Monte Albán is an archaeological site in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. It is a UNESCO World Heritage List site.


Monte Albán traces its history to about 500 B.C. when Zapotec builders (who called themselves the cloud people) began leveling the mountaintop and constructing terraces and other works. The city's construction was done in phases, with Phase I stretching from the city's beginnings to about 400 B.C. The second phase spanned three centuries between 400 B.C. and 100 B.C., and is when the city's observatories were built.

Around 1200 A.D., the Zapotec abandoned the city due to Mixtec incursions. The Mixtec occupied the site until the Spanish conquest, and some additional, minor structures, were built during the Mixtec era.

Monte Albán is managed by INAH.


Temperatures in Oaxaca are generally warm with winter low temperatures seldom going below 15 Celsius. November through April is the dry season in Oaxaca, which sees most of its rain in late summer, particularly September.

Getting there

Monte Albán is located about 5 miles (10 kilometers) from downtown Oaxaca. The best ways to get there are by taxi or tour bus.

  • Taxis are the most flexible, but most expensive way to visit the site. They will cost about 200 to 300 pesos round-trip from most downtown Oaxaca hotels.

  • Buses o vans are operated by Transportadora Turistica Belmex . They leave every 30 minutes throughout the day (8:30am to 3:30pm) from Minas 518 insight HOTEL RIVERA DEL ANGEL . The last bus back to Oaxaca leaves Monte Albán at 5pm. The bus costs about 38 pesos.

Traveling around

You can walk around the site and climb up the major structures. Mobility will be a problem for handicapped visitors. Local guides can be hired near the site entrance and their interpretive knowledge is well worth the reasonable fees they charge.


  • North Platform - Large, high platform with several structures (possibly temples) at the top.

  • Ballcourt - The Zapotec used a very different layout from the Mayan ballcourts at sites like Coba or Chichen Itza.

  • Los Danzantes - A group of structures noted for its fascinating Olmec carvings of people in various strange positions.

  • Building J - The unusual position and architectural details indicate that the building was an astronomical observatory.

  • Southern Platform - A very large pyramid with an open plaza area at the top.

  • Tomb 7 - Mexican archaeologists uncovered the treasure-filled tomb in the early 1930s.

Monte Albán's site museum is modern, attractive and well worth a visit. They have some excellent interpretive displays plus a number of relics excavated from the site in the early 20th century. A highlight of the museum is its collection of stelae. Restrooms, a small bookstore, and a cafe are also available here.

Things to do

  • hire one of the local guides to walk the site with you

  • climb both the North and South platforms

  • bring sunblock


A small cafe serving light sandwiches and beverages is in the site's modern visitor center. More substantial meals are available in Oaxaca.


Nightclubs and bars are in nearby Oaxaca. Sodas and beer are sold in the cafe in the site's visitor center. You may want to bring a bottle of water with you since it can get very hot walking around the site and climbing the ancient ruins.


Lodging is available in the nearby city of Oaxaca.


A small bookstore is in the site's visitor center. Local vendors often sell local crafts and foods outside the site entrance.


Monte Albán is a safe site to visit. Some political unrest occurred in Oaxaca City in early 2007, but the city is quiet again.


Entry to the site costs 51 pesos. Additional fees are charged for video cameras or tripods. Entrance to the site is free on Sundays, if you are a Mexican resident.

Get out

The city of Oaxaca is spectacular. Mitla, another Zapotec archaeological site, is nearby.

Contact & location

Be the first one to add a review

Already have an account? Log In
Will never be displayed

The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Laurent Espitallier, John Charalambous, Alfredo Gayou, kitze porras, Fernando Tapia Rodríguez

Some photos courtesy of: . The photos provided by Flickr are under the copyright of their owners.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Mark Stevens

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

Share this:

My lists

People who'd like to go there (2)

Going to Monte Alban?
... and need recommendations

Ask your friends on Facebook

Ask on Twitter