The Americas are strewn with the ruins of ancient Indian civilizations. However, apart from a few renowned destinations, such as Macchu Picchu, Mesa Verde or Chichen Itza, most of these sites are not very well-known. This is particularly true for Mexico, which has numerous impressive ruins, several of which are World Heritage sites. So here are seven ancient Indian ruins in Mexico worth visiting:
Chichen Itza, in the central Yucatan Peninsula, is the most famous and visited of the Indian ruins in Mexico. In 2007, it was even voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza was an important Mayan city and is home to many temples and pyramids. The most popular is perhaps the Temple of Kukulkan, a step pyramid that is also known as El Castillo, or “the castle.”
Calakmul, near the border of Guatemala, was one of the largest Mayan cities and has hundreds of ancient structures to see. It once rivaled Tikal (in Guatemala) for power in the Mayan world. Additionally, the site is within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve so visitors can at the same time explore the flora and fauna of a tropical forest.
Teotihuacan, 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, was one of the largest cities in the world in the 6th century, with a population exceeding 150,000 people. Today, visitors to this World Heritage Site can marvel at the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, or walk down Calle de los Muertos and glimpse the palaces and temples that once lined this two-mile long boulevard.
The city of Veracruz is on Mexico’s Gulf coast and there you can visit El Tajin. This ancient city was apparently abandoned in the early 13th century and thus was never discovered by Spanish explorers. Another World Heritage Site, it is considered to have some of the most unique architecture of any of the Mesoamerican ruins and its most famous structure is the seven-story Pyramid of the Niches.
Palenque, set in the jungle of Chiapas, is often described as one of the most magical and interesting of the Mayan sites in Mexico. The most famous building at Palenque is the Temple of Inscriptions, but there are many other intriguing buildings, including The Palace and the Temples of the Cross.
Tulum is a small site but is popular because of its location. For one, it’s near the vacation towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen (as is Chichen Itza). For another, its location on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean makes it perhaps the most picturesque of all the Mayan ruins.
Just outside the Mayan lands of the Yucatan Peninsula is the town of Villahermosa, home to the ceremonial Olmec site of La Venta. These ruins are most well known for the discovery of 17 massive stone heads. These heads can weigh several tons each and are thought to have been carved as early as the 9th century B.C.E.