Ancient History

The most Famous Ancient Cities of South America

Pam Uher's image for:
"The most Famous Ancient Cities of South America"
Image by: 

Ancient civilizations flourished throughout Central and South America and have fascinated tourists along with archaeologists for the past several centuries. When a new ancient city site is discovered within months tours are designed to visit and provide an up close view ancient life in the Americas that parallels ancient Egyptian and Chinese culture.

Here is a brief overview of some of the more famous ancient Central and South American city sites.


In the Vera Cruz region of Mexico there is the Olmec (1,500BC 500 BC) city site called La Venta. This pre-Hispanic city is known for huge carved stone heads (10 feet tall), massive sacrificial altars and large unusual stone carved zoomorphic statues.

The Puebla region is home to the ancient city of Cholula, where the famous Pyramid of Tipanipa, a monument to the great Quetzalcoatl ruler is found. It is said this pyramid is larger than "The Great Pyramid" of Egypt.

Tula an ancient city of the Toltecs is in the Hidalgo region of Mexico. This site is famous for its temples and 4 "colossal" giant carved stone figures (over 9 meters tall) known as the "Atlases".

El Tajin is found in the lush Vera Cruz region of Mexico. This ancient city dates around the 4th century 9th century and was a very populous settlement with an estimated 20,000 people. Its origins are still a mystery.

North of Mexico City is the famous ancient city of Teotihuacan, which dates 200 BC 750 AD. It is associated with the Aztec culture and Toltec people. Here the very famous "Pyramid of the Sun" considered the 3rd largest pyramid in the world, is located.

Chichen Itza is the most visited Mayan city site, found in the tourist mecca region of Yucatan, Mexico. It is famous for El Caracal, known as the "Observatory", where the equinoxes and summer solstice can be observed through the aligned 8 windows in the ruin.


Thirty miles north of Belize City is the ancient Mayan city Altun-Ha, where over 500 buildings have been found and the famous "Temple of the Masonry Altars" is located. This temple stands 60 feet tall and has a round altar on the flat top, where strange sacrifices were practiced. Found at this site is another big tourist attraction, "Kinich Ahau", also known as the solid Jade hand carved head of the Sun God of the Mayans.


In the enchanting Central American country of Guatemala many Mayan settlements have been found, but one is a major archaeological and tourist site Tikal (400 BC 300 AD). At this ancient city site over 1,000 buildings have been found within a 6 square mile area, along with the famous funeral "Temple of the Great Jaguar".

Twenty-five miles north of Tikal is found the ancient Mayan city of Uaxactun, where the "Temple of Masks" is located with 16 strange stucco masks lining the temple walls.


The lush jungle and teal blue waters of Honduras hold a very famous ancient city known as "the Mayan Paris", Copan (dated around 1,000 BC). It is one of the largest Mayan settlement sites and has many wonderful architectural structures as well as a variety of Mayan sculpture. It is known for "The Acropolis" and the "Hieroglyphic Stairway" (which has 63 steps and the longest known Mayan inscription in stone).


Perhaps the most unstable Central American country and so less traveled by many tourists', hosts a very ancient and well preserved Pre-Columbian Mayan city called Tazumal. This city designates the southern edge of the Mayans culture in Central America.


Bolivia is a beautiful land with much of its interior region unscathed from modern excavation in the name of progress. It hosts the ancient site Tiahuanaco or Tiwanaku (600 1000 AD), which is found 44 miles west of La Paz. This city is famous for the "Kalasasaya", which is a rectangular building made with huge red sandstone rocks and has a free standing monolith inside its walls called "Gateway of the Sun". This monolith stands 10 feet tall - 12 feet wide - 10 inches thick and weighs around 10 tons. and is an enigma because carved around the monolith are pictures of animals, thought to have been extinct for over 12,000 years!

Samapaita (1500 BC) is a Pre-Inca fortress city fast becoming a tourist destination.


A Pre-Columbian ancient jungle city called Guayabo (1500 BC to 1400 AD) reveals a very interesting picture of early people in this region. Extensive roadways, aqueducts and large conical home structures (that housed multi-generations) have been found, as this city is unearthed and reconstructed.


Near the town of Cuenca, located on the famous "Inca Highway" is a very famous ancient archeological site, Ingapirca ("Inca Walls"), located on 12 rugged overgrown acres. It is not known if this was a religious center or Inca outpost city, because female bodies have been found in the excavations, which lead the researchers to believe it was not a fortress outpost.


The mysterious and ancient cities of Peru have drawn most of the world's attention over the past 100 years as expeditions to these sacred and most complex sites have been opened up to the public.

Machu Picchu is located high in the Andes Mountains 7970 feet above the Urubamba Valley. It is considered an Inca citadel and sacred place. Known for its temples, spiritual glyphs and the "Intihuatana Stone" (thought to have been an astronomical observatory), much about this city is still a mystery. Why was it built so high in the mountains? Where did the people go who once occupied this city?

Chan Chan (700 1400 AD) is believed to be a pre-Hispanic ancient city of the Chimus people. The entire ancient city was built of mud adobe even the pyramid temples.

In southern Peru the very strange fortress of Sacsayhuaman is found with its 3 rows of "Zig Zag walls" and huge mega stone walls behind them. It is believed to be an ancient Inca site, but some dispute this and believe it was built by a very ancient people before the Inca.

Archaeologists believe Peru is home to the oldest city (found city) in the America's Caral (3000 1500 BC), which is found 15 km north of Lima.
This ancient city is now one of the hot' tourist trips to Peru, as people want to visit a city known as "Caral-Supe Culture" center.

This list goes on and on and new ancient sites are discovered and rediscovered as money is raised to explore the vast untamed over grown jungle and dangerous mountain highlands of Central and South America.


More about this author: Pam Uher

From Around the Web