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El Tajin, Mysterious Mexican Ruins in the Jungle

Updated on January 1, 2013

Come Join Me in Exploring El Tajin!

We happened to read about El Tajin in a tourist guidebook as we traveled down the east coast of Mexico one winter some years back. It was never found by the Spanish. It was remote. It was one of Mexico's greatest archaeological treasures.

Its time of splendor was from about 800 AD until it was abandoned for unknown reasons in 1230 AD. It was both a political center and a spiritual one, built by the Totonac people. In their language the word tajin means hurricane or thunder or lightning. All of these occur powerfully in the area, typically from June to October.

We had to go there, and we did.

It was a drizzly February morning when we arrived, with very few other tourists around. We asked where we could camp the small RV we were driving, and the park officials assured us we would be just fine right there in the parking lot. We stayed there overnight, and that gave us two full days to roam around this amazing place. I'll show you some of our best photos. Photo credits: The pictures were taken by my husband, Kelly Hart, and by me.

The Entrance Invites You In

The Entrance Invites You In
The Entrance Invites You In

View from a Hilltop

View from a Hilltop
View from a Hilltop

This is El Tajin Himself - A statue of the god of the storm forces

He wasn't really working hard the days we were there. It was raining at times, usually misty, and there was a little sunshine.

So Where IS El Tajin?

This 1853 map gives you a general idea and gives a taste of antiquity. I put the red dot on Papantla, the town right next to El Tajin. Photo credit: Ken Mayer on Flickr.com.

In modern terms, it is in the state of Veracruz.

As We Walked In, More and More Ruins Revealed Themselves.

This photo and the one just below are the same place, during one of the rare times of sunshine.

The Pyramid of the Niches

The Pyramid of the Niches
The Pyramid of the Niches

Camping in the El Tajin Parking Lot

We were the only campers who spent the night in the parking lot, but we made friends with these dogs, partly by giving them some food...we carried a little dry dog food with us for occasions like this. These two slept under our RV and dashed out to bark whenever they deemed it necessary. That didn't make for the best night's sleep, but still I wished we could take the larger one home with us. There were lots of good reasons not to, and we didn't.

The next morning, Kelly wandered around the site more with our camera, and I chatted with the young man in the photo below with me, one of the people working at the museum on the grounds. He was extremely knowledgeable, as was an older man who joined in our conversation. This was all in Spanish, which was a bit of a stretch for me at the time.

I asked them if they were archaeologists. No, they weren't -- they were Totonacs themselves, descendants of the people who had built these places. They spoke Totonac at home.

What Critter Is This? - Something Mythical, I'd Say!

El Tajin on Amazon - Books, Prints, Even a Crossword Puzzle

El Tajin is a World Heritage Site - What are Those?

World Heritage Sites are defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). There are close to 1,000 of them around the world, and about 30 in Mexico. El Tajin became one in 1992.

The first link below has good archaeological background on this site.

El Tajin Video by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History - In Spanish but you can see a lot... and give your Spanish a workout!

More Current Information on Visiting El Tajin - We were there in 2003.

I am not currently interested in going back to Mexico to travel around. Things would have be a lot more secure. But others are going.

Many of the people who comment in the first link stress how hot and humid it was! I guess we were lucky that we went in February.

Please note that if you click through to Amazon.com from here and if you buy something, Squidoo and I may share a commission, at no cost to you. Clicking on some of the other links might also yield me some commission. I appreciate the income, as it enables me to spend time doing writing like this.

Would You Like to Go to El Tajin?

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    • NibsyNell profile image

      NibsyNell 4 years ago

      What a wonderful experience! Sounds amazing! :)

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

      I would like to. I find places like this fascinating, and mystical, as you had mentioned.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: One of the rare visitors to this lens who also went there!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I visited there about 10 years ago when we traveled to Veracruz for the carnival. El Tajin was a fascinating place to visit.

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 5 years ago

      I would love to go there... what an amazing experience you've had!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes would not mind although it is very far from where we are.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @grannysage: I think that fear is justified right now! But even in calmer days, I had plenty of heart-stopping moments in Mexican traffic. My hubby did fine with it though.

    • profile image

      grannysage 5 years ago

      I am totally fascinated by places like this and would love to visit. We live in an RV but I think I would be too scared to drive it into Mexico.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @moanaparker lm: Looking at your lenses, you are more likely than most people to get there someday!

    • moanaparker lm profile image

      moanaparker lm 5 years ago

      I'm Impressed by your thoughts and would love to travel here.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @srsddn lm: I'm going to keep watching for other world heritage sites wherever I go.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      Each world heritage site has some unique feature and your description about EI Tajin is awesome..

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @TonyPayne: They really are. I've been to Teotihuacan, first as a child and again more recently. I was more moved by El Tajin, I think because we were lucky to be there when so few people were.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      This is some trip I would one to take, but sadly that will never happen. Love old ruins. Thanks for sharing. Blessed.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @Elsie Hagley: Thanks for the blessing! Most people will never get there. I love to watch travel documentaries and when they get really rugged, I think to the voyager, "Better you than me!"

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      It looks amazing. I have been to the pyramids at Teotihuacan outside Mexico City, but the most impressive Mayan ruins I have seen are Tikal in Guatemala and Copan in Honduras, which look very similar to El Tajin. These are incredible places to visit aren't they.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @rallo-smith: Too bad you probably can't take the bird in your image along, but then you might see some wild ones there!

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @kristalulabelle: Very few people (or cats, judging by your image) do know about them!

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @Michey LM: They give us a great perspective on our own lives and times!

    • rallo-smith profile image

      rallo-smith 5 years ago

      Just amazing when I think about it. Truly a great place to visit and I hope to make that trip someday.

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      I really enjoyed learning more about El Tajin, I've never heard of these ruins! Informative lens!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Interesting tourist place in Mexico, love the old civilizations and their culture, some time we know so little about them. Thanks for the history facts...

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      This is a very beautiful place. Great lens.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Can you imagine what it was like in the day? Amazing, and so well preserved too.

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @artbyrodriguez: Thanks. With your art skills, you could do some fun things there... if you do that kind of art!

    • hartworks lm profile image
      Author

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: It was the high point of that trip. I love the glimpses of time past!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      I would love to go! I like ruins...they're so fascinating. Very nicely done lens and great photos.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I'd love to go! I've never made it over to the east coast of Mexico, and pottering about archaeological sites is great fun. Sometimes a bit strenuous and warm, true, but great fun - and the calories you burn off in doing so can make up for indulgence in those excellent Mexican sweets and chocolate. :)