Mexico, villahermosa, tabasco, Olmec art, Colossal stone head of a warrior

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Parque-Museo La Venta

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This fascinating outdoor park and museum was created in 1958, when petroleum exploration threatened the highly important ancient Olmec settlement of La Venta in western Tabasco. Archaeologists moved the site’s most significant finds, including three colossal stone heads, to Villahermosa. There's also a zoo but the cages are shabby and depressing; this can be avoided when making your way to the sculpture trail.

There’s an informative display in English and Spanish on Olmec archaeology as you pass through the sculpture trail, the start of which is marked by a giant ceiba (the sacred tree of the Olmec and Maya; this one is over 120 years old). All pieces are numbered in order. This 1km walk is lined with finds from La Venta. Among the most impressive, in the order you come to them, are Stele 3 (number 4), which depicts a bearded man with a headdress; Altar 5 (number 10), depicting a figure carrying a child; Monument 77 (number 11), ‘El Gobernante,’ a very sour-looking seated ruler; the monkey-faced Monument 56 (number 16); Monument 1 (number 24), the colossal head of a helmet-wearing warrior; and Stele 1 (number 31), showing a young goddess (a rare Olmec representation of anything female). Animals that pose no danger (such as coatis, squirrels and black agoutis) roam freely around the park.

At 7pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm Tuesdays to Sundays, there's a sound and light show (M$116).

Plan two to three hours for your visit, and take mosquito repellent (the park is set in humid tropical woodland). Parque-Museo La Venta lies 2km northwest of the Zona Luz, beside Avenida Ruíz Cortines, the main east–west highway crossing the city. It's a M$50 or so taxi ride.

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