How To Visit The Otomí Ceremonial Center
Unlike many historical sites in Mexico, the Otomí ceremonial center is not actually ancient. It was built in the 1970s and opened to the public in 1980 as a place for the Otomi people to practice their ancestral and sacred ceremonies. However, this does not mean that it is any less impressive.
The center is located about 20 miles northeast of Toluca in a small town called Temoaya. The area has always been used to practice Otomi traditions, but many of their original sites were destroyed centuries ago. In the past, the location has also been used for music concerts, scenes from a James Bond movie, and even as the location for Daddy Yankee's music video - Limbo
The Otomi people are an indigenous group who claim to be the original settlers in the region before the arrival of the Aztecs. As the Aztec empire expanded, the Otomi were eventually conquered and forced to pay taxes to the Aztecs. While some historians believe that the Otomi were the first inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico, they were later expelled from the valley by the Tepanec in 1418. Subsequently, during the 14th century, the Otomi kingdom was conquered by the Mexica and its alliances, and the Otomi people were made to pay tribute to the Aztec Triple Alliance.
History shows that the Otomi people were conquered around the year 1500, which was only about 20 years before the arrival of Cortez. They were a constant problem for the Aztecs and joined forces with the Spanish to help overthrow the Aztec Triple Alliance*. It is worth noting that the Aztecs are also known as the Mexica.
How to Visit the Otomí Ceremonial Center
Visiting the Otomí Ceremonial Center is not as straightforward as some popular tourist destinations. Buses leave for the center every hour to half hour, but there is no set schedule. Additionally, the station desk may not show the exact times. It's best to arrive in the morning and expect the bus to depart at the top of each hour.
It's important to note that the Otomí Ceremonial Center is located in a remote area. While there is no danger, don't expect fancy arrival and departure boards. It's likely that you'll need to speak some basic Spanish or have Google Translate ready to help with communication.
In summary, to visit the Otomí Ceremonial Center:
Plan to arrive in the morning.
Expect buses to leave at the top of each hour.
Don't rely on a set schedule or arrival/departure boards.
Be prepared to communicate in basic Spanish or with the help of translation tools.
Central de Autobuses Observatorio Also known as Central de Autobuses Poniente
Once you arrive at the bus station, look for the Flecha desk to purchase your ticket. As of April 2023, the cost for a one-way ticket is 80 pesos.
Don't worry about the quality of the bus. In Mexico, buses are typically quite comfortable with nice, reclining seats. They often have overhead TVs and, depending on the distance, may even have bathrooms and Wi-Fi. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride to the Temoaya.
After about an hour you get dropped off at a rickety old bus depot.
Flecha Roja - Temoaya
Once you arrive at the Otomí Ceremonial Center, the easiest thing to do is to follow the crowd of locals who are walking up the street and find a taxi. This is because the bus depot is small and located in a dirt parking lot, so they are unlikely to have a shuttle to take you directly to the ceremonial center.
When you take a taxi, be sure to ask when the last bus leaves. The schedule is not likely to be posted, so it's important to get this information from the locals. For instance, during my visit, I was given a rough time of 6 pm and was told that the bus back to Mexico City was determined by the speed of boarding and the number of passengers. If there weren't enough customers, the bus would wait for more people.
To get to the Otomí Ceremonial Center from the bus station, you have two options: shuttle or taking a taxi. Taxis are usually waiting at the bus station and the fare is negotiable. I've heard of people paying anywhere from 30 to 80 pesos. During my visit, we paid 30 pesos per person for a taxi with two people in it.
The shuttle is not on “regular" time. It wasn’t there when we arrived, but if you’re lucky, it cost 20 peso.
The length of the taxi ride can vary from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the driver and the day. When I visited during Easter weekend, it took about 35 minutes.
Once you arrive at the Otomí Ceremonial Center, you'll know it. The place is massive, but the entry fee should only be 35 pesos. So, pay the fee and enjoy exploring this amazing site.
On your way back, you can either take a taxi or hope to get lucky and find a shuttle waiting outside the main gate. During my visit, I was fortunate enough to catch the shuttle back to town for just 20 pesos.
However, it's important to make sure that the shuttle is going to the town center before getting on. If it's not, you may end up in a different part of town and have to take a taxi from there.
Overall, the return trip is just as easy as the trip to the Otomí Ceremonial Center. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride back to town while reminiscing about the amazing experiences you had during your visit.
BowTiedPassport’s Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.