Papantla: El Tajin archaeological zone

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The Tajin belongs to the Totonaca culture. It took shape during the late Classic period and reached its peak development during the transition to the Post-Classic, between 800 and 1150 A.D. The word Tajin means “The Sacred city of the Dead and of the Thunder in Storm”.

The city was built in the Papanteca mountain range, and was maintained through the tributary relations that the surrounding towns bought with products and services. In return, the city managed the political and religious relations on behalf of the region.

The city was populated by the elite – rulers/leaders, politicians and religous figures, the major landholders as well as craftsmen, traders and minor commercial vendors.


Map of the archeological area.

The nucleus of this old city – the actual archaelogical zone, is divided into five sections according to the different vertical levels: “La Plaza del Arroyo”, “La Xicalcoliuhqui”, the Central Zone “El Tajin Chico” and the Columns Cluster.

The principal buildings are: the Pyramid of the Niches, the Central Ball Court, the South Ball Court and the Temple of the Columns.

The “Plaza del Arroyo” is the first group of buildings you will appreciate when you arrive. It is the most ancient construction, featuring monumental buildings. These buildings were dedicated to Temples, Altars, Palaces as well as the Ball Courts (17 Courts are located in this zone which demonstrates the importance of this site. The South Ball Court is a masterpiece in itself. It is the most expressive place thanks to the figures sculptured over its walls.

The Pyramid of the Niches. This building has 365 niches, which coincide with the number of days in the solar year. This building is solidly constructed, with a core developed through intricately integrated stonework.

The “Tajin Chico”, is located in the higher part of the city, and contained the homes of most of the elite citizens.


About 4:00 p.m. the Papantla’s fliers perform an exhibition.

Outside of the archeological zone, you can buy some regional handicrafts, souvenirs and refreshments.

Inside the archeological zone is a Museum which exhibits the most significant pieces of thisarea. The Museum also provides a coffee shop and bilingual guides.


  • You can take camera but if you take a video camera you have to pay a special permission fee.
  • Visit Papantla city in the first days of June (from June 11 to June 18) as during these days the “Corpus Cristi’s” is celebrated, where you can experience a mystic environment, see the Papantla’s fliers, the “Negrito’s ” dance, and other celebrations.

How to get there

The community of PapantlaIn is located the north part of the State of Veracruz. The Tajin is at 13 kilometers from Papantla on the highway which takes you to the community of the “Chote”. In Papantla there is both taxi and bus services which can take you to the site.

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2006
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