Underrated Archeological Sites in Latin America

Underrated Archeological Sites in Latin America

Beyond the emblematic Machu Picchu and Chichen Itza, Latin America boasts archeological sites that are less known but of extraordinary historical and cultural value.

These are some of the less typical archeological destinations that travelers should not miss.


Toniná, Mexico

Located in Chiapas, very close to the indigenous city of Ocosingo, Toniná is an extraordinary archeological site, almost unknown, that was built between the years of 330 and 500 AD, at the height of the mountains in honor of the Sun, the Moon, Venus and the Earth.

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The ancient city of Toniná can be easily visited by tourists who can hire the services of authorized guides to learn the details of this civilization that, in its time of splendor, maintained a constant dispute with the inhabitants of the largest cities and ceremonial centers of the Mayan culture, such as Palenque and Chichén Itzá.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the history of these impressive ruins, among which the Great Pyramid consists of seven temples where the inhabitants worshipped the gods of the Mayan cosmogony, in addition to the building known as the Smoking Mirror. Both structures are considered the highest in Mesoamerica, hence the importance of this archeological site little visited by national and foreign tourists.

Tiwanaku, Bolivia

This impressive archeological site keeps the vestiges of a large city built by nomadic settlers at 13,000 feet above sea level. Located very close to the sacred Lake Titicaca, this critical human settlement, now in ruins, was once home to an essential temple of Tiwanaku culture, many other smaller ones, houses, public buildings, streets, as well as an incredible irrigation system, built in adobe.

Many of these buildings can still be admired by visitors, thanks to the fact that UNESCO protects the area as a Historical Heritage Site. Among other things, the archeologists in charge of the site study how large and heavy stones were transported along Lake Titicaca, with which much of this mystical city was built.

Panoramic view of the adobe structures at the pre Inca site of Chan Chan, near Trujillo in northern Peru. (Stefano Barzellotti/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Chan Chan, Peru

The imposing archeological site of Chan Chan, located about three miles from the busy Peruvian city of Trujillo, was the capital of Chimú culture since before the year 850, as known by historical records. According to archeologists, this tribe lived through critical years of growth until they were invaded by the mighty Incas, who wiped out the population.

It was thriving in the the year 1400 when lived, in the city, up to 30,000 people who carried out countless activities related to trade, planting, and gathering, but especially religious worship.

Visitors who tour the site today enjoy an extensive area of about 5,000 square miles, full of ruins where they can still see the remains of carved adobe walls where various domestic works and, above all, worship of their gods were performed. The importance of this archeological site made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tazumal, El Salvador

This extraordinary archeological site is located in the city of Chalchuapa, in the department of Santa Ana, the second largest city after San Salvador.

The archeological area of Tazumal, although not very visited by tourists, is a jewel of the ancient Mayan culture that had its period of splendor in the pre-classic period. Unfortunately, the area is poorly explored, especially since it is believed that a large part of the ancient Mayan city lies beneath the town of Chalchuapa, which houses 10 archeological areas.

Tazumal stands out for the architecture of its various pyramids and the famous ball game. In addition, tourists can visit the museum that houses the ancient civilization’s relics, utensils, and ceramics. The community that now lives in the archeological area of Tazumal offers visitors extraordinary crafts in a large market where tourists can find souvenirs, textiles, and ceramic designs, among others, made by local indigenous artisans.

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