• Alan Travers

The Best 10 Historical Sites in Mexico

Updated: Jul 31, 2019



Mexico has endless amounts of places that are of huge historical importance, according to UNESCO there are a total of 35 world heritage sites here, ranking Mexico 7th in the world on the lists of countries with world heritage sites.


There are so many wonderful and unusual historical sites in Mexico that were built by so many different ancient civilisations throughout the centuries, with so many important places throughout the country, it can be quite hard to choose which place you want to visit.


So with this in mind I have created a list of the top 10 most important sites in Mexico, in my opinion! That I think everyone should visit atleast once in their life!


With so many wonderful places in the country to choose from, narrowing it down to 10 was quite the task! There are absolutely more places than this you can visit, if you want more information about other historical sites in Mexico, be sure to check this link out, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/mx.


So without keeping you waiting any longer, here are my top 10 historical sites that everyone who is wanting to experience Mexican culture and heritage should consider visiting!



1. Chichen Itza


It might come as no surprise that Chichen Itza is the first of all my picks on this list, this is the second most popular place/attraction visited by tourists in Mexico. It has now also been given the prestigious title as one of the new seven wonders of the world!



Did you know?


This large pre-Columbian city was built by the Maya civilisation sometime between the 5th and 6th centuries with some evidence suggesting construction was around 550 AD.


There is a lot more to be found here in this ancient city, many people don't realise that there's more to Chichen Itza than what just meets the eye. With many visitors focusing most of their attention on El Castillo, a lot of people tend to overlook some other fantastic features of this ancient city.


There are beautiful cenotes, ancient temples, and magical forests that you can explore to find mysterious ruins.



How to get there

You can find Chichen Itza about 95 miles from Tulum, 125 miles from Cancun and 75 miles from Merida. Cancun usually being the most popular place people arrive from, you can expect to spend anywhere between two and three hours driving, depending on which route you take, the Couto (toll roads) are the faster and safer option.


If you want to have a fantastic experience without the hassle of the crowds, arrive early!


Rent a car and drive yourself, forget the tour bus! The site is open daily from 8am-5pm, and if you arrive from anywhere between 7.30am and 8am, you'll have this ancient city mostly to yourself for an hour or so, the tour buses and crowds come by the masses around 9am to 10am.



Cost


As like most of the historical sites on this list, the cost of admission to Chichen Itza, is different for foreigners than what it is for Mexican nationals, since January 2019 the cost of entry has since doubled to what it was in previous years, the cost of entry is now $480 MXN ($24 USD), and only half that for Mexican nationals.


If you have a professional or digital camera that is not your smartphone you will also likely have to pay an additional fee of $45 MXN, to record videos and take photographs.



2. Tulum


Another one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Mexico. This is easily one of the most beautiful places on this list, with the ancient Maya ruins just situated off the cliff as pictured above, the sunsets here are magical, to say the least.


It's difficult to put into words the feeling one has when arriving here to catch the sunset and staying for the stars, it's a magnificent spectacle to behold, it's something that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime.


Once the moon and the stars start to shine, those bright blue Caribbean waters really illuminate, all of this combined with an ancient archaeological site is something hard to believe that actually exists!



Did you know?

Beneath the cliff is Paradise beach, one of the most popular beaches in all of Mexico, it could also be considered one of most photogenic locations in the whole country, thanks to it's stunning views and ancient histories.



How to get there


Tulum is located just about 81 miles from Cancun, and there are a few different options for you to consider when choosing your method of transportation.


There are multiple buses, private transfers and of course the option of renting a car to drive yourself.


If you want to take the bus there are numerous private shuttles from Cancun to Tulum every day, make sure to check with your resort or hotel as they will most likely be able to arrange this for you.


You could also take the ADO or other bus lines from the Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen, after arriving at Playa del Carmen you can then transfer to a Tulum via bus or Colectivo (marked shuttle van).


From Cancun to Tulum, the drive is anywhere between 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on the traffic, from Playa del Carmen to Tulum it is roughly 1 hour.



Cost


The cost of entrance to Tulum is 65 MXN ($3 USD) per person. A hired guide will take you for around $600 MXN ($30 USD) if you prefer this option.




3. Teotihuacan


Teotihuacan is one of the most famous UNESCO sites in Mexico, and it's a must visit! The history of Teotihuacan is full of mystery and wonder.



Did you know?


This giant complex dates as far back as 100 BC making it more than 2,000 years old. During its peak, this mysterious metropolis had a population of around 200,000 people.


The ancient city collapsed around a thousand years after its creation, sometime around 550 AD for unknown reasons, historians suggest its collapse and demise was most likely due to famine or invasion.


I keep mentioning mysterious and wonder, this for two reasons, firstly unlike most of the archaeological sites in Mexico, this was not built by the Mayans or the Aztecs, nobody knows who, what or how this was made, secondly it's amazingly well preserved for a city that's older than 2000 years old!



How to get there


This is a great day trip from Mexico City, just make sure to arrive early and beat the crowds, as the lines can get extremely long.


If you arrive late in the morning or in the afternoon, it is especially not good for you as you'll have to wait for long periods in the open sun, if you are as white as me even sunblock will have a hard time protecting you!


You can take a tour if you wish to do so, but the truth is, it's straightforward enough for you to get there.


Teotihuacan is only 31 miles away from Mexico City centre, you'll find that buses leave several times a day from multiple terminals throughout the city, the northern bus terminal is the most popular choice amongst tourists in Mexico City. This is the most cost-effective way for you to get there, the journey is also roughly an hour or so.



Cost


As of January 2019, the entrance fee for foreigners is $75 MXN ($4 USD), this also includes entry into the museum, entry to the park for Mexican nationals is free.



4. Castillo De Chapultepec


Chapultepec Castillo is one of the highlights of Mexico City, situated in the very heart of the city centre you will find Chapultepec park which houses a beautiful little lake, multiple museums, art galleries and hundreds of local businesses along with the historically significant complex, which is Castillo De Chapultepec.



Did you know?


The castle began construction in 1785 on the orders of Viceroy Bernardo de Galvez, a Spanish military leader, and since the time of its completion, this castle has had quite the colourful and tragic history.


Chapultepec Castillo has been the home to royalty, been an observatory and after a military college, later in its history, it was used by the Mexican government as a guesthouse for foreign dignitaries.


It has also been through the wars as this was under siege during the Mexican war of independence, to say the history was colourful and tragic would almost feel like an understatement.


Since 1939 the castle has been the home to the Museo Nacional de Historia, this is thanks to former Mexican president Lazaro Cardenas who declared it to be so almost 80 years ago.



How to get there


This national museum is very easily accessible as it's located very near to the city centre, you have a few options to choose from when looking to arrive, there is the bus, metro or taxi.


For me personally, I feel that the best way of getting to the Castillo is by taking the metro to Auditorio or Chapultepec station and walking to the Castillo, you can expect to be walking for 10 to 20 minutes depending on who you are with and your ability to climb steep hills.


The walk is nothing too strenuous, but if you are with an elderly person, children or someone with physical disabilities, you might want to consider taking the small train ride to the top, you can find the train just as you arrive to check your bags at the bottom of the hill.



Cost


The cost of admission to the castillo is $70 MXN ($3.50) USD per person, you also need to check your bag in order to gain entry into the grounds, this is around $15 MXN per bag.


You can gain entry to the castillo on Sunday's for free, but beware, the castillo and entire park can become extremely crowded during this day of the week.



5. Templo Mayor


Mexico City now stands on top of what was once called Tenochtitlan, an ancient city built by the Aztecs during the 13th century.



Did you know?


We are currently finding out more information about this ancient city still to this day, it wasn't until 1978 that some electricity workers accidentally stumbled upon an 8-tonne stone disc of Coyolxauhqui an Aztec goddess.


It was after this discovery that the Mexican government decided to explore and dig a little deeper, after some quick exploration and research they found that there were the remains of an entire ancient city beneath the streets.


After the discovery was made, the government decided to demolish some of the old colonial buildings in the neighbourhood, to excavate the surrounding areas.


After the excavation, they found the Templo Mayor (Main Temple) and the location where historians believe Mexico's national symbol (an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a snake) was founded.


The legend in Mexico goes like this; The Aztecs were told by God to find a location where an eagle stood upon a cactus with a snake in its beak, and that was to be the location for them to build their empire upon, which is now formerly known as Tenochtitlan.



How to get there


Another one of Mexico's national treasures that are located right in the heart of Mexico City. As per the last mention, there are a couple of different options for you avail of when planning your transportation.


You have the choice of bus, metro, taxi or driving yourself, I would highly recommend taking the subway for this trip!


This is one of the most visited attractions in Mexico City, and its right in the centre of everything, you would spend more time in traffic than at the museum, and if you chose to take a taxi, you can be sure it'll cost you a pretty penny.


The best route you can take to get to Templo Mayor is by taking the subway Blue Line to arrive at Zocalo, once there you can walk to the northeast corner of the capital's principal plaza to find the Templo Mayor museum.



Cost


Admission to the Templo Mayor is $75 MXN ($4 USD) per person, for those of you who are Mexican nationals or residents in the country, you can gain entry on Sundays for free.



6. El Tajin


Mexico is definitely not short of having ancient mysterious cities spread throughout its vast lands, this is yet another ancient city shrouded with mystery and wonder as still do this day we understand very little about what happened here.


Although we may know very little about this city, historians have uncovered some truths to help us understand some of the things that went on here.



Did you know?


It is widely believed that this massive ancient city was once a ceremonial and administrative centre that existed between 600 and 1200 AD.


Even though some historians believe that many aspects of the city were built by the Maya civilisation, they are not so sure that the Maya inhabited the place. There is still a wealth of information out there, that can help us understand more about this ancient city.


At this moment there is believed to be around a total of 150 buildings spread throughout the entire city, but we have only excavated and uncovered around 20 or so buildings at this time, this is mainly due to the fact of all the buildings being buried or covered in vast jungle terrain that can make it difficult to excavate and manage.



How to get there


El Tajin is located in the state of Veracruz, just outside the small town of Papantla. If you are looking to arrive from Mexico City, there are a few options for you to choose from.


You can take a flight to Poza Rica, this is easily the most expensive and inconvenient option, you can also take a bus from one of the terminals in Mexico City to Poza Rica or Papantla then take another bus to the ruins, or you can drive.


You can expect to be travelling on the roads for around 4 hours depending on the traffic.


If you choose to drive, you need not worry about criminal activity, it does exist, but it is very uncommon, you do need to take care driving as the roads are easily your biggest threat! I don't recommend driving in the evening or at night.



Cost


The entrance fee for El Tajin is $75 MXN ($4 USD) per person, the cost for foreigners is also the same as it is for Mexican nationals.