Just 40km west of Guadalajara is the fascinating and distinctive archaeological site known as Guachimontones – one of the only ancient ruins in the world whose structures were built in nearly perfect concentric circles, including a massive conical step pyramid. Easy to reach as a day trip, the site has well-preserved structures, an excellent museum, and knowledgeable (and free) guide services.
Occupied between 300BC and 350AD by the Teuchitlán people, Guachimontones is believed to have been a spiritual center, used mostly for rituals honoring Ehecatl, the god of wind. There were 10 circular complexes in all, surrounding the imposing central pyramid. A hole at the top of the pyramid is thought to have been used to hold a pole that priests would suspend themselves from, simulating the flight of a bird.
The ruins are perched on a verdant hill overlooking the village of Teuchitlán and La Vega dam. Three of the 10 complexes are visible and fully excavated, while the main pyramid is a truly arresting sight: perfectly circular, with curving moss-covered steps rising some 18 meters (60 feet); you’re not allowed to climb to the top, unfortunately. Two ball courts, two long plazas and several structures still to be excavated complete the site.
The site’s modern museum – also circular in shape – provides an excellent overview of the ruins and the people who worshipped here. Jewelry, pottery, obsidian tools, and other artifacts are on display, as is a re-creation of the shaft tombs found under some of the structures. Several hands-on exhibits will keep young visitors engaged, and there’s a surprisingly good introductory film, available in Spanish, English and French.
Tours of the ruins are offered hourly between 10am and 1pm. Guides are knowledgeable and experienced; English and French spoken. Guides also lead tours through the museum every 30 to 60 minutes, depending on numbers.
To get here from Guadalajara, take a bus to Teuchitlán (M$120, two hours, hourly from 6am to 9pm) from the Antigua Central Camionera. From the village, a taxi to the ruins costs M$60.