An ancient city whose name in the Aztec language of Nahuatl means “In the house of the flowers,” Xochicalco may have housed up to 20,000 people from the period of 700 to 900 CE. It is believed to have been founded by Mayan traders and artisans engaged in long-distance trade with the Teotihuacan civilization and the site contains a stylistic hybrid of elements of both cultures.
In 900 CE, the site appears to have been destroyed and subsequently abandoned. Archeological excavations have uncovered evidence of burning, slaughter, and vandalism which perhaps hints that Xochicalco had reached a stage of societal collapse, civil war, or invasion.
The pyramid stands in excellent condition and the fearsome feathered serpent that encircles it and representations of regal Mayan lords make it a truly exceptional site to visit and explore. There are a museum and tours that give you insight into the day-to-day life, sport, and beliefs of the civilization that once lived and died here.
You will see a pyramid; ball game courts; sweat baths; glyphs portraying jaguars and owls, altars, sculptures; a cave that lines up to fill with light on the summer solstice; and if you are lucky, some awesome black spiny-tailed iguanas that resemble Godzilla.
Know Before You Go
Watch out for the many semi-tame black spiny tailed iguanas that inhabit this site which are another highlight of a trip to Xochicalco. Wear sun block, light clothes and a hat if you visit during the Mexican summer (June to September) or you may end up with sun-stroke.