East of Mexico City

Given its isolation from any town of significance, the vast and incredibly well-preserved Mesoamerican city of Cantona is virtually unknown to travelers. With 24 ball courts discovered, this is now believed to have been the biggest single urban center in Mesoamerica, stretching over 12 sq km in an ethereal lava-bed landscape dotted with cacti and yucca and offering incredible views of Pico de Orizaba to the south.

The site was inhabited from 600 to 1000 CE and is of interest for two main reasons. Unlike most other Mesoamerican cities, no mortar was used to build it, meaning all the stones are simply held in place by their weight. It’s also unique in its design sophistication – all parts of the city are linked by an extensive network of raised roads connecting some 3000 residences. There are several small pyramids and an elaborate acropolis at the city’s center. With good information panels in English and an access road, Cantona is now being promoted as a tourist attraction, though there is only one place to eat outside the site and just one onsite store (selling mostly souvenirs), so come prepared with food, water and sun protection and be ready to walk a two-hour tour of the sprawling site. The Museo de Sitio de Cantona is worth a visit, especially if you can read Spanish.

From Oriental, which is the nearest decent-sized town, combis leave when full from the corner of Carretera Federal Puebla-Teziutlan and 8 Poniente for Tepeyahualco near Cantona (M$30, 45 minutes). Tell the driver you want to go to the ruins and they can possibly make a side trip directly there, or you'll need to take a taxi colectivo (M$10) for the 10 minutes from Tepeyahualco.

Otherwise, taxis to the site from Oriental are M$150 or more for a round trip. If you have your own transportation, visiting Cantona makes for a good side trip en route to Cuetzalan.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby East of Mexico City attractions

1. Museo de Sitio de Cantona

0.42 MILES

A modern, well-organized onsite museum displaying 598 pre-Hispanic objects from the inhabitants of Cantona, with a large showcase of volcanic obsidian,…