The city from which the ancient Zapotecs once ruled Oaxaca's Valles Centrales, Monte Albán towers 400m above the valley floor from a hilltop a few kilometers west of Oaxaca. This is one of Mexico's most culturally rich archaeological sites, with the remains of temples, palaces, tall stepped platforms, an observatory and a ball court all arranged in orderly fashion, with wonderful 360-degree views over the city, valleys and distant mountains.
Monte Albán traces its roots to 500 BC and its 1300-year history is usually split into five archaeological phases. The city reached its apex between AD 300 and 700, but was abandoned long before the Spanish arrived in the 1520s.
While busy compared to other Oaxaca archaeological sites, Monte Albán avoids the tour bus circus of some of the better-known ruins around Mexico City and Cancún.