Located less than 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca City, this archeological site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The expansive ruins sit on a level mountain range, more than 6,000 feet above sea level. Monte Alban was considered a political center when it was inhabited. Visitors will see the ancient ball court where games or warriors fought, as well as tombs and palaces. People can climb the north and south platforms, which were likely where the ancient royalty lived; today, they offer breathtaking views of Monte Alban and the mountains of Oaxaca. The ancient, steep stone stairs are not the easiest to climb or descend, but it is worth it to reach the top. If you only have it in you to climb one of the platforms, the North Platform has more to offer than the South.
While the history of the site is not exactly certain, it is believed to date back to 500BC and was abandoned in 850AD due to water problems despite having an elaborate drainage system. It was re-discovered in the 1800s, the official excavation began in the early 1900s, and in the 1930s, the restoration began and took 18 years. Only 10 to 15 percent of the original site is seen today and even more is said to still be underground. The dirt or grass floors (depending what season you visit) were once fully stucco covered and feature drainage basins and city-like avenues. The ruins themselves were also once covered in stucco.
A small indoor museum towards the front of the entrance explains some of the history, and ancient stone writings and shows some of the artifacts that were discovered in some of the tombs.
If you are interested in learning as much as possible about Monte Alban, it would be best to hire a local tour guide to accompany you to the site. Guides are not available inside Monte Alban, but can be hired nearby. Taking or hiring a tour group while in Oaxaca City is the best option. Remember the altitude is much higher at this site so be prepared. Bring along water, sunscreen and a hat or even an umbrella to block the sun. Wear sneakers or walking or hiking shoes. Restrooms and a gift shop are located near the museum. Locals also sell their goods outside the site in the parking lot. The locals selling their handcrafted goods inside the site have been given permission to sell there and offer more authentic and handcrafted goods.
Daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Families could easily spend several hours or half a day here.
70 pesos (less than $4 USD) per person and payment is in peso only. The gift shop does take credit cards.
Older people or people who struggle to walk up steep stairs may struggle here. A railing or two can be found at some of the ruins, but the ancient stone stairs are steep to climb, especially with the increase in altitude.
Snacks and bottled water are sold near the entrance.
A free parking lot is available, but taxis or tour buses are the best ways to visit.