Mexico was home to a number of Pre-Columbian civilizations that have left remains of their sophisticated and rich cultures for modern travelers to appreciate. Thus there are a number of fantastic sites which recall these ancient times. Since the arrival of Europeans, the Mexican culture has added many more modern wonders. Thus, choosing seven from the wealth of man-made structures is difficult and arbitrary. However, here is my list, to be followed shortly by a photo album.
1. Chichen Itza, Quintana Roo, the Yucatan. This huge archaeological site preserves the remains a large ceremonial center, inhabited by the Mayans beginning in around 600 AD. The religious nature of of the city revolves around the sacred cenote (well) which has been determined to hold the remains of human sacrifice. The signature site on the grounds is El Castillo, a large step pyramid which symbolizes the Mayan’s obsession with time.
2. Teotihuacan, just north of Mexico City. This city, just north of Mexico City, dates to the first century AD. Its founders are still unknown and debated, but it later became an important Toltec site. The largest building in the complex is the Temple of the Sun which flanks the Avenue of the Dead, a broad thoroughfare. Excavations still continue at the site.
3. Palenque, on the Yucatan peninsula. This Mayan site is located in southern Mexico, at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula. Although not as large as some other sites of this type, it nevertheless preserves some excellent examples of Mayan architecture and sculpture. The city apparently dates to around 600 AD.
4. Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City. One of the largest cathedrals in the Americas, this edifice sits on Mexico City’s main square, the Zocalo. The magnificent Baroque structure was consecrated in 1667, although construction continued for almost 150 years. Its towers soar almost 200 feet and contain 18 bells.
5. Uxmal, near Merida, on the Yucatan peninsula. This archaeological remnant of the Mayan civilization is located about 50 miles south of the city of Merida, in the Western Yucatan. It is considered the one of the best examples of Puuc architecture in all of Mexico. Noteworthy buildings include the Governor’s Palace and the Pyramid of the Magician.
6. Cathedral, Guadalajara. This distinctive cathedral, with its yellow-tiled towers, actually on the Plaza de Armas, dominates one end of the pedestrian-only avenue known as Plaza Tapatia. Its altarpieces are particularly striking.
7. Monte Alban, just outside of Oaxaca. This site, only about 5 miles from the city of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, is one of Mesoamerica’s oldest cities. The location dates to about 500 BC and was presumably inhabited by the Zapotec civilization, which seems to have had commercial dealings with Teotihuacan to the north.
Other sites considered:
Tulum, south of Cancun, on the Yucatan coast.
Tenochtitlan, Mexico City
Xochimilco, just south of Mexico City
Chapultepec Park, Mexico City