Imagine, an archeological site that in Mexico that isn’t cluttered with tourists. One you don’t have to visit at the crack of dawn to get the pictures with no people in them. Well it exists and I was fortunate to discover it on my recent trip to Puebla. Though I am a little loathe to share its name, its sheer beauty would make me a selfish writer if I didn’t.
Arriving at the Cantona archeological ruins (La Casa del Sol) located in the state of Puebla (about an hour and a half’s drive from the city of Puebla) you will feel as though you are the first person to discover the site (note that on my trip to Puebla, we all agreed to never use the much-overused term “hidden gem” otherwise I would have described it as such!). The day we visited, we were the only visitors and the only other people were a few workers scattered around the site.
The site itself is around 12km sq. and truly in the middle of nowhere. For as far as you can see from atop the highest point, there’s nothing even remotely close – you can’t see towns, cars, anything… Yet Cantona was, at one point, a very active commercial centre.
Located between an old trading route between the Gulf Coast and the Central Highlands, Cantona was a prominent, though isolated, Mesoamerican city, occupied by what many believe to have been up to 80 000 people between 600 and 1000 CE, then mysteriously abandoned after AD 1050.
Henri de Sauserre claims to have discovered Cantona in 1855, though according to this article local people had already known about it for hundreds of years.
Excavation of the site did not begin until the 1990s and even today, despite its apparent size, only limited archeological excavation work has been done (between 1-10% depending on your source) on its roads, stone walls, patios and ballgame courts. A complete tour around the site will take you about 3-4 hours on foot.
Taxi or rental car. There is no public transportation to the site. A taxi there and back will cost you around 500 pesos (approx $35 USD) and it takes about 90 minutes each way.
Entrance is about 50 pesos per adult. The under-construction visitor centre will be able to provide you with a guide who speaks English. The site is open from 10am to 6pm daily.
Bring lots of water. Cantona is at altitude and there are a lot of stairs to climb! It’s thirsty work.
There’s nowhere to buy food so bring snacks too.
Bring sunscreen. Members of my group got quite sunburned even on an overcast day.
Disclosure: My trip to Puebla, including transportation, accommodation and all meals, was sponsored by the Mexican Tourism Board. I was not required to post about this trip and was not compensated for doing so. All opinions are my own.
Follow my French travels on Flickr this summer with my Summer 2012 set of photos – updated regularly!