There are plently of archaeological sites in Mexico and they represent an essential part of Mexico’s culture. We therefore propose 8 archaeological sites in Mexico, from different periods and civilizations. Each has their own identity and specificities and I bet there will be at least one you won’t know and will want to discover after reading this article!
Reminder: When we think about precolombian civilizations, we directly have in mind the Aztecs in the central area of Mexico and the Mayans in the Yucatan peninsula. But you will also find a myriad of less-known civilizations that lived before, in between or after these major empires, which we will discuss below.
1. Teotihuacan – the most impressive archaeological site of the 8 sites to visit in Mexico
We start our list of the 8 archaeological sites in Mexico with one of the oldest civilization of the continent, the Teotihuacans. They lived around the same area than the Aztecs but 1500years before! We know little about them but it remains that impressive site at only 1h of Mexico city and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
You will find there the Sun pyramid, which is one of the biggest and oldest pyramid of Mexico! The major part of the site has been erected between 100BC to 500AC and could host up to 200 000 inhabitants! It is considered as the major mesoamerican city of its time. Several civilizations lived there after the fall of the Teotihuacans, among them the Aztecs!
Bonus: it is possible to do an air balloon flight above the area at the sunrise. Absolutely gorgeous. Do you need other unusual ideas to do in Mexico city? Check this article.
2. The archaeological site El tepozteco – the most challenging
The archaeological site itself is not the most spectacular from the 8 sites to visit in Mexico, but the effort required to build this temple on top of this mountain amazes me. Reaching the site will be challenging as you have to do a 50min hike from the center of the city following a very steep path. Don’t worry it will be worth all the calories burnt on the way, the view is absolutely breath taking once there. So prepare your hike shoes, bottle of water and fighting spirit for an incredible experience in one of the most beautiful site of Mexico.
3. The archaeological site of Tula – the most mystical
Tula is an average city north of Mexico city and cradle of another pre colombian civilization, the toltecs. They reigned on the central méxico area after the Teotihuacans and before the Aztecs. You can still see remains of this powerful civilization on the hill upon Tula with a view on all the valley. The main pyramid kept impressive columns in shape of great Toltec warriors that seem to protect the current city, Tula de Allende.
This is an amazing story, the columns where inside a temple and therefore not designed to be seen. But this is the only part that survived the challenge of time creating now a mystical atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else. This archaeological site is probably the less touristy of the 8 sites mentioned to visit in Mexico. More non-touristy spots to visit around Mexico City here.
4. Chichen-Itza – the most preserved and famous of Mexico
This is one of the biggest Mayan site in Mexico and definitely a must do if you visit the Yucatan peninsula. In addition of the main pyramid, I personally really liked the observatory, another proof of the great interest and knowledge of the pre Colombian civilizations for astronomy.
5. The ruins of Coba – the wildest one of the 8 sites to visit in Mexico
It will impress you by being in the middle of the jungle. This climate conditions makes it pretty deteriored but also authentic. You feel that the nature has regained its rights little by little for centuries. As in chichen itza you will see wild iguanas but you can find wilder life like venomous red snakes if you arrive early, as we did. For sure you will remember this lost-in-the-jungle site.
6. Monte Albán – the most spectacular view
This particular position will offer you an amazing view on the city and all the valley of Oaxaca. This is also the oldest site we saw in Mexico with traces dating back 500 BC. This is really a must see if you go to Oaxaca. Find out other amazing activities in Oaxaca here.
7. The archaeological site of Palenque – the most surrounded by jungle
What an amazing feeling to arrive at the forgotten temple (Templo olvidado) by your own mean after a nice hike into the wild. You feel like a real adventurer. There is so much to say that I didn’t even mention the wild life you can find around (screaming monkeys – you can’t miss them-, tucans, the biggest butterflies you ever seen, and much more!). Of course the site is part of the UNESCO world heritage list, are you even surprised?!
Bonus: to immerse even more in that particular atmosphere, you will find several hotels nearby the site in the jungle. This is a pretty unique experience that I definitely recommend (even if screaming monkeys woke us up at 6am one day, shouting without interruption until 8am – earplugs are not enough in these moments).
Bonus: The ruins of Tenochtitlan – the most unexpected of the 8 archaeological sites to in Mexico
Did you know that the capital Mexico city is built over a major Aztec site? It was Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire. Actually it has been built where aztecs saw an eagle eating a snake on a cactus (symbol still present on the Mexican flag nowadays). Most of the structures have been destroyed by the conquistadors while conquiring the city. But few remainings can be seen close to the Zócalo (central place of mexico city).
A good way to get a first contact with this incredible culture without traveling far. For more tips over Mexico city (aka CDMX), click here.
This concludes the list of 8 archaeological sites in Mexico. I hope it gives you eager to discover by your own the extraordinary culture of Mexico. Did you already visit some of these sites? Which one is our favorite? Please let us know in the comments section.