When people think of South America, historical sites and adventurous treks, they often think of Peru. Hardly surprising given the mass marketing behind the famous and ever popular Macchu Picchu trail by the gap year industry, but other countries such as Mexico can offer equally awe inspiring historical sites for the adventurous traveller.
If you mention Mexico to people in the same context, many travellers thoughts drift away from historical landmarks and cultural icons and instead head straight to the cactus strewn deserts, glorious stretches of tropical beaches and all inclusive resorts, but there is much, much more to it than that.
The adventurous traveller can discover a wealth of historical and almost legendary archaeological sites that any budding Indiana Jones would be proud of, many of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. As a huge history buff myself, these are just some of my favourite highlights.
Teotihuacan is a stunning UNESCO world heritage site and one of the single most impressive remnants of the Aztec civilisation and legend has it is even the birthplace of the gods! The site’s popularity is shown by the almost constant stream of package tours and buses arriving at the site through the day, but it is still worth heading here early and spending the day discovering this extensive site for yourself.
Located in Mexico City itself, this temple ruin was once central to the Aztec culture and an integral part of their daily life between 1325 BCE (Before Common Era) and 1521 ACE (After Common Era). The ruins are utterly fascinating to explore and every traveller should complement their visit with a trip to the excellent museum.
Even those travellers who don’t know much – if anything – about Maya history will have probably heard of Chichen Itza. This famous pyramid is an UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new wonders of the world. Located in the awe inspiring Yucatan, this amazing site is home to the temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo, one of the most instantly recognisable archaeological structures in the world. If you can, try and visit during the spring or autumn equinox, when the shadow of Kukulkan (also known as Quetzalcoatl) descends down the steps like a large plumed serpent.
Uxmal was one of the centres of power within the Maya culture and now is one of the most popular archaeological ruins in Mexico. The crowds and the tourists are an unfortunate reality, but the fascinating and impressive ruins are seconded only by the equally impressive surrounding hills and countryside that make this site an absolute must see.
Not to be confused with the modern town of Palenque, these ruins are the epitome of every jungle covered lost ruin fantasy and some of the best examples of Maya architecture anywhere in Mexico and well worth a visit.
Mexico is so much more than the beaches and luxurious resorts, the bars and the restaurants, so the next time you are there – whether you are on a package tour or an independent adventure – make sure you take the time to dig a little deeper and discover some of the amazing archaeological ruins spread throughout the country and see a whole different side to the country.
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