Are you fascinated by ancient history and the lives of bygone civilisations? It’s fair to say that Mexico is probably on your radar then. This is a country bursting with fascinating ancient sites just waiting to be explored. Here are six of the best:
Chichen Itza is a large clustered temple complex, roughly 5 square kilometres in area. It is one of Mexico’s most visited sites, with people coming to see astounding structures like the Temple of Kukulkan. This impressive stone pyramid rises to 30 metres with a temple at the summit containing a Jaguar throne.
From the 9th to the 13th century, the people of Chichen Itza dominated the territory from central Yucatan to the north coast of Mexico. The city contains chilling reminders of the darker side of Mayan culture including the famous Wall of Skulls, where sculptural reliefs reveal scenes of human sacrifice and eagles feasting on human hearts.
The ruins of the Mayan city of Palenque date back to 100BC, although it is though that the city flourished in the 7th century before eventually declining around 800AD. After this, Palenque was swallowed up by the jungle.
Although smaller than many of the famous Mayan sites it is no less fascinating – it is home to some of the best carvings, sculpture and architecture that the Mayans ever produced. Hieroglyphic markings found on the walls of the city have meant that scholars can piece together a very clear history of Palenque.
The site is also home to a museum that holds sacred artefacts found in the various buildings and tombs.
Teotihuacan – City of the Gods
Only 30 miles east of Mexico City, this ancient site rivals the great Egyptian pyramids. It contains some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Very little is known about the city’s origins, but in its prime it became a major cultural centre.
Teotihuacan is home to many ceremonial pyramids, palaces, avenues and squares. No trace has been found of a language system, meaning that scholars have no idea how people communicated. Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scholars agree that Uxmal represents Mayan architecture at its very best. It is believed that the city was founded around 500AD before becoming an important religious centre between 700-1000AD. It is remarkably well preserved due to the quality of the building and the cut of the stones.
Monte Alban is oldest site so far, built in 500 BC in the Valley of Oaxaca by the Zapotec civilisation. It was built on a flattened hilltop, hundreds of metres up from the valley floor to ensure the inhabitants could defend it.
if you visit, look out for the Los Danzantes, a group of structures decorated with interesting carvings of people in a variety of strange positions. The Southern platform is also an unmissable site – a massive pyramid with an open plaza area on the top.
Tulum is located close to the famous resort destination of Cancun. In the distant past it is thought to have been much larger than it is now. The site today contains around 60 buildings, roughly a tenth of the size that scholar think it may have reached.
Tulum is one of the few walled Mayan cities. Historical evidence shows that it flourished between the years 1300 and 1500 AD, when its inhabitants are thought to have been wiped out by European diseases.
Plan your trip to Mexico today to experience mysteries of ancient stone. The ravages of time may have turned these lost cities into tourist attractions but they still have the power to amaze you.