Mexico is home to many historical and natural sacred sites. Enjoy this inspiring list of sacred experiences, that represent an important part of Mexico’s history: Mexico’s sacred sites are often the remnants of ancient civilizations that have long disappeared, but their legends and energies remain. They provide a window into Mexico’s diverse history and help preserve important cultural traditions that might have otherwise been lost. Many of Mexico’s sacred sites are in areas that are traditionally inhabited by indigenous peoples. These communities, and sites are not just places of historical significance, but are also considered living entities that are central to their spiritual beliefs and practices. Many of these sites are recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Sites, highlighting their importance to the people of Mexico, and to all humanity.
La Basilica de Guadalupe:
Mexico's Most Important Religious Site
La Basilica de Guadalupe is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. According to legend the Virgin Mary appeared to a local peasant, Juan Diego, in 1531 and left her image on his cloak. The image is considered miraculous and has become an important symbol of Mexican Catholicism.
History: The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe dates to 1531, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a native peasant, on the Hill of Tepeyac. She asked him to build a church on the site, and when he told the local bishop, he was skeptical. But the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego again and left her image on his cloak as proof of her miraculous appearance. The image was enshrined in a church on the site, and over the centuries, the site has become one of the most important religious pilgrimage destinations in the world.
Location: La Basilica de Guadalupe is in the northern part of Mexico City, in the neighborhood of Villa de Guadalupe. The complex includes several churches, including the Old Basilica, which was built on the hill El Tepeyac in the 18th century, and the New Basilica, which was completed in 1976.
- The Tilma of Juan Diego: The most important artifact at La Basilica de Guadalupe is the tilma, or cloak, of Juan Diego, which is said to bear the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tilma is displayed in the New Basilica and is one of the most important relics in the Catholic Church.
- The Old Basilica: The Old Basilica is a beautiful example of colonial architecture and was built in the 18th century. It is located on a hill overlooking the site where Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to Juan Diego.
- The New Basilica: The New Basilica is a modern building that was completed in 1976 to accommodate the large number of pilgrims who visit La Basilica de Guadalupe each year. The building has a circular design and can accommodate up to 10,000 people.
- The Plaza de las Americas: This plaza is located between the Old and New Basilicas and is a popular gathering place for pilgrims. It is lined with shops selling religious items, and there are often musicians and dancers performing in the square.
- The Museo de la Basilica: This museum is in the Old Basilica and contains artifacts related to the history and significance of La Basilica de Guadalupe.
Teotihuacan: The Sacred City of the Gods
Teotihuacan is believed to be the place where the gods created the universe. Teotihuacan is known for its impressive, architectures, including the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (also known as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl). The pyramids were built using massive stone blocks, and their precise construction and alignment with astronomical events indicate that the city had a sophisticated understanding of astronomy and mathematics.
History: Teotihuacan an important city in Mesoamerica, origins date back to around 200 BCE. The city reached its peak between 200 and 600 CE, when it was home to an estimated 100,000 people. The city was a center of religion, trade, and culture, and its influence extended throughout the region. The city declined and was abandoned in the 7th or 8th century, and its original name and purpose are unknown.
Location: Teotihuacan is in the Basin of Mexico, about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City. It is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, and it is evident the city's layout and architecture reflect the city's relationship with the natural world.
- The Pyramid of the Sun: The largest structure in Teotihuacan, the Pyramid of the Sun is over 200 feet tall and offers stunning views of the city and surrounding landscape from its summit.
- The Pyramid of the Moon: This pyramid is slightly smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun but is equally impressive. It is situated at the northern end of the city and is connected to the Plaza of the Moon, a large open space used for public ceremonies and gatherings.
- The Temple of the Feathered Serpent: This temple is also known as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and is decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures of the feathered serpent, a deity that was important in Mesoamerican religion and mythology.
- The Avenue of the Dead: This main thoroughfare runs through the center of the city and is lined with impressive buildings and structures, including the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. The avenue was used for processions, parades, and other public events.
- The Museum of Teotihuacan Culture: This museum is located near the entrance to the archaeological site and contains artifacts, artwork, and other objects related to Teotihuacan's history and culture. It is a great place to learn more about the city's significance and the beliefs and practices of its inhabitants.
Janitzio: A Sacred Island in Lake Pátzcuaro
Janitzio is a small island located in the middle of Lake Pátzcuaro. A sacred site due to its history and cultural significance. Janitzio is an important spiritual center for the Purépecha people, who believed that the souls of the dead traveled to the island to rest before continuing their journey to the afterlife.
History: Janitzio history dates to the time of the Purépecha people, who were the original inhabitants. Purepecha’s believed that the island was a sacred site and built temples and shrines to honor their gods and ancestors. Today, Janitzio is still an important spiritual center for the indigenous people of Michoacán, who continue to honor their ancestors and traditions on the island.
Location: Janitzio is situated in the middle of Lake Pátzcuaro, within the state of Michoacán in central Mexico. The island is accessible by a short boat ride from the town of Pátzcuaro, which is located on the shore of the lake.
- The Mirador: A hike up to the top of the island offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding countryside, offering panoramic views of the island and the lake.
- The Templo de la Pureza: This beautiful temple is one of the most important spiritual sites on the island and is dedicated to the goddess of purity.
- The Dia de los Muertos Celebrations: Janitzio is known for its vibrant celebrations of Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, which takes place on November 1st and 2nd each year. Visitors can experience the traditional ceremonies and celebrations that honor the ancestors and spirits of the dead.
- A visit to Tzintzuntzan a magic town close by that was once the capital of Purépecha
Atotonilco de Dulces: The Sacred Sanctuary of Mexico
Atotonilco de Dulces is famous for its Sanctuary of Atotonilco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sanctuary is a complex of religious buildings and chapels that were constructed in the 18th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro. It is known for its ornate decoration, including murals and sculptures, which combine European and indigenous styles. Sanctuary of Atotonilco is often referred to as the "Sistine Chapel of Mexico" due to its intricate artwork.
History: Atotonilco was founded in the 18th century by a group of Catholic missionaries who sought to spread the faith to the indigenous people of the region. The sanctuary was built to serve as a place of worship and pilgrimage, and its murals were created by local artists who were inspired by the stories of the Bible.
Location: Atotonilco is in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, approximately 10 miles from the city of San Miguel de Allende. It is situated in a peaceful valley surrounded by hills and mountains.
- The Chapel: The centerpiece of Atotonilco is the Chapel of Our Lady of Atotonilco, adorned with murals that cover the walls and ceiling. The murals depict scenes from the Bible and are considered some of the finest examples of Mexican folk art.
- The Healing Waters: Atotonilco is known for its healing waters, which are believed to have restorative properties. Visitors can bathe in the hot springs and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the sanctuary.
- The Pilgrimage: Atotonilco is a popular destination for pilgrims, who come from all over Mexico and the world to seek spiritual guidance and healing. The sanctuary is especially crowded during Holy Week, when thousands of pilgrims visit to participate in the religious celebrations.
Monarch Butterfly Reserves:
A Sacred Sanctuary for a Majestic Migration
The Monarch Butterfly Reserves are a group of sanctuaries located in Mexico that are considered sacred for their role in the annual migration of millions of monarch butterflies.
The Monarch Butterfly Reserves provide a winter sanctuary for millions of monarch butterflies that migrate from the United States and Canada each year. The butterflies are believed to represent the souls of the dead and their return to Mexico is seen as a spiritual event.
History: The monarch butterfly migration has been happening for thousands of years, but it wasn't until the 1970s that the sanctuaries were established to protect the butterflies and their habitat. Today, the Monarch Butterfly Reserves are managed by local communities and conservation organizations.
Location: The Monarch Butterfly Reserves are in the states of Michoacán Mexico, approximately 100 miles west of Mexico City. The sanctuaries are situated in the high mountains of central Mexico and are surrounded by forests and meadows.
- The Butterfly Migration: The monarch butterflies arrive in Mexico in late October and stay until March. During this time, the sanctuaries are filled with millions of butterflies that cluster together to keep warm.
- The Sanctuaries: There are several sanctuaries within the Monarch Butterfly Reserves, each with its own unique features and trails. Visitors can hike through the forests and meadows, observe the butterflies up close, and learn about their life cycle and migration.
- The Local Communities: The Monarch Butterfly Reserves are managed by local communities, many of whom have lived in the area for generations.
Monte Alban: the Sacred Capital of the Zapotec Civilization
Monte Alban, an ancient city and capital of the Zapotec civilization deemed sacred for its rich history, remarkable architecture, and spiritual significance.
History: Monte Alban was founded around 500 BC and reached its peak during the period between 300 and 700 AD. The city was ruled by a series of powerful kings who built impressive temples, pyramids, and palaces. Monte Alban was a center of trade, culture, and religion, and its influence extended throughout the region. Monte Alban was an important center of religion, culture, and politics. Its temples, pyramids, and plazas were believed to be a gateway to the gods.
Location: Monte Alban is located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, approximately six miles from the city of Oaxaca. It is situated on a mountain ridge, overlooking the Oaxaca Valley.
- The Grand Plaza: This is the central plaza of Monte Alban and is surrounded by temples, palaces, and pyramids. It was the site of many important ceremonies and events.
- The Ball Court: This is one of the largest ball courts in Mesoamerica and was used for a popular Mayan game that combined sports and religion.
- The Temple of the Danzantes: This temple is known for its intricate carvings of dancing figures, which are believed to represent captives or sacrificial victims.
- The Observatory: This structure is believed to have been used for astronomical observations and is an impressive example of pre-Columbian engineering.
Cholula: Uncovering the Sacred City of the Aztecs
Cholula is home to the largest pyramid in the world, the Great Pyramid of Cholula. The city was an important spiritual center for the Aztecs and was believed to be a place of pilgrimage.
History: Cholula was founded around 500 BC and reached its peak during the Aztec Empire. The city was an important center of religion and culture, and its influence extended throughout the region. The Great Pyramid of Cholula was built over a period of several centuries and was an important site for Aztec religious ceremonies.
Location: Cholula is in the state of Puebla, Mexico, approximately two hours southeast of Mexico City. It is situated in the heart of the fertile Puebla Valley and is surrounded by the legendary “El Popo” volcano.
- The Great Pyramid of Cholula: This pyramid is the largest in the world and covers an area of over four acres. It was built in layers over a period of several centuries and was an important site for Aztec religious ceremonies.
- The Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios: This church is sits on top of the Great Pyramid, with stunning views of the surrounding valley. It was built by the Spanish in the 16th century, painted a distinct shade of yellow.
- Views of Ixtaccihuatl, volcano situated on the México-Puebla state line in central Mexico and, volcano Popocatépetl.
- Tunnels under the pyramid, are open to the public to explore.
Palenque: The Sacred Mayan City
Palenque, an ancient Mayan city and UNESCO World Heritage site. Palenque sacred lands are home to well-preserved Mayan architecture. An important spiritual center, as their temples and pyramids were believed to be a gateway to the gods.
History: Palenque was founded around 100 BC and reached its peak during the 7th century AD. Palenque was a center of trade, culture, and religion, and its influence extended throughout the region.
Location: Palenque is in the state of Chiapas in southeastern Mexico, near the border with Guatemala. It is situated in the lush jungle, surrounded by rivers and waterfalls.
- The Temple of the Inscriptions: This is the largest and most important building in Palenque. It is a four-level pyramid that contains a tomb believed to belong to Palenque's most famous ruler, Pakal the Great.
- The Palace: This complex was the residence of Palenque's rulers and is known for its impressive architecture and intricate carvings.
- The Temple of the Sun: This pyramid is one of the tallest structures in Palenque and offers stunning views of the surrounding jungle.
- The Temple of the Cross: This pyramid is known for its intricate carvings and beautiful stucco decorations.
- The Museum of Mayan Sculpture: This museum houses a collection of sculptures and artifacts from Palenque and other Mayan sites in the region.
The Mayan Route: A Sacred Journey Through Time
The Mayan Route is a sacred pathway that connects some of the most important spiritual sites in the Mayan world. This ancient pathway cuts through Central America, offering a glimpse into the Mayan history, culture, and spirituality of this ancient civilization.
History: The Mayan civilization flourished for thousands of years, spanning across present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The Mayans were known for their advanced knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and architecture. They also had a deep spiritual connection to the natural world and believed that everything was interconnected.
The Mayans built impressive cities, temples, and pyramids, which still stand today as a testament to their ingenuity and skill. The Mayan Route is a pathway that connects some of the most important sites, offering a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of this ancient civilization.
Location: The Mayan Route spans across Central America, with major sites located in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The route is a network of ancient roads and pathways that connect some of the most important Mayan sites, including Tikal, Chichen Itza, Copan, Tulum, and Coba.
- Tikal: This ancient city in Guatemala is one of the largest and most impressive Mayan sites in the world. The towering pyramids and impressive temples are a testament to the Mayans' skill and dedication to their craft.
- Chichen Itza: Located in Mexico, Chichen Itza is one of the most well-known Mayan sites. The largest pyramid is known as El Castillo.
- Copan: This Mayan city in Honduras is known for its impressive intricate carvings, which give insights into Mayan culture and history.
- Tulum: This coastal Mayan site in Mexico offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea, as well as impressive ruins and well-preserved buildings.
- Coba: This Mayan city in Mexico is known for its massive pyramid and extensive network of ancient roads and pathways.