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What guide books won’t tell you: ‘La Quemada ‘Ruins of Chicomóztoc


Dear Reader,
Most guide books will mention most of the famous sites that you MUST visit while in Mexico. You know… Yucatán, Vallarta, pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico City, diving locations, etc. As interesting and fascinating they can be, these sites are very touristic, of course, so prepare to be lined up like cattle and thrown into hordes of people. However, most guide books forgot to mention one incredible place, La Quemada. No idea why the guides would skip such jewel, but anyway Stanito’s team was quick to spot the place and present it to you.

La Quemada

The impressive ruins of La Quemada stand on a hill overlooking a broad valley 45km south of Zacatecas City. Remote and cut off from main towns, La Quemada site appears to visitors like an oasis in the desert: out of the blue.

We are not entirely sure about its history as it is all based on many suppositions. One of the theories tells us that this site was visited by the Aztecs in one of their many wanderings and that at some point the constructions were destroyed by a fire, ergo the name La Quemada, The Burnt City.

It is composed by many structures. There is a Hall of Columns, probably built to hold ceremonies

La Quemada Hall of Columns Stanito

Slightly further up the hill are a ball court, very similar to the one you can find in Chichen Itza, where people performed their famous ball game (more on this on my next post).

La Quemada Ballcourt Stanito

There is a very steep staircase that leads toward the site’s upper levels.

Very steep stairs La Quemada

From the upper levels of the main hill, a path leads westward for about 800m to a spur hilltop (the highest point) with the remains of a cluster of buildings called La Ciudadela

La Quemada Panoramic View Stanito_1024

La Quemada Staircase Stanito

La Quemada dates back A.D. 500-900 is a monumental fortress and ceremonial center. Archaeologists have proposed that La Quemada was a trading outpost on the turquoise trail to the American Southwest, or a fortress of protection from incursions from the North, or a way station for marauding tribes who ultimately became the Mexica (Aztecs).

Either way, its bold structure set within the remote and inhospitable environment immediately suggests defence and/or trade. Early researches also noted that the majority of the structures had been subject to intense burning, which suggests the city was attacked and burned down, after domination by allegedly foreign forces. The fire is the only thing we know for sure about La Quemada…

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2 replies »

  1. I can’t tell from the photo of the central feature. Is there an interior that can be entered as well?

    Either way thank for the locale. Added to my Mexico map for a hopeful future visit.

    • Hi Ben, thank you for your visit and comment 🙂

      If by interior you mean an ‘enclosed’ space I’m afraid there aren’t. In fact most of the constructions you will find in this place are old temples with no roof and ritual chambers. You can see some of the walls still standing and the columns.
      What might pick your interest is that while you climb up you can see some tiny caves carved on the side of the hill. Depending from where you’re starting your way up you might be able to access them.

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