The 25 best places to visit in Eastern Mexico

 

Completed in 1863 AD in Chapultepec Park overlooking the capital, Mexico City, at an elevation of 2,325 metres (7,628 ft) above sea level is the Neo-Gothic Chapultepec Castle, the only castle in North America to be used by a sovereign ruler. Today this wonderfully ornate building with it's opulent rooms operates as the National Museum of History. The well maintained castle grounds still holding their original statues, offers visitors superb and unrivalled views over the capital city.

25. Castillo De Chapultepec

 

Directly east of the capital, Mexico City, is the Cofre De Perote National Park, sometimes known as Naupa-Tecutépetl, meaning Place Of Four Mountains. Encompassing a set of steep volcanoes in the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt on the edge of the Sierra Madre Oriental range, the park takes its name from the countries eighth highest peak, the 4,282 metre (14,049 ft) Cofre De Perote shield volcano.

The road that crosses the park is considered to be one of the best driving roads in the country. Prone to heavy snow falls, avalanches, landslides and ice forming on the steep narrow gravel road, one of the best roads in Mexico is also one of the highest and most dangerous.

24. Parque Nacional Cofre De Perote

 

Built in the 1980's to the west of the capital, Mexico City, sitting at an altitude of 3,200 metres (10,498 ft) above sea level is the Otomi Ceremonial Centre, a large traditional structure based on ancient ancestral Otomi design. Despite it's recent construction, the size and location make it a rather incredible, as well as unusual, modern sight.

23. Centro Ceremonial Otomi

 

Created in 2010 by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, off the coast of Cancun is the Museum Of Underwater Art, the largest collection of underwater contemporary sculptures in the world, with over 400 life sized statues. Located within Cancun National Marine Park the sculptures are easily seen by divers, snorkelers and those in glass bottom boats.

22. MUSA El Museo Subaquàtico De Arte

 

North of Mexico City and stretching 45 kilometres (28 miles) from the Tecajete Volcano to the town of Otumba is the Aqueduct Of Tembleque. Completed in 1570 this enormous aqueduct crosses ravines and valleys, even passing underground in places. Due to it's age and extreme length the whole structure has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

21. Acueducto Del Padre Tembleque

 

South of Mexico City in the town of Taxco is the Church Of Santa Prisca, built in pink stone with an ornate tiled dome it was completed in 1758 after only 7 years under construction. Considered one of the most important Baroque works of art in the world, the best painting, architecture and sculpture techniques of the period were brought together to create a masterpiece inside and out. The church and it's surrounding buildings have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

20. Santa Prisca De Taxco

 

To the east of Mexico City at the foot of Popocatepetl Volcano is the city of Puebla, holding within it a whole host of well preserved 16th and 17th century buildings that include the enormous Puebla Cathedral, dating back to 1575. With so many historical buildings and tile covered houses from the same period, the Baroque district of Puebla is considered unique, therefore the entire historic centre has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Municipal Palace within the historical centre.

19. Puebla

In the extreme east of the country, south of the city of Cancun on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula are the ruins of the pre-Colombian Mayan walled city of Tulum. Having reached it's height between the 13th and 15th centuries, Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the ancient Maya, making it one of the best preserved ancient coastal Maya sites in the region. It's proximity to the tourist hot spot of Cancun, as well as it's position among pristine beaches and turquoise waters has made Tulum one of the most visited Maya sites in Mexico.

18. Tulum

 

In the south east of the country, close to the border with Belize is the Agua Azul or Blue Waterfalls, a set of cascading falls of water with such high mineral content they appears to be bright blue.

17. Cascadas De Agua Azul

 

A cenote is a natural sinkhole caused by collapsed limestone bedrock revealing ground water below. One of the most famous of these is the Ik Kil Cenote, situated in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula to the west of Cancun. Open at the top with vines that hang down to the water level visitors can access the cenote using a carved stairway for a chance to swim in the dark waters. Due to it's proximity to both Cancun and Chichen Itza, the Ik Kil Cenote is the countries most visited.

Another cenote of note is the Samula Cenote, only a short distance away in the nearby town of Valladolid.

16. Ik Kil

 

In the south east of the country, close to the border with Guatemala, covering an area of some 217 square kilometres (84 square miles) is the protected area of Sumidero Canyon National Park, encompassing steep cliffs and waterfalls within deep canyons surrounded by lush rain forest. The park takes its name from its most notable attraction, the enormous Sumidero Canyon, with vertical cliff walls that can reach up to 1,000 metres (3,280 ft) above the river below.

15. Parque Nacional Cañón Del Sumidero

 

In the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is the large pre-Colombian archaeological site of Monte Alban, one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica dating back to around 500 BC. In the monumental core atop an artificially levelled ridge, carved from the mountain 400 metres (1,300 ft) above the valley floor are a set of plazas, artificial terraces and pyramidal buildings from which visitors can look out at the incredible views over the surrounding landscape. The archaeological ruins of nearby Atzompa and El Gallo are also considered an integral part of the ancient city and as such The Archaeological Site Of Monte Alban along with the Historic Centre of the nearby city of Oaxaca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

14. Monte Alban

 

Directly east of the capital, Mexico City, is the Mesoamerican archaeological site of Cantona, dating between 600 and 1000 AD. Covering an area of around 12 square kilometres (4.6 square miles) it is the largest Pre-Hispanic city to be discovered in Central America. With very little archaeological work having been done to date, only around 10% of the site is currently visible. Set in the beautiful natural surroundings of wide open flat lands giving way to huge mountains in the distance, this barely touched Ancient Maya site is a wondrous place. The pre-Hispanic City Of Cantona has unsurprisingly been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Zona Archaeological De Cantona

 

In the mountains east of Oaxaca City is a set of natural rock formations that resemble a cascading waterfall over a rock shelf that rises around 90 metres (295 ft) above the valley below. Created by fresh water springs with high levels of calcium carbonate flowing over the edge it forms in the same way stalactites form in caves. Visitors can walk on top of the cliffs, swim in the artificial pools and gaze at the amazing mountain scenery.

12. Hierve El Agua

 

East of the capital, Mexico City, close to the coast of the Gulf Of Mexico is the pre-Colombian archaeological site of El Tajin, dating from 600 to 1200 AD it is one of the largest and most important cities of the classic Mesoamerican era. It's architecture and pyramidal structures are unique, characterized by elaborately carved reliefs, the jewel of which is the Pyramid Of Niches, considered a masterpiece of ancient Central American design that reveals the symbolic and astronomical significance of the buildings. It has survived as an outstanding example of the grandeur and importance of the pre-Hispanic cultures and as such the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Pyramid Of Niches.

11. El Tajin

 

In the east of the country, close to the city of Campeche is the ancient Maya archaeological site of Edzna, a city inhabited  from 600 BC to 1500 AD before it's mysterious abandonment. At it's centre is the grand plaza surrounded by pyramidal temples, the most prominent of which stands five storeys high at 40 metres (131 ft) offering a wonderful overview of this amazing site.

10. Edzna

 

In the east of the country close to the border with Guatemala is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Palenque, it's ruins dating between 226 BC and 800 AD. After it was abandoned it was engulfed by the jungle before it's re-discovery in the 18th century where it was found to have some of the finest architecture and sculpture carvings that the Maya ever produced. It is estimated that only 10% of the ancient city has been explored leaving more than a thousand structures still contained in the jungle. The pre-Hispanic City And National Park Of Palenque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Palenque

 

East of Mexico City close to the city of Puebla is a huge complex that incorporates the Great Pyramid Of Cholula, both the largest pyramid and monument known to exist on Earth. Construction began around the 3rd century BC and by the time the Spanish conquerors arrived in Central America it was already hidden by vegetation, the locals at the time having mistaken it for a large hill had themselves built a church at the summit. Measuring 400 by 400 metres (1,300 by 1,300 ft) at it's base the pyramid stands at 55 metres (180 ft) to the summit with the possibility of so many hidden treasures yet to be discovered at this incredible archaeological site.

Another place worthy of a visit is the nearby 17th century baroque Church Of Santa Maria Tonantzintla with every inch of it's interior covered in decorative design features.

8. Tlachihualtepetl

 

In the east of the country on the Yucatan Peninsula is the Ancient Maya city of Uxmal, considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, it's layout and design showing a deep knowledge and understanding of astrology. The complex is filled with buildings that date between 700 to 1000 AD, the most prominent of which is the Pyramid Of The Magician, standing at 40 metres (131 ft) high decorated with symbolic motifs and sculptures it dominates the ceremonial centre. The pre-Hispanic city of Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Pyramid Of The Magician.

7. Uxmal

 

Buried around 900 BC and created in an earlier though undetermined period in history, the Olmec Colossal Head sculptures consist of 17 known monumental stone carvings that represent human heads in a style still common in the physical characteristics of people in the Olmec region. The heads vary in height from 1.47 to 3.4 metres (4.8 to 11.2 ft) and weigh between 6 and 50 tons, leaving questions about how such huge stones were transported across great distances. Two of the heads are on permanent display at the Museo Nacional De Antropología In Mexico City and seven are on display at the Museo De Antropología De Xalapa with the rest on display in various locations within Mexico. One curious fact about the heads is that the oldest of the sculptures are the most skillfully created, which in evolutionary terms is considered most unusual.

6. Olmec Colossal Heads

 

The countries capital, Mexico City, the oldest capital in the Americas and today one of the most densely populated cities on our planet. Partly built over the previous capital of the Aztec Empire, Mexico City has five Aztec Temples within the city boundaries along with an artificial network of canals and 1,550 buildings constructed between the 16th and 20th centuries declared of great historical importance. Preserved in an exceptional manner through the centuries the entire Historic Centre Of Mexico City has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the 17th century Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Of The Assumption, the largest church in the Americas.

5. Centro Histórico De La Ciudad De México

 

Between the capital, Mexico City, and the city of Puebla is the 396 square kilometre (153 square mile) Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, a picturesque landscape that encompasses the eastern half of the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt. Named after it's two highest peaks, the parks highest point is the Popocatépetl Volcano, standing at 5,426 metres (17,802 ft) above sea level it sits within a beautiful area of jagged rocks, steep mountains and huge open valleys.

4. Parque Nacional Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepeti

 

On the Yucatan Peninsula just north of the Guatemalan border is the Ancient Maya archaeological site of Calakmul, one of the largest and most powerful cities ever uncovered, with over 6,250 structures hidden deep in the jungle, a thousand of which fall within a small area of 2 square kilometres. Standing at 45 metres (148 ft) high is Temple 1, one of the largest Maya pyramids ever constructed, from it's peak it gives visitors amazing views over the jungle canopy where other large structures poke through. The Ancient Maya City & Protected Tropical Forests Of Calakmul have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Calakmul

 

North of Mexico City in the Valley Of Mexico is the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan, a site filled with many of the most architecturally significant and important pyramidal temples built in the pre-Colombian Americas. The great Avenue Of The Dead is flanked by huge ceremonial structures that include the 3rd largest pyramid on Earth, The Pyramid Of The Sun, standing 65 metres (216 ft) high between the smaller Pyramid Of The Moon and Ciudadela. Under construction from 100 BC to 250 AD the city of Teotihuacan is the largest pre-Hispanic city in the history of the Americas, one of the most significant architectural finds on the continent, one of the most visited places in Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Teotihuacan

 

On the Yucatan Peninsula, west of Cancun, is one of the most visited sites on Earth, the ancient pre-Colombian Maya city of Chichen Itza. Among it's many impressive structures, The El Caracol Observatory, The Temple of The Warriors and the Great Ball Court, the most attention is paid to the temple known as El Castillo, also referred to as the Temple Of Kukulcan. Built between the 8th and 12th century AD it stands 30 metres (98 ft) high, created as a physical calendar that aligns with the sun. Designed and built with such perfection that twice a year at late afternoon during the Spring and Autumn equinoxes the sun casts it's shadow and creates the plume of a serpent, thus creating the effect of a slithering body to align with the stone head at the foot of the stairs. The ball court too was built with such perfect acoustics that when visitors clap seven times it echos back seven times. The people of this ancient site had an understanding of the solar system far beyond their time and had the ability to create these enormous monuments so perfectly aligned to them. For this reason Chichen Itza has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with it's main temple El Castillo voted as one of the New 7 Wonders Of The World.

1. Chichen Itza

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