Guachimontones Archaeological Site

Top choice in Guadalajara

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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Guadalajara attractions

1. Cascahuín

11.11 MILES

If you have time for only one distillery tour while in Tequila country, make it this one. Here you'll see the entire process, from piña harvesting to…

2. Hacienda La Cofradia

11.78 MILES

Two kilometers south of Tequila sits the beautiful Hacienda La Cofradia estate where the 100% blue agave Casa Noble tequila brand is distilled. The…

3. Tres Mujeres

12.4 MILES

Free Spanish- and English-language tours are available at the high-end 100% agave distillery Tres Mujeres, where some 40 different tequilas are produced,…

4. Casa Herradura

12.54 MILES

The romantic old Hacienda de San José del Refugio is where Herradura tequila is distilled. It is one of Mexico’s prettiest distilleries, with regularly…

5. Perseverancia Distillery

13.16 MILES

Basic tours of Casa Sauza's Perseverancia Distillery last one hour. Longer tours of the estate, lasting two hours, take in the agave fields and include…

6. Casa Sauza

13.2 MILES

The Casa Sauza estate invokes Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic fairy tale The Secret Garden. The colonial-style grounds are adorned with Italianate…

7. Museo Nacional del Tequila

13.23 MILES

Set in an old colonial building just off the main plaza and spread over five rooms, this museum does a good job of illustrating the history of tequila…

8. Mundo Cuervo

13.27 MILES

Just opposite Tequila's main plaza and immediately recognisable by the enormous statue of a crow (cuervo in Spanish), Mundo Cuervo, which is owned by the…