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Tips for Visiting Archaeological Sites in Mexico

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Mexico is home to many impressive archaeological sites. Visiting these ancient cities and ceremonial areas is a popular activity for tourists. They offer a glimpse at Mexico's ancient past and exploring the pyramids, temples and homes offers a unique view into some great civilizations. These tips will help you prepare and get the most out of your visit.

Also read: Mexico's Must-Visit Archaeological Sites

Time Your Visit

Chichen Itza Group
© Suzanne Barbezat
Mexico's archaeological sites are open 365 days a year from 8 am to 5 pm. Often the best time of day to visit is early in the morning or fairly late in the afternoon (leaving enough time to visit before closing), to avoid the heat of the mid-day sun.

Admission

All of Mexico's archaeological sites are overseen by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which charges an admission fee for entrance. The cost of admission varies according to the size and importance of the site. For the largest sites the admission is 57 pesos per person. In the case of Chichen Itza there is an additional fee charged by the government of the state of Yucatan. Mexican citizens and permanent residents (with proof of residency) have free admission on Sundays.

Photographers Take Note: There is an additional fee of 45 pesos to enter the site with a video camera, and in order to enter with a tripod a special professional photography permission is required which must be acquired previously through the INAH and costs over 8 thousand pesos. (Prices subject to change).

Dress appropriately

Wear comfortable shoes because you may be climbing pyramids or walking on treacherous ground. Opt for flat, closed shoes; sneakers or hiking boots are your best bet. The sun may be very strong, so it's a good idea to cover up and wear a hat and sunglasses.

Don't forget sunscreen and insect repellent

You can get a sunburn even on overcast days, so you shouldn't skip the sunscreen, and depending on the site you're visiting, you may be well advised to use insect repellent as well. This is especially true for sites located in the jungle, such as Palenque.

Take water

Beware of dehydration! You may not be allowed to enter with food or other drinks besides plain water. You should take water, and it's best to buy it before getting to the site as prices on-site may be inflated.

Respect the site

Don't remove stones or pottery shards that you may find. The pieces that are in an archaeological site are an integral part of that site and as insignificant as they may seem, the information they provide may be invaluable.

Read before you go

A little bit of background reading can go a long way to help you understand what you're seeing. You should at least be aware of the different cultures - do you know the Mayas from the Aztecs? See our visitor's guides to Mexico's archaeological sites: Teotihuacan | Chichen Itza | Tulum | Coba | Palenque | Monte Alban | Mitla | Edzna

Hire a guide

Having a guide book is good, but hiring a local guide will allow you to get a lot more out of your visit. You can hire a guide to take you to the site, in which case transportation is usually included, or hire a guide at the entrance to the site. If you don't see any, ask at the ticket booth. Guide service is not included in the cost of admission and the cost should be agreed upon with the guide before the start of the tour. In the case of Chichen Itza there is a fixed fee for guide service (prices are posted). Make sure your guide has a license from the Mexican Secretary of Tourism.

Take some time to wonder

Much is still unknown about Mexico's ancient cultures. Many sites were built without the use of metal tools, with no beasts of burden, and it's likely that the builders weren't even using the wheel. Take some time to imagine what these places may have looked like when they were at their peak: what might they have looked like on a busy market day, or for an important ceremony?

Enjoy your visit!

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