Atzompa ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Atzompa Ruins

Valles Centrales

If you like your pre-Hispanic Mexican ruins suitably ‘ruined’ and crowd-free without compromising on authenticity or spectacular setting, opt for Atzompa. The site gets a tiny fraction of Monte Albán’s visitors (it's not unusual to have the place to yourself), meaning your imagination can run wild conjuring up images of Zapotecs in feathery attire playing the Mesoamerican ball game.

Only thoroughly excavated in the early 21st century and not opened to the public until 2012 (when the access road was built), Atzompa was a residential satellite city of nearby Monte Albán. It was probably established around AD 650 and abandoned 300 years later.

Three ceremonial plazas, several ball courts (including the largest in the Oaxaca area) and the remains of two large residences have been exposed to view. A specially intriguing feature is the reconstructed pottery-firing oven on the north side – identical to ovens still used by potters in modern Atzompa. Excavation at the site is ongoing.

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