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Padre Tembleque Aqueduct

By Jessica Ramírez |

Travel to discover the Padre Tembleque Aqueduct in Mexico, and learn how humankind has conquered an element that grants us life: water.


Have you ever wondered how they distribute water into your home? Or how the big pipeline systems that run across cities distributing this precious liquid are built? Long ago, in 700 B.C. to be exact, the Assyrian King Sennacherib ordered the construction of an aqueduct that would distribute water in the capital city; however, the people who really mastered the construction of these works of engineering were the Romans, who even built a 16 km-long subterranean aqueduct known as Aqua Apia. Of course, with time, the population increased in urban areas forcing engineers to build aqueducts with greater capacity until they created works like the aqueduct in Manchester, which is 154 km long, or the New York pipeline system that’s 322 km long. Today, DINKtravelers invites you to visit your next destination with a different perspective that will show you how man has mastered an element we love: water.


One of travelers’ favorite attractions when they visit Mexico is the impressive archaeological site of Teotihuacan, in the State of Mexico. What many don’t know is that near this site, close to the State of Hidalgo, there are other architectural wonders that also represent Mexican history. One of them is the one we want to invite you to visit today: the Padre Tembleque Aqueduct.


Teotihuacan is the perfect place to learn about Pre Hispanic times, referring to the time before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. Nevertheless, at the aqueduct you’ll find an important example of 16th century engineering or, in other words, colonial times. What you’ll find upon arrival will be the result of the joint work of 44 different towns led by father Francisco de Tembleque throughout several years (1553-1572). Can you imagine coordinating so many diverse people to fulfill one single purpose? In fact, if you want to see the exact constructive phase each town worked in, look for the symbols they carved in the stones in order to mark where they participated. In total, the aqueduct had three arcades of 46, 13 and 67 arches, respectively. But, why build it?


This aqueduct is the most notorious hydraulic work made after the Spanish conquest because it was designed to distribute water to the indigenous people of Otumba, Zacuala and Zempoala, which were three towns spread along 48.22 kilometers, separated by hills, canyons and valleys. As you can imagine it was quite a challenge to build such a big work at this time, but if that seems surprising enough, add the fact that nowadays, the aqueduct still works.

Presently it’s not as long as it used to be, so now you’ll only be able to see a section that is one kilometer long and is made up by 66 arches, the tallest of which are 30 meters tall. Even so, something that’s surprising about it is that it’s in perfect condition and conservation. Why?

The aqueduct was built with rocks that Tembleque collected on the foothills of Mt. Tecajete, where the natural springs were located. Then, he ordered the workers to hold the rocks together with bruñido, a construction material that was used as a type of glue and which was made with limestone, water, honey and cactus slime. Curiously, this natural “glue” helps preserve the monument because it prevents the formation of fungus and the growth of weed on the rocks. In fact, this work of engineering was so well planned, but also so expensive, that according to historical documents, before the construction even began, Tembleque had already spent the budget the Spanish king, Charles V, had granted him.

Interestingly, Tembleque was not an architect, but he was audacious and bright, and that’s what inspired him to create an exceptional work that maybe no one else in that time would have dared to build. And so, after 17 years of uninterrupted work, the aqueduct was finished bringing many people the privilege of having water.


Research has been made about this magnificent work, so there’s still much to discover; yet, the World Heritage Administration at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico, worked on a very detailed file that earned the inscription of this monument in the list of World Heritage by UNESCO.


Follow the road from Mexico-Teotihuacan as if you were going to visit the archaeological site. Then, take the detour to Ciudad Sahagun until you reach the road to Tepeyahualco. If you depart from Mexico City’s Historic Center, it will take you around an hour and a half to get there.