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10 best pyramids in Mexico and how to visit them on a budget

Find out which are the 10 must-see pyramids in Mexico, including the most famous ones and others that will surprise you.


pyramids in Mexico

When we talk about pyramids, Mexico is the second destination that comes to mind after Egypt. The country’s pre-Hispanic civilizations, mainly the Mayans, left an enormous architectural and cultural legacy that attracts millions of tourists a year.

Some of the pyramids, such as Chichén Itzá, are among the main tourist attractions in the world. Others are not so well known internationally, but will surely amaze you, and can be enjoyed with much less people around. 

In this article, I’ll start talking about the most famous pyramids in Mexico, and then introduce you to my favorites among the lesser-known ones.

But before we delve into that, here’s a special tip to travel Mexico on a budget: you can visit these and other attractions with free accommodation if you do a volunteer program through Worldpackers. 

This platform connects hosts and travelers all over the world, allowing for a collaborative travel experience where you exchange a few hours of help for a free stay and other perks. It's also a great way to learn Spanish in Mexico! For more information, read our full guide on how Worldpackers works.

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The most famous pyramids in Mexico

1. Temple of Kukulcán, Chichén Itzá

The Temple of Kukulcán, also known as El Castillo, is undoubtedly the most famous pyramid in Mexico, and the main structure of the archaeological zone of Chichén Itzá.

This pyramid was built in the 12th century by the Mayans to worship the feathered serpent Kukulcán, which explains the snake motifs that decorate it.

Although it isn’t one of the largest pyramids in terms of dimensions, it is one of the most notable for its architecture and symbolism. So much it was chosen as one of the 7 New Wonders of the Modern World.

It’s a very interesting construction. For example, adding the 91 steps of each of its four stairs gives a total of 364, plus the temple at the top is 365, which represents the number of days in the Mayan calendar.

The effects of light on the pyramid during the equinoxes (March and September), in which a snake seems to descend from the temple at sunset, is another reason why the Temple of Kukulcán marvels the world.

On the Worldpackers platform there are projects in which you can collaborate as a volunteer in Mérida and Valladolid, which are the two closest cities to Chichén Itzá. In exchange for your help, you will not only receive accommodation, but will also have a much deeper cultural immersion than if you were only passing through as a tourist.

pyramids in Mexico

2. Pyramids of Teotihuacán

Its proximity to Mexico City and other large cities such as Puebla and Pachuca (Hidalgo), from which you can visit for the day, make Teotihuacán an extremely popular destination.

The Pyramid of the Sun is not only the largest structure in the archaeological zone, but at 225 meters per side it is also the third largest pyramid in the world, after that of Cholula, also in Mexico, and that of Cheops, in Egypt. This gives you an idea of the importance that this city had at the time.

Built to imitate the shape of nearby Cerro Gordo, the Pyramid of the Moon is smaller in size than the previous one, but has almost the same total height, as it is on higher ground. This gives you the best view of the complex, since you will also be able to include the Pyramid of the Sun in your photo.

The pyramid dedicated to Quetzacoatl (feathered serpent) completes the Teotihuacán trilogy. Although it is the third most important structure in the complex, it is the first in terms of ornamentation.

There are many possibilities to volunteer in Mexico City. Take advantage of the opportunity and get to know the city in depth. There are positions available in Teotihuacán as well.


3. Pyramid of the Fortune Teller, Uxmal

The central structure of Uxmal is another gem among the most famous pyramids in Mexico. The size and rich ornamentation of the constructions make it one of the three most impressive sites within the Mayan route of Mexico, along with Chichén Itzá and Palenque.

Climbing the 30 meters of the Pyramid of the Fortune Teller (Pirámide del Adivino) through the steep steps and appreciating the view of the entire complex from above is an unforgettable experience.

The city of Mérida is the best base from which to visit Uxmal.

pyramid of the fortune teller

4. Nohoch Mul Pyramid, Cobá

At 42 meters high, the Nohoch Mul is the second tallest pyramid built by the Mayans in the Yucatan Peninsula. After climbing the 120 steps you’ll find the Temple of the Descending God, and you’ll have a better view of the jungle that surrounds it.

It is estimated that by the year 1000 Cobá would have entered a long power dispute with Chichén Itzá, finally being defeated. This caused its political importance to decrease and over time it would be abandoned. It was only in the 20th century when archaeological studies began to rediscover what nature had covered.

As well as for visiting Chichén Itzá, Valladolid is also an ideal starting point in this case.

pyramids in Mexico

5. Pyramids of Monte Albán

The old capital of the Zapotecs was founded around 500 BC, being one of the first great cities in Mesoamerica.

Built on a mountain in the center of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, at its summit was the Great Central Plaza of Monte Albán, a ceremonial place and residence of the elite, which is what is currently visited in the archaeological zone.

Although there are no complete pyramids left, there are their bases and many structures that allow you to imagine how great this Zapotec city was at its time.

Check out the positions available for volunteering in Oaxaca and get to know this beautiful region in depth with free accommodation.

monte albán

6. Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque

Built during the reign of the Mayan king Pakal with the purpose of honoring himself in life and protecting his remains when he died, the “House of the Nine Sharp Spears”, as the Mayans called it, is the largest structure in the Palenque complex.

Located in the heart of the jungle of the State of Chiapas, it is estimated that only 2% of this immense settlement has been discovered so far, leaving many mysteries among the vegetation.

Take a look at the opportunities volunteer in Chiapas.

pyramids in palenque, mexico

Other pyramids in Mexico that are worth visiting

Up to this point we have seen the main pyramids of Mexico, but there are many more. Check out some other spectacular ones, although less touristy, that I also recommend visiting:

7. Calakmul Pyramid

A few kilometers from the border with Guatemala is this imposing pyramid surrounded by jungle, part of the Calakmul archaeological zone.

Although it had already been investigated since the 1930s, it was only in 1982 when large-scale excavations began to discover one of the most significant vestiges of the Mayan world. It is even estimated that in its time it was more important than Tikal, currently one of the main tourist attractions in Guatemala.

The difficulty of access means that Calakmul is not as visited by international tourists as its grandeur would deserve.

hidden pyramids in Mexico

8. Pyramid of the Niches, El Tajín

One of the most unique pyramids in Mexico is the one found in El Tajín archaeological zone, in the state of Veracruz.

The name comes from the 365 niches that are distributed throughout the seven floors of the pyramid, which are believed to represent the days of the year. What could be verified, as in other pyramids, is the precise calculation they made when building it to make sunlight generate beautiful effects at certain times of the year.

An important urban center of the Totonac culture, El Tajín was the largest city on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, having its maximum splendor between the years 800 and 1150. 

When the Spanish arrived, it had already been uninhabited for a long time. It was not destroyed, and its existence was kept a secret for a couple of centuries.

pyramid in veracruz

9. Great Pyramid of Cholula

Tlachihualtepetl is the name of the largest pyramid in the world in the Nahuatl language, but if your tongue gets stuck trying to pronounce it, you can remember its translation, which is something like "handmade hill."

It may surprise you since it is not one of the best known, but the fact is real: with 450 meters per side, its base forms the largest pyramid in the world, although not the tallest (that title is held by the pyramid in Giza, in Egypt).

The structure of the Great Pyramid of Cholula is very particular, since we don’t see that it is actually seven superimposed pyramids, each one covering the previous one. Its current appearance is not like that of other more striking pyramids, but rather that of a hill with a Catholic church on its top.

Take the opportunity to volunteer in Puebla, which is very close to the archaeological zone of Cholula. In addition to getting to know the great pyramid, it is an excellent base to tour the magical towns of Puebla.

great pyramid of cholula

10. Pyramid of Toniná

We just learned which is the largest pyramid, and now we move on to the tallest in Mexico and all of America. Its name in the Tzeltal language means “big house”, which suits it well, with its 75 meters high.

It is possibly even more extensive than that of Cholula, since investigations by archaeologists who have been working at the site for years show that what was previously believed to be a natural mound may actually be part of the pyramid covered by earth.

Another discovery that makes Toniná an extremely important place are the more than 300 hieroglyphs inscribed in various structures, being the place with the largest number of inscriptions of ancient civilizations that is known.

pyramid of toniná

Now that you know which are the most amazing pyramids in Mexico, continue traveling with these articles: 

And if you liked our recommendations, follow Worldpackers on social media for more travel tips and inspiration: we are on Instagram and Tiktok.

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