"Zapotec masterpiece" Top 5 Page for this destination Monte Alban Tip by TheWanderingCamel

Monte Alban, Oaxaca de Juárez: 15 reviews and 37 photos

  Monte Alban - click on photo for panorama
by TheWanderingCamel
  • Monte Alban - click on photo for panorama - Oaxaca de Juárez
      Monte Alban - click on photo for panorama
    by TheWanderingCamel
  • Location, location - Oaxaca de Juárez
      Location, location
    by TheWanderingCamel
  • Ball court - Oaxaca de Juárez
      Ball court
    by TheWanderingCamel
  • The Observatory - Oaxaca de Juárez
      The Observatory
    by TheWanderingCamel
  • "Danzante" - Dancer, Monte Alban museum - Oaxaca de Juárez
      "Danzante" - Dancer, Monte Alban museum
    by TheWanderingCamel

You could find enough to do to keep you staying in Oaxaca for several days without leaving the city at all, but no time spent in the Centrale Valles de Oaxaca should omit a vist to the great hilltop stronghold of Monte Alban.

The Zapotec people who built Monte Alban really understood the mantra of estate agents the world over - location, location, location! They also must have had a vast army of cheap labour - building the ceremonial heart of the city involved levelling a huge chunk of mountaintop to create an enormous flat surface on which to erect their city of terraces, palaces, temples, the great ball court and - most extraordinary of all - the "observatory "that still today astounds us with its mathematically precise alignments to other parts of the city.

Like so many of the great ruins of Mexico, Monte Alban had a long history of successive stages of building, each one grander and more elaborate than the one before, starting somewhere about 500BC and finally falling away by about 950CE. Whilst there is much to see here it really is only a small part of the city as a whole that has been excavated along with scores of tombs - including a much later burial (Mixtec rather than Zapotec) that yielded a fabulous treasure trove that you can now see in the Oaxaca museum.

Whether you visit the site with a guide (either with a tour group or by picking up a local guide once you get there) and thus gain a really good insight into what the place was (probably - there are no certainties in archaeology) all about, or simply take it all at your own pace, guidebook in hand, you cannot fail to be awed by what you see. Once again, the achievement of these ancient people - remember they did all this without the aid of either wheel or beast of burden - this is all sheer human endeavour - will astound you and, even if you are suffering from a surfeit of ruins, the views are stunning.

There's a small museum near the entrance - most explanations are in Spanish only.

Directions: Monte Alban is only a 20 minute bus-ride from Oaxaca. There are plenty of tours available from the city or you can catch a local bus.
Phone: 951 516 1215
Website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/415

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Sep 25, 2006
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