A Guide to Oaxaca’s Archaeological Sites

The Oaxaca area is home to many beautiful sights, especially its many different archaeological sites that tell capturing stories about the region’s history. Some of the best hotels in Oaxaca city make up the most unique lodging in Mexico, and you can be sure there’s an option that’ll bring you close to an archaeological site.

Monte Albán

Out of the entire Oaxaca area, Monte Albán is one of the most important archaeological sites. This is because of its heritage; for more than 13 centuries, the Zapotec state exercised control over the valley of Oaxaca. Monte Albán was of extreme importance because it was an economic, political, and religious hub. It spanned over many years, from 500 BC to around 850 AD.

In December of 1987, Monte Albán was named by UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity with the city of Oaxaca. There is only a short distance from Oaxaca to Monte Albán archaeological site, so visitors are very close to the best places to stay in Oaxaca.


The word Mitla is of Nahuatl origin, and it means “place of the dead” or “underworld” in Zapotec. It is referred to by many as “Lyobaa,” which means “burial place.” Mitla was inhabited by the Zapotec from 100 to 650 AD and reached its maximum growth from 750 to 1521 AD. The archaeological zone is known for its geometrically perfect wall mosaics; the stone pieces fit so perfectly and tightly together that no mortar was needed.

Mitla was the religious center for the Zapotes, and they remained there until 1000 AD, when they were kicked out by the Mixtecs. This group of people had control over the city until the Spanish came in and destroyed it in 1553.


Located in the Villa de Zaachila, this archaeological zone is in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca and was founded sometime in the 13th century. It is believed to have been founded by the Zapotecs sometime around or during the time when Monte Albán was being constructed. Its main attraction is the tombs built under an old palace, the walls of which are adorned with figures that are related to the world of the dead.

It is a must-see for travelers and is close to great Oaxaca, Mexico, lodging.

San José El Mogote

This archaeological site has existed for more than $3,500 years. It includes the entire San Jose Mogote agency, the lands of Guadalupe Etla, and the lands of San Sebastián Etla. During its time, San José Mogote was the head of the Etla valley. It had a palace, temples, and a ball court but was abandoned close to 400 years before Christ. It was occupied again for a brief period of time before the Spaniards.

Inscriptions have been found at San José Mogote that date back to around 500 BC and are some of the oldest forms of writing. From archaeological remains, we can say the population began to decline around the same time that Monte Albán became prominent. The archaeological site was abandoned towards the end of the late Pre-classic period.

Casa de la Cacica

Casa de la Cacica is a remnant of the religious and administrative buildings of the chiefdom of Teposcolula, which was a state of the Mixteca during the time the Spanish came to Mexico. The building was removed from its original pre-hispanic location on Yacundaa Hill and constructed to incorporate indigenous and Spanish elements. It is believed to date all the way back to 1550.


Some of the items discovered on the archaeological site of Lambityeco suggest that its occupation occurred between 600 B.C. to 800 AD, reaching its peak between 700 to 750 AD. Lambityeco was considered an important city for the Zapotec market because of its salt production. 

Not much of the zone has been explored, only the buildings found on the side of the road. It’s a large zone spreading close to 64 hectares, which is close to 158 acres and contains more than 200 mounds. It’s close to a few cities and within a short distance of the best hotels in Oaxaca.


In Nahuatl, Atzompa means “At the top of the water.” It is a historic site in Oaxaca and an archaeological site of Monte Albán. Its occupation is thought to have lasted between 650 to 900 AD, and it has three courts for the Ball game, a mesoamerican ballgame where the players hit the ball with their hips. The structures within Atzompa suggest the archaeological site functioned as a space for rituals. It is not open to the public and offers no tourist services. 


Guiengola is known to have two meanings, one from the Zapotec language; ‘guie’ is stone and ‘gola’ is great, so together, Guiengola means ‘Great Rock’ in Zapotec. Its other meaning is ‘great or old hill.’

The city was built by the Zapotec, and it was meant to be difficult to invade. The archaeological site was thought to be occupied by different groups during different times, and the city was believed to still be functioning when the Spanish came in contact. It’s known as the setting of a crucial battle between the Zapotec and the Mexicas.

Though it’s one of the more well-known archaeological sites in Oaxaca, not much is known about the full extent of the city because little of it has fully been explored.

There are many breathtaking archaeological sites in Oaxaca, some of which are still being explored. When visiting, make sure to do your research before exploring to make sure the area isn’t still being worked on and make yourself comfortable with Oaxaca lodging.