Ready to discover to Mexico's best kept secret archaeological site? I'll give you a hint, it's not Chichen Itza or Monte Albán. In fact, this site is closer to the California border and even older than many other pyramids in Mexico.
This is Cañada de la Virgen, an Otomi archaeological site that has been recently excavated, giving it an undiscovered feel. In fact, the site was first discovered in 1998 and the official excavation began in 2002, with public access starting in 2011. During our tour, we were one of a handful of groups visiting this site. Located in the state of Guanajuato, this archaeological site is considered to be some of the northernmost pyramids which helped to redefine the Mesoamerica border. It is a short half hour ride, or 25 KM from the city of San Miguel de Allende.
Behind the scenes video:
Unlike other pyramids in Mexico, Cañada de la Virgen is located on private property, so you must book a tour in order to visit. We took a tour of this site with Coyote Canyon Adventures, which provided us with transportation and our local guide, Alberto, gave an excellent in-depth English guided explanation of the site.
Cañada de la Virgen was named after a geode found in the canyon resembled the image of the virgin Mary. The site historically served as a ceremonial space where the indigenous Otomi people created sophisticated time keeping instruments aligned to the movements of celestial bodies. As we found out during our tour, there are many theories about this site and much of the information still to be discovered. The site was occupied beginning in 530 AD. To give context on just how old that is - the capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, was built in 1325 - almost 800 years later. The site is still in great condition, despite being over a thousand years old.
The best photos are taken from the patio in the front of the pyramid. We were able to get up-close-and-personal and climbed to the top of the pyramid for a panoramic view of the entire complex. If you are able to time your visit to one of the celestial dates such as March 4th, you will get a the famous shot of the sun setting to the alignment of the pyramid.
Lastly, we were lucky enough to meet local archaeologist, Rosanna Quiroz, who studied the lunar calendar of the Otomi people. Much of what we know about this site is due to her research. We visited the Museum of Prehispanic Astronomy, which exhibited the images of the cycles of the moon and sun in relation to the pyramid. While at the museum, we ended our tour with a traditional Mexican lunch at the community restaurant.
Top instagramable shots of the pyramid:
What are your favorite "undiscovered" or best kept secret sites in Mexico?
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.