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Monte Alban Ruins: The Must-See Attraction in Monte Alban

monte-alban-gretalorenzMonte Alban is one of the most amazing ruins to see in Mexico and is located near the city of Oaxaca. While difficult to say to exactly whom these amazing pyramids belonged to originally, Monte Alban has Olmec and Zapotec features that make it unique from other ruins. This was once the holy city of more than 30,000 Zapotecs and amazingly, it is estimated that only 10% of this site has been uncovered.

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The Ruins

There are various structures to see at Monte Alban, all worth seeing! The Gran Plaza is a large open space created by flattening the mountain top and offers a great view of the Oaxaca Valley. Around here, there are a lot of other buildings to explore, each including a rich variety of tombs, ceremonial altars, pyramids, and palaces. Los Danzantes or the Building of the Dancers is one of the most noted attractions in this area, mainly for its carvings of humans in strange tortoise positions. These carvings are thought to mean prisoners of war, and were later called the dancers due to their flowing forms.

The North Platform is another area to be sure not to miss. With intricate mazes and numerous places to explore, this zone offers a unique view of glyphs and paintings on the walls. There are also several tombs that may be open to the public, so be sure to check and see which ones are open when you go.

Last but not least, be sure to check out the museum and gift shop so you can bring back pictures and souvenirs to show others! In addition, don’t be surprised if peddlers try to sell you items outside of the area. Make your best judgment on if it would be a good buy or not, and always try to get a lower price than what they tell you the first time. As soon as you start walking away, 9 times out of 10 they will lower the price for you.

Hours and Prices

Monte Alban is available for exploration from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday and admission is 37 pesos. You can take a video camera but must pay for a permit that costs 35 pesos. You can also get a tour given by a licensed guide for 200 pesos for groups of up to 4 people. This is recommended if you are really interested in the history and want a detailed explanation of everything, rather than wandering around a lot.

Also at the site is a small museum, gift shop and a restaurant/bar. Don’t forget to check out the artifacts, buy souvenirs for your family and friends and try a delicious sample of unique Oaxacan cuisine.

Getting to Monte Alban

You can get to Monte Alban by bus or car, which are both convenient and economic ways to travel to this historic site. If going by car, take Calle Trujano out of town, which turns into the road that goes to Monte Alban, located about 6 miles away.

If traveling by bus, you can go to Hotel Meson del Angel located at 518 Mina Street in Oaxaca. You can buy a round trip ticket at the hotel lobby for 35 pesos and you can depart at a variety of different times (8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, and 3:30). The ride is about 30 minutes long and your scheduled return time is two hours after you arrive. This means if you leave at 8:30 a.m., you will come back at 10:30 a.m. Although 2 hours is probably plenty of time to explore everything at Monte Alban, you can come back later for an additional 10 pesos – just remember to tell the driver that you will come back on a later bus!

Photo Credits: 1 by Greta Lorenz