Having been the birthplace of several pre-Hispanic cultures, some of which are still thriving today, Mexican history is incredibly rich and complex. And as one of the world’s best destinations for archaeology lovers, Mexico City has become a launching point for those yearning to uncover the country’s fascinating past.
Throughout downtown Mexico City alone, archaeologists have found some 40,000 artifacts, including mirrors made of shiny obsidian, Pacific turtle shells that were much-prized by the Aztecs, and precious jade-and-turquoise masks, all of which attest to the empire’s wealth.
The most popular archaeological day trip from Mexico City, however, is Teotihuacan. One of the most frequented spots in Mexico and a convenient journey (approximately an hour or so) from the capital. Translating into ‘the place where men become gods’, Teotihuacan is a mysterious area, which saw its rise and fall before the beginning of the Aztec empire. What we do know about it, though, is that it’s one of the best archaeological sites near Mexico City, dominated by the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon and the central Avenue of the Dead.
You don’t even have to leave the capital to pay a visit to the Templo Mayor, which sits just to the left of the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, and is home to a beautifully curated museum, as well as some of the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Dedicated simultaneously to two gods – Tlaloc (God of Rain) and Huitzilopochtli (God of War) – the Templo Mayor was originally destroyed in the colonial period, as conquistadors used its materials to construct the cathedral.
Heading south to Tepozteco is a highly recommended day trip and a must-do activity for fans of history, outdoor activities, hiking and more. Situated atop the Tepozteco mountain in Morelos state – an area that is hounded by those in search of satiating their paragliding needs – the Tepozteco ruins are rather impressive, even by Mexican standards. While it’s admittedly fairly petite, the location and views easily make up for the size – after you climb the mountain to reach the ruins, you’re gifted with spectacular vistas over the surrounding areas.