Monte Albán ranks among Mesoamerica’s most regally spectacular ruined cities. Known in ancient times by its Zapotec name, Danni Dipaa, the site’s present “Monte Albán” label was probably coined by a local Spaniard because of its resemblance to a similarly named Italian hilltop town.
Monte Albán’s original inhabitants cultivated beans, chilies, corn, fruits, and squash on the hillsides and in adjacent valleys, occasionally feasting on meat from deer, small game, and perhaps (as did other native Mexicans) domesticated dogs. Tribute from surrounding communities directly enriched Monte Albán’s ruling classes and, by extension, its artisans and farmers.
Allow at least two hours to explore the site.
Get to Monte Albán economically and very conveniently by one of the tourist buses, run by Viajes Turísticos Mitla, that departs many times daily from downtown Hotel Rivera del Ángel (Mina 518), five blocks west of the zócalo in Oaxaca City.
By car, get to Monte Albán via the most scenic route. Starting from Oaxaca City’s south side, at the periférico, about a mile due south from the zócalo past the end of southbound Calle M. Cabrera. At the periférico, watch for a Monte Albán sign. Cross the periférico, then bear right (southwest) and immediately cross over the Río Atoyac bridge. Continue ahead, following other Monte Albán signs, about five miles (eight km), uphill, to Monte Albán.
Alternatively, get to Monte Albán by following Highway 190 northwest from downtown Oaxaca City. After just about two miles (three km) from the city center (look for a Monte Albán sign), curve left, around the big monument and traffic circle, reversing your direction, then immediately turn right (west) and continue across the Río Atoyac bridge. Follow the signs about six more miles (10 km) uphill to Monte Albán.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition