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.

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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.

Mundo Maya 2012 Video

This year, Mexico’s President Calderon has announced a new program called “Mundo Maya 2012” to promote the Mayan culture, archaeology and heritage as we get closer to the infamous year of 2012. I’m super excited about it because the Yucatan Peninsula is full of Mayan culture and ruins, plus Jorge’s family is of Mayan descent. (Does that make me an honorary Mayan? My suegra would probably say so.)

The Secretary of Tourism has put together this incredible video for the program. Enjoy!

Of these, I’ve only been to Palenque, Tulum and Chichen Itza. I’ve got a long way to go! Have you been to any of the sites shown in the Mundo Maya 2012 video?

Ek' Balam Mayan Ruins in Yucatan

This weekend, my in-laws took us to see some Mayan ruins along with some family friends. It was an AMAZING time!

We went to Ek’ Balam (which means “Black Jaguar” in Mayan), a site located about 2 hours from Cancun, near the city of Valladolid in the state of Yucatan.

Words are insufficient, so I’ll just leave you with photos…

There are 2 hills like this. Each has a large, unearthed acropolis underneath.

The ball court:

The main acropolis… 106 stairs. I got halfway up and panicked. Luckily Jorge made it all the way and was able to take photos.

Beautifully preserved carvings at the entrance to a tomb:

And finally… Pepino the snake.

Chiapas, Mexico

I don’t think I’d blogged about this yet, so I think it’s about time.

When I was in my second year of college here in Cancun (in 2006), my class took a weekend trip to the state of Chiapas. Chiapas is absolutely AMAZING. I’m dying to go back someday and spend more time there. I would argue that it’s even prettier than my state of Quintana Roo. It’s not known for its beaches, but the Mayan ruins, the cultural cities and the waterfalls make up for it.

As a tourist destination, Chiapas is still in its early stages. I kinda hope it stays that way.

I took hundreds of pictures, but these are my favorites:

A panoramic view of the Mayan ruins of Palenque

Misol-Ha waterfall... there's even a path that will take you into a cave behind the waterfall. Amazing.

Agua Azul is a huge series of small waterfalls. This picture only shows a small part of it. It's lined with paths and a bunch of shops/small restaurants, and there are some bridges you can cross to get an overhead view.

My class at Agua Azul

Our hotel was located in the city San Cristobal de las Casas. It's an amazing colonial city set in the mountains. This picture is of the central square.

We took a boat ride down the Sumidero Canyon. It was probably the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

As we drove along the river through the Sumidero Canyon, massive amounts of birds would go flying ahead of us.

That’s my quick tour of the state of Chiapas. We did a lot more, but these were definitely the highlights. One of the best weekends I’ve ever had, for sure.