This important prehispanic center (whose name means stick or old tree) has the largest ball court of the Oaxacan region and the second largest in Mesoamerica. The most interesting structure in Yagul is the Palace of the Six Patios, an intricate structure composed of numerous rooms with a complex distribution and intercommunication that leads us think that it could have been a governmental residence. The hill-site of Yagul is 36 kilometers from Oaxaca City, and a few kilometers off and uphill from Federal Highway 190 heading toward Tehuantepec.
This archeological site was the ancient Zapotec capital and one of the first cities in Mesoamerica. It was also one of the most populous cities in Mesoamerica during its peak (it had more than 25,000 inhabitants). It was founded around 500 B.C. and flourished up to around A.D. 750. Located in the center of the Valleys of Oaxaca, Monte Albán exercised political, economic, and ideological control over the other communities of the surrounding valleys and mountains. The main attractions here are: The Great Plaza, The Ball Court, System II, The Danzantes, Building J, Central Buildings G, H, and I, The Palace, The South Platform, System 7 Deer, and Tomb 7. The Great Plaza is 200 meters long by 200 meters wide. To build the Great Plaza rocky bulges were trimmed off and depressions were filled in.
The Mexican archaeologist Dr. Alfonso Caso was in charge of the first exploration and restoration of the site. Based on his architectural studies of the buildings, tombs, ceramics, and jewelry, he determined that Monte Albán's history was divided into five different periods based upon changes in social organization, population density, and trade: Mount Albán I, II, III, IV, and V. On the hillsides that surround the Main Plaza there are tombs, burials, and diverse structures identified as residences. There is a museum at the entrance to Monte Albán and just onsite there is a scale-model of Monte Albán where the visitor will be able to get a perspective of the places they will visit in the archaeological zone. Monte Albán is 10 kilometers from Oaxaca City.
Mitla is home to a world famous Zapotec ceremonial center whose name in Náhuatl means inframundo (place of the dead). The Zapotecs called it lyobaa (place of burials). Mitla was home to some of the Zapotec priestly class and was first inhabited during the Classic period of Monte Albán (100-650). Mitla reached its zenith during the Post-classic period (750-1521). The city was built around five archaeological groups: Las Columnas, La Iglesia, El Arroyo, Los Adobes, and El Sur.
This small archaeological site has a world-renowned wall with bas-relief stone carvings of ball players in full attire in full action, as well four figures that probably represent of the four gods of fire. Dainzú is 20 kilometers from Oaxaca City, just off Federal Highway 190 heading toward Tehuantepec.
Here there is a recently excavated archaeological site that was inhabited during Monte Albán IV (A.D. 600-750) whose name means mounds for stills. (Salt was distilled from a naturally occurring salty dirt found here). There are buildings constructed partly in stone and partly in adobe, with the exception of a flat-topped pyramid (probably the site of a Zapotec market) that is covered with carved stone. The upper part displays an array of intricate geometric figures. Lambityeco is 28 kilometers from Oaxaca City, just off Federal Highway 190 heading toward the Isthmus.