If you are looking for a unique and fascinating destination in Mexico, you might want to consider visiting Paquimé, a pre-Hispanic archaeological site located in the northern state of Chihuahua. Paquimé was the capital of an ancient culture that flourished in the desert region known as Oasisamérica, between the 8th and 15th centuries. It was a major trading center that connected the southwest of the United States with the north of Mexico, and it developed a remarkable architecture based on adobe and stone.
What to see in Paquimé
Paquimé is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, and it offers a glimpse into the life and achievements of its former inhabitants. Some of the highlights of the site are:
- The multi-story buildings: Paquimé had several structures that reached up to four or five stories high, with complex layouts and rooms connected by corridors and staircases. Some of these buildings had drainage and heating systems, as well as windows and doors in the shape of a “T”.
- The ceremonial centers: Paquimé had at least two platforms or mounds that were used for religious ceremonies and rituals. One of them is known as the Mound of the Cross, which has a cross-shaped layout and four ramps. The other one is called the Mound of the Sacrifice, which has a circular shape and a central pit where human remains have been found.
- The ball court: Paquimé also had a ball court, similar to those found in other Mesoamerican cultures. The ball court was a place where a game involving a rubber ball was played, with symbolic and religious meanings. The ball court of Paquimé is one of the largest and best preserved in northern Mexico.
- The aviary: One of the most distinctive features of Paquimé is the aviary, a large building that housed hundreds of macaws, and colorful birds that were highly valued for their feathers. The macaws were imported from tropical regions and bred in captivity in Paquimé. The aviary had special niches for the birds to nest, as well as water channels and feeding areas.
- The pottery: Paquimé is also famous for its pottery, which reflects the artistic and cultural diversity of its people. The pottery of Paquimé includes vessels, figurines, masks, effigies, and musical instruments, decorated with geometric patterns, animal motifs, human faces, and body parts. The pottery of Paquimé is displayed in the onsite museum, as well as in other museums around the world.
How to get to Paquimé
Paquimé is located about 260 km northwest of the city of Chihuahua, near the town of Casas Grandes and the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes. You can get there by car, bus, or train. If you drive from Chihuahua, you can take the highway 45 north until you reach Nuevo Casas Grandes, and then follow the signs to Paquimé. The trip takes about three hours. If you take the bus, you can find several options from Chihuahua or other nearby cities, such as Ciudad Juárez or Cuauhtémoc. The bus ride takes about four hours. If you prefer the train, you can take the famous Chepe Express, which runs from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, passing through stunning landscapes and attractions such as Copper Canyon. You can get off at Nuevo Casas Grandes and then take a taxi or a local bus to Paquimé. The train ride takes about six hours.
When to visit Paquimé
Paquimé is open to visitors every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entrance fee is 75 pesos (about 4 USD) for adults and free for children under 13 years old. You can also hire a guide for an additional fee or join a guided tour offered by local agencies or hotels. The best time to visit Paquimé is during spring or autumn when the weather is mild and pleasant. Avoid visiting during summer or winter, when the temperatures can be extreme and uncomfortable.
What else to do in Paquimé
Paquimé is not only an archaeological site but also a living community that preserves its traditions and customs. You can explore the town of Casas Grandes and admire its colonial architecture and colorful murals. You can also visit the local workshops and markets where you can buy handicrafts made by local artisans, such as pottery, textiles, jewelry, baskets, and woodcarvings. You can also taste the delicious cuisine of Chihuahua, which includes dishes such as machaca (shredded beef), burritos, quesadillas, gorditas, and menudo (tripe soup). If you want to experience more of the natural beauty and culture of Chihuahua, you can also visit nearby attractions such as:
- The Mata Ortiz pottery village: This is a small town where you can find some of the finest pottery in Mexico, inspired by the ancient techniques and designs of Paquimé. You can watch the potters at work and buy their creations directly from them.
- The Cueva de la Olla (Pot Cave): This is a natural cave that contains a large clay pot that was used as a granary by the ancient inhabitants of the region. The pot is about 2 meters high and 1.5 meters wide, and it is estimated to be over 800 years old.
- The Janos Biosphere Reserve: This is a protected area that covers more than 500,000 hectares of desert, grassland, and forest ecosystems. It is home to a rich biodiversity of plants and animals, including endangered species such as the black-tailed prairie dog, the Mexican wolf, the bison, and the golden eagle.
- Paquimé is a destination that will surprise you with its history, culture, and beauty. It is a place where you can learn about the past and appreciate the presence of a remarkable civilization that left a lasting legacy in northern Mexico. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Paquimé and discover its secrets and wonders.
Source: INAH CHIHUAHUA