By Cristina Alonso
January 20, 2017
Juliet Ferguson / Alamy

Having been the birthplace of several pre-Hispanic cultures, some of which are still thriving today, Mexico’s history is incredibly rich and complex. Although fabulous sites—such as Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, and Monte Albán in Oaxaca—let you dive into some of the secrets and developments of these cultures, you might be surprised that there are many awesome archaeological regions to explore near Mexico City, and even in the heart of the city itself. Templo Mayor, the main temple during the Aztec empire, is just a few blocks away from el Zócalo, the city’s main square, while another important site, Teotihuacán, is less than an hour away. Also nearby is Tula, Hidalgo, the capital of the Toltec Empire, where you can check out the famous army of warriors carved in stone. Aside from their cultural importance, these sites all have another great advantage: after a dip into pre-Hispanic history, you can go back to the city’s modern conveniences in a matter of minutes.

Templo Mayor

Teotihuacán

This impressive site was one of the main cities in pre-Hispanic times, and home to more than 100,000 people. Just a 40-minute drive away from the city, you’ll encounter several constructions—including two massive pyramids built in honor of the sun and the moon—plus Calzada de los Muertos, the city’s main avenue back in its heyday.

Cuicuilco

Located in the city’s Southern neighborhood of Tlalpan, the name of this site means “place of songs” in Náhuatl. It features monuments such as the circular pyramid, as well as a site museum and a natural reserve. Impress your friends with this fun fact: the earliest representations of the Old God of Fire were found here. 

 

Malinalco

Two hours southwest from the city, this lovely town with its archaeological complex is one of the most important sites that have been found from the Aztec Empire. The site has several structures, including a pyramid and an impressive temple, where the entrance is through the fanged mouth of a snake.

Atlantes de Tula

Tula, Hidalgo, is just an hour away from the city, and is home to the main archaeological site from the Toltec culture. Explore the temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli and marvel at the Atlantes—the 13-feet-tall warriors sculpted in basalt stone and who make up the army of Quetzalcoátl, a deity represented as a feathered serpent.

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