For those looking for a trip into America’s past, look no further than the Aztec Ruins National Monument.
Located just 12 miles northeast of Farmington, New Mexico, these ruins are known to house some of the most impressive Ancestral Puebloan structures.
These structures belong to ancient Native American culture that have spanned the present-day four corners region of the U.S., and are believed to have developed from the Oshara Tradition.
The Aztec Ruins were abandoned in either the 12th and 13th century. Although the exact reason is unknown, historians believe that it was likely due to a natural disaster such as a drought.
Despite being abandoned for centuries the foundations and walls of the structures are still there. Aztec Ruins National Monument attracts over 50,000 visitors annually.
Arriving at the national monument, guests will be greeted by big, shady cottonwood trees that have existed since the great civilization of the Aztecs.
Situated within the national monument is the Salmon Ruins, which is an ancient Chacoan and Pueblo site that was constructed from the Chaco Canyon.
It has 300 rooms spread across three stories, an elevated tower, and a great kiva — a room used by Puebloans for religious rituals and political meetings — within the plaza.
The national monument as a whole spans 27 acres. The West Ruins are smaller than the Salmon Ruins, but they boast 450 rooms that tourists can explore. There are also trails that lead to the largest, fully restored kiva in the southwest.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument was granted world heritage site status in 1987 because it preserves important architectural and engineering achievements of the Puebloans. Ever since it became a heritage site, the media has brought to the fore the ancient landmark’s artifacts for the world to see.
The relics associated with the Puebloans are commonly depicted with pottery, woodwork, and untold treasure. Aztec culture has always held a special place in world history due to their magnificent architectural designs coupled with the civilization’s violent ceremonies.
Whether in museums, films, or even digital media, most people will be able to recognize Aztec motifs. Azteca Gold on Slingo uses the traditional Aztec/Mayan imagery that is celebrated in museums across the world.
Due to the numerous media portrayals, sites like the Aztec Ruins National Monument will always be popular, and will attract visitors from around the globe.
Even actor Tommy Lee Jones was impressed by the site when he decided to visit the Aztec Ruins.
“I was on my way to the Navajo Dam on the San Juan River to go fishing. I stopped at a place called the Aztec Ruins, where they have the world’s only completely restored Puebloan kiva…
I walked inside and a rather beautiful girl in a park ranger’s uniform with a Smokey the Bear hat came in while I was looking around at this astonishing architecture.
And she pushed a button on the wall and a recording of these people singing came on. It was loud and harmonious and overwhelming. It knocked me down. I had to stagger back and sit on the side,” said Jones.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument recently added a new museum, which features some refurbished artifacts left behind by the Puebloans.
The site is located at 725 Ruins Road Aztec, NM 87410. Tours are held from 8 AM – 5 PM.
The Elite Travel Blog has more one-day trips. Last year, we went to Bangalore to explore its popular heritage sites.