The state of Oaxaca covers an area of 36,820 square miles with 370 miles of Pacific coastline. Most of the state is mountainous with rugged terrain right down to the coast. It has a large Indigenous population composed of numerous different groups including Mixtec, Nahuatl, and Zapotec. Oaxaca is known for its black pottery, unique carved wood figures, coffee, cuisine, and is the source of the first chocolate brought to Europe. Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico, next to its neighbor, Chiapas, yet it is rich in tradition, cuisine, culture, and natural beauty.
The coast of Oaxaca is at a latitude of 16°, placing it well into the tropical zone. There is little seasonal variation in temperature; it's almost always hot. The rainy season runs from May to October. This doesn't mean it will be raining all the time, just that it CAN rain. Thunder is often heard in the nearby mountains where there is considerably more rainfall. The first rains turn the brown dry-season forest to green. Rainy season is also hurricane season so keep an eye on the weather.
Five miles to the west of Oaxaca City lie the spectacular Monte Alban ruins, perched on a mountaintop high above the surrounding valleys. Leaving Oaxaca below and to the east, the access road winds steeply up a hillside, bringing you shortly to a parking area near the site entrance and it's museum.
Monte Alban is a large archaeological site in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Monte Alban is the second largest ceremonial site in Mesamerica. It is enigmatic place. Monte Alban was the ancient capital of the Zapotecs and one of the first cities in Mesoamerica. During it's epoch, it was one of the most populated. It was founded approximately 500 years BC and flourished until 750 AD. The site is a popular tourist destination for visitors to Oaxaca and has a small museum. A minimum of two hours should be allocated to view the site. Located in the central valley of Oaxaca, Monte Alban exercised political, economic, and ideological control over the other community. The state of Oaxaca is located in the southeastern area of Mexico. The archeological zone Mote Alban is located 10 km. west of the state capital, Oaxaca City. Approximate travel time to the site is 15 minutes travelling on the Oaxaca-Monte Alban highway.
The name "Monte Alban" means "White Mountain" in the Spanish language. It is believed that Monte Alban was actually named in the 16th century after the Spanish landowner's surname "Montalvan". The previous names for the city were the Mixtec name "Sahandevul" which means "At the Foot of the Sky", and another variation which is derived from the older Zapotecan language, "Danibaan" or Sacred Mountain".
Monte Alban was built over a period of over 2,000 years, starting about 900 BC, by the Zapotec people.
Monte Alban has many step-pyramids, temples, elite tombs, and a court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. There are also free-standing sculptured stelae, and large bas-relief carved panels in some of the buildings.