Exploring the ancient cities in Mexico can be like stepping back in time through a myriad of cultures and civilisations. Though many of the most famous ancient cities of Mexico date back to the Maya period, there are in fact archaeological sites and ancient ruins which trace their routes to a number of other societies, including the Aztecs, Totonac, Zapotec and Mixtecs.
Indeed, some of the historical cities in Mexico remain as yet a mystery as to who originally built them and the enigmatic nature of these strange cities makes them all the more enjoyable to explore.
For visitors today, some of Mexico’s ancient cities remain in staggeringly good condition while others give a mere hint of their former grandeur. The range of archaeological sites in Mexico also helps to cater for all kinds of traveller – the more famous ancient cities in Mexico are now well set up for the general tourist, while the more hidden historical cities of Mexico require grit and determination to explore.
You can explore our Mexico ancient cities map or browse the list of Mexico’s historic cities below. Click on each ancient city for more information.
An ancient Aztec city near Toluca, Calixtlahuaca was originally home to the Matlatzinca people and is one of the lesser known Mexican ancient cities.
Home to a number of impressive pyramid temples, Chacchoben is an historical city of the Maya in Mexico.
Probably the most famous of all ancient cities in Mexico, Chichen Itza is an amazing archaeological site built by the Mayas and the Toltecs.
One of the biggest archaeological sites on the Mexico ancient cities list, Cobá is a Maya city in the Quintana Roo region.
One of the lesser known historical cities of Mexico, Dzibilchaltun is an archaeological site containing the remains of a Maya settlement.
A must for any list of Mexico’s ancient cities and boasting a number of impressive Maya temples and other buildings, Ek Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula. The amazing central pyramid rises to almost 100 ft.
A very impressive historic site, El Tajin was a city of the Totonac people and is one of several of the ancient cities in Mexico to be UNESCO listed.
A smaller but nonetheless interesting entry on the list of ancient cities in Mexico, the Mayan ruins of Kabah are located in Yucatan.
Part of the Puuc Trail, which includes a number of ancient cities in the Yucatan region, Labna is a Maya archaeological site which includes the remains of a beautifully ornate palace.
The ruins of this ancient Zapotec and Mixtec city are dotted around the modern town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla in Oaxaca.
Carved out of a mountain at an elevation of over 1,600 ft., Monte Alban is a seriously impressive and popular ancient city and Mexican tourist destination which is UNESCO listed.
In the heart of the jungle and containing some fascinating sites, the Maya settlement of Palenque ranks amongst the most impressive historic cities in Mexico.
Perhaps dating back as far as 800BC, the remains of Cuicuilco are amongst the oldest of any ancient city in Mexico and include the looming circular Piramide de Cuicuilco.
Quieter than the larger sites in the area such as Uxmal, Sayil contains the remains of a small Maya city built in the Puuc style.
One of the most famous ancient cities of Mexico, Tenochtitlan was the Aztec capital destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century. Largely engulfed by modern Mexico City, a few remains of this renowned city can still be seen.
One of the most striking and imposing ancient cities in Mexico, Teotihuacan is characterised by looming stepped pyramids, some rising as much as 75m high.
Once a thriving walled city, Tulum is a cliff-top Maya archaeological site in the Quintana Roo region which looms above picturesque beaches and the clear blue coastal waters of Mexico.
Definitely ranking among the very best historical cities of Mexico, Uxmal was a Maya city in Yucatan which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Said to have been of great ceremonial importance, the remains of the Maya city of Xcaret are part of a larger eco and amusement park in the Quintana Roo region of Mexico.
One of the more hidden of Mexico’s ancient cities, Xlapak is a small archaeological site in Yucatan.
Listed by UNESCO for its well-preserved ruins, Xochicalco ranks among the most important pre-Columbian cities of Mexico.