You Know Mexico’s Famed Teotihuacán Pyramids But These 7 Others Are Just As Impressive
Mexico’s Indigenous communities are incredibly impressive. At the time of the arrival of the European conquistadores, Tenochtitlán (what ancient Ciudad de México was called) was one of the largest cities in the world with a population of more than 200,000 people.
Not far away was the city state of Teotihuacán – which existed more than 1,000 years before Tenochtitlá — and had more than 100,000 people. It was the largest city in all of Mesoamérica. Today, all that remains are ruins and three massive pyramids that are famous with travelers from all over the world. But the Valley of Mexico (where both Teotihuacán and México City are located) is home to a vast network of ruins and pyramids that should be on every traveler’s radar.
Teotihuacán is home to one of the world’s largest pyramids – Pyramid of the Sun.
Any trip to México City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this powerful and impressive destination. Dating back almost 2,000 years, the pyramid at Teotihuacán is 720 feet high and 740 feet wide and was created by the Toltec peoples.
To this day, there remains a lot of mystery as to what the pyramids were used for and what they represented – but one thing is for sure, it’s a very popular tourist attraction. And although you should definitely visit it and soak in its history, there are many other pyramids of Mexico you should know about.
The Great Pyramid of Cholula
The Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl, tops this list since it is actually the world’s largest pyramid. And it’s located just about two hours from Mexico’s capital city.
When you first look at it though, the pyramid looks more like a massive hill, thanks to all the vegetation that completely covers this area. This space was also desecrated by the Catholic Church in the 16th-Century when they built a church on top of it. Today, visitors can access many sections of the towering pyramid and also explore a five-mile long network of underground tunnels excavated by archeologists.
Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl
Another easy day trip from México City is a visit to the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl in Tula. Following the collapse of the city of Teotihuacán, the Toltecs assumed power over the region and established their capital at this location, which peaked around 1000 C.E. The most impressive structure here is the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, decorated by a colonnade and topped by huge 13-foot-tall statues of warriors.
Cuicuilco Archaeological Zone
It’s surprising that Cuicuilco made this list simply because of where it is located – right in the very heart of the urban core of México City. And right next to a traffic jammed freeway no less. How it manages to survive after all these generations is a testament to the construction methods used by Mexico’s ancient communties.
Cuicuilco is a small national park but the views of the surrounding capital city from atop the pyramid are impressive. And to see an ancient pyramid set inside the massive urban sprawl of modern Mexico is truly a unique experience.
Zona Arqueológica de Xochicalco
This pre-Columbian archaeological site is located about two hours south of México City in the state of Morelos, near Cuernavaca. In the native Nahuatl, Xochicalco means ‘House of Flowers,’ which makes sense since the site is lushly landscaped.
Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of a large central structure, along with remains of ancient residential buildings and long terraces covering the steep slopes. Although the site was occupied by around 200 B.C., it did not develop into a large city until the year 790 C.E., when it was estimated to have a population of around 20,000 people.
Tepoztlán is one of México City’s most popular attractions. It’s a pueblo magico about an hour south of the city that is well-known for healing energies, spas, picturesque plazas, and the Tepozteco ruins. Situated atop a 1,200 mountain overlooking the town below, these ruins are only reached after an intense hour long hike but they’re so worth it.
The temple is dedicated to the God of Pulque (the traditional alcoholic drink) and was constructed around the year 1200 C.E.
Although a bit smaller than the the sites on this list, Tecoaque is special because of the large amount of residential buildings that existed. The site, which is located in Tlaxcala, was inhabited by the Acolhua, one of the three ethnic groups making up the Aztec Empire.
Tecoaque had many white-stucco temples and was the home to approximately 5,000 people, mostly priests and farmers.
The Valley of México (and México has a whole) are full of incredible history – which you can see with this roundup of archaeological sites from just around the México City area. So, next time you’re planning a trip to the city make sure you schedule in some extra time for a trip beyond Teotihuacán to visit these lesser-known but equally impressive destinations.
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