Mexico is a country rich in culture and places to visit. In some areas it seems as if you find old ruins from pre-Columbian civilizations every few miles. If you take a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula you will see that every so often on the road there are signs that will take you to ancient ruins. Some of those places you have never even heard of, but you would not be able to help being impressed by them. A lot of these sites are smaller, but some are just so impressive that you cannot afford to miss them in your next trip. Here are the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico.
TeotihuacanCredit: Sarah Friedman
Teotihuacan is just north of Mexico City and it is the one place that you need to go to if you love archaeology and are in the area. To get to Teotihuacan is very easy as you will only need to take a bus from the Terminal del Norte. The trip to get to Teotihuacan is less than 5 dollars per person each way and it takes less than an hour. There are other important sites in the city like Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco, but nothing that compares in size and beauty; that is why it is the most visited ancient ruins site in Mexico.
Teotihuacan is where you find the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon which themselves would be a good enough reason to visit, but the site is so big that you will need a minimum of 6 hours to see it all. You will also need very comfortable shoes and water as Teotihuacan was the largest of all cities in the continent before the arrival of the Spaniards with well over a hundred thousand.
You can still climb the pyramids, but beware that those with fear of heights may feel uncomfortable, especially on the way down. The steps are very small to say the least, but the view from the top makes the climb absolutely worth it. The view that you get from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun is breathtaking. There is also an important museum on the site and it is highly recommended that you visit it.
Credit: Linda Karvonen
If you are visiting Cancun then you will notice that the area has a lot of archaeological sites, but the most popular in the region is Chichen Itza. These ruins are between Cancun and Mérida, close to the Yucatán city of Valladolid, and it was one of the largest cities in the Mayan world. The amount of visitors to the site each year is over 1.2 million and in 2012 the number was much greater.
“El Castillo” or The Castle is the most recognized structure at Chichen Itza, but that is not all that you will see here. There are also other structures like the Temple of the Thousand Warriors, Osario, Caracol, the Great Ball Court, the Platform of Venus, the Skull Platform, and the Temple of the Tables etc. There is also the Cenote Sagrado where rituals and human sacrifices took place a long time ago.
Monte AlbanCredit: Sarah Friedman
Monte Alban is near the southern city of Oaxaca in the state with the same name and it is one of the earliest known archaeological sites in Mexico. The ruins are visible almost from anywhere in the Oaxaca valley so they attract a lot of tourists. Some experts believe that the area around Monte Alban may still have undiscovered ruins, but population growth in Oaxaca may threaten those other future discoveries.
The Main Plaza is at the center of Monte Alban, and there are temples and platforms where at one point other structures stood. There are also 2 ball courts at the site as well as several ceremonial buildings. Another attraction for Monte Alban is all the carved monuments at the site which are almost everywhere. Some of those carvings represent the daily life of the citizens of the city as well as rituals and sacrifices.
CholulaCredit: Ernest Mettendorf
Cholula is not on the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico list, but it should definitely be one of them. The great pyramid of Cholula is close to Puebla in central Mexico and just a couple of hours from Mexico City, and what makes it so impressive is that this is the largest Pyramid in the world when measured by volume. It is even bigger than the pyramids in Egypt and those in Teotihuacan. The pyramid is still used because on top of it there is a church that the Spanish built on top of it after the massacre of the people in the city. The church means that there is no older continuously occupied building in North America.
There are tunnels that you can visit under the pyramid which show more of how the site's construction took place. The pyramid looks like a normal hill until you get near it and you see that you are actually on a pyramid which the inhabitants built over different stages, one over the other. There are also murals and altars in the area that you will see when you visit Cholula.
PalenqueCredit: Linda Karvonen
Palenque is in the southern state of Chiapas and it is one of the most beautiful Archaeological sites in Mexico. Unlike a lot of the ruins that you can visit in the country, you can tell that Palenque was a city and can picture how and where the people lived. The fact that the site is so well-preserved is what allowed archaeologists to get a detailed history of the area including the rulers and the use of every building. It is also surrounded by jungle which also makes it extremely beautiful and a once in a lifetime experience.
The Temple of the Inscriptions and the Palace are the most recognized structures, but Palenque is a big city so you will see a lot more than that. The Temple of the Skull, the Temple of the Jaguar, Temple XIII and the Temple of the Count will give you a lot of photo opportunities, but there are several other temples and tombs that you should stop by. It cannot be emphasized enough how this will probably become your favorite ancient city ever. While it is not as big as Teotihuacan or Chichen Itza, Palenque is just incredibly beautiful.