Must See Aztec Ruins in Mexico

Ruins of PalenqueExplore the fascinating history and culture of Mexico’s Aztec civilization, which once held the most powerful Mesoamerican Empire that spanned more than 80,000 square miles through Mexico’s central and southern valleys. The Aztec kingdom rose in the 13th century and by 1519, more than 15 million indigenous people worshipped the Emperor Moctezuma II in the empire’s capital stronghold of Tenochtitlan.

Today, vacationers can take a step back in time by visiting some of Mexico’s spectacular Aztec ruins, renowned for their impressive pyramids and abundance of pre-Columbian artifacts. Discover the advanced scientific and technological skills of this Nahuatl speaking civilization by touring one of these archeological sites.


Situated less than 35 miles northeast of Mexico City, the vast ruins of Teotihuacan were thought to have been built around 100 BC. Today, this holy Aztec city contains some of the most architecturally significant pyramids constructed in the pre-Columbian Americas. If you only have time to visit one ancient ruin in Mexico, the massive monuments and richly appointed structures of Teotihuacan will not disappoint. This sprawling complex, which at its peak was the most powerful cultural center in all of Mesoamerica, contains sacred sites including the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon and the Avenue of the Dead – all built according to specific geometric patterns. It is worth noting that the Pyramid of the Sun, which towers more than 75 meters, is the world’s third largest pyramid (following those in Egypt). Several tour operators in Mexico City offer guided day trips to this otherworldly ruin, which can also be explored on your own.


The Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was built on an island on the western shore of Lake Texcoco. Founded in in 1345 CE, it was the religious center and later became the capital city for the ever-expanding Aztec Empire until its destruction by the Spanish conquistadors in 1521. Today, the remains of Tenochtitlan and the ancient lake bed lie beneath modern-day Mexico City. In the late 1970’s archeologists excavated a gigantic pyramid, named the Temple Mayor, near Zocalo Square. Over the years, some of the most beautiful artifacts and ancient pieces of Aztec art have been unearthed in these ruins, which can be seen at the Templo Mayor museum in Mexico City.


The Aztec ruins of Calixtlahuaca are modest in size, yet offer wonderful insight into the life and culture of this ancient civilization. Situated about two kilometers from Toluca, just west of Mexico City, this city has a number of well-preserved temples, pyramids and monuments that are dispersed across three small areas. Originally called “Matlatzinco,” this settlement was at one time a powerful capital in the Toluca Valley. Visitors can explore the city’s residential dwellings and housing compounds, a distinctive circular temple, altars and palace remains. Because Calixtlahuaca is off the beaten path, there are fewer tourist crowds.

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