The old world is full of splendor. When Spanish explorers first set out to find riches and glory in the 15th century, they stumbled upon majestic treasures far surpassing their dreams in the wild wonders of what is now known as Latin America. Vast Empires existed in Mexico, Central and South America thriving with life and culture long before any Europeans set sail across the Atlantic. The ruins of these ancient marvels still stand proudly amongst the jungles and cities that sprang from their demise. Any intrepid history buff is sure to be delighted by the possibilities for exploration that still exist today. With too many locations to describe in one post and some still waiting to be uncovered, here’s a look into a handful of legendary locations.
Before the rise of the Aztec Empire, central Mexico was home to another mysterious and powerful civilization. The sprawling complex of Teotihuacán includes several large pyramids as well as an assortment of beautifully preserved murals and dates to around 300 BC. The creators of this magnificent site are still unknown with historians and scholars debating its exact origins. It was one of the largest cities in the world during its era with an estimated population of 125,000. The location sits about 25 miles outside of Mexico City and is easily accessible by local transport or tour.
The Land of the Maya
The thin stretch of countries now known as Central America was once home the mysteriously advanced Mayan civilization. The Maya were known to have great knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, creating accurate records and predictions of celestial events that line up with modern day science. Countless ruins dot the land here with many major sites in each country. Tikal, in northern Guatemala, is the most expansive with temples and observatories sprawling towards the heavens out of thick jungle foliage. The Copa ruins in western Honduras are filled with numerous intricate carvings and sculptures, perplexing in design while showcasing phenomenal craftsmanship and detail. The relics discovered in the Lubaantun ruins of southern Belize include a crystal skull straight out of an Indiana Jones movie and feature elaborate brick work.
Access to the sites of Central American can vary greatly depending on location and political climate but treasures await those searching for the magic of antiquity.
Mysterious South America
The diverse and varying landscapes of South America offer a steady supply of ancient history. From the heights of the Andes to the depths of the Amazon this continent conjures excitement. Peru is home to the Incan empire with the storied Machu Picchu and countless other sites showcasing astonishing stone work and civil engineering that will leave you in awe. Even older than the Inca is the Nazca culture that somehow created intricate designs on the floor of the Atacama Desert that can only be seen by air. Easter Island off the coast of Chile was once home to a culture that created giant stone carvings resembling men so big it is still unknown how they were made or transported. Tiwanaku in Bolivia claims dozens of large stones weighing up to 100 tons, carved and placed in such a fashion that modern masons still scratch their heads at the accomplishment. Colombia is home to La Ciudad Perdida, an ancient dwelling newly discovered in 1976 and now a 3 day adventure-filled hike from the city of Santa Marta. San Agustin in Colombia is an archaeological park in the southern region of the country that consists of a collection of burial and ceremonial artifacts known as the Guardians of Stone.