The archaeological sites in Oaxaca are a must see attraction
To date there are around 4000 archaeological sites that are known about in Oaxaca. This is a huge number and it would take an enormous effort to try and visit them all, and the reality is that very few tourists visit more than Monte Álban, the principal archaeological site in the state of Oaxaca. Mitla is another very important archaeological site, second only in importance to Monte Álban and is characterised by the red paint on the walls of the ruins that is as old as the ruins themselves. The red color comes from dye made by crushing cochinilla (a parasitic insect that feeds on cacti), and this technique is still used a few miles away in the village of Teotitlan del Valle to make dye for coloring the yarns used to weave rugs.
Monte Álban and Mitla were two of the most important settlements of the Mixtecs and the Zapotecs and forged the beginings of what has become Oaxaca. Zapotec is still relatively widely spoken, especially in villages. These and other archaeological sites of interest are listed below.
Today Monte Álban is the most important archaeological site in Oaxaca, and historically it was the largest and most important City in Oaxaca. The marvellous ruins of Monte Álban are located on top of a mountain about 20 minutes drive from Oaxaca City and are a must see for anyone visiting Oaxaca City. There are bathroom facilities, a restaurant and a museum on site, and it is also possible to hire a guide once you are there.
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Mitla is Oaxaca’s most important archaeological site after Monte Álban and is located about an hours drive from Oaxaca City. Mitla was Oaxaca’s main religious centre and the word Mitla means ‘underworld’ in Zapotec . The walls at Mitla are covered with spectacular geometric mosaics which are unique in Mexico. Mitla stands out because of its bright red painted walls.
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The Zaachila ruins are a lovely small set of ruins that are all that remain of the last Zapotec capital before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the 1520’s. Zaachila ruins are still largely unexcavated but there have been two interesting tombs found there thus far.
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Yagul is home to the most important ball game court in Oaxaca and remained occupied up until the Spanish conquest; whereupon the inhabitants were moved to what is now Tlacolula a short distance away. This delightful small set of ruins makes an interesting day out for all.
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Dainzú (‘Cactus Hill’ in Zapotec) is a small archaeological site consisting of three buildings that is located between Oaxaca City and Tlacolula. Dainzú wasn’t explored until relatively recently and there seems to be some differences of opinion as to what Dainzú was used for. Dainzú has a ballgame court of which half has been excavated and restored.
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Lambityeco is a small archeological site just off the motorway on the way to Tlacolula. Lambityeco was important commercially in pre-hispanic times as a salt producing area. Lambityeco is a small archaeological site with the remains of a few tombs.
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The archeological site of San José el Mogote is located in the small village of the same name near Etla has possibly existed since 1500 BC and was the most important settlement in Oaxaca´s Valles Centrales preceding the construction of Monté Álban.
Find out more about San José el Mogote
A map of the archeological sites in Oaxaca
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