We tell you how to visit the Archaeological Zone of Monte Alban in Oaxaca. How to get there, what things can be seen, how much it costs.
If you are visiting the state of Oaxaca, do not miss one of the most important archaeological sites of the Zapotec culture: Monte Alban. In this article, we show you what you can see during a visit to this great archaeological zone, as well as practical information that will help you plan your visit. Among other things, we will tell you how to get there and how much it costs to visit Monte Alban.
- Why visit Monte Alban?
- A bit of history about Monte Alban
- How to get to Monte Alban from Oaxaca?
- How much does the entrance to Monte Alban cost?
- Which are the schedules?
- Can you take photos?
- What to see in Monte Alban?
- Tips for visiting Monte Alban
- Bidding farewell to Monte Alban
Why visit Monte Alban?
There are many reasons not to miss the opportunity to visit Monte Albán while visiting Oaxaca. To begin with, it is an archaeological site that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. This is due to its historical and cultural importance as the political and religious center of the Zapotec civilization.
Moreover, the archaeological site is located on a hill and offers impressive panoramic views of the surrounding valleys, making it an ideal place to admire the natural beauty of the region.
In short, visiting Monte Albán is a unique experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the history and culture of Mexico and gives you the opportunity to explore a fascinating and beautiful archaeological site.
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A bit of history about Monte Alban
Monte Albán was founded in the year 500 BC. by the Zapotec civilization, which inhabited the valley of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. The city reached its maximum splendor in 500 AD., coming to house a population of more than 35,000 inhabitants at its peak, which was mainly dedicated to agriculture.
In the 8th century AD, the public works of Monte Alban stopped and the abandonment of the city by the ruling elite began.
To place yourself a bit in the context of this city, you have to keep in mind that it existed at the same time as Teotihuacan.
There were political and commercial alliances between the two cities, but these ceased long before Monte Alban fell into decline. Yes, this city, like many others, fell into disrepair long before the Spanish arrived.
And it may be thanks to this that we can enjoy these archaeological ruins today.
Why is it called Monte Alban?
This city had many names, for example the Mexicas called it Oselotepek, which in Nahuatl means Mount Jaguar. Mixtecs, for their part, called it Yukú Kuììn. The name of Monte Alban comes from the Spanish because the area brought back memories of the Alban mountains in Italy.
How to get to Monte Alban from Oaxaca?
To get to Monte Alban from Oaxaca, you can follow these options:
From the center of Oaxaca City, you can take Federal Highway 190 north and follow the signs for Monte Albán. The distance is about 10 km and the travel time is about 20 minutes. Here we give you tips to find a rental car at a good price, if you prefer to take this option.
You can also take a taxi from the center of Oaxaca City to Monte Albán. Taxis are available in different parts of the city. Be sure to agree on the price with the driver before getting into the taxi. The price can vary between 100 and 150 pesos.
By public transport
If you prefer to get to Monte Albán using public transport, you can take the R37 or R54 buses and it costs 8 pesos. The problem is that the route still ends quite far from the archaeological site, and you will have to walk about 3 kilometers.
You can also join a tour, on which you can get from the center of the city of Oaxaca to Monte Albán. This is a convenient option if you don’t want to worry about transportation logistics. In addition, you will have a guide who will tell you about what you are visiting.
By tourist bus
This is the option that we took, it is a mix between a tour and public transport, since it is contracted with a tourist agency, but it has fixed schedules and at the same time we are free to move as we want, since we are not in a group.
Small confusion with the address
To get to Monte Albán from the city of Oaxaca, we took a bus that leaves from a travel agency called “Viajes Mitla”. We already had the address written down and everything, we were not looking for the excursion, or guides, or anything, just transportation, but all the way people harassed us saying “tours to Monte Albán” and we simply said “no, thanks“.
While we were getting closer to the address that we had “Mina 509” a lady began to insist on the excursions and us “no, thanks” but she insisted and insisted, and we told her “no, thanks we already know where we are going” and she says “yes, yes that agency is ours, we just change our address to Mina 501” ohhhhh!
First we didn’t believe her at all and then, oh, it turned out that yes, this was the agency, when we realized our mistake we told the lady “what happens is that they have harassed us so much all along the way that we no longer believed nobody”.
Where is the tourist bus hired, and how much does it cost?
So now you know, these tourist buses for Monte Alban can be hired at Mina 501.
In addition, we arrived at a good time, since the bus to Monte Albán left in a few minutes, so we paid the
48 pesos per person, and I, to pass the time, bought a delicious orange juice, freshly squeezed in a cart that was right next to the office.
Today the ticket to get to Monte Albán from Oaxaca with the Tourist Bus of the company Mitla Tourist Transportation, which is located at Mina 501, costs 90 pesos per person. (2022 update)
After about half an hour of several turns and jumps, since the road is somewhat rough in some parts, we arrive at the archaeological zone of Monte Albán.
Even though Monte Albán is located only 10 kilometers to the west of the city of Oaxaca, the road is uphill and that is why it takes time.
How much does the entrance to Monte Alban cost?
90 pesos, if you want to take a video you pay an extra price. (updated 2023)
Which are the schedules?
From 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (updated 2023)
Can you take photos?
Yes. But again, keep in mind that for video, you have to pay an extra fee.
The archaeological zone of Monte Albán has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with the Historic Center of the City of Oaxaca, since 1987.
What to see in Monte Alban?
And here our walk begins, we had a total of about 3 hours, approximately, to see the whole place to be able to take the return transport (it left at around 2:30 p.m.).
We started by seeing Building X, the Palacio del Ocote (of which only the foundations remained) and another building whose name I don’t remember. We reached a point where the entire valley could be seen. Here you could understand the reason why the city had been built there: the place was privileged.
Fauna of Monte Alban
During our way through the enclosure, we were able to observe plenty of fauna, starting with a cute little red-headed bird. Then a cute lizard. Later on, a striking grasshopper.
The view of the site
We were heading towards the building that we would climb up and that would allow us to have a global view of the site, we found a stele at the top. Upon reaching our destination, I thought about the pain that climbing those stairs would cause me, especially the next day.
But they know it (the legs), they tell you “I’m going to leave you crushed, but I know you want to go up… you can’t resist” and it’s that being there, now, what can you do, oh well, climb up.
You have to obey the pyramid:
The effort was worth?, let’s see:
I would say yes, although I felt that with my camera I could not capture the greatness of the site, before my eyes it was there.
From that point where we were, you could see the Great Plaza in the middle, the Sunken Patio right next to it, and the South Platform in the background.
After admiring the view for a while, it was time to go down and continue walking around the site (the South Platform was waiting for us).
On the way we came across several Tomb buildings, in the photograph we can see the 104 one (don’t ask me why it’s called that).
This seems to be one of the most important of the site (there are several), when we went, it was closed to the public, but it seems that inside it there are paintings and funerary offerings.
As we continued walking, we found Stele 18, throughout the site you can see several of these “big announcements” that have hieroglyphics and commemorate important events in the city.
At that time, the sun’s rays were direct and not having any shade to take refuge in, I did what every sane person would do: I took out my brolly (which became an umbrella), and several ladies who visited the place did the same, so I didn’t feel strange.
I had to save my strength for the South platform.
But before that, we found the L building and plenty of stones engraved with human shapes. Also, a bit of shade.
One building particularly caught my attention, despite not knowing its name, since it was totally green. It is impressive how nature claims its rights when provided the opportunity.
And it was time to go up to the South Platform. Hard.
But just like last time, it was worth it. The view was excellent, and I could even see people working in the Great Plaza. From up there again, I had a view towards the valley, this time I could see more of the city than on the North Platform.
And as he started to go down the platform, something unexpected happened. We met Ángel and Edith on the stairs, two very nice guys with whom we stayed talking for a long time, about one and a thousand things. It was very relaxing to be there on the stairs of the pyramid, chatting at ease. After the talk, we said goodbye and unfortunately, we never saw them again.
Zapotec ball game
When we finally got down (we didn’t have much time left before the bus came to pick us up) we went to see what the Zapotec ball game was.
Tips for visiting Monte Alban
- Wear comfortable shoes, since as you have seen, you have to walk a bit, but go up and down quite many stairs of the pyramids.
- In addition to bringing a hat or umbrella, wear sunscreen.
- Bring water.
When is the best time to visit Monte Alban?
In our case, we went in the month of October, and we did well in terms of weather. So, first hand, I can say that fall is a good time. Seeing how the sun hits, I recommend you take extreme precautions if you come in the middle of summer.
Bidding farewell to Monte Alban
We continued on our way, somewhat rushing, fortunately we arrived in time to take the transport back to Oaxaca. Thus, we said goodbye to the Archaeological Zone of Monte Albán.
In conclusion, Monte Albán is an unmissable destination in the beautiful state of Oaxaca. There are several options to get there from the capital. It’s a great way to spend the morning exploring an ancient sacred site, learning a bit more about the history, and taking in the stunning views.
If you plan to visit Oaxaca, be sure to add Monte Albán to your itinerary for an unforgettable experience.
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