The Top Pyramids in Mexico to Visit

Add these ancient marvels to your Mexico vacation itinerary.

U.S. News & World Report

The Top Pyramids in Mexico to Visit

Mexico pyramids
Credit

(Getty Images)

Take a break from the beach to explore amazing archaeological sites and learn about the cultures that built them.

Scattered throughout Mexico, you'll find the ruins of several ancient civilizations, including those of the Aztec, Maya and Toltec people. Many of these sites feature impressive pyramids standing hundreds of feet tall that have been around for thousands of years. Each offers visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of its former inhabitants. Read on to learn which pyramids are worth visiting during your next trip to Mexico.
Mexico pyramids
Credit

(Getty Images)

Pyramid of the Sun: Teotihuacán

In Mexico's ancient city of Teotihuacán – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that once boasted a population of more than 125,000 people – visitors will find the Pyramid of the Sun. While it is largely unknown who built the pyramid in this city in south-central Mexico (and why), historians believe it was erected around A.D. 100 prior to the existence of the Aztecs in the area. At more than 200 feet tall, the structure is one of the largest pyramids of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Those who want to climb to the top can pause for breaks at the pyramid's five landings as they trek up its 260 steps. Panoramic views await those who make it to the summit. Admission for the ancient city costs 75 pesos (less than $4) per person.
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Take a break from the beach to explore amazing archaeological sites and learn about the cultures that built them.

Scattered throughout Mexico, you'll find the ruins of several ancient civilizations, including those of the Aztec, Maya and Toltec people. Many of these sites feature impressive pyramids standing hundreds of feet tall that have been around for thousands of years. Each offers visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of its former inhabitants. Read on to learn which pyramids are worth visiting during your next trip to Mexico.

Pyramid of the Sun: Teotihuacán

In Mexico's ancient city of Teotihuacán – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that once boasted a population of more than 125,000 people – visitors will find the Pyramid of the Sun. While it is largely unknown who built the pyramid in this city in south-central Mexico (and why), historians believe it was erected around A.D. 100 prior to the existence of the Aztecs in the area. At more than 200 feet tall, the structure is one of the largest pyramids of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Those who want to climb to the top can pause for breaks at the pyramid's five landings as they trek up its 260 steps. Panoramic views await those who make it to the summit. Admission for the ancient city costs 75 pesos (less than $4) per person.

Pyramid of the Moon: Teotihuacán

Another can't-miss Teotihuacán pyramid is the smaller Pyramid of the Moon. Climb the monument's 242 steps to reach its summit, where the city's inhabitants once honored the goddess Chalchiutlicue. Or, admire this pyramid – along with the Pyramid of the Sun and the city of Teotihuacán as a whole – from above in a hot air balloon. Aside from the pyramids, this city boasts the remains of plazas, temples and palaces. The area offers a variety of accommodation options, though bustling Mexico City is only about 30 miles southwest.

El Castillo: Chichén Itzá

El Castillo (or "The Castle" in English) stands nearly 80 feet tall in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Chichén Itzá, an ancient Maya city in southeastern Mexico. The pyramid has four sides with 91 stairs on each, bringing the total stair count to 365 (including the top step of the platform) to represent the number of days in the solar year. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun casts shadows that resemble a snake slithering down the stairs. While visiting the city, travelers can also see a ball court where ancient inhabitants played games, along with a temple and a colonnade. Admission tickets can be purchased on-site for 480 pesos ($25) per person. The closest major city is Merida, which sits about 75 miles northwest and offers a variety of hotels, including properties from major brands like Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham.

Pyramid of Quetzalcóatl: Tula

Visit the ruins of Mexico's ancient Toltec tribe in Tula, which was once their capital city. From about A.D. 850 to 1150, before the arrival of the Aztecs, the Toltecs populated this city in south-central Mexico. In the main civic center area, there are three pyramids, a palace and two ball courts. The Pyramid of Quetzalcóatl is a relatively small but incredibly ornate structure with friezes depicting animals and humans. At the top, you'll find a temple with four giant statues of warriors looking out across the vast landscape. Expect to pay 40 pesos (less than $4) to visit this pyramid. Additional charges apply if you want to hire an on-site guide. Tula is located about 40 miles north of Mexico City, making it a great option for a daytrip.

Hormiguero: Calakmul

In southeastern Mexico's Yucatan jungle lies the remains of a pyramid that was once part of the former Maya city of Calakmul, where the civilization lived until about A.D. 1000. The jungle surrounding Hormiguero is the second largest across Mexico and the Americas; only the Amazon jungle in South America is larger. Visitors can explore this archaeological site by bicycle or on a guided hiking tour that includes insight about the area's history and wildlife like howler monkeys and various bird species. The region offers campsites and rustic cabins for overnight stays, as well as a restaurant with local food. The ruins are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.

Pyramid of the Magician: Uxmal

Also known as the House of the Dwarf due to an ancient legend that says the structure was built overnight by an enchanted dwarf, the Pyramid of the Magician in ancient Uxmal is a 90-foot-tall structure that features a door in the shape of a mask. The site in southeastern Mexico is also home to what is believed to have been a palace, as well as a ball court and residences. Visitors can enjoy a light and sound show at Uxmal to learn more about the Maya civilization. Entry to the site costs 413 pesos ($21.50) per person. Reviewers suggest visiting early in the morning to avoid crowds. Uxmal is situated about 50 miles southwest of Merida along the Puuc Route, which features multiple archaeological sites, including Kabah, Sayil and Labna.
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Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

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