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World Heritage Sites in Mexico

Places in Mexico

Unesco World Heritage Sites in Mexico. Mexico boasts a total of 32 World Heritage Sites: 27of which are cultural and five are natural.

Mexico is the country with the largest number of world heritage sites in the Americas, and the sixth largest in the world. It boasts a total of 32 World Heritage Sites: 27of which are cultural and five are natural. Each place is proposed to and subsequently approved by the UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, that seeks to preserve places that have a universal cultural significance that crosses borders and ideas.

Cultural Sites

Ten of the cultural sites are cities that continue to exist to this day. Perhaps the most well-known is the Ciudad de Mexico, or Mexico City and its floating gardens of Xochimilco. The city we know today was built by the Spanish in the sixteenth century on top of the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The city is now one of the world’s most populated urban areas with a metropolitan population of 22 million people. The city also boasts the largest cathedral in the Americas. West of Mexico City is the city of Morelia a Spanish colonial city from the sixteenth century. It’s famous for its pink-stone colonial buildings and the fusion of European and Mesoamerican architectural styles. A little south of Mexico City is Puebla, a city that prides itself on its well preserved colonial heritage as well as the varied architectural styles present here. The city is also famous for the talavera pottery produced here (a style imported from Talavera de la Reina in Spain) and its culinary importance as the place of origin for mole poblano and chiles en nogada.

One of the northern historical sites in Mexico is Zacatecas, found in the center of the country. It was established in 1546 as a silver-mining area where there still remain many of the buildings constructed during this period of exceptional economic development. Moving south you’ll find Guanajuato, another significant mining center which includes the 600-meter deep Boca del invierno (mouth of winter) mine. Its two churches, La Compañía de Jesús and La Valenciana are two prominent examples of Baroque architecture in Latin America. Close by is Querétaro, with a rich colonial hertitage and a booming industrial base today. San Miguel de Allende, another WHS is also nearby. Towards the south of the country along the Gulf of Mexico is Tlacotalpán. An attractive city, it maintains its wide, tree-lined streets that were constructed by the Spanish in the 1500s. Inland of Tlacotalpan is Oaxaca and Monte Albán. The latter is a now-abandoned pre-Columbian town famous for being excavated out of the mountain.

Natural Sites

In terms of natural sites, Mexico has five. Starting from the north of the country, there are three located in the northwest. At the top of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortes) is the biosphere reserve of El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar. Declared a world heritage site in 2013, it is Mexico’s most recent. Within it is the dormant volcano of Cerro del Pinacate to the east and the Gran Desierto de Altar to the west, which has sand dunes some of reaching 650 feet high (200 meters). In Baja California, on the Pacific coast is the El Vizcaino whale sanctuary, an area for whale reproduction and hibernation. Other animals in the sanctuary include turtles, elephant seals and sea lions, some of which are in danger of extinction. On the western coast of Baja California are the protected islands of the Gulf of California. These 244 islands are the center of studies into marine ecosystems, and is also a site of outstanding beauty, known for its picturesque blue seas and white sand beaches. In the center of Mexico is the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, an area of 56,259 hectares located in the mountains and housing almost a billion different butterflies that emigrate there from North America each autumn. Finally, in the southeastern region of the country on the Yucatan peninsula is Sian Ka’an. This biosphere reserve boasts a variety of different flora and fauna, tropical forests and a maritime barrier reef.

17 Other Word Heritage Sites

There are seventeen other World Heritage Sites in Mexico, which offer the visitor a view the incredible indigenous past that was once Mexico. Among these are six pre-Hispanic cities like El Tajín, located on the east coast and Teotihuacan, near to Mexico City. Southeast of these two is Palenque, and then Chichén-Itzá, Uxmal and Calakmul located in the Yucatan Peninsula. All these cities grew to incredible sizes and to this day we still do not understand why they fell into disuse.

The other remaining eleven sites offer a view into the archeological and cultural richess that Mexico has to offer. From north to south, they start with the archeological zone of the city of Paquimé, which played a key role in commerce and subsequently found itself empty. In Baja California are the Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco that show pictographs of the Cochimi people that existed there and the paintings date from 1100BCE to 1300 CE. The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was the main route for silver transportation during the colonial period from central Mexico to the Central US. The Paisaje agavero y antiguas instalaciones industriales de Tequila, the birthplace of the alcoholic drink, is also an area of outstanding natural beauty and artisanship of a bygone time. Slightly to the east is the Hospicio Cabañas de Guadalajara, a hospice established in the nineteenth century. Even further east are the Misiones Franciscanas de la Sierra Gorda de Querétaro, Franciscan churches built in the eighteenth century with the purpose of evangelizing the population. Within Mexico City you will find the Casa-Taller de Luis Barragán, a building constructed in 1948 which exemplify post-world war architecture; and the Central Campus of University City of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Built after the Second World War, it is an architectural masterpiece. South of Mexico City is the Zona de monumentos arqueológicos de Xochicalco, an ancient settlement constructed between 650 and 900; and Primeros Monasterios del siglo XVI, four monasteries used to evangelize the indigenous population. Near the city of Oaxaca lies the Prehistoric Caves, roughly 10,000 years old.