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15 Best Archaeological Sites in Mexico

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Mexico has a lot to offer for those looking for new adventures. The country is one of the best travel destinations for archaeology lovers. If you’re someone interested in the history and culture of Mexico, you must explore archaeological sites in the country.

Mexico has thousands of archaeological sites, but only a few are open. So, are you wondering which ones are the best? No worries!

Though many unique, fascinating archaeological sites exist in Mexico, this post has listed the most visited ancient Mayan ruins that will ensure excitement and intrigue!

Best Archaeological Sites in Mexico

Chichén Itzá

Surrounded by natural beauty, these are the most visited ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico to explore. Let’s take a look-see!

15. Bonampak

Terraced acropolis  and open ground in at Bonampak Archaeological Site
WitR / Adobe Stock

Bonampak is an ancient Mayan archaeological site in Chiapas. It dates to the early classic period, located around 30 km south of Yaxchilan.

This Mayan ruin is renowned for its colorful floor-to-ceiling murals featured on the interior walls of the three-roomed structure on the first level of the Acropolis. These paintings usually describe events that occurred during the reign of Chan Muwan.

Take a close look at the monuments and paintings in Bonampak to know the history of the place in detail. Book a Bonampak and Yaxchilán from Palenque Tour now.

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14. Coba Ruins

Coba Ruins and Skyline

Located in Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula region, Coba is another ancient site in Mexico. It features over 6,500 Mayan ruins that you can explore at your own pace.

The Nohoch Mul is one of the major attractions of this site, with around 130 steep stairways to the top. Climb the structure to enjoy an incredible view of the ancient Mayan ruins and surrounding forest.

Though Coba is not as famous as the Mayan ruins of Tulum or Chichen Itza, you can still climb a few structures on the site for a unique experience. It is undoubtedly super fun. Don’t miss the chance to book a guided tour.

13. Edzna Archaeological Ruin

Edzna Mayan Archaeological Ruin in Campeche, Mexico
Peludis / Adobe Stock

Located in the north of the Mexican state of Campeche, Edzna is one of the most impressive ancient ruins to explore. The site will make you want to discover more about ancient civilizations. Founded between 600 and 300 BC, this archaeological site was flooded by Mayan culture.

Built on a 40-meter-high platform, the main temple is the highlight of the place. The ball court, made of two parallel structures, is another remarkable building in the plaza. You will find small stairways leading to the top of those two structures.

If you plan to visit ancient sites in Mexico, Edzna can be another great option for taking a dip into Mexican pre-Hispanic history.

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12. El Tajín

El Tajín Ruins

Situated in Veracruz state, El Tajín is a part of Veracruz culture. Numerous temples, pyramids, and palaces surround this ancient ruin that flourished from 600 to 1200 CE.

The Pyramid of the Niches is the main attraction of this UNESCO World Heritage site for its unusual structure and incredible preservation over the centuries. This building features 365 stone niches, making it look like an astronomical calendar.

The unique design of the pyramids makes the place even more interesting, as there’s no such style in any Mesoamerican civilization. It’s a masterpiece of American and Mexican architecture.

Around 300,000 visitors visit this historic site’s beauty every year. Explore El Tajín Ruins and Papantla on a day trip.

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11. El Cerrito Archaeological Site

El Cerrito Archaeological Site in El Pueblito, Mexico
Diana / Adobe Stock

Now comes one of the most underrated tourist spots in all of Mexico. El Cerrito’s archaeological ruin extends to Querétaro, the heart of the country. El Cerrito has been in Mexico since 300 BCE, featuring a pyramid and interpretive trails.

The Chupícuaro culture that inhabited this site centuries back has built one of the world’s most stunning pyramids. It has also left an archaeological site full of jewels, gemstones, and other precious stones around the area.

Apart from ruins, the site also features a museum, which displays the history of the ancient civilization. It also presents gems and jewelry that people used to wear back then. You can even see fossilized inhabitants.

Undoubtedly, El Cerrito is something you would not want to miss out on when in Mexico.

10. El Tepozteco, Tepoztlan

El Tepozteco Archaeological Site and skyline in in Mexico
Travel Nerd / Adobe Stock

The ranking continues with one of the most fascinating yet challenging sites to reach. El Tepozteco lies at the peak of a Mexican rainforest mountain in the Magic Town of Tepoztlan in Morelos.

How ancient inhabitants built this temple at the top of the Sierra de Tepoztlan is still a secret. Sitting 2,310 meters above sea level, El Tepozteco features a 6.4-meter high platform supporting a temple base that is 3.3 meters high. It attracts tourists from all over the world.

However, researchers said this temple was the playground for praising Tepoztēcatl, the Aztec God of the alcoholic beverage pulque.

Both locals and tourists can climb the Sierra Tepoztlan to explore this most visited archaeological site in Mexico. In addition, you can also have a panoramic view of the Tepoztlan from the top of this ancient ruin.

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9. Monte Alban

Monte Alban archaeological site in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán Municipality
Tom / Adobe Stock

Monte Albán is a pre-Columbian archaeological ruin in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, specifically in the Valley of Oaxaca. Sitting on a low mountainous range, this is another archaeological place that will delight you forever.

Founded in the 6th Century BC, the site rises around 1,300 feet from the valley and has an elevation of 6,400 feet, overlooking the city of Oaxaca. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987.

Monte Alban

You will find different structures at the site, including pyramids, temples, plazas, underground passageways, and the most sophisticated tomb system in the Pre-Columbian Americas with over 150 tombs.

As it is on high ground, you will have an unparalleled view once you reach the top.

However, Monte Alban is suffering a threat due to human urbanization. While humans continue to expand, Monte Alban is losing land.

8. Calakmul

Calakmul and Skyline

Calakmul is one of the well-known Mayan ruins in the Mexican state of Campeche. Located in the jungles of the greater Peten Basin region, this ancient Mayan site never misses impressing its visitors.

Around 22 miles from the Guatemalan border, Calakmul was one of the most powerful and largest ancient cities ever found in the Maya lowlands.

There are around 6,750 identified ancient structures in Calakmul, and the Great Pyramid is the tallest one – over 45 meters high.

Calakmul Ruins Scenery

The site is so isolated that you will feel immersed in the natural beauty of Calakmul as you spend some time there.

The unique structures and tombs make this site well worth the trip. One of the best ways to reach this Mayan ruin is hiring a car – it’s over four hours each way.

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7. Uxmal Archaeological Site

Uxmal Site

Uxmal is a well-known ancient Mayan city of the Maya Civilization. It was located in northwest Yucatan and developed between the 6th and 10th Centuries CE.

Uxmal is considered one of the famous Mayan ruins of Maya culture. The site represents the Puuc architectural style – which flourished in the Late Classic Period.

Though there are several pyramids, the ‘Pyramid of the Magician’ is the major attraction of this archaeological site. You can’t climb the main pyramid but can mount a couple of others.

Uxmal Ruins

The Governor’s Palace, the Zona Arqueológica de Uxmal, and the Throne of the Jaguar are other famous sites to explore in Uxmal.

Additionally, you will encounter several traditional Mayan symbols across this ancient Maya city. Moreover, Uxmal has been designated a World Heritage site since 1996. It is, indeed, an eye-catching spot to explore.

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6. Zona Arqueológica Palenque

Aerial view of Zona Arqueológica Palenque in Mexico
Paul / Adobe Stock

Flourished between c. 600 and 750 CE, Palenque is another of the well-known ancient Mayan cities north of Chiapas. Situated in the dense jungles of Chiapas, Zona Arqueológica Palenque will leave you in shock. 

This site is famous for its well-crafted architecture and stunning sculptural art. This archaeology in Mexico will tell you everything you need to know about Mayan architecture.

Palenque is the home of the Temple of the Inscriptions, the largest pyramid built by the Maya Civilization. 

Nevertheless, Palenque has so much more to offer. You will come across the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Skulls, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, and other sites. 

What a wonderful place to visit; the Mayans have done a remarkable job on Palenque architecture. The unique structures will make you understand why this is Mexico’s most visited archaeological site. 

Additionally, you can also see the Palace and the aqueduct. It is impossible not to get lost there. 

For further information about Palenque, economic trips, or in-budget travels, never hesitate to explore. Click on GetYourGuide to find the best options for you, or you can book a tour here.

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5. Tonina Archaeological Zone

Tonina Ruins

Toniná Archaeological Zone is another exceptional tourist destination for those looking for ancient ruins in Mexico. It is another ancient Maya civilization and a close rival of Palenque.

Situated in Chiapas, this spot has a diversity of pyramids that serve as temples. You can see an extensive ballcourt – used to play the Mesoamerican ballgame. 

This Mayan ruin is distinguished by its in-the-round carved monuments and well-preserved stucco sculptures. These structures will make you wonder how on earth ancient inhabitants built them. 

The place is breathtaking itself as it is in the middle of the jungle. And, of course, it is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. The city is well-known for having the last known worldwide Maya Calendar. Without a doubt, this is a trip you will love to do.

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4. Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins and Skyline

Tulum is a major Mayan city that functioned as a fortress around the 14th and 15th centuries. It is located in the Caribbean Quintana Roo state and is one of Mexico’s most visited ancient ruins.  

Since the site faces the Caribbean Sea, Mayans utilized Tulum as land, a sea route for trade, and a fort defense against invasions. 

The Pyramid El Castillo (the castle) is the most famous structure in Tulum. However, the Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Descending God are also trademarks in Tulum.

Millions of visitors delight themselves each year by exploring these Mayan ruins.  Also, Tulum is near Mexico’s most famous city, Cancun, which is only 81 miles apart. You can cover this distance within 1.5 to 2 hours by road, depending on the weather. 

No matter when you are traveling to Mexico, Tulum should always be on your bucket list. Book a Tulum Archaeological Site and Cenote Guided Tour here.

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3. Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá and Skyline

Famous worldwide, Chichen Itza is a spectacular site in the modern-day state of Yucatan, in the Yucatan Peninsula. One glance will tell you everything you need to know about its beauty and majesty by itself only – no words needed. 

Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can easily guess why once you reach there. Chichen Itza is a well-preserved ancient Mayan city in Mexican territory, attracting millions of tourists and locals each year.

The site features many uniquely designed buildings to explore. However, the pyramid El Castillo, or Temple of Kukulcan, is the most famous structure. 

Chichén Itzá Ruins

There are countless other impressive stories to explore, making it one of Mexico’s most visited archaeological sites. 

Furthermore, you can also see thirteen ballcourts that Mayans used as playgrounds to venerate their Gods. The Great Ball Court is the most attractive, around 490 feet or 150 meters. 

The Temple of the Warriors is another must-see in the area. This pyramid portrays a warrior formation and attracts all kinds of visitors. In addition, Sacred Cenote is another spot worth seeing. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that are very common in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Indeed, Chichen Itza has its own water-filled Cenote, where Mayans used to perform human sacrifices as devotion to the Maya rain god Chaac.

This ancient site welcomes nearly 2 million tourists annually. If you’re in Mexico to explore archeological sites, your trip is almost incomplete without taking a tour of Chichen Itza. 

In addition, this Chichen Itza English Tour provides the best trips to Chichen Itza and all Yucatan Peninsula. You can also book this guided tour.

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2. Cholula

Cholula on the Top of the Mountain

Cholula deserves a shout-out on this list. Situated in the metropolitan area of Puebla, this is one of the best sites to visit in Mexico.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula is one of the main attractions of Cholula. This archaeological site is a giant construction with seven pyramids to discover.

As well as being the sixth tallest pyramid in the world, this complex is the largest monument and pyramid by volume ever constructed anywhere in the world, making it popular among tourists.

Apart from the Great Pyramid of Cholula, the city offers several other cool things to do. The list includes hiking in Cerro Zapotecas, exploring Container City, and cherishing history at the Museo Regional de Cholula.

Since the city offers many things to do around the year, this famous site is well worth visiting. This Puebla and Cholula Day Trip will make your day!

1. Teotihuacan

Aerial view of the Pyramids at Teotihuacan in Mexico
Anna Om / Adobe Stock

Teotihuacan, an ancient city, is another Mexican archaeological complex in Southern Mexico. many visitors talk of the sense of peace they feel at peace while walking around this vast ancient Mayan ruin.

Teotihuacan lies 25 miles northeast of Mexico City and covers 8 square miles. It’s simply amazing. Attracting an average of 4 million visitors yearly, Teotihuacán is the most visited archaeological ruin in Mexico and one of the most visited tourist places on the planet.

This gorgeous site is famous for its colorful murals designed on plastered walls. You can also find them in the city’s apartment compounds, temples, and palaces. 

Teotihuacán was the most important Mayan city during its time. It still is the most remarkable archaeological site in Western civilization.

Pyramid of the Sun

Aerial view of the Pyramid of the Sun located at the Teotihuacan in Mexico
Jairo Rojas/Wirestock / Adobe Stock

The Pyramid of the Sun is the seventh largest pyramid in the world. The structure is 65.5 meters in height, 220 meters in length, and 224 meters in width. It is also the largest pyramid in Teotihuacan City and one of the largest in the Mesoamerica region.

Pyramid of the Moon

Aerial view of the Pyramid of the Moon located at the Teotihuacan in Mexico
Leonid Andronov / Adobe Stock

The Pyramid of the Moon is the second-largest structure in Mesoamerica. Located at the end of the Avenue of the Dead, this pyramid stands 43 meters high and measures 130 by 156 meters at its base.

Avenue of the Dead

Aerial view of the Avenue of the Dead located at the Teotihuacan in Mexico
SimoneGilioli / Adobe Stock

The massive Avenue of the Dead is the main road between the pyramids in Teotihuacan. The path roughly covers 4 km in length and 40 meters in width. Take a walk on the Avenue of the Dead to look at this dream tourist site.

Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox
image by Thelmadatter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Spring Equinox is an annual event at Mexico’s Teotihuacan around the 20th and 21st of March. Lots of people visit the Pyramid of the Sun at this event. As a ritual, they usually wear white clothes and stand with arms outstretched, facing the sun to receive “positive energies” from above. 

However, archaeologists Sergio Gomez Chavez and Alejandro Sarabia stated that this activity has nothing to do with the Teotihuacan tradition. The accumulation of people could harm and deteriorate the pyramids.

If you plan to visit Teotihuacan, GetYourGuide has many affordable offers, such as a Teotihuacan Tour or Teotihuacan and Tlatelolco Day Trip. Don’t miss out!

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FAQs

What is the most famous archaeological site in Mexico?

The most famous archaeological site in Mexico is Chichen Itza, located on the Yucatan Peninsula. It was once a major Mayan city known for its impressive pyramids, including the iconic El Castillo. Chichen Itza was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, attracting millions of visitors yearly.

How many archeological sites are in Mexico?

Archeological sites in Mexico are numerous and diverse, with over 29,000 registered sites nationwide. Mexico has many archeological sites, including ancient ruins from the Maya, Aztecs, and other pre-Columbian civilizations.

Many of these sites are open to the public and offer visitors a glimpse into Mexico’s rich history and culture. Despite the large number of registered sites, many more likely remain undiscovered or unexplored, making Mexico a fascinating destination for archeologists and history enthusiasts.

What is the importance of archeology in today’s world?

Archaeology is a way of taking a dip into ancient cultures and traditions by studying artifacts. This gives an insight into the life of ancient people with no written records.

Why are archeological sites important?

An archaeological site is a location that displays historical and cultural artifacts with crucial information. It provides solid evidence that proves centuries-old stories or cultures.

If you’re curious about history, consider exploring archaeological sites to discover ancient cultures or traditions.

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