• INAH / Héctor Montaño
    INAH / Héctor Montaño
  • INAH / Mauricio Marat
    INAH / Mauricio Marat
  • INAH / Mauricio Marat
    INAH / Mauricio Marat
  • INAH / Mauricio Marat
    INAH / Mauricio Marat
  • Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
    Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
  • Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
    Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
  • Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
    Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
El Tajín
City of thunder
A majestic site with wide open spaces, numerous ballcourts and bas-reliefs, and particularly impressive for the Pyramid of the Niches, with its 365 niches, El Tajín has long been a source of fascination to specialists in Mesoamerican calendar systems and world view.
World heritage since 1992

About the site

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, El Tajín was under the tutelage of the god Tajín, meaning “thunder” or “powerful smoke” in the Totonac language. This figure’s links to severe meteorological phenomena led him to being identified with the “Hurricane God” and the location became known as the city of the Hurricane God.

This sacred center on the Gulf Coast reached its peak during the Postclassic (800-1100 AD), when more than five iconic buildings were erected, each one in harmony with its immediate backdrop, the Cerro del Oriente hill. One of the most important of these structures is the Pirámide de los Nichos ("Pyramid of the Niches"), where a solar event takes place from March 17 to 25 as part of the “quarter-year” cycle (which occurs in March, June, September and December). At that moment the sun’s rays can be observed descending the building, illuminating everything, while the rest of the site remains shrouded in darkness.

In around the year 1150 AD, during a time of climate change known as the Medieval Warm Period, a flood caused the city to be abandoned.

El Tajín’s architecture, in common with almost all of its sculptural forms, represents duality. One example is the “talud-tablero” (slope-panel) construction style, with a central niche and a cornice. The result is an image that will look the same whether seen front on or upside down, with the niche or the shell motif in the center. This is also a symbol of (balanced) movement. It would seem that the ancient inhabitants of El Tajín wished to leave a message within these mirror images: movement representing harmony and balance, mainly between man and nature.

Twenty-one ballgame courts have so far been found at El Tajín. We can distinguish two types of court, based on the scenes depicted on their walls: the competitive game, and the ritualistic version played as part of a divine invocation for balance and continued sustenance for humankind. The complete ritual is portrayed on the South Ballcourt, depicting the petition to the gods and also the offering made to them; this ceremony consisted of giving blood—man’s most treasured possession—to the four winds. This act of respect for nature took place on very special dates or at changes of era. 

Two principal gods watched over the ancient city, and these also represent duality: Quetzalcoatl, the sun god; and Tlaloc, the god of rain. This again shows the balance between the universe and life on earth, including all living beings (plants, animals, hills and springs) in the surroundings; everything had a soul, and the people would ask permission to use things, based on their belief in order and respectfulness: animals should not be hunted unless for consumption, trees only cut down to be used.

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Preclásico Tardío a Posclásico Tardío

Did you know...
  • El Tajín was discovered in 1785 when Don Diego Ruiz, an officer patrolling the area, was searching for clandestine tobacco plantations in the Papantla region.
  • There were various entrances to the city from the cardinal directions, and for years these had remained hidden under the dense vegetation and earth. They were only recently discovered thanks to the use of LIDAR, a new technology that employs a scanning camera and remote sensors. A geographic information system (GIS) is used to process all the data gathered.
An exert point of view
El Tajín is a reminder that respect and balance is for the common good: care for the environment and humankind’s continued survival.
Patricia Castillo Peña
Patricia Castillo Peña
Centro INAH Veracruz
Archeological site
El Tajín
Practical information
Temporarily closed
Monday to Sunday from 9:00 to 17:00 hrs

$80.00 pesos


  • Extra fee for video cameras
  • Extra fee for professional cameras
  • Discount for senior Mexican citizens
  • Discount for Mexican students and teachers
  • No Smoking
  • No entry with food
  • Pets not allowed
Se localiza en la parte norte del estado de Veracruz, a 9 kilómetros del centro de Papantla.

From the city of Veracruz, take Federal Highway 180 towards Poza Rica, Veracruz.

From Xalapa, take Federal Highway 140D, Mexico 131 and Mexico 129 in the direction of Canoas-Martinez de la Torre, Vicente Guerrero.

From Mexico City, take the Mexico-Pachuca Highway in the direction of Ecatepec de Morelos. Continue on Federal Highway 132D in the direction of Canoas-Martinez de la Torre.

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GUIDE
Guide
  • +52 (229) 934 9981
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Directory
Jefe de la Zona Arqueológica
Olaf Jaime Riverón
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
+52 (229) 939 1330
Responsable académico
Patricia Castillo Peña
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
+52 (784) 1045 729
1874
DSC_0633
Panoramica_del_sitio_2
INAH / Héctor Montaño
El_Tajn_FOTOS_MAURICIO_MARAT_INAH_3
INAH / Mauricio Marat
Tajn_Foto_Mauricio_Marat_INAH
INAH / Mauricio Marat
Tajn_Foto_Mauricio_Marat_INAH2
INAH / Mauricio Marat
PANORAMICA_TAJIN_FOTOS_HECTOR_MONTANO_Juego_de_pelota_norte_y_plaza
Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
ZONA_ARQUEOLOGICA_EL_TAJIN,_VERACRUZ_FOTO_DMC_INAH_H_MONTANO
Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
GRAN_PLAZA_DEL_ARROYO_ZONA_ARQUEOLoGICA_DE_EL_TAJiN_FOTOS_DMC_INAH_M_TAPIA
Archivo Michel Zabé-IIE/Michel Zabé
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Foto_del_edificio_de_los_Nichos_con_el_cerro_como_Eje_Foto_de_Benjamin_Blaisot
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PIRAMIDE_DE_LOS_NICHOS_FOTO_HECTOR_MONTANO
Golfo
Museo de Sitio de El Tajín
Este majestuoso sitio seduce por sus grandes espacios abiertos, juegos de pelota, relieves y, en especial, por la elegante Pirámide de los Nichos, pues tiene 365 de éstos, razón por la cual es objeto de estudio por parte de los especialistas en calendarios y cosmovisión mesoamericanos.
A majestic site with wide open spaces, numerous ballcourts and bas-reliefs, and particularly impressive for the Pyramid of the Niches, with its 365 niches, El Tajín has long been a source of fascination to specialists in Mesoamerican calendar systems and world view.
Ciudad del trueno
City of thunder

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