The Ruins of Mexico (Part One)

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Hay muchas ruinas antiguas en México (There are many ancient ruins in Mexico). Some of them are tucked away deep in the jungle, while some are just a quick drive from major cities. Visiting these ancient ruins is one of the top things to do when traveling here. Hoy aprenderemos sobre las ruinas de México (Today we’re going to learn about the ruins of Mexico). In this first post, we’ll take a look at three of the most well-known ruins. I’ve also included a short video for each one from el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (the National Institute of Anthropology and History) to give you a good listening activity.


Let’s begin our exploration of Mexican ruins at the incredible Teotihuacán. This name comes from the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs and it can be translated as “el lugar donde fueron hechos los dioses” (the place where the gods were born).

Hace mucho tiempo, esta era una de las ciudades más grandes del mundo (A long time ago, this was one of the biggest cities in the world). At its peak, it had a population of around 150,000-200,000, making it the biggest city in the pre-Columbian Americas.

Photo taken and used with permission from Sasha Savinov.

The pyramids of Teotihuacán are just 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Mexico City. It’s easily visited on a day trip and you can even get out there on a public bus. Si visitas la Ciudad de México, definitivamente deberías venir aquí (If you visit Mexico City, you should definitely come here).

You can read all about this amazing ancient city in this blog post, and you can also check it out in this short video tour:

Monte Albán

Monte Albán fue la antigua capital de los zapotecos (Monte Alban was the ancient capital of the Zapotecs). It was founded around 500 BC and was an important city for more than a millennium. During this time, it interacted with other major cities such as Teotihuacan.

La ciudad se construyó en diferentes fases a lo largo del tiempo (The city was built in different phases over time). It’s unknown why the Zapotecs eventually abandoned the city, but the Mixtec people later entered the valley and used this site to bury their elite.

Photo taken and used with permission from Sasha Savinov.

It’s a very impressive site to visit, especially when you consider that they didn’t have machines, pack animals, or iron tools to build it. Hay mucho que ver aquí, incluido la Plaza de los Danzantes y el Juego de Pelota Grande (There’s a lot to see here, including the Plaza of the Dancers and the Grand Ball Court).

El sitio arqueológico está ubicado en la cima de una montaña en el Valle de Oaxaca (The archaeological site is located on a mountaintop in the Valley of Oaxaca). It’s not far from the historic center of Oaxaca City and you can easily reach it via public bus.

Chichén Itzá

Finalmente, viajemos a las ruinas más famosas del país: Chichén Itzá (Finally, let’s travel to the most famous ruins in the country – Chichen Itza). In the Mayan language, the name means “la boca del pozo de los itzáes” (at the mouth of the well of the Itza). This refers to the sacred bodies of water found underneath the city.

This was one of the largest Mayan cities and the ruins are a fascinating place to explore. The highlight is definitely la Pirámide de Kukulcán (the Pyramid of Kukulcán), or el Castillo (the Castle) as it’s commonly called.

Photo taken and used with permission from Sasha Savinov.

Cada lado de la pirámide tiene una gran escalinata con 91 escalones por lado y uno más que conduce al templo superior (Each side of the pyramid has a grand staircase with 91 steps per side and one more that leads to the upper temple). In total, that’s 365 steps – one for each day of the year. How amazing is that?!

Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. Es una de las nuevas siete maravillas del mundo (It’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World). It’s a few hours away from Cancun and can be reached by public transportation or by joining a tour.

I visited Chichen Itza way back in 2012 on our first trip to Mexico. Click here to read that travel tale and then check out the INAH video below to practice your Spanish reading & listening.


Visiting the ruins of Mexico is an amazing experience. You get to learn a lot about the history and culture of the country and the various groups that have called it home. Not only that, but it’s also just fun to wander around these ancient cities and imagine what life was like back then. Plus, you can still climb on most of them and get some incredible views.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at some of the smaller, lesser-known ruins. Until then, here’s a question you can answer in the comments below:

¿Ha visitado algunas ruinas en México? ¿Cuáles?
Have you visited any ruins in Mexico? Which ones?

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(Visitado 8 veces, 1 visitas hoy)