Mexico Trip Itineraries
Oaxaca Guide for pre-Hispanic Ruins Lovers
Destination(s): Oaxaca City
Oaxaca has so much history. Let's keep in mind the region has been ocupied for centuries, and all the civilizations that stablished here left us something to admire them for.
For this guide I'd recomend to rent a car, specially because on day 1 and 3 you'll be moving around a lot. read more about Oaxaca Guide for pre-Hispanic Ruins Lovers
- N/A Road to Monte Alban
Really close to Oaxaca City is this amazing archaeological site. This was one of the main cities of the pre-Hispanic world and was a very important political center of the Zapoteca civilization. During Monte Alban's Golden Era, the Zapoteca world included what today is the State of Oaxaca, the south part of the State of Puebla and the east part of the State of Guerrero,
Monte Alban is very large complex with many interesting building to visit and a breathtaking view of the mountains.
The Juego de Pelota and North Platform are two of the most important buildings on the site and are an excellent example of the Zapotec architecture. At the Danzantes Patio you'll find a set of unique stones with images of people who appear to be dancing (thus the word Danzantes, that means People Who Dances). The Building J is unique in the pre-Hispanic world. Is arrow-like shaped and has a different orientation than the rest of the buildings. Nobody is sure what it was built for, but some believe it was an observatory.
Many tombs have been found inside some of the buildings and next to them. The most marvelous discovery was the Tomb 7 filled with amazing pieces of pottery and jewelry that now can be founded in the Former Convent of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca City.
The site also has a small but informative museum.
It opens every day from 8:00 to 17:00 hrs.
read more about Monte Alban
Centro Cultural Santo Domingo
- Macedonio Alacalá n/n
The Former Convent of Santo Domingo, right next to the Temple of Santo Domingo, is an splendid building that currently houses the Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca, the Botanical Garden of Oaxaca and an ancient Library with more than 23 thousand books.
Because of the Reforma War (1957- 1960) the Dominicans were forced to flee the country and the army used the temple as a stable and the convent as headquarters. Many of the sacred art was lost and the building suffered some alterations.
Al the end of the XIX century the clergy recovered the temple and in 1994 the reconstruction work for the former convent began. The Centro Cultural (Cultural Center) opened its doors in 1998.
At the Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca you will find many examples of cultural expressions, history and art of Oaxaca.
The treasure of the Tomb 7 of Monte Alban is here. Hundreds of pieces made of gold, pearl, silver, shell, jade, turquoise, coral and many more materials were founded in 1932 in the tomb, and all of them are displayed in here. read more about Centro Cultural Santo Domingo
- Sierra Madre del Sur, and 7 mi/11.3 km S of Oaxaca
Zaachila was a zapotec king who lived in this city, thus it was named after him.
While Monte Alban was the main city of the Zapotecs during the civilization's golden age, Zaachila was their last important city, before the dawn of the civilization.
Zaachila is currently a small archeological site with some important tombs that can be visited. The union of the site and the church of Zaachila is wonderful example of the constrast of the Zapotec and the Spanish cultures.
read more about Zaachila
- Carretera Oaxaca - Mitla Km 42
- San Pablo de Mitla, Oaxaca
- Visit website
- Oaxaca City, 70438
Mitla was the most important Religious center for the Zapotecs. The city is now a set of ruins, being destroyed by the Spaniards after the Conquest of Mexico. The clergy built the San Pablo church exactly where Mitla's main temple was, but never demolished the rest of the city, so the ruins were preserved without hardly any restoration.
Mitla's famous painted walls and unique entwines and fretworks have influenced Oaxaca's and the rest of Mexico's art. The delicate and complex geometry of the place and the decor are what give Mitla its magical and enchanted feeling.
Mitla was recently appointed a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in August 2010.
read more about Mitla
Templo de Santo Domingo
- Macedonio Alacalá n/n
- Corner of Gurrión and Alcalá
- tel:No phone
The Church of Santo Domingo is a baroque building founded by the Dominican Order built over a period of more than 100 years, beginning in 1560. The decoration on the inside is the work of the best artists of that period. The gilded ceiling and walls are covered in plaster statues and flowers. The yellow stained-glass window fills the interior with a golden glow every time the sun shines through it.
The under choir is a richly decorated area with an elaborated genealogical tree of the Dominican order, including numerous saints and martyrs. This is the first thing you'll see entering the church, just look up!
And don't forget to visit the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo in what used to be the Dominican Convent. Is a beautiful complex with a botanical garden, a library and museum telling the history of Oaxaca.
- Km10 highway to Zaachila
This XVI Century convent was never finished, still it's a beautiful example of the architecture built as soon as the Spaniards arrived. The open chapel, characteristic of the first years after the Conquest of Mexico, is a fine story-teller of the work the Dominican Order did in the region. Because only the baptized could enter the temple, and there were so many indigenous, this open chapel, used for masses outside the church, is big and well ornamented.
The convent was built in quarry by the indigenous artists of the region. It's an emblematic site in Oaxaca and an important historic site as well. In February 1831, the former president of Mexico, and one of the Independence heroes, Vicente Guerrero, was killed in this town.
Feeling adventurous? If what you like are the Mixtec ruins, don't forget to inquire about the ruins nearby that contain a pyramid and a tomb, probably a Monte Alban influence. read more about Cuilapan
Rufino Tamayo Museum
- Av. Morelos 503
- North of the <i>zócalo</i> between Tinoco y Palacios and Porfirio Díaz
Rufino Tamayo was a abstract and surrealist painter born in Oaxaca. Many people visit the Rufino Tamayo Museum expecting to find paintings by Tamayo. But this building, constructed in 1979 by the renown architects Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon y Abraham Zabludovsky, actually contains the artist's personal collection of pre-Columbian art, gathered over a 20-year period.
Unlike many others pre-hispanic museums in Mexico, the piece in this one are not displayed chronologically or by civilization. Instead, Tamayo grouped them by themes and designed the displays and each room.
When the artist died in 1991, he left the museum to his fellow Mexicans. read more about Rufino Tamayo Museum
- KM 36 Carrtera Federal 190
Yagul was a city associated with the Zapotec civilization, this means that even though they had contact with the Zapotecs, specially Monte Alban, and were influenced by them, they weren't Zapotecs. The word Yagul means old tree in Zapotec and, though nobody knows who named it, it can be easily guessed why, since it's set around a hill. Yagul has been occupied since 500 AD -some of the burials excavated on the site date from that era- but it was during 1250-1521 AD when this site lived its golden era.
In the 1950's - 60's the site was excavated and rescued from destruction. About 30 tombs were discovered some bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions, this made of Yagul one of the most studied sites in Oaxaca.
The site is divided in three principal areas:
- the fortress: situated atop the cliffs, it was the defending point of the city.
- residential area: where one can walk into and across rooms experts believe to be the ruins of some residences.
- ceremonial center: large patios, some of them labyrinths, surrounded by buildings that might have been palaces and temples.
In August 2010 Yagul and the nearby prehistoric caves were appointed a World Heritage Site and added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There are some one-day tours that take you to Yagul and some close by areas. If you can't find any, you can rent a car, or ask at the information center at the Andador Macedonio Alcala how to get there.
The entrance is 30 pesos, the use of videocameras is 30 pesos and you can hire a guide for 120 pesos.
Open Tue-Sun from 9AM to 5 PM. read more about Yagul