Monte Alban Ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico

26 Jul

I’ve seen several ancient ruins during my years living in Mexico: Chichen Itza, Tulum, Yobain, Ek Balam, Palenque and Lamanai (ok, that last one is in Belize). When people ask me which one was my favorite, I always think hard about it and come up with the same answer: “They’re all so beautiful in their own way!”

Chichen Itza is amazing in its importance and scientific details. Tulum has the best location on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Yobain is so tiny and unknown that it feels as if it belongs to a select few of us. Ek Balam is secluded and has the best buildings to climb. Palenque has a striking contrast of dark gray stone and lush green, and you can explore inside the temples. Lamanai has incredible views and is fun to get to.

During my recent trip to Oaxaca with Mexico Today, I jumped at the chance to see the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban. I’d heard of it before and seen a few pictures, but nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful it really was. Set atop a carved-out mountain, the site stunned me with its… immenseness. I’m not sure if it’s bigger than Chichen Itza or Palenque, but it sure LOOKS bigger. From several vantage points you can see the entire site, with towering mountains in the background. Definitely one of the most surreal and awe-inspiring things I’ve seen.

Our guides throughout the trip were from El Convento Tours. I highly recommend them if you’re ever in Oaxaca! The company belongs to the Martinez family… who will forever live on in my heart as some of the best storytellers I’ve ever met. (If you get the chance to meet them, ask to hear about the “rebozo”. Trust me.)

We took a van up into the mountains, less than half an hour from our hotel. Once there, it was a steep but surprisingly easy walk up to the museum, where our guide Ulises gave us a fascinating tour, talking about Zapotec customs (sacrifices, pottery, writing and friezes) and beauty secrets (flat foreheads, crossed eyes and pointy teeth embedded with jewels, sexy!).

Then we made our way up to the ruins. Filled with temples, stairs, plazas, a ball court, an area for human sacrifice and breathaking views, Monte Alban is truly an unforgettable site.

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So where does Monte Alban stand on my list of favorite ruins? I’d say it’s tied for first with all the rest.

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  I was also invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Oaxaca as part of my role.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

22 Responses to “Monte Alban Ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico”

  1. Kristi July 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    The favorite that I have been to is Teotihuacan/Tenochitlan. So cool! I even had some random Mexican stranger propose to me there 😉

    • gringation July 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

      Haven’t been to that one, but I hear it’s very cool. (Mexicans love proposing to strangers… I’ve had a few myself.)

  2. Noelle July 26, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Tulum was definitely my favorite!

    (of course, it’s the only one I’ve been to, but whatever…)

    • gringation July 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      Hahaha it would be your favorite anyway because of all the iguanas.

      We should take you to some other ruins on your next trip down.

  3. KfromMichigan July 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Tulum is a fav of mine .. because of the location .. I love the beach!

    • gringation July 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Definitely beautiful! I just wish they would let you climb the pyramids

  4. Kathryn July 27, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    I always wanted to see something like that in real life; I’ve seen the pyramids in Giza, but never Mayan/Aztecan/Zapotec ruins. They look incredible, and I love that they each sound awesome in their own way!

  5. Kate July 27, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Gah! I wanted to go to Oaxaca so bad when I was there, but there was a big protest & Mexicans & Americans alike were killed. So, that part of the trip was cancelled. It was a bummer, so I HAVE to go there someday!

    My Latin American Studies History professor did all her research in Oaxaca & her book was fascinating!

    Your pictures are great!

    • gringation July 27, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

      The teacher’s strike was pretty rough! But yes, you should definitely make it down there, it’s well worth it. I had no idea how fascinating it was until I went!

  6. lisa n javi July 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Great Photos. Sounds like it was a great learning experience. I wish we had more tourist sites closer to us.

    • gringation July 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      You should definitely explore more of Mexico! There’s so much to see here, it’s overwhelming

  7. Craig Zabransky July 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    It’s still on my list to see… So I can’t confirm If it’s my favourite. I can say Teotihuacan is a fantastic spot too, and so is Coba. You can climb pyramids at both sites 🙂

    And as for the Rebozo; it is a story that will last in my memory forever… Thanks for reminding me.

    Stay adventurous, Craig

    • gringation July 28, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      Coba? I’ve always wanted to go, and it’s SO CLOSE. Maybe next year.

      The rebozo story was amazing. (I think Cristina might have a video of it?)

  8. ashlie July 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Beautiful photos Laura! I have just added Monte Alban to my list

    • gringation July 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

      Thanks! you should definitely go. Very different from Mayan ruins in terms of layout, but much the same in terms of traditions and architecture.

  9. Nikki July 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Oh my, a human sacrifice? So tell me, do you think the world is ending in 2012?

    • gringation July 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

      nah. The Mayan calendar only shows a new era, or a new sun cycle… not the apocalypse.

  10. wbear11 July 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I retweeted a link to this post, beautiful photos and a great entry! Would love to read more about your trip in Oaxaca and your impressions. If you are interested in writing a guest post about your trip to oaxaca for my blog, please be in touch. We would welcome it!

  11. Ceri August 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Wow. Gorgeous. I love visiting old ruins everywhere in the world.

  12. Ceri August 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Oops, clicked reply when I wasn’t finished. Meant to say: “I love visiting old ruins everywhere in the world and, you’re right, no two sites are alike. They all have their own charm.”

  13. GRRRL TRAVELER September 21, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    I know very little about ruins in Mexico. And oddly, I don’t always associate Mexico with ruins (even though in retrospect it may sound silly seeing as there’s Mayan & Aztec influences? Is that correct?) Got to see the ruins of Angkor Wat park, which was a bit disappointing due to the fact I thot the ruins would be as enormous as some of the ruins I’d seen in Sukhothai, Thailand. I guess everything’s got their own charm (as Ceri says). But it’s hard not to compare.

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