Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid Tour Review — San Miguel De Allende with Kids

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Stones and sacrifices. Turquoise and tamales. These are just a few things you’ll read about in this Cañada de la Virgen pyramid & archaeological zone review.

Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid Tour Review

The Cañada de la Virgen pyramid & archaeological zone is just outside the beautiful central Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. Sitting in the highlands above a complex network of canyons, this was a holy site until 1050 ad. With names like House of the Thirteen Heavens, House of the Longest Night, and House of the Wind, the structures on this archaeological site have stories to tell.

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Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid Tour Review

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Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid Tour with Coyote Canyon Adventure

Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid Tour with Coyote Canyon Adventure

We were excited to work with Coyote Canyon Adventures to review their Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid Tour. Our guide was Alberto Aveleyra, an anthropologist with a long history of studying the people of this region.

We had met Alberto several days before when we went on an amazing horseback riding trip with Coyote Canyon Adventures, a company that Alberto works with. He had arrived during our horseback tour’s meal with a couple from Mexico City. The couple had just taken the Pyramid tour with him. When I told the couple later that we would take the Pyramid tour with Alberto in a few days, they said: “Oh you’re going to have fun with him!”

An Engaging Storyteller

As we ate lunch together, Alberto told us about the games that the ancient warriors played in ruins like we would see. Unlike what some guides tell you, he said, not all competitions ended with beheadings or other blood sacrifices. Those things did happen, he explained, but often these sporting competitions served different purposes.

Sometimes the king or prophet needed a question answered. If team A won, then the answer might be yes. If team B won, then the answer might be no. At other times, warrior teams from different kingdoms competed as a substitute for an all-out war between them.

Alberto also explained how there was evidence that the ball games varied by region. Some may have used their feet, like soccer. Others may have used their hands or other tools. Yet others used only their hips like the Mesoamerican ballgame Pok-ta-Pok.

Keep in mind that this conversation was all during lunch! This guy knew his stuff, which made us even more excited to take the full tour ourselves in a few days time.

Prepare for the Weather

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

A few days after meeting Alberto, our day came to visit Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid with Coyote Canyon Adventures. Unfortunately, the weather was not ideal.

We were visiting San Miguel de Allende in its rainy season. And while the rains here are nothing compared to Southeast Asian destinations like Malaysia, Vietnam, or Indonesia, it was a lot wetter and cooler than we would have preferred.

Did it matter? Not much. We brought umbrellas and I handed an extra rain poncho to the other person in our group. Then we were off! If you go between June and September, make sure to carry something to keep you dry. If you go during the dry season, pack some water and sunscreen.

Alberto picked us up at Café Monet, and we drove out of town 25 kilometers to the grounds of the archaeological site. The Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid complex is on private land. From the visitor center, you transfer to a bus, which takes you close to the site.

Entering the Site

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Once off the bus, we walk another 20 minutes to the site. As we walked along, Alberto stops to explain every interesting flower, creature and small architectural feature we encounter along the way. He was great about engaging the kids and keeping them interested.

We saw bark that cured back pain, and flowers that were used to spice soups and beans. We even tried a few late that day. Oh, and we saw frogs: dozens of tiny cute amphibians called out by the rain.

Oh, and we saw frogs: dozens of tiny cute amphibians called out by the rain.

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour

As we got closer, Alberto described how pilgrims from all over the region came to this place. They walked through the canyons below us, he explained. It was a spiritual pilgrimage, and the canyons represented both the womb and the underworld for them.

Then we approached the main structures. This is an active archaeological site. Therefore, certain places should not be touched or stepped on. In certain areas, only small groups can enter.

Living History

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid Tour Review

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Alberto stops us here and there to tell us the stories behind each place. Stories of what archaeologists found inside when they were first discovered, and what today’s archaeologists believe it means.

In one of the temples, they found the body of a woman killed by coyotes. In another, they found a young girl buried with a baby coyote. There is much more the history and science behind these stories, but I’ll leave it to Alberto to explain it best.

Every so often, Alberto would show us images and diagrams to help explain a story or give us some historical context. For example, he told us showed us images from the temple depicting the induction of a new priest, used by piercing the septum of the nose with a turquoise bead. Then he showed us the very stone they did it on. He is an animated storyteller and kept the kids’ attention throughout.

He is an animated storyteller and kept the kids’ attention throughout.

Eventually, it was time to return. As Murphy’s Law would predict, the rain stopped and the sun came out just as we were leaving. Our visit to the Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid and Archaeological Zone was wet and the area was green, but for most of the year, it is dry and arid.

During that time of year, it looks like this:

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid Tour Review

Lunch at Zänä

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Once back at the truck, we drove to lunch at Zänä, which is part of the small Museo de Astronomia Prehispanica. Here we had a great meal of authentic cuisine from the region.

We had freshly-made blue corn tortillas with black beans and nopal (cactus). We had a soup made from prickly pears and the vibrant orange flowers we had just seen at the archaeological site. There were tamales filled with wild mushrooms. Sides included a freshly made salsa verde and some spicy roasted chickpeas.

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

For dessert, there was a different type of tamale. This one used mesquite honey and garambullo, a type of cranberry-like fruit from a different type of cactus (we tried garambullo as an ice cream during a food tour a few days later). The sweet and savory combination wasn’t the kids’ favorite, but I loved it. Especially with the local coffee served.

We spent most of our day under the clouds, but as we drove back the sky was a bright blue.

Conclusion

Our archaeological tour of the Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid was both educational and entertaining. We had the bad luck of visiting on a rare rainy day, but Alberto’s charismatic guidance made it fun regardless.

Further Reading

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Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour Review

Disclosure: Our tour of the Cañada de la Virgen pyramid & archaeological zone was hosted by Coyote Canyon Adventures. However, my opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel, and this Cañada de la Virgen pyramid tour was honest — everything was amazing and I wish we had time to more of their tours!

Comments

  1. I love Alberto’s story telling style Jason. The guide really does make the tour. All the best guides weave tales, and tell the rest of the story. Meaning, the facts they share -well at least most of the time, the facts 😉 – are quite different from the party line offered by run of the mill guides. These folks bring you back to the time of the story. Awesome tour, and a fascinating place too. We had a house sit in the area all set up a few years ago but needed to cancel at the last minute. I hope to return soon.

    Ryan

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