Monte Alban Ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico

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.

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 thoughts on “Monte Alban Ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

    • 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.”

  6. 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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