Mexico is today the proud owner of the most prominent evidences of the glorious ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, which is a magnet for tourists from around the globe. The sophisticated archaeological ruins form the most impressive collection on the American continent, a great part being classified as UNESCO world heritage monuments and offer a valuable immersion into the past not only for history lovers but also for archaeology amateurs. As testimony of a great bygone civilization we can observe on spot ancient fortified cities, towering pyramids, sumptuous decorated palaces and temples or ritual sacred sites.
The starting point of a tour of Mexico’s ancient civilizations is positioned just a few steps outside Mexico City, jumping strait into the capital of the old Mesoamerica – Teotihuacan known as “Birthplace of the Gods” in the ancient Aztec culture. A fabulous archaeological site, home to the third largest pyramid of the world “Pyramid of the Sun”, Teotihuacan displays the remnants of a flourishing era and a glimpse of life that disappeared more than a millennium ago. The ruins include a monumental thoroughfare, Avenue of the Dead, leading to the “Pyramid of the Moon”, which is surrounded by 12 temples designing the Plaza de la Luna. Frescos, mural paintings and decorations are to be admired in the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells, Jaguar Palace or Tepantitla Palace, with its renowned Paradise of Tláloc. The “Temple of the Feathered Serpent” is another focal point of this impressive ruins structure, believed to have been the supreme leader’s residence. All these fabulous ruins are waiting to welcome you into the Teotihuacan and discover the hidden treasures of the Aztec world.
Monte Alban is another must see if you wish to discovery Mexico’s ancient history. The city was the capital of Zapotec culture and was a military and ceremonial center of this pre-Columbian civilization that dates back to 500 B.C. The ruins were laid down in the Oaxaca Valley, and they revolve around the Gran Plaza, an open space surrounded by pyramids, tombs, buildings, temples and ball courts. A veritable testament of the civilization’s architectural style and level of culture, Monte Alban is an elaborate architectonic site with different types of constructions, underground passages, evidence of water storage systems and astronomical observatory. Pay a visit to discover the Plaza de los Danzantes or the Stones of Conquest, relics of triumphs and battles of this millennia-old capital of Zapotec people and find out about ceremonial precincts or ritualic ball games.
Chichen Itza, a place of colossal cultural significance, is ” the most impressive testimony to the Maya-Toltec civilization of the Yucatan” states UNESCO. Chichen Itza is the most visited Mayan ruin in Mexico and is also considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This ancient capital of the Mayans and the largest archeologic site in Yucatan, is surrounded by magic and mystery because it shelters the famous Pyramid of Kukulcan (El Castillo), the Temple of Warriors, the astronomic observatory, the castle and the ball court, temples and sacrifice altars. The “time templates” displayed here allow the visitor to gain a drop of Mayan wisdom through their astronomical calendar and natural light spectacle that takes place during equinoxes (the serpent shadow that ascends or descends on El Castillo).
Another top Mayan ruins site is Uxmal, a religious center whose name signifies that it was “built three times”. A well-restored archaeological structure, Uxmal and the three neighboring cities Sayil, Labná and Kabah constitute the perfect example of the late Mayan social and economic structure, before its collapse during the Classic Period. Visitors will be charmed by the Governor’s Palace, with its mosaic façade featuring 103 masks of Chac, the rain god, the Pyramid of the Magician, the Nunnery Quadrangle, the Great Pyramid or the Temple of the Doves. All these buildings belong to the Puuc architectural style, the Governor’s Palace being one of the best existing exponents of the Puuc architecture.
An architectural site of a smaller magnitude, but the only one erected on coast and one of the last built by the Mayans during the post classic period is Tulum. It served as seaport and major commercial point, trading jade and turquoise. Tulum is not as grandiose as the other famous Mayan ruins, but it reigns over a wild coastline, a sparking sandy beach and crystal clear-turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The ruins are surrounded on three sides by a limestone wall, a fortification that helped preserving the site. Of course, Tulum, has its own Castillo, the most imposing existing structure on spot and the Temple of the Frescoes which invite you to experience the life of Mayan world.
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