Xochicalco | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Xochicalco

Morelos, Morelos, Mexico

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Aberu.Go / Shutterstock

About Xochicalco

Xochicalco is an important pre-Columbian site in Mexico, listed by UNESCO for its well-preserved ruins dating from an important period in Mesoamerican history.

History of Xochicalco

Xochicalco means ‘in the house of the flowers’ in Nahautl, and once once a flourishing city, believed to house as many as 20,000 people at its peak, which was between roughly 650-900AD.

The city is remarkable because it was something of a cultural melting pot. At this point in Mesoamerican history, cities like were Tikal, Teotihuacan and Palenque being broken up: Xochicalco is believed to have been founded by Maya traders who were exchanging goods with Aztec cultures further north, including those at Teotihuacan. The city bears stylistic elements of both Maya and Aztec cultures. Some have hypothesised that Xochicalco’s success may have contributed to the decline of Teotihuacan.

The city was not immune to the instability facing the Mesoamerican world: archaeologists and historians have found evidence that Xochicalco collapsed sometime around 900AD, and it appears that vandalism, fire and death stalked the city’s streets as it neared its end.

The ruins were rediscovered in the late 18th century, with visits and excavations taking place from then on. Major work was undertaken in the mid 20th century.

Xochicalco’s impressive hierarchy of ruins includes a ball court, a palace, temples, monuments and homes, all carefully arranged amid terraces, plazas and ramps to great effect.

Xochicalco today

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is a particular highlight for many: its decorative elements are remarkably well preserved and show a fusion of Maya styles with those from Teotihuacan. The pyramid is also extremely impressive: look out for the decorative feathered serpents.

Xochicalco’s impressive hierarchy of ruins includes a ball court, a palace, temples, monuments and homes, all carefully arranged amid terraces, plazas and ramps to great effect.

There’s a small museum on site with finds in, and guided tours are available for a fee. It gets hot and there’s little shade, so bring plenty of water, good shoes and a hat if you’re visiting in the summer. Keep an eye out for the iguanas which roam the site too!

Getting to Xochicalco 

Xochicaclo is located in the state of Morelos, about 2 hours south of Mexico City. Interstate buses will get you to the nearest town, Cuernavaca, and from there you can get a bus or a taxi to Xochicalco itself. The ruins are just off Ruta 166 if you’re driving yourself.

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