Underrated archaeological sites in Latin America

Beyond the iconic Machu Picchu and Chichen Itza, Latin America has archeological sites that are lesser known but of great historical and cultural value.

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


Toniná, Mexico

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

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The ancient city of Toniná is easily visited by tourists who can hire the services of authorized guides to learn the details of this civilization that, in its heyday, maintained a constant conflict with the inhabitants of the larger cities and ritual centers of The civilization of Maya, 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 worshiped the gods of the Mayan cosmogony, in addition to the building known as the Smoking Mirror. Both structures are considered the tallest in Mesoamerica, hence the importance of this archaeological site that is little visited by local and foreign tourists.

Tiwanaku, Bolivia

This impressive archaeological site preserves the remains of a large city built by nomadic settlers at 13,000 feet above sea level. Located very close to the sacred Lake Titicaca, this crucial human settlement, now in ruins, once housed a substantial temple of the Tiwanaku culture, many other smaller ones, houses, public buildings, roads, 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 World Heritage Site. Among other things, the archaeologists in charge of the site are studying how large and heavy stones were transported across Lake Titicaca, with which a large part of this mystical city was built.

Chan Chan, Peru
Panoramic view of 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 archaeological site of Chan Chan, located about three miles from the bustling Peruvian city of Trujillo, was the capital of the Chimú civilization before the year 850, as known from historical records. According to archaeologists, this tribe lived through critical years of growth until the mighty Incas invaded and wiped out the population.

It flourished in the year 1400 when up to 30,000 people lived in the city carrying out countless activities related to trade, planting and gathering, but mainly religious worship.

Visitors who tour the site today enjoy a sprawling area of ​​some 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 took place. The importance of this archaeological site made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tazumal, El Salvador

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

The archaeological site of Tazumal, although not particularly visited by tourists, is a gem of the ancient Mayan civilization that had its period of brilliance in the Preclassic period. Unfortunately, the area is poorly explored, especially since a large part of the ancient Mayan city is believed to lie beneath the city of Chalchuapa, which houses 10 archaeological sites.

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 relics, utensils and ceramics of the ancient civilization. The community that now lives in the archaeological site of Tazumal offers visitors excellent handicrafts in a large market where tourists can find souvenirs, textiles and ceramic designs, among other things, made by local indigenous artisans.

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