Mitla is an archeological site in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, and the most important of the Zapotec Mayan ruins. The site is located 27 miles from the city of Oaxaca, in the upper end of the Tlacolula Valley.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, Mitla was once an important Zapotec religious and ceremonial center. The principal Mayan temple contains a series of structures and patios adorned with stonework mosaics. The stone mosaics were created by fitting together thousands of polished cut stones, and are believed to date back to the last two or three centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. The 14 different designs are thought to symbolize the sky and earth, a feathered serpent and other important beings. Each little piece of stone was cut to fit the design, then set in mortar on the walls and painted. Visitors will be amazed at the intricacy and detail of the carvings, especially those found in the palace building.
The Mitla archaeological site is made up of five groups of ruins and each group is believed to have served a specific purpose. The two best-preserved groups of ruins, the columns group and the church group, are located towards the northern part of the site. Here one will find some of the best stonework mosaics. The 16th century Church of San Pablo, built by the Spanish using materials from the ruins for its construction, is nestled in the middle of the site. Located just outside the entrance to the ruins are several shops and a small open-air craft market.
While one is in Mitla, you may wonder what to do in Oaxaca. Wherever you start, be sure to stop by the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic Art, and try the local mezcal, an alcoholic beverage made from the agave cactus that is native to the Oaxaca region.
Although less popular than nearby Monte Alban, Mitla’s geometric mosaics have no peers in ancient culture, and today is considered to be one of the most prestigious ruins in contemporary Mexico.