Pre-Columbian Sites

If you’re looking to explore Pre-Columbian sites and want to find the best places to view Pre- Columbian history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

There’s a great selection of Pre-Columbian historic sites and ruins and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list of Pre-Columbian sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Pre-Columbian ruins.

Our database of historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Pre-Columbian sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Pre-Columbian: Site Index

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Aguateca

Aguateca was an important Maya capital city in Guatemala which was dramatically destroyed.

Aguateca is an important and well-excavated ancient Maya ceremonial site in Guatemala’s Peten Region. Thought to have been one of the two capitals of the Maya Dynasty in the region – together with Dos Pilas – from around 700 AD, Aguateca was a vital stronghold, especially given its elevated position.... Read More

Photo by Václav Synáček (cc)

Cahuachi

Cahuachi is an ancient site of the Nazca civilization in Peru.

Cahuachi is believed to have been a pilgrimage site of the Nazca people. Still an active archeological site, Cahuachi is dominated by several adobe pyramids made of sand and clay as well as having a graveyard. Little is known about Cahuachi, but as it overlooked the Nazca Lines, it is thought... Read More

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Calixtlahuaca

Calixtlahuaca is an Aztec archaeological site near Toluca in Mexico.

Calixtlahuaca near Toluca in Mexico is a well-preserved Aztec archaeological site which was once a thriving city originally home to the Matlatzinca people – the people of the Toluca Valley. The Calixtlahuaca site has a series of fascinating and impressive structures, not least of which are its vast pyramid-like temples.... Read More

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Casa de Colon

Casa de Colon is a museum of the history of the Canary Islands, particularly as relates to Christopher Columbus and the Americas. It exhibits collections ranging from pre-Columbian pieces to items that belonged to Columbus himself.

Casa de Colon (Columbus House) is a museum of the history of the Canary Islands, particularly as relates to Christopher Columbus and the Americas. Whilst the current Casa de Colon dates to the eighteenth century, its predecessor was once the seat of the governors of Gran Canaria and a said... Read More

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Ceibal

Ceibal is an ancient Maya settlement site in northern Guatemala.

Ceibal or “El Seibal” in El Peten in Guatemala was an ancient Maya settlement probably mostly constructed and inhabited in the Preclassic Period and which is now represented by a set of ruins. Most archaeologists think it was abandoned in the late classic period and then inhabited again at a... Read More

Cerro Patapo

Cerro Patapo was the site of a city of the Wari civilisation only discovered in 2008.

Cerro Patapo is an archaeological site near Chiclayo in Peru which houses the remains of a city of the Wari Empire. This empire, which ruled much of the Andes, had a presence in Peru from approximately 600 AD to 1100 AD. Only discovered in 2008, Cerro Patapo was a vitally important... Read More

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Chacchoben

Chacchoben is a Maya site in Mexico housing some impressive pyramid temples.

Chacchoben is a Maya site in Mexico housing some impressive pyramid temples. The exact history of Chacchoben is unclear. Most sources date its pyramids to around 700AD (some say 300AD), although the Mayas are said to have been present at Chacchoben long before this, perhaps as early as 200BC. ... Read More

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Chauchilla Cemetery

Chauchilla Cemetery is a fascinating ancient burial ground with Peru’s largest display of mummified bodies in their original graves.

Chauchilla Cemetery is an ancient Nazca burial ground in the town of Nazca, Peru. Relatively unknown, particularly when compared to the world famous Nazca Lines, Chauchilla Cemetery dates back to 1000 AD and is one of the most open displays of mummified bodies. Chauchilla Cemetery has been severely looted over the... Read More

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Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is a site made up of two impressive and well preserved cities, built by the Mayas and then captured by the Toltecs.

Stunningly well-preserved and imposingly beautiful, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most impressive historical sites. A UNESCO World Heritage site based in the forests of the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is actually made up of two cities built by two peoples, the Mayas and the Toltecs. The site is made up of... Read More

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Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida is a remote ancient city in Colombia which dates to the 8th century AD and now operates as archaeological park.

Ciudad Perdida, meaning “lost city”, is a remote and spectacular ancient city in Colombia which now operates as archaeological park. Thought to date to at least the 8th century AD, Ciudad Perdida was one of a number of settlements built by the Tayrona Indians, who inhabited the area now known as... Read More

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Cobá

Cobá is an important and vast archaeological Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region.

Cobá in Quintana Roo in Mexico houses the remains of a once vast city that developed in around 632 AD and peaked between 800 and 1100 AD. Whilst it is thought that Cobá originally spanned a massive 60 square kilometres, the current archaeological site has yet to uncover all its... Read More

Photo by Adalberto.H.Vega (cc)

Copan

Copan in Honduras was an important Maya city, the impressive ruins of which are UNESCO listed.

Copan (spelt Copán), near the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras is an archaeological site housing the ruins of a major Maya settlement which was probably the most influential city in the south eastern area occupied by this civilisation. Copan is thought to have been inhabited as early as 2000 BC,... Read More

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Dos Pilas

Dos Pilas was a major Maya city which succumbed to the ravages of warfare.

Dos Pilas in northern Guatemala was an ancient capital city of the Maya civilisation. Twinned with nearby Aguateca, its powerful dynasty is thought to have derived from that of Tikal and to have thrived in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. However, it was famously abandoned in the late eighth... Read More

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Dzibilchaltun

Dzibilchaltun in Mexico is an archaeological site housing the ruins of a Maya settlement.

Dzibilchaltun in Yucatan, Mexico is one of the earliest of the series of Maya settlements along the Puuc Route - a trail of the Maya sites in the Puuc region in Yucatan. Thought to have been inhabited from around 500 BC, Dzibilchaltun – which is translated as “the site of stone... Read More

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Ek Balam

Ek Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins.

Ek Balam or Ek’ Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins. Translated either as Black Jaguar or Star Jaguar, Ek Balam is surrounded by a low, stone wall, an unusual feature in Mayan cities. Within this area are several restored pyramids and large temples... Read More

Photo by Veronique Debord (cc)

El Brujo

El Brujo is an early Chimu archaeological site in Peru.

El Brujo in Peru was a Moche (early Chimu) settlement inhabited between 100 and 700 AD. Now an archaeological site, the main features of El Brjuo are its three “huacas” or sacred pyramid temples. The best preserved of El Brujo’s trio of temples, thought to have been sites of ceremonial significance,... Read More

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El Tajin

El Tajin in Mexico was a city of the Totonac people and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

El Tajin in the state of Veracruz in Mexico is an impressive archaeological site which originally formed the capital city of the Totonac state. In fact, the name “Tajin” refers to the Totonac deity of thunder, lighting and rain. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open... Read More

Guatemala National Archaeology and Etymology Museum

The Guatemala National Archaeology and Etymology Museum has a comprehensive Maya exhibit.

The Guatemala National Archaeology and Etymology Museum or “Museo Nacional de Etnología y Arqueología” in Guatemala City is dedicated to exploring the country’s history, particularly that of the Maya civilisation. The National Archaeology and Etymology Museum has an impressive Maya collection ranging from dioramas of ancient cities to pottery, masks and... Read More

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Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is a famous hiking route which winds through Inca sites in Peru including Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail is a famous route in Peru which allows hikers to follow in the footsteps of the Inca people. The main site along the Inca Trail is Machu Picchu, the magnificent ruins of an Inca city dating back to the fifteenth century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However,... Read More

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Kabah

The ruins of Kabah are those of a Maya settlement in Yucatan, Mexico.

Kabah was a Maya settlement and is now an archaeological site in Mexico’s Yucatan state. Inhabited from the third century BC and, like nearby Uxmal, abandoned in circa 1200 AD, Kabah was mostly constructed from the seventh century and added to in the ninth century. It is thought that Kabah was... Read More

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Kuelap

Kuelap is an imposing 9th century fortress, once the stronghold of the Chachapoyas people.

Kuelap is an imposing 9th century fortress, once the stronghold of the Chachapoyas people, a tribe who lived in the region until shortly before the Spanish conquest. Looming some 3,000 metres above sea level, Kuelap is an impressive site, with limestone walls surrounding a settlement of around 450 stone houses. It... Read More

Photo by Olivier Bruchez (cc)

Labna

Labna is a Maya site in Yucatan State in Mexico.

Labna is one of a series of former Maya settlements in Mexico’s Yucatan region and part of what is known as the Puuc Trail. Like the city of Uxmal, with which it is linked, Labna’s structures, such as its palace and its archway, are beautifully ornate. However, unlike its counterpart, Labna... Read More

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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the world’s best preserved Inca sites, located in Peru and protected by UNESCO.

Machu Picchu is an extraordinary ancient stone city along the Inca Trail in Peru and forms one of the most famous historical sites in the world. Believed to have been constructed by the Inca Yupanqui people sometime during the mid-fifteenth century, the ruins of Machu Picchu sit high atop a granite... Read More

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Mexico National Museum of Anthropology

The Mexico National Museum of Anthropology is one of the world’s best renowned museums of pre-Hispanic history.

The Mexico National Museum of Anthropology is a world renowned museum with a large array of archaeological and ethnographic exhibitions, mostly relating to the pre-Hispanic era. The Museum of Anthropology takes visitors through Mexico’s historic cultures, including the Toltecs, the Maya and the Aztecs. Some of the National Museum of Anthropology’s... Read More

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Mitla

Mitla was a Zapotec religious centre later taken over by the Mixtecs in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mitla was a Zapotec and later a Mixtec settlement in what is now the modern town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla in Oaxaca in Mexico. Thought to have first been inhabited by the Zapotecs in around 600 BC, Mitla evolved into an important ceremonial centre. It was later taken... Read More

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Monte Alban

Monte Alban is a remarkable UNESCO listed pre-Columbian site in Mexico.

Monte Alban in Oaxaca in Mexico is an impressive ancient site created by an incredible feat which involved carving a flat space out of a mountain rising to an elevation of over 1,600 feet above the valley below it. Monte Alban was inhabited for approximately 1,500 years by a succession... Read More

Museo Popol Vuh

Museo Popol Vuh in Guateala City has an extensive collection of ancient, particularly Maya, pieces.

Museo Popol Vuh is a museum of history and archaeology in Guatemala City, particularly concentrating on the Pre-Columbian era in Guatemala. It has an extensive collection of art from this era, especially Maya art such as sculptures. Museo Popol Vuh is famed for its funerary objects, particularly urns. Museo Popol Vuh... Read More

Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya

Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya is an archaeological museum related to the ancient Maya settlement of Copan.

Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya translated (Regional Archaeological Maya Museum) in Copan Ruinas explores the history of the Maya civilisation and particularly looks at the nearby settlement of Copan. Exhibiting finds from the archaeological excavations of Copan, such as stelae, jade, pottery and even a tomb, Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya... Read More

Museo Regional de Oaxaca

Museo Regional de Oaxaca houses many of the pre-Columbian finds from nearby Monte Alban.

Museo Regional de Oaxaca - sometimes known as the Museum of Oaxacan Culture - is this Mexican city’s main museum, chronicling the history of the state of Oaxaca (the state and the city have the same name). However, the main exhibit at Museo Regional de Oaxaca is its collection of... Read More

Museum Manuel Chavez Ballón

Museum Manuel Chavez Ballón is the museum of the famous Machu Picchu site.

Museum Manuel Chavez Ballón is a museum at the foot of the mountain which houses the world famous Inca city of Machu Picchu. Museum Manuel Chavez Ballón is dedicated to exploring the Inca civilisation and houses an expansive collection of artefacts found at Machu Picchu including household items, artwork and religious... Read More

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are ancient earth drawings in Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Nazca Lines are a series of large shapes embedded in the earth known as “geoglyphs” in Peru’s Nazca Desert. Spread over 450 square kilometres of the Pampa Colorada region in between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, the origin of the Nazca Lines is a subject of much debate, but... Read More

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Palenque

Palenque in Mexico is a UNESCO listed Maya archaeological site of a city which thrived between 500 and 700 AD.

Palenque in Mexico is an important Maya archaeological site located just outside the modern city by the same name. It is thought that Palenque was first inhabited in around 100BC and excavations have uncovered writings about a king who ruled there in the fifth century AD, however the city was... Read More

Piramide de Cuicuilco

Cuicuilco is a Mesoamerican archeological site in Mexico City, believed to have been a large, ceremonial city that existed prior to the foundation of Teotihuacan.

Cuicuilco is an ancient archeological site and museum next to Mexico City’s Lake Texcoco which includes the striking Piramide de Cuicuilco. Dating back to the Mesoamerican era perhaps as far as 800 BC, Cuicuilco is thought to be one of Mexico’s oldest sites. At its peak, Cuicuilco is believed to... Read More

Quirigua Archaeological Park

Quirigua Archaeological Park is a former Maya settlement and is now a small, yet important UNESCO listed site in Guatemala.

Quirigua Archaeological Park in Izabel, Guatemala is an historic site housing the remains of a Maya settlement. Whilst thought to have been inhabited from 200 AD, most of the structures at Quirigua date back to the mid-sixth century AD and include numerous carved stone objects and structures, such as an... Read More

Sayil

Sayil in Mexico houses the ruins of a small Maya settlement built in the Puuc style.

Sayil in Yucatan in Mexico is a small archaeological site of Maya ruins built in the traditional Puuc style. Quieter than the larger sites in the area such as Uxmal, Sayil offers a good place to see Maya structures such as its impressive palace and El Mirador temple, although there is... Read More

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor was a holy temple in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, now modern day Mexico City.

Templo Mayor was a temple in the capital city of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, in what is now Mexico City. In fact, much of Mexico City was built over Tenochtitlan, but some original sites remain, including the Great Temple, known as Templo Mayor, which was the most important building in the... Read More

Tenochtitlan

Tenochtitlan was the Aztec capital, established in 1325AD and destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century.

Tenochtitlan in Mexico was established on an island in Lake Texcoco in 1325 AD as the capital city of the Aztecs and, in its final and most prosperous days, was ruled by Motecuhzoma II, also known as Montezuma. At its peak, Tenochtitlan was a thriving and imposing city with around 200,000... Read More

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Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan is a well preserved ancient Mesoamerican city near Mexico City.

Teotihuacan was a holy Mesoamerican city built in around 400 BC in what is now Mexico and forms one of the country’s oldest archeological sites. Whilst the founders of Teotihuacan have never been definitively identified, it is thought that the city was inhabited by the Toltecs and was also an... Read More

The Moche Temples

The Moche Temples are two ancient adobe pyramid temples in Peru.

The Moche Temples in Peru are made up of Huaca del Sol y la Luna, translated as the Temples of the Sun and the Moon. Moche was a pre-Inca civilisation which preceded that of the Chimu and is sometimes thought of as early Chimu. It dates from around 100 to... Read More

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Tikal

Tikal in Guatemala was a major Maya site of great ceremonial importance. Its well-preserved ruins are listed by UNESCO.

Tikal National Park near Flores in Guatemala houses one of the world’s most famous and impressive Maya sites, known as Tikal. In fact, Tikal was a major ceremonial site in the Maya culture, with many temples and pyramids built there between 300 BC and 100BC and then further expansion taking... Read More

Tulum

Tulum is a cliff-top Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region with some interesting and quite well preserved ruins.

Tulum is a Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region dating back to between the 13th and 16th centuries. At its peak, Tulum was quite a thriving walled city. Whilst relatively modest in comparison to, say Chichen Itza, Tulum does feature some interesting and quite well preserved ruins, including its castle,... Read More

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Winaywayna

Winaywayna is an Inca site in Peru near Machu Picchu.

Winaywayna or Winay Wayna, literally translated as “forever young”, is an Inca site along the Inca Trail close to the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. Winaywayna is yet another great example of Inca civillisation and is made up of two levels containing a network of houses, fountains and agricultural terraces. Whilst... Read More

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Xcaret

Xcaret houses the ruins of a Maya city which reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Xcaret houses the ruins of a Maya city which reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. Located in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region, Xcaret was then known as Ppole and is said to have been of great ceremonial importance, as evidenced by its wealth of temples, homes and monuments.... Read More

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Xlapak

Xlapak is a small archaeological site in Mexico’s Yucatan region.

Xlapak is one of the smaller of the archaeological sites along the Puuc Trail in the Yucatan State in Mexico, a trail of Maya sites in the hilly part of this otherwise flat state. The main structure at Xlapak is a small palace which is adorned with carvings of the rain... Read More

Xochicalco

Xochicalco is an important pre-Columbian site in Mexico and a World Heritage site.

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. At Xochicalco’s peak between 650AD and 900AD - during the Epiclassic period - the Mesoamerican world was in great flux, with places like Tikal, Teotihuacan and... Read More

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Yagul

Yagul was a fortified Zapotec settlement in Oaxaca in Mexico.

Yagul is an archaeological site in Mexico’s Oaxaca region inhabited by the Pre-Columbian civilisation of the Zapotecs, although the exact time of their first occupation of this area is unknown (sometime between 500 and 100 BC). Yagul was still in use at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Somewhat dwarfed by... Read More

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Yalape

Built around 1100 AD, Yalape contain the ruins of an ancient Chachapoyan city. Though largely overgrown, it contains the remains of a huge urban settlement.

Yalape in Peru was an ancient Chachapoyan city and the second largest such settlement after Kuelap. Probably built around 1100 AD, Yalape was a large urban centre and contained a host of residential areas spread out over at least four hectares. The site was later abandoned along with other major Chachapoyan... Read More

Photo by Walter Rodriguez (cc)

Yaxha

Yaxha is an impressive ancient Maya site in Guatemala’s Peten region.

Yaxha in Guatemala’s Peten region is an ancient Maya site containing several incredible pyramids as well as other structures such as ball courts and also carved stelae. From its vast size – it’s not much smaller than Tikal – and its many monuments, it appears that Yaxha was an important settlement... Read More