The hidden ruins of Guiengola

We left the coast and headed for the Isthmus. This is the narrowest point in Mexico, seperating the north and center from the Yucatan peninsula.
There are ruins here of a very important mountain fortress, where the Zapotecs fought off the Aztects and prevented them from conquering the Isthmus. This is called Guiengola (literlly meaning “rock”).


After Mazunte, we tried dring to a place (still on the coast) called Bahias de Huatulco. It’s supposed to be a pretty nature reserve, but it’s been turned into an all-included-fancy hotels and tourist center. There are many hotels, a fancy marina, and nothing for us to do here….
So we didn’t stay! It looks very nice on the maps and satalite images but when you get there you can not reach the beach. it is blocked by masses of white hotel concrete.

We drove to the Isthmus, ending up in a small, authentic little town called Tehuantepec.
We only spent one evening there, and it was very nice. We were practically the only tourists there, and we enjoyed the small market and funny-looking taxis. There aren’t that many hotels, and most of them are in poor condition, but it sufficed for one night.

The next morning we got up early and drove to see the ruins of Guiengola. It’s situated about seven kilometers off a side road, on an unpaved path climbing up into the mountain. At some point, the path narrows and the car cannot go further. That’s where we started walking up the mountain… This is why Guiengola is not a well-known site – there are no entrance fees, no parking and no toilets and no one selling souvenires..
The walk up took about an hour (on account of my having to stop for air every once in a while!) to get to the top, and all along the way we saw remains of what used to be a very long wall, which surrounded the fortress.
When we arrived at the site, it was defenitely worth the climb…
There are two small pyramids and a ball court, all in fairly good condition. From the top of one pyramid we saw the entire Isthmus, and it is beautiful!

The Mixtecs who built this fortress were allied with the Zapotecs of Monte Alban [LINK](which we visited, near Oaxaca) and fought together agains coming under the control of the Aztecs. The high location of this place gave them an advantage and they managed to secure the Isthmus from the Aztecs.
The pyramids’ structure resembles that of the pyramids and buildings in Monte Alban, where there is a small complex of a pyramid and an altar below it. The pyramids are plain, with some levels and a flight of stairs to reach the top (the stairs were kinda falling apart…).

There were some people hanging out down where we parked the car, and we assumed they wanted to offer to take us to see the ruins (for a small fee, of course). It was strange because they did not.. They came up after us with some donkies to the site, and had a little rabbit breakfast. We asked them if it would be ok to climb the pyramids and they said it’s ok.
On our way down, Lulu (our Argentinian friend) talked to a couple of INAH workers who were on their way up. INAH is the Mexican National Institute for Archeology and History, and they maintain all of the ruins and sites in Mexico. They explained that the people we saw were cleaning the buildings in the site from weeds and taking care of the place. They also said that usually it is not allowed to climb the pyramids, as the steps are in poor shape, but since it was only the four of us, it was ok. We spoke with them for a little while (mostly through Lulu’s translating) and they explained a little about the site.

We only have a few more days with Lulu (aka Sylvia Cebolla or Lupita, but her real name is Lucila), who is flying to the US to visit her father. So we are off to see San Cristobal de las Casas, before she has to catch a bus back to Mexico City for her flight.
Lulu is queen of small-talk (actually she holds the title of “Best small talker of the year” since 2007). She can start a converstaion with anyone, including inanimate objects (and they will answer her!!).
At every military check post she chats with the soldiers, at any random store she discusses everything and anything with the clerks, and is generally such a positive and talkative person!  :)

Our other travel companion is Rotem (aka Sancho). He is a quiet dude, but Lu obviously cracked him and got him to say more than his usual few words.
Roten is also from Israel, and he is traveling now after spending a few hectic months in the US, where he might return to (for matters of the heart, you know…).

One Comments

  1. Enjoyed your photos, and “trip.” Hope to make it there some day too. Was that a river in one photo? Does it run by the site?

    Do you know if there was a cave nearby?

    Sandra Las Vegas, NV USA

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