a few blocks and the bus stop, we asked which one would drive us where we wanted, and ready, for a few pesos we arrived at our destination. Before entering, we sat on a bench outside, under some trees that provided us a wonderful shade, and we ate our snacks. Meanwhile, I met a cute Tula squirrel.
Information to visit the Archaeological Site of Tula
How much is it? 65 pesos (approx. 3 US dollars) * 2020 updated price *
Opening hours: from 9:00 AM till 5:00 PM
Can I take pictures? Yes. But to record videos, one has to pay an additionnal 45 pesos.
Our visit to the archaeological site
Once inside the site, there are few opportunities to be in the shadows. That’s when I was glad I had taken my umbrella, even though it was a pain to take during the flight, since it can’t be folded. So here’s my tip: don’t forget to take cap or an umbrella.
Once the ticket was paid, the first visit is the site museum. Just like in Xochicalco (es), it seemed right to me to visit the museum first. It allows us to put context on what we’ll see, the era when it existed, why did the city disappear, etc.
This site belonged to the Toltec civilization which had Tula as a capital. This city was funded in the early tenth century, just after the destruction of Teotihuacan (es). During two centuries, it existed in great heyday, but the decline arrived for various factors, one of them being the mexica invasion. During this decline, the site was looted. The people had no option but fleeing.
Before the visit, the shops
Once out of the museum I was really enthusiatic, I was closer and closer of making real my childhood stamps album. Bt before that we had to walk for about 1 km inside the site. On the way, we met all the souvenirs shops and so on. Noticeable fact: when leaving the site, we did not came that way, so if you want to buy souvenirs, that’s when you have to do it.
Now yes, once we reached the site map, we started the visit of the archaeological site of Tula.
The first thing we met was a ballcourt (the first one, since we’ll see other on our way). On the explanation panel was told that the inside of the place had to be decorated with carvings on cut stones, but the site was looted by the Aztecs. It also said that in the southwest corner it is still possible to view part of the carving on a ceremonial stone, though only the player’s feet are recognizable. I must admit I couldn’t find it. It also said it’s the smallest ballcourt excavated. Sure, you’ll see the other one.
Wall of snakes or Coatepantli
We reached a zone where we could hide a bit from the sun and admire what was the Coatepantli where we could see various sculptured figures on the walls. Some figures show human skeletons devoured by enormous rattlesnakes; these reliefs are related to human sacrifices. Moreover, the stepped fret, sculptured on the sides of the serpents and skeletons (first picture), have a certain mixtec influence and remind on of the Mitla mosaics (es), in the valley of Oaxaca.
Another detail of importance, is that en some places one can still see the original colors that were painted on the walls. Blue is overwhelming, that same blue I like so much 😀
As we continue on our way, we met the Burnt Palace. Right now, the only thing you can see is an accumulation of pillars upon some of which you can see the traces of the fire they suffered.
B Pyramid and the Atlantes
And we arrive at the main course of the site. What they named the Pyramid B, note that they couldn’t yet determine the names so they had to call them B, C, etc.
Stepping up the staircase, here they were, facing me, those stone warriors, the Atlantes of Tula, how happy was I! An interesting fact we learn being there is that those huge warriors were not to be seen by the people, because they served as pillars for the roof of the temple that was there. After that, we imagine that surely if it was a temple, the common people could not access it, since we must remember that these types of places were reserved only for the upper class and priests.
But after centuries, at last they can be seen by us, the ordinary people. Furthermore, we even met a cute dog at the foot of the pyramid.
Thanks to the explanation panels there, we also saw that those Toltec warriors had butterfly-shaped pecs (somehow abstract, I couldn’t have told it was a butterfly just seeing it), fine feather helmets, mirrors of turquoise mosaics, knives and other weapons. They were figuring high-rank militars.
We went quite far from the Pyramid B, to reach a small mound telling us where es the Pyramid C (though this one can’t be climbed up). But neither had it much to be seen.
And we got the the second ballcourt. Much bigger than the fist one. On the panel, we’re todl that this one is very similar to the big ballcourt of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, though we couldn’t bear out since we hadn’t yet been there.
Getting out of Tula
From there we followed the map, supposedly we had to reach a colonial chapel. But after walking quite a lot, we got to a ruined wall. the walkway was nice and there were a lot of butterflies, but we always had to be careful not to cross a much less pleasant animal (like a snake, for instance).
And we reached the exit booth, which is quite far from the entrance booth. We had no idea about how to get back to the center of Tula, by chance there was a guard at the gate that told us how to get there. After much hesitation, we trusted him.
Visiting a bit of Tula Hidalgo
And that was our travel to get to the center of Tula, finally it was not that far and we saw many colored houses. We even went into a grocery store in which I bought an Atlante miniature. 🙂
Once in the center, we gave a quick visit to the church and from there to the bus terminal to get back to Mexico City.
The stamps album
Before ending this post, here goes the stamp album I talked to you about all along. It came out in 1989, when I was 9, and you had to buy sweet bread of a famous brand to collect all the stamps from the album. 😉
Unexpectedly, the album was quite a hit. We kids were looking for stamps to fulfill it and in the same time learning about our history in a funny way. Thanks to it, I’ve had since a long time a big curiosity to visit the archaeological sites of my country and of the whole world.
The Serie: A travel through the center of Mexico