On our way back from Taxco the other weekend, we decided that our first Mexican road trip wouldn’t really be complete without hitting a historically-significant archaeological site. Conveniently, Xochicalco was (more or less) on our way back, a site that was in its prime around 650 AD. It was around this time that the better-known site of Teotihuacan (~30 miles northeast of D.F.) began its decline as a center of politics & economics in the central region of Mexico. Xochicalco means “place of the house of flowers” in Nahuatl.
We were there on a Monday and there were almost no other people visiting, which afforded a nice, private exploration of the amazing site & its stunning views of the surrounding valley. Logistically– Xochicalco site admission was $48 pesos (pay in the museum before walking to the site), and the audio-guide system in English was $60 pesos. I recommend driving, as although books like Lonely Planet indicate there are buses that access the site, it was unclear to me whether they actually bring you to the entrance directly, or simply drop you off at the nearest intersection, which is at the bottom of a looong, uphill walk that I would have been displeased about doing in the hot sun.
A few of the unique highlights of these ruins were a) an extensive systems of water drainage & storage cisterns to accomodate for the 6-7 months of dry season here in Mexico, b) 3 ball courts with “rings” mounted on opposite sides of a long field, and c) a really interesting Astronomers Cave, with a 13-foot long shaft (21″ in diameter) through which the movement of the sun was tracked. The most famous part of the site is the “Pyramid of the Feathered Serpents” (Piramide de Quetzalcoatl), with impressive decorative reliefs all around the outside.
Anyway, needless to say our crap photos cannot truly capture the scale & views of Xochicalco, but you’ll just have to trust me that it was worth a visit, as you can wander around & climb on/up/over almost everything (which surprised me coming from the USA, land of ropes, barricades & restrictions). As we bag more hot Mexican archaeology, I will attempt to offer comparative insights of which are the must-sees… For now, I will rank it as a “Visit if you’re traveling within a 30 mile radius”.